Once there was a girl who had no money but needed a table.  So she scoured the back alleys of the big city looking for work.  She’d wash dishes or sweep floors.  ANYTHING to be able to afford a table.  She walked up and down the alleys, the thin rubber of her sneakers introducing the gravel to the soles of her feet.  With hope, she knocked on the back doors of restaurants, shops and homes begging for work.

They all said no.

Desperately tired and aching with humility she slumped against the graffiti splattered wall of a bar.  Her hip jutted out, forehead resting on the worn brick, she was the picture of desperation.  Plus she looked like a hooker.  So when a pleasantly drunk, tiny man in a slumpy suit wandered past her and asked “How much?” she found herself doing the only thing she could.  She punched him in the armpit (she had terrible aim) and ran like hell.

She didn’t stop running until 7 and a half blocks away when she tripped over something sticking out from behind a dumpster.  It was like a glowing beacon of light.  She dragged it home and got to work immediately.

By morning she had disassembled the wood pallet and built herself a new table.

And THAT my friends is how Pinterest was born.

The truth is, building something, ANYTHING out of wood pallets is a huge pain in the ass.  They’re heavy, don’t fit into the trunk of a car, and are ridiculously difficult to take apart. But one of the things that people usually like about them is they’re often aged looking and a bit hacked up.

But you can fake that. And you can probably even fake it better than the real thing.

Here’s how.







Several screws and a piece of 1′ long piece of 2×4

Odds and ends.

Hunk of new wood



I’m actually building my own outdoor furniture out of rough cut wood posts.  You can’t get this kind of wood from your regular big box store.  Big box stores, I discovered, only sell 6″x6″ posts in pressure treaded or cedar. But no other unfinished wood.  I got these posts through a a man who had a small hobby sawmill on his own 80 acre property.  He cut the wood from his own bush, sawed it in his own sawmill on his property and let it air dry for a year.

These are 6″ x 6″ posts of white ash to be specific, which is a very hard wood.  It’s what baseball bats are made out of.  That means they’re harder to ding up than a soft wood like pine or spruce would be.

So I had fresh, rough cut beams I needed to make look old and banged up.


First off I had to sand the rough beams so I wouldn’t get splinters while lounging on my new furniture and then I had to knock off the sharp corners a bit.


I did this with a belt sander.


Once the wood was sanded it was ready to hack up.


The easiest way to get the look of worm holes is to screw 5-7 screws of equal length into a 2×4.  Just screw them in randomly.  Then start banging away on the wood.

Anything with a sharpish edge can be banged into the wood to create a dent.  And that’s what you want.  Lots of bangs and dents.  Probably more than you think you need.



Then comes chiselling.  The chisel can be used to chisel out entire sections or to just mark up the wood a bit.

It’s also great for creating little chinks in the edges of the wood.


Using a huge screw or bolt that has large threads and dragging it across the wood gives you a whole other effect.

If you’re hacking up a soft wood you can also hit it with a chain or a sock full of nails.  The wood is so soft it’ll ding and dent.  Chains and socks full of nails don’t work on hardwood.

Don’t get it? Need a video?  Here you go.


The wood gets lighter once it’s sanded but once it ages it’ll get darker and all the nicks and dings will come out even more.



At this point it just looks kind of meh.



The worm holes.



The general destruction.



And how it will look after either ageing for a few years or after staining it.


So quite a drastic difference from the original wood.  Proving that old adage once again, “It ain’t that hard. Any of it.”



Unless it’s taking apart a wood pallet.




  1. Penny says:

    What was the stain you used?

  2. George Guerra says:

    Very nice Karen I love old looking wood love what you did with it amazing What kind of wood is it it looks like oak

  3. Ami says:

    Just found you while Google searching how to bash up wood. Love love love your writing style! Oh and I got the answer to my question too.

  4. Brent says:

    Hey Karen,
    I was reading about all this damage we like to do to new wood. Give it that history right? What if we drive an eye bolt into each of the 20+ pieces, latch them onto chains or rope behind a truck and get a couple hot laps in on a gravel road? I will report back with the results :)

  5. Kelliblue says:

    OK call me a city girl but actually finding a part time SAWMILL to cut your wood? For cryin’ out loud, who are you, Pauline Bunyan?

