How to make a simple trough from pallets

/How to make a simple trough from pallets
  • Handmade-pallet-trough-planter-made-to-order

How to make a simple trough from pallets

Last week at Kirstie’s Handmade Fair I made a planter, or trough out of two pallets with Kirstie in the Super Theatre in front of an audience!
Thank you to all of you who came to see this make live, I’m so pleased with the reception it got & thank you for the lovely messages telling me how inspired you are to give it a go yourself – this is what I live for!
So, due to popular demand I have written up a step by step ‘how-to’ for you, so you can be sure you’ve got it right.

Here goes…

These are the pallets I’m using, there are lots of different types of pallet, ones with big solid blocks of wood in the corner instead of struts, ones with reconstituted blocks in the corners, big ones, small ones, square, rectangle… you get the picture! If you want to copy this how-to exactly you will need two pallets that are the same as the ones in the picture, notice there are 3 struts which are held together with planks & they have two planks on the underside too. It doesn’t really matter if yours are smaller or larger, you will just have a smaller, or larger trough. FYI – These are about 90cm square-ish.



Once you have your pallets you need to cut one in half like this –

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To make the cut I would mark half way along the pallet & cut with a circular saw. You will have to cut from both sides as the circular saw won’t cut deep enough to go all the way through from one side. Make sure you line your cuts up as well as you can. These two halves will be your trough’s sides.

Next, take your second pallet & cut a section off – like below. You should have two planks one side & one plank the other – which is in the middle, this is your base. Flip it so the single plank is on top & put it on a work surface to start work on the sides.

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Next you are going to clamp the sides in place, making sure they are at the same angle. The great thing about clamping is you don’t need an extra pair of hands & you can change the angle & move the sides until you are happy with them, meaning you only fix it in place with screws once! I’ve taken a few pictures here of how I position the clamp through from the outside.

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As you can see from the photos above you line up the sides so the uprights are in front of each of the base’s struts then clamp in place with two clamps either side. If you don’t have clamps you could get a helper to hold it in place for you – choose someone with steady hands! When you are happy with your angles & your sides are the same make sure your clamps are tight & reach for the drill. I put my trough together using decking screws, they are made to stand up to the elements & will ensure your beautiful new pallet planter doesn’t fall to bits! You will need screws of around 6cm long to go through the thick strut of the sides & the base to secure it. Pallets & wood in general are prone to splitting so it’s best to drill a pilot hole before you put your screw in. I used a no 4 wood bit.

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One screw at either end will hold the sides on, so that you can take away the clamps & gain a better reach to put another screw in – don’t forget the pilot hole!

You should have the beginnings of a trough now, it’s all starting to take shape… wasn’t that easy?!

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Remember you still have most of one pallet unused. You are going to take some slats off it & use them to cut three angled pieces of wood for either end of your planter. An easy way to do this without a square is to make sure the top measurement of each slat is 3.5cm larger than the bottom measurement on either side. The bottom slat above for instance measures 27cm along the bottom & 34 along the top. Cut three pieces using this ‘format’,  making them larger as you move up the trough. Attach them using smaller 3cm long decking screws – these shouldn’t split the wood as long as you don’t go too near the edge!

Always ‘offer-up’ your end slats to their positions to check where they fit best while leaving enough room for each other & a similar gap in-between all of them before screwing in place. I also like to put one screw in each end until I’m happy they are all in the right place & then go back over & add another screw each end rather than putting my two screws in either end of each plank then realising I want to move them!

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Once you have your end slats attached you can decide whether you want to fill in the other slats on the sides, or leave them so you can plant strawberries growing out the side of the trough, this looks gorgeous with the red fruit hanging & the kids love to come home from school for freshly picked strawberries!

If you want to fill in the sides how-ever, you need to remove more planks from that other pallet. you will probably have to make these planks less wide, as the gaps are less than a plank in width. Measure the gap each time you cut a plank – the gaps will all be slightly different & will even be slightly out from one end to the other! Well, they are pallets, this is what they do!

I take a measurement from one end, lets say it’s 7cm, and a measurement from the other, lets say that is 6.5cm, I would then measure out 6.2cm all the way along my replacement slat & cut it. You will have a slightly larger gap one end, but I think this adds to the farm-y, rustic appeal.

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You also need to cut a slat for the base to fill in the gap between the two planks & cut a very thin piece of wood for the bottom of each side.

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Now for the feet – use the struts from the piece of leftover pallet to make feet. If you cut three pieces and attach them width-ways on the bottom of the planter with one in the centre & one at either end they make fabulous feet & keep your trough off the ground so it doesn’t rot. Make sure you use long screws again to attach the feet, and you need to make sure your screws go through the struts on the inside of the trough – not into thin air! And don’t forget your pilot holes.

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And there you have it… your finished pallet trough! How pleased are you right now?

All that’s left to do is decide what colour it’s going! If you want to create the same effect as mine, here’s how I did it –

I used a universal spray paint that can be used on any surface & interior or exterior. You need to make sure when purchasing one that you can use it on exterior  wood. The great thing about spray paint is it dries really fast. Always make sure you’re using it in a well ventilated area & you’re wearing a face mask.

For this project & the desired result you don’t need to be too precious about you’re spraying. When the paint is dry in around 20-30mins use a sander with 60grit sand paper & sand the rough wood off. Notice – unlike most projects you are not sanding before you paint the wood – only afterwards, that’s how you get the weathered effect.


To finish, once you have painted & sanded you can line the trough with a coffee sack instead of buying expensive liners from a garden centre. Coffee sacks can be found at markets, boot-sales, and online auction sites for around £2 a sack. You will only need one coffee sack to line the planter, use a stanley blade to carefully remove the seam & open the sack out. Then use a staple gun to attach it to the inside of the trough. Bare in mind – you will be filling it with soil which is heavy so it needs to be pretty slack.

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I want to know how you get on with this make! You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest with the buttons on my homepage.

Please let me know what you think of this ‘how-to’, and if there’s anything else you’d like to know!


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