Choosing pallets isn’t rocket science, but for this project it would help if you had two pallets the same size, shape and type of wood. Newer, lighter-coloured and lighter-weight wood pallets tend to be easier to work with. The older the pallets, the more twisted and gnarled the nails might be, making them harder to dismantle.
There are a few ways to dismantle pallets, which has been a popular topic of Bunnings Workshop discussion in the past. @MitchellMc gives some great advice on how to take apart pallets in this post, while @Brad shares a great video in this post. Fortunately, this project does not require a lot of dismantling. You just need to remove the boards from the back of one of the pallets – with most pallets that’s only four boards in total.
To prepare the wood, take a file and scrape off the splinters that tend to hang along the edges of the pallet boards. It’s a quick job that can be done by just scraping your file along the edge of each board.
Then sand the top of each cross board using an electric sander with a medium grain paper such as 80 grit. With pallet furniture, especially the outdoor variety, you don’t necessarily need a super-smooth finish. If you do one side of the pallet at a time you can get a sense of how the wood is changing. You can sand by hand, but it is much quicker and easier with an electric sander.
The front of the bar is an untouched pallet. There’s no need to do anything other than sand the wood and then stand it on its side.
There is a really quick and simple way to make the sides of the bar without dismantling the pallet. Take the pallet that you have removed the back boards from. Mark a pencil line along the entire length of the central pallet runner. Then take a jigsaw and cut through these lines. Repeat on the other side of the central runner and you will be left with two sides for your bar.
Attaching the sides should be fairly intuitive. Line them up with the front part of the bar and clamp one of the side panel boards to the side runner of the front pallet. Do the same to both sides and your bar should be taking shape.
Now drill two holes diagonally through the top side board and the supporting runner of the front pallet. Screw together with two timber screws. Then repeat this all the way down the side.
There are a few different ways to complete the top of the bar. If your boards from the back of the side pallet are intact, then you can use them - although it’s nice if you can find wood that contrasts with the rest of the bar. Some dressed pine or rough timber is good if you have some around. I had the off-cut of a timber panel from another project that offered a good contrast. Your bar top needs to be 1.2m x 25cm.
You could get an invisible join by using wooden dowels and drilling holes halfway through the underside of the bar top. But because this is for out-side and I’m happy for it to look rustic, I just attached the bar top with timber screws. As the wood panel is soft, the screws are easily sunken.
You can add a stain or varnish to your bar, or paint it according to your taste. For my bar I’ve used a gloss varnish on the bar top. A small 250ml pot will be more than enough. With only one coat, you can already see the contrast between varnished finished wood on top and lightly sanded bare wood on the structure. There are no rules, but if you’re going to leave the bar outside at all times in all conditions, then varnishing the whole unit would be recommended.
It’s always good to customise a bar. You might like to add pictures or paint a slogan or name. I had an old drinks crate in the workshop and also added some retro ornaments.
One other addition to consider is an internal shelf below the bar top to store things on. This can easily be done by running wood from one side panel strut to its corresponding strut on the other side.