  6. Cred says:

    Love that wood. I’m excited to see the furniture when you’re done. I’ve seen some of your pins, so I have an idea. Can’t wait.
    I’ve used the vinegar and steel wool a number of times- shelves, a bunk bed, a mirror frame- love it. I’m usually trying to mimic reclaimed lumber but it’s hard to find where I am. I’m often using softwood and it’s fun to beat up but the vinegar stain works better on hardwoods- they naturally have more tannins and will react better with the iron oxide. I will use a strong tea to pre-treat softwood but it can make the stain more opaque.
    I’ve even used the stain on a pallet for a wine rack, seen all over Pinterest (I dislike using pallets, too but this rack is just a pallet sawn in half mostly, so no deconstruction reqd). But in this case the perfect pallet wasn’t old enough, so I had to age the rather blond wood. After polishing it with a beeswax finish, it was amazing. Big fan of premature aging wood- less so on my person.

  7. Melissa Keyser says:

    But beautiful beams, btw!

  8. Melissa Keyser says:

    Pallets are such a fucking pain in the ass. I hate all the pallet things on Pinterest. There is no way they made those things out of a pallet they pulled from a dumpster- its impossible to get them apart. I actually had someone forward me a kickstarter that was for a pallet-pull-aparter. (not its actual name), but it was a special crowbar just for pallets. No idea if it made it or not.

  9. brenda says:

    I was SOOOO waiting for this post and it is “all that and a bag of chips”.
    Wink wink

  10. AnnW says:

    This is better than cat videos! You are amazing! I hope you throw some dirt onto it also.

  11. Gretchen Sexton says:

    Can. not. wait to see what your furniture looks like! EXTREMELY interested in that process!

  12. Kathy Hartzell says:

    Does this mean I can stop feeling badly about the little beetle holes in my hardwood floor? Character? (Beetles succumbed to the nasty tenting when we bought the place, of course)

    I tried to mix a filler that would match the old oak, but now I have little polka dots of light brown instead of polka dots of black!!!

  13. Mike says:

    Let me get this straight.

    You are building your own outdoor furniture. With your bare hands. You’ve got some special wood in mind, but “You can’t get this kind of wood from your regular big box store.” So you found “a man who had a small hobby sawmill on his own 80 acre property. He cut the wood from his own bush, sawed it in his own sawmill on his property and let it air dry for a year.” You bought this wood to build this furniture. But then you somehow felt the need to bang on it with a janky stick to make it look, what, more authentic?

    I thought people were stealing pallets and ripping them apart (agree: huge PITA) in order to find wood that looked like someone had chopped it down on their own property and cut it into boards in their small hobby sawmill when they post it on Pinterest.

    • Karen says:

      :) Yup that’s about right. (not to make it look authentic … it’s pretty obviously authentic wood … to make it look like it’s been cut and hanging around for a while) Kind of like a pair of Levi’s. They’re authentic. But nobody wants a brand new pair. Everybody wants a pair that are already worn in. ;) ~ karen!

  14. Danni says:

    I will watch this series carefully, I have been mulling making furniture for the yard.
    I have a deck wrecker, by the way, and tore off my old deck this spring with it, it is a LIFE SAVER!! I never thought of using for the pallet dismantling, but makes perfect sense!

  15. Terri J. says:

    So happy I stumbled upon your site. It is informative, funny and not just filled with a bunch of recipes. Keep it going please because I need to do more stuff!

    • Karen says:

      OH well if you just stumbled here Terri you have about 1,000 previous posts to catch up on so even if I quit tomorrow you’ll have a lot of stuff. :) ~ karen!

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Terri – I just “found” Karen about 2 years ago and believe me, there isn’t anything she can’t do. If she runs into a bit of trouble, she’ll research more then try and try again until she succeeds. I bet if I had an infected appendix, she could operate! You’re going to love her blog!

  16. Jack Barr says:

    Hi, Karen:
    You might check the following “pallet” dismantler on YouTube. You could easily make your own.

    How To Take Pallets And Decks Apart Easily.
    izzy swan

    And, please clean the rust from that poor hatchet….. and sharpen it: it will work much better for you.

