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DIY Eclectic Primitive Pallet Dresser

DIY Pallet Wood DresserEclectic means to derive an idea, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources. In this case, my primitive bureau is a conglomeration of some of the many ‘someday’ bits, pieces, boards, and hardware that have accumulated in the shop over the years. You probably have boxes of them, those little parts that you know someday you will need or want.

Over the many years of wood carving and wood working I have enjoyed trying my hand at a smattering of furniture projects. Our woodworking shop is well equipped with the basic power tools, as well as many fun specialty tools that are used to create precision cuts and glass smooth finishes. Unfortunately with my husband’s illness and my Mom’s advanced age I seldom can take the time away from the family to dedicate to the hours of work that it takes to produce a classic piece of furniture.

But I will admit that I have missed that part of wood working tremendously. So this weekend I decided to indulge myself in a little back porch wood butchery … grin!

This all began with a Friday afternoon yard sale purchase of a 24” wide, 36” high, 8” deep used, battered bookcase. It was painted wedgewood blue, with lots of scratches and dents, and had a broken kick board (toe board). I knew I didn’t need another bookcase when I bought it, but it is solid wood and priced at only $5.

DIY Pallet Wood DresserSunday morning came and I headed to the shop to grab a board to replace the kick board … that seemed a good place to start. Passing the tractor shed, which is an add-on to the workshop, I noticed a bunch of old pallets that I had picked up somewhere for one of those ‘someday’ projects. I stopped, looked the pallets over carefully, and made the decision that today was that someday! That yard sale bookcase did not have to stay a bookcase, it could become the carcass for a set of dresser drawers made out of the pallet wood.

Since I really couldn’t hide out in the wood shop this weekend I grabbed up the zaw-zaw, the jig saw, and the disc sander. With a few hand tools – dovetail saw, rough cut saw, screw drivers, that sort of thing – I turned the back porch into a weekend work area where I could be close at hand for the family while doing some fun wood butchering.

DIY Pallet Wood DresserThe first goal was to convert the bookcase into a chest of drawers without purchasing anything – I wanted to use the wood and hardware that I had on hand. My second goal was to accept that this would not be perfect – I knew that using the tools that I could carry to the porch I would not be making precise, accurate cuts or joints.   So this project started out as an eclectic primitive project.


  1. Using the zaw-zaw, hammer, and a crow bar, I cut the pallets apart. A nail set and hammer removed the cut nails from the boards. A light sanding with 80-grit paper removed the worst of the splinters and fuzz bunnies.
  2. I decided that I wanted a series of small drawers, so I used some ½” x 1” framing strips to make the drawer supports.   These strips were left-overs from a repair for a door frame. The bookcase has three shelves, so I divided each shelf area into space for two drawers. Some wood glue and a few screws secured the drawer supports to the inside of the bookcase.
  3. The drawers are just simple butt-joint boxes with ¼” plywood floors. I made each box ½” less wide than the inside width of the shelf and ½” shorter than the height of the drawer area. No two drawer areas turned out to be the same. The drawer sides were made out of pallet wood and the plywood was left-over from my pyrography projects.
  4. The drawer fronts were cut from pallet wood at the full width of the bookcase and tall enough to cover the ½” of the shelf support. I tried to allow about ¼” air space between each drawer. The fronts were attached with screws, working from the inside of the box.
  5. Because pallet boards are often cracked, split, or broken, I quickly realized I would not have enough boards to create six 24” wide drawer fronts. But going through the cut pieces left from the first several drawers I did have enough to turn one large drawer area into two small drawers.
  6. DIY Pallet Wood DresserI removed the broken kick board and replaced it with pallet wood.
  7. I needed drawer pulls, so while rooting through my someday boxes I came across five old glass knobs from Mike’s father’s woodworking days. Two ceramic knobs turned up in one of my Dad’s boxes.
  8. The top of the bookcase was in very bad condition, so I cut a new top from an old walnut table leaf. The table was long gone, but I had held onto the extension leaf for years. The top is held in place with screws working from the inside of the bookcase – dresser carcass.
  9. While looking for drawer knobs I stumbled across an old, discarded bathroom mirror and then found a pair of wrought iron shelf brackets. The brackets were so old the plastic packaging had turned yellow, and cracked. A simple butt-joint frame made from pallet wood scraps became the mirror support. Two long pallet boards were mounted to the back of the frame to attach the mirror to the back of the case. For a little added pizzazz I used the iron shelf brackets on the top of the dresser to also attach the mirror.

So … the photos show you where I am. The woodworking is done except to sand off a few really rough areas. I know that I am going to paint over the wedgewood blue with first a medium tan and then black. With sandpaper I will rough up the corners and edges to let all three paint colors show.

Pallet Wood Dresser Pineapple CrochetThe whole family has become involved in this project. Mom would like to see me paint lettering to the pallet boards – fragile, this side up, or even hazardous waste. I am thinking adding luggage stickers or packing slips to the boards, then roughing them up so it looks as if the dresser is made from antique shipping crates. Mike, my beloved hubby, wants me to remove the glass knobs and carve wood spirit faces as my drawer pulls and he wants it for his knife collection storage. All my son will say is, “Gee, that will look awfully good in the corner of my room!” I’ll let you know when we decide where this project goes from here.

