permaculture, the garden project

From pallets to shed

I spent much of February slowly constructing a shed (more of a tool cupboard, really; our garden is very small) from deconstructed pallets.

The first step was to measure up (my shed was 80cm x 60cm in footprint, and spade-height-plus-a-bit in height) and cut the pallet planks to size. I think I used about 2.5 pallets, and a hand-held circular saw (very very useful to speed things up).

I also needed four lengths of 2×2, one per corner, to attach the planks to. My design called for a sloping roof (so the rain runs off), so required two shorter lengths for the back, and two longer for the front. I nailed the back planks to the shorter lengths, and each set of side planks to one of the longer lengths (so at this point the side planks were braced only at one end).

The back wall, screwed into its 2×2 bracing at both ends of the planks.

One of the sides, with only one end braced. Note that its 2×2 rises above the planks; this is because it needed a triangular piece of planking attached later to allow for the slope of the roof.

The next step was to screw the loose ends of each side piece to the 2×2 bracing of the back piece.

Shed with three sides. Note again the space at the top of each side for a triangular piece. (Apologies for the sun flare in the photo!)

Shed corners screwed together.

I measured, cut, and attached triangular pieces for the top of each side (no photos, sorry). For the roof, I cut a piece of plywood which overlapped the sides by about 4-5cm in each direction. I intended to cover this with some thick black plastic left behind by our kitchen fitters, but my Dad came up instead with a roll of roof felt from in his garage, so I was able to do a more professional-looking (and longer-lasting!) job with that, roofing glue, and some roofing nails. Before covering the roof, I screwed in a batten at the back to keep it from sliding off.

The batten on the underside of the roof, and the roofing nails keeping the felt down. The felt was glued down on the topside of the roof.

Since installation, I’ve added a couple of battens at the front to keep it square and to brace the roof.

It still lacks a door (I’m on the look out for some large enough plywood), and at some point I will use a couple of L-shaped metal bits to attach the roof, rather than using bricks to hold it down. But as of now, it does the required job, and, given the high percentage of reused materials, for minimal financial or environmental cost. I’m also kind of proud that I built it at 38 weeks pregnant!

the garden project

Making things

Recently, I have been making things:

Rave baby! (Leon with his hands in the air, aged 1 day)

The second one took a bit longer, and is kind of still under construction.

Actually the shed is also still under construction, lacking as it does a door; it has however had front battens added since that picture. Construction post to follow. I’ve also got going with this spring’s planting in the raised beds over the last month — more to follow on that as well.


Building a table

I went to a workshop on Wednesday at the OffMarket Freeschool (running for another week yet, with some great workshops still to come!) on furniture building. It was very much about using what you have around: we started out with some thick plywood, a table top, and some lengths of 2×2, and we fetched up with a pretty solid table.

(I also discovered the wonders of a handheld circular saw. Awesomeness.)

The basic principle goes like this:

  • Work out how long you want the table’s legs to be, and cut 4 lengths of 2×2 to that.
    Hint: If you’re starting with 4 separate bits of wood and cutting them all down, it’s a good idea to line them all up next to each other, aligned at one end, and mark the line straight across all four at the other end. If you have pre-cut ends, plan to use those on the floor as they’ll likely be straighter than your cuts.
  • Next, take some pieces of plywood maybe 4-6″ wide for the supports. These will fit under the table, outside the legs, and act to support them. Pieces wider than 6″ are fine, and in fact will be stronger; but remember that you may want to be able to fit your legs under the table, and a support that’s too wide will prevent that (see the photo of the finished table below to understand what I mean here). You want two pieces the same length as each other for the short parallel sides of the table, and another two pieces the same length as each other for the long parallel sides of the table. Put the table-top upside down on the ground and work out where you want your legs to be, then mark up and cut the supports accordingly.
  • Attach the table legs to the supports. Ideally each one should be overlapped at one end, and overlap the next at its other end. In the photo below, the support on the left overlapped the end of the middle support, which in turn overlapped the end of the right-hand support (you can’t unfortunately see this as it’s behind the legs. I should have taken another photo!). Put in one screw per leg side (so two per leg) all round, then go round again putting a second screw in each joint. It is definitely worth drilling a pilot hole first!

    Table upside down on the floor, supports being screwed to legs
  • Turn the whole thing back the right way up, and straighten up the table top. Measure roughly where the middle of each leg is, drill a pilot hole straight through the table top and into the leg, and put a screw through the pilot hole. You want one per leg.
  • That’s it! Table!

    Finished wooden table standing in middle of floor
  • You can adapt the same basic technique to make all sorts of different sizes of tables, but also stools, benches, and anything else with four legs and a top. (We also discussed making something a bit more like a chair, with a slight adaption of the technique.) Our tables were pretty rough-and-ready, but with slightly more careful choice of materials (and maybe a little paint afterwards) you could produce something more elegant.

    And it was fantastic fun!