Large Pallet Computer Desk - Hand Tools




About: My background is in architectural drafting, and I use these skills to design things I make out of wood. I also make tutorials on youtube about using AutoCAD software, and I also write software for use in Au...

I have been wanting to make a new computer desk for some time. The one I currently use is tiny and is a shop bought particle board piece of crap.

I saw this competition and thought I would attempt my project with hand tools.
Certainly has been a workout. With power tools I think you could finish this project in a day, but if you go my route doing it with hand tools, you will need the patience of a Zen Master.

The part that took the longest was cutting every board of the pallet wood planks, although drilling the holes took a very long time too, as did the hand sawing in general, basically all of it, it all took a very long time.

The measurements of my desk are 2400mm x 700mm. You can do whatever dimensions you like as my instructable shows the process no matter what dimensions.
The height of the desk is 750mm to the top, or 640mm from floor to frame to allow for leg clearance.

I drew up a diagram to show how all the parts go together. I use some photos and text in this instructable, but I highly recommend watching the videos for detailed 'how to'.

Step 1: Step 1. - Tools

I used a few different hand tools as can be seen in the image.

I didn't show the other longer hand saw I have in the photo, nor the pencil. I think I covered everything else I used though to make this.

I didn't include the materials I used in a photo, but essentially I used pallet wood for the top of the computer desk, normal radiata pine for the framing.

I also used sand paper too, steel wool and an old cotton t-shirt.

You will also need wood glue (PVA), furniture wax and a ton of patience.

Step 2: Step 2. - Breaking Apart Pallets

As I said in the previous step, I used pallet wood for the top of the desk. So you will need to get pallets if you don't have any already. I used a hammer and block of wood mainly to break the pallets apart, but also a crow bar at some points too.

This step can be challenging depending on the pallet types as some are very hard to get apart.

Here is a video:

Step 3: Step 3. - Removing Nails

Now you have some planks, it is time to get the nails out. If you are lucky you can just use a hammer, although pliers are handy too.

Here is a video:

Step 4: Step 4. - Cutting the Wood

I use a hand saw, clamp, square and wood knife to cut the wood.

I mark on the wood where I want to cut, use the square to rule a line across, then use the wood knife and square to score the wood fibres. Take care with the knife, and go slowly with scoring the wood. It is best to make multiple shallow passes than one big one to score the wood.
The reason we score the wood is so the hand saw will be guided somewhat by the score lines. You could use a mitre box too on this step, but I am hard core and just went free style.

Once the wood is scored, clamp wood to bench. Make sure to place a piece of wood under the wood you want to cut so you don't cut your bench below (if that matters to you)

Next, slowly draw the saw across the score lines and begin to cut.

Here is a video:

Step 5: Step 5. - Drilling Holes and Concealing Screw Heads

I realised I forgot to show in my main tool photo at the beginning the drill bits used. I do show the counter sink bit in the photo. This step isn't too bad if you are using a power drill or drill press, but doing this by hand is challenging, and very time consuming.

Here is a video:

Step 6: Step 6. - Cutting Wood Plugs or Using Dowels to Hide Screw Heads

After we have drilled the holes and counter sunk them, we need something to cover the screw heads. You can use a plug cutter or dowels to do this. Another step easy to do with power tools but is exhausting doing by hand.......did I mention how time consuming doing every step of this project is by hand?

Here is a video:

Step 7: Step 7. - Cutting and Ripping the Wood

If you watch all of the videos I have posted, you will notice 2 things. The video quality is pretty crappy, and the camera likes to turn itself off all the time without any notice. So unfortunately I don't have any proper video of the process, only me showing you what I have done, and even then during this video the camera cut out.

Basically cut out the pieces of the frame, then glue and screw them together, apply the glue to plug cutouts and hit into place over the screw heads.

Here is a video:

Step 8: Step 8. - Cut Out Wood Stand Wood & Assemble Wood Support Stands

Cut out the wood pieces using the hand saw, did I mention every step takes a long time including this one?

Once cut out, it is best to pre-drill holes, then glue and clamp using clamps. Once the pieces are clamped, then you can screw the pieces together, then release the clamps to be used for the next stand/podium.

The main parts of the frame are 90 x 35mm Timber. I make 4 of these frames, then I attach 2 together using 42 x 19mm timber.

Here is a video:

Step 9: Step 9. - Sanding, and More Sanding...

This step I used sand paper to finish off the table top surface before the final coating. I ended up using 40 - 60 grit sandpaper as some pallets were really rough. This step was very time consuming.

After sanding, use a damp sponge to wipe off the dust, then let the wood dry.

Here is a video:

Step 10: Step 10. - Wax On, Wax Off - Finishing the Desk

Final Step, this is a massive workout, cancel your gym member ship and just wax and buff.

I used fine steel wool grade 0000 that you can buy from the hardware store.
I used a cabinet makers wax, applied it onto the wood with the steel wool, allowed to dry a bit, then buffed off the table with an old t-shirt.

The last 4 photos are of the desk in the office, and the last photo is of the knot hole I showed in an earlier video step, and i used it to put cables through and some kensington locks.

Here is a video:

Hand Tools Only Contest 2017

Second Prize in the
Hand Tools Only Contest 2017



  • Paper Contest

    Paper Contest
  • Weaving Challenge

    Weaving Challenge
  • Remix Contest

    Remix Contest

11 Discussions


6 months ago on Step 1

I want to thank you for explaining everything via pictures and videos. I am new to working with wood or even pallets.

1 reply

Reply 6 months ago

Thank you for your comment. I am pleased to read that you have found it helpful. Welcome to the world of woodworking, I hope you really find it enjoyable.


10 months ago

Love the desk, looks great!


1 year ago

Love seeing these recycled wood projects, awesome work!

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

thanks a lot, I love pallet wood, it always has such nice and ineresting grain


1 year ago

I like the finished look! Sturdy but rustic. Nicely done!

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

thanks Seamster. It certainly is sturdy. I happy with the finish too