I just may keep this one for me.  Whosits!  A gal needs some special place to store her doily crochet books, hooks, and pineapple work.

In the meantime, have some fun this coming weekend doing your own eclectic primitive pallet wood project! Oh, and the total cost of this project was $5 for the bookcase and a full day of absolute fun, plus the joy of putting some of those ‘someday’ bits and pieces to work.


June & July 2013 Footnotes

If you are just discovering our blog, LSIrish.com, or our line art craft, carving, and quilting patterns website, ArtDesignsStudio.com or if you have been away on vacation it’s time to get caught up on all of the happenings here on Lora Irish’s blog.

Levels in Relief Wood CarvingFree – Levels in Relief Wood Carving
Learn how to establish the basic levels of background, mid-ground, and foreground for your rough out stages in any relief wood carving pattern.  Free Relief Wood Carving PDF E-Book download by Lora S. Irish.


Your First Carving by LS IrishFree – Your First Carving 
Learn the basics to relief wood carving in this free relief wood carving PDF E-Book by Lora S. Irish.  Includes the terms and techniques used in wood carving, step by step instructions for a beginner’s project, lots of photos, lots of ideas.


Summer 2013 Quilt Project X7Free – Summer Art Quilt Fretwork Butterfly Project
Free PDF E-Book iron-on interfacing applique art quilt project, including a free butterfly pattern by Lora S. Irish.  Includes step by step instructions, plus lots of ideas to alter and embellish your own quilt square.


2013_FP_thumbFree – Craft, Carving, and Quilting Pattern Packages
We have posted new free pattern packages here on LSIrish.com and our line art craft and carving patterns website, ArtDesignsStudio.com.  Don’t forget to download your copies today.


mushroomFree – Permanent Marker Painted Quilt Squares
Any line art craft,  carving, or quilting pattern can become a brightly colored quilt square for your next sewing project.  Learn how to create your own Mushroom Wood Spirit tote bag with our free online step by step instructions.


Basics to PaintingBasics to Painting your Wood Carvings
Enjoy this in-depth tutorial which focuses on the multiple methods of adding coloring to your next wood carving project.  Includes directions for burnishing, dry brushing, china painting, oil staining, and much more.


irish_tiki_0002Tiki Chess Set Carving
Spend a few fun hours carving our 3-D Tiki Chess set.  This projects takes you step by step through the face carving of the classic Tiki statue and a few of the quick variations that can used to create the King, Queen, Rook, and other pieces.  Includes free patterns to start your own set.


Canada GooseFree – Canada Goose Relief Carving Project
This in-depth, step by step relief wood carving projects takes you through every technique needed to create this Canada Goose Relief carving, including how to transfer your pattern, basic carving cuts, tools, undercuts, wood burning your carvings, and even how to paint your wood carving.  Taught by Lora S. Irish.


LSIrish Whittle FishWhittle Fish Decoy Carving
This fun project grew to become an E-Project on our line art pattern website, ArtDesignsStudio.com.  Learn folk art ice fishing decoy carving with this in-depth step-by-step project taught by Lora S. Irish.  This sixty page e-book includes an introduction to the history of ice fishing decoys, the six basic carving cuts needed to create these fun fish, and two complete projects. Complete your decoy with the painting steps and by creating a simple wire hanger. Over 40 decoy patterns, 21 finished painted decoy samples.

new patternsNew Patterns and E-Projects at Art Designs Studio
Six new pattern packages and two new E-Projects have been published to our line art carving, craft, and quilting patterns website.  So much more is coming soon!  So, please stop by and browse through over 130 pattern packages, sorted by topic and theme.

New Line Art Craft Pattern Packages
Retro Owls – 20 new line art patterns

Dragon Medallions – 11 new line art patterns
Mushroom Wood Spirits – 18 new line art patterns
Fretwork Scroll Saw Lamps – 20- new line art patterns
Fretwork Butterfly Wind Chimes – 20 new line art patterns
Heart Shaped Designs – 18 new line art patterns

Two New E-Projects
Whittle Fish E-Project, include over 20 decoy patterns
Flamed Copper Jewelry Earrings E-Project, 38 projects

New Tutorials Posted

We have new step by step projects and tutorials posted.

In Pyrography:
Planning or mapping your burning layers
Pyrography, Working in Layers
misc_tools_sliderulerSimple Pyrography Shading
Pyrography Steps for Portrait Burning
Cougar Pryography Project

In Coloring Your Projects:
Dry Brushing in Coloring Your Projects

In Wood Carving:
Chip Carving in Wood Carving Projects
Determining the Depth of your Levels
Carving Session Preparation
Background Treatments for your Relief Carving

In Paper Crafting:

Celtic Bird Paper Bag
Scroll Trimmed Backgammon Board


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