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Before & After: NH native turns Savenor's trash into trendy DIY pallet desk

Posted by Melissa Massello  September 24, 2013 01:34 AM

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Photos: Caleb Hutchings

In these new post-downturn, eco-obsessed times, modern design is as inspired by reuse and refuse as it is by a simpler, industrial age gone by — when fortunes were made from natural resources and people worked with their hands instead of their handheld devices. When waste, rather than excess, was the ultimate luxury.

Local advertising professional, motorcyclist, photographer & avid DIY-er Caleb Hutchings created this textural, industrial-modern table as an oasis for contemplation and creativity in his Allston apartment, using scrap wood from pallets found at his side job at Savenor's Market in Cambridge. Here's how he did it.

As a child growing up in New Hampshire, Hutchings learned the art of manliness and the DIY lifestyle "from my grandfathers; one an engineer and the other a Malden firefighter whose engines, and coworkers’ cars for that matter, were never in disrepair in his presence. Thanks to them, I’m a fairly good wrench."

By age 10, Hutchings could disassemble and reassemble his own bicycle, and by age 12 he had built a neighborhood skate park using scrap wood "sourced" from the dumpsters of a nearby development project. Now, as an adult, Hutchings is still motivated to furnish his Allston apartment with things he's built himself, including this pallet table but also a shelf made out of wine crate boxes for his bathroom and a hanging table suspended by rustic rope for his back porch. (He's also currently in the process of reupholstering a chaise lounge.)

"Some do yoga, I build," Hutchings says. "It probably has a lot to do with growing up in a forest in New Hampshire, but I find I gain a lot of creative inspiration from texture, particularly natural elements like wood."


To create his ideal creative workspace, Hutchings began collecting pieces over time, both antique hand-me-downs and items found at flea markets. "I bought this vintage wooden rolling chair for $10 and the tall classic iron lamp is my grandfather's, from his own former reading space. They were begging for a desk to complete the corner of my living room, so I decided to fashion a piece to match that lamp so it all looked like it belonged together to some extent." Then came the pallets. "I was moonlighting at Savenor's Market in Cambridge, and two new pallets came in from a delivery one day," Hutchings said. "Trevor, a meat manager there, was very generous in giving them away." And the makings of a desk were born.



- Two (2) standard wooden pallets (free from Savenor's, try the free section on Craigslist or purchase at Home Depot or Newbury Comics)
- Four (4) 29" industrial metal table legs (from eBay; search for "industrial table legs")
- Tape measure
- Nails & screws
- Hammer
- Hand saw
- Power drill
- Primer, textured black paint & clear coat for table legs (optional)

On the proper tools & preparing the materials:

"I'm a tools fanatic, but the great thing about this project is you only need the basics. I used a hammer, hand saw, tape measure, screws, and a drill (and primer, textured black paint and clear coat spray for the legs). The hardest part was separating the pallets. The first thing you want to do is look for new or good condition pallets, because the wood can be very soft and easy to split. I actually had to take a strong nail and poke out each nail holding the pallet together one at a time. Poke the nails out enough until you can use the hammer to pull them out. After that, the design and fabrication only took a few hours one afternoon."

On the design/plans:

"The design came from what resources I had available," Hutchings said. "I had two pallets and I had to fashion the pieces appropriately to make them fit. I actually had the wider boards which ended up on the side laid over the top originally, but didn't give it the scrappy texture or look I intended. After a few cuts of the narrow pieces, I had a simple puzzle of a table top I could be proud of. I didn't involve stain just yet, as I wanted to be able to smell the wood as well. My roommate has a cat in the apartment that agrees with the decision as it's his favorite new spot."



- Legs: 29" high, to go up under the side of the table so it's approximately 30" tall assembled
- Table: 47" long by 25" wide (approximate, varies by pallet and design)

"I would absolutely make this project again, but next time I want to do something a little bit longer so I could host a dinner party in a park or something," Hutchings said. "This one is the perfect date size, however!"

For more of Hutchings' photography and DIY projects, check out his blog and portfolio at — particularly, this slideshow, "Sundays Are For Cookies."

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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