Lesson Learned: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
First off, I have to apologize to those of you that follow us on Instagram and saw this finished product months ago!! I am a bit late to blogging about this amazing project. To be honest, it was such a quick project to do that it was completed in around 2 hours… soo it slipped my mind as I quickly moved onto other larger projects!!
And yes, you read that correctly, all you need is about two hours of time and a free pallet for this project! SO simple. I love using pallet wood when creating things since it is (usually) FREE!! You can typically find pallets at home improvement stores or outside local business’ who are more than happy for you to take them out of their way!!
PLEASE NOTE: Since we created our initial mail organizer, we had several requests from friends and family members to make one for them. So naturally our learning curve was smoothed out and we learnt from our mistakes. The following steps I’ll be providing you with are the easiest route to take and may deter slightly from what you see in the pictures.. so please bear with me!!
Here’s what you’ll need:
Step 1: Disassemble your pallet
This stage can be done in a number of ways and there are 100’s of blog posts on how to do this. What was Jason’s version, you ask? Mr. Impatient likes to complete his tasks as quickly as possible, so he used a circular saw to make a long cut on either side of the vertical spine’s of the pallet. I’ll give it to him, though, he was able to avoid cutting out pieces with nails in them!
Actually, I do have a funny story for you that I’m sure Jason won’t appreciate me sharing … but it cracked me up! In his haste to finish this project in time for his beloved Everton team to kick off, he managed to cut through the electrical wire of his saw!! Yep, he sawed through the only thing powering his saw! Needless to say, he angrily spent the next 45 minutes taping and repairing the wire.. he was not a happy boy!! (Hopefully Everton won that day, I can’t remember.)
But back to the project, the cut up pallet should leave you with a pile of slats the look something like this..
Step 2: Cut Slats to Size
Now this is where the project picks up some real momentum!
You’ll need to decide on the size of your mail organizer – I suggest measuring the space where it will live to give you a starting point. We wanted a final height of 16″ and width of 22″. Since you will be staggering each vertical slat, you’ll need to account for the added height. We decided to cut our slats to 14″ in height- that way we have 2″ of wiggle room to stagger the slats. Use your Miter Saw to cut the slats to the required height. I suggest making smooth cuts to both ends of your slat so that you get a nice straight edge on both ends.
As for achieving your final width, this will depend on the quantity of slats you use. Measure the width of each individual slat and divide it by your final goal width. This should give you a final number of slats that you’ll need. For our initial organizer, we had 3.5″ wide slats and used 6 total pieces. Add in some small gaps between each slat, and we achieved our 22″!
Once your slats are cut, arrange them in the order and height that you want. Trust me when I say there is no right or wrong way here and every organizer that we have made has varied!
Using a table saw and a leftover pallet slat, rip the slat in half length-wise. This will provide you with 2 narrow back supports which will eventually hold all of your slats together. Now, make sure that your back supports are fit to size. If they are too long and hang over your final width of the organizer, cut them to size!
So here is where my first major learning comes into play. Now that you have all slats cut and ready for assembly, this is the best time to sand and stain each of your slats (back supports included since you’ll be able to see them between your gaps)! During our first build, we assembled the organizer completely first and then had to use q-tips to stain in-between each slat – a massive pain!! (As Jason would say!)
Sand each slat with 80 grit paper to remove all of the rough, splintering parts. I’ll admit, free wood definitely equates to jagged sections! Once you’ve dulled out these sharp/splintering sections of the slats, you can use a higher grit sandpaper such as 150 to achieve a smooth finish.
Of course, the staining is easy since this piece is so small! All you need is a couple of rags and the stain color of your choice. I used Kona (DUH), because it’s what I had lying around at the time (and I’m slightly obsessed)… but I promise I have used lots of other stain colors for the other organizers. If you need to some refreshers on how to stain properly, visit our woodworking page for other projects in which we’ve explained our staining techniques!
Step 3 – Affix Together
Once your stained slats are fully dry (I’d say it takes about 20 minutes to dry), you can begin the assemble the base for your organizer! Wheeee don’t you feel the momentum building??