    • Karen says:

      LOL, Oh the hatchet is an old one I had left outside for 2 years by accident! I’ll clean it up one day but I don’t really use it so I haven’t been bothered. ~ karen

  17. Alex says:

    OK, Karen, I finally have to ask.
    When did you succumb to getting the Apple Watch?? Do you love it???
    I’m considering, but hesitating at the price.
    AND you wear it while banging on wood. You are a brave girl. But we all know that.

    • Karen says:

      HI Alex. I got it for Christmas from my mother and I love it. The only issue I have with it is it will NOT stay charged for me for the entire day. It’s always at 10% battery life by at 9:00 at night. :( It’s designed to last on one charge for an entire day, then you charge it overnight. But that’s not working out for me. Other than that I love it. I’ve worn it gardening, wood chopping, banging, running, … everything .. and there isn’t a scratch on it and the white band cleans up with soap and water. ~ karen!

  18. Maria says:

    that rusty hatchet scared the crap out of me. I hope you never cut yourself with it and your tetanus shots are up to date.

    I have to disagree with the pallet disassembly remark. If you have the right tool, they aren’t that bad. The right tool is called a Deck Wrecker. They sell them on Amazon for about $70. It will pop those babies apart and only occasionally break a board. It takes longer to pull the nails out. You’ll need a Wonder Bar and a hammer for that part. Husband and I took apart about 100 pallets and made the chicken run and twelve raised garden beds. (Be sure to use only pallets marked HT for heat treated for the garden beds). As husband says, Let the tool do the work.

    • Way to be resourceful – I’ll bet that saved you a ton of $$ on lumber!

      It may be my lack of coffee this AM, but I saw Deck Wrecker as something else at first and also Wonder Bar! Ahem.

  19. Amy says:


    Love how the wood looked after your abuse! If you don’t want to wait for the wood to get that ‘aged’ look, I’ve got your answer: vinegar + steel wool. I used this treatment method with much success on some 43 wooden centerpieces I made.

    Take a wad of steel wool and immerse it (I used a mason jar) in some vinegar (both apple cider and distilled worked great). Pop the lid on and let sit for at least 24 hours. Use a cheap paintbrush to paint the solution on raw wood. The results are no less than magical! It can get a little stinky – but it’s totally worth it.

    Happy wood banging to you!


  20. Mark says:

    That poor chisel!!! Looks like it doesn’t really do chiselly things anymore.

  21. Looks great!
    What type and color stain did you use?
    Brushed or ragged?
    One coat?
    A finish over the stain, or not?
    I so so enjoy this blog!! I always come away with new and interesting knowledge.
    Thanks, Karen!
    PS: Great legs!

    • Karen says:

      “PS: Great legs!”, lol. Well thank you. I didn’t stain the wood I used the technique where you use a solution of vinegar and steel wool on the wood which creates a chemical reaction with the tannins. I’ll be delving more into the staining/ageing of my couch next week when I do a post on how I’m constructing it. ~ karen!

  22. Melissa says:

    Ahhhmazing, as usual.

  23. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    What a great way to get rid of some…can’t wait to see the finished furniture…

  24. robert says:

    I have no idea how you do all of this! I mean, I do since you post a step by step of almost everything you do but (insert the deity of your preference here) I still don’t know where you get the drive to actually get going.
    Btw I’m sending you the hospital bill for the minor heart failure you gave Sunday night?

    • Karen says:

      Ha! Well if it was only minor I can’t imagine it’ll cost me much. ;) ~ karen!

      • Jan in Waterdown says:

        Okayyyy . . . what did you DO to poor Robert? Everybody wants to know. And by “everybody”, I mean “me”.

        • UrbanFarmKid Marti says:

          Oh, yeah, I wanna know now, too, please?

          I thought I was reading the wrong blog when you said,

          “Desperately tired and aching with humility.”

          Then I realized you weren’t talking about yourself. Whew!
          (Humility is way overrated compared to chutzpah. At least for blogwriters, right?) I had no idea pallets were so hard to deal with.

  25. KArin says:

    Dang girl. You know how to treat a piece of hard wood.

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