Old wooden crates and pallets are excellent building materials when it comes to making your own furniture. The pre-existing shapes of these objects makes it easy to convert them into tables, sofas and even a base for your bed. Wooden crates and pallets are designed to be durable, but sometimes it's this durability that can cause issues. Before they were sold or given away, these crates and pallets would have had a long service life. This means that before you bring them into your home and start to work with them, you need to know as much as you can about what they were used to transport and any treatments that might have been used on them. The following are some of the things you should try to find out.
Wooden crates and pallets can be used to transport just about anything. If the objects in question have been used to transport dangerous chemicals or anything hazardous, then they should not be used as part of your DIY furniture product. If you are planning to buy wooden crates or pallets from a market, you should ask if their transport history is known. Wooden pallets or crates obtained from the user (such as a shipping company that no longer needs them) are likely to have a more comprehensive available history, as the company will know what they were primarily used to transport. You should also ask about where the pallets and crates were stored, as this can sometimes make them unhygienic and unsuitable for home use. If you can't find any history for the pallets, be wary of using them in your home.
Examine the crates and pallets for any stamps on the wood. These stamps are an indication of how the wood has been treated to kill and repel insects. There are two key stamps that you might encounter. HT merely means that the wood has been heat treated. This involves the wood being dried in a large kiln, killing any insects and their eggs. Wooden crates and pallets that have been marked with HT are perfectly safe to be used. Be cautious about any wood that has been stamped with MB, which means that it has been treated with methyl bromide (also known as bromomethane). This is a highly potent pesticide, and many organic materials imported into Australia are transported on pallets treated with methyl bromide. While unlikely, residual amounts might remain inside the wood, and you won't want any kind of outgassing to occur when the wood has been converted into furniture and placed inside your home. Do not work with any wooden crates or pallets that have been stamped with MB.
Workability of the Wood
Once you have determined that the wood is safe for use, you still need to assess its workability. Check the condition of the wood and look for splinters and loose nails. The wood will need to be sanded down before it can be used, but a large prevalence of splinters can make this a truly laborious task. You might be be better off finding wooden crates and pallets that don't require so much preparation work. You will also need to check the number of loose nails. They will need to be removed, but will this removal destabilise the crate or pallet, making it unusable? This can be the case when there are an excessive number of loose nails that need to be replaced.
Wooden crates and pallets can be made into some truly unique and beautiful furniture. Just make sure that you do your homework before you get started.