Here you can see our narrowed slats that provide the horizontal support. The supports are what you will glue and nail your vertical slats to.
Using some wood glue and a nail gun loaded with 1″ nails, secure your slats to the horizontal supports. Make sure that you have lined up all of your slats just as you want them, and that all of your gaps are equal to the eye. Of course this piece is supposed to be rustic, AKA you don’t have to be too precise about it! Also! I want to point out that the nail length needed to secure your slats may vary. Every pallet has slightly different thicknesses, so modify your nail length accordingly so they don’t stick out!!
We decided to nail in through the front of the slats, as I thought that the small nail holes would add some character. But you could nail in through the back to hide any nail heads. For other organizers, we tried this back-nail method and it looked great!!
Step 4 – Assemble Mail Compartment
Now, it’s time for the details!
For this part you will need to rip down 2 slats in half, just like you did earlier for the back supports. You then need to cut the slats to the width that you want your mail compartment to be. Our compartment was 10″ in length since a full size sheet of mail is typically 8.5″ wide. Use your miter saw to make sure you get nice straight ends. The height of your compartment will determine how many horizontal slats you need!! We chose to cut 3 slats.
Using another piece of that ripped down slat, decide on the height that you want your compartment to be and cut to the required length. Ours was 6″ in height. Using some glue and nails, you can begin to build the mail holder. Below, you can see it is as simple as nailing the horizontal slats onto the 2 vertical pieces.
We put two nails and a blob of wood glue on either end of each horizontal piece – this provides more than enough strength!
Now you will need to measure to size for the bottom of your mail compartment. You will need to measure from inner edge of one side to the inner edge of the other – this will give you the required width.
For the depth you need to measure from the inside of the front to be flush with the back – You can see this below. (It will most likely be the same as your halved slats.)
Secure this into place with a little bit of wood glue and a couple of nails through the front and sides. Again this provides more than enough strength.
Similar to our first major learning, we soon realized how much easier it is to stain the mail compartment before attaching it. This will save you the hassle of squeezing your hand in the small areas. Of course, my dainty little hands had no troubles, but Jason’s were a bit too clunky to stain! Again, stain, wipe off excess, and once it has dried you can then attach the compartment to the base.
In case you haven’t figured this out just yet, but your nail gun is basically your new best friend here – a hammer and nail would work but obviously it would be a lot more time consuming. So get your best friend ready and secure the mail compartment to the back using a bead of wood glue along the ends and a couple of nails fired in through the back.
This is what your organizer should look like at this point!! And yes I know yours is stained and mine isn’t.. I did disclose that unfortunately my pictures differ slightly to the steps! I can hear my parents now, preaching… “Do as I say, not as I do”.
Step 5 – Create Mason Jar Holder
For this adorable detail, you will need a larger width piece of pallet wood or you could use some other scrap wood that you may have lying around your workshop!
You’ll also need to get your drill and circle cutter handy- we used the same circle cutter we used to cut holes for our DIY wine rack… you can read that by clicking here. It works great!!
Using your drill and a circle cutter, cut out an appropriately sized hole. The size depends on the size Mason Jar you want to use. I suggest using a Mason Jar that has a big enough lip, and won’t fall through! We used the “Wide Mouth” Mason Jars.
Step 6 – Fix Mason Jar Holder
Stain the jar holder prior to attaching. Then, glue the back of the holder and fire some nails through the back of the base into the holder. For some added support place a small piece of wood underneath the jar holder, stain, and secure with a couple of nails and glue. This will stop the holder from bending. See ours in the picture below!
Step 7 – Attach Key Hooks
ALMOST THERE!! This is step is verrrry simple. Just drill some small pilot holes where you want your key hooks to go, and then screw them in by hand! Done!
Step 8 – Hang and Enjoy.
To hang the mail holder we attached 2 small picture hangers on the back of horizontal supports and hung it on 2 screws in the wall. They work great! And voila! Here is your final product: a gorgeous and quirky mail organizer!!
Much love as always xoxo