This Pallet Project will show how I built a small pirate ship out of old pallets and left over material. As always use proper safety precautions and always wear eye protection whenever working with tools. There are no plans or measurements as I built this out of whatever I had laying around. The only purchased parts where the captains wheel and the large yellow rope.
I was very lucky to get some large (4’X8′) hardwood pallets from my work and after using most of them in another project I found a use for the last one. The large pallet forms the center base for the ship. I then attached two smaller pallets to the front and rear (bow and stern for you nautical folk). This gives the ship three separate areas and makes the ends narrower to match the traditional ship shape.
After I screwed the three pallets together I realized I had forgotten the fabric underneath. A quick capsizing (I just flipped the whole thing over onto the grass) and I put the fabric down and flipped the pallets back over. Then it was on to the decking. A few sheets of random leftover plywood and particle board and its starting to take shape. I was originally planing on painting the whole thing when finished so I wasn’t too worried about using the particle board, however if you are not going to paint the wood then use planking or outdoor rated plywood as particle board tends to swell and crumble when exposed to the weather for too long.
I next started to collect my Pallet wood for the sides. Since this was going to be a pirate ship it doesn’t matter if the wood looks great. I was going for a rough and rugged looking ship that looked like it had seen a lot of battles on the high seas. It helped that most of my wood had been sitting out for a couple of years and a lot of it was warped and twisted almost from the start.
As you can see I left the pallet exposed on both sides of the decking. This allowed me to screw the side pieces directly to the main pallets. In the second picture you can see my chief inspector checking if the rope is ok. It did not pass and will need to be replaced.
After putting the first layer of planks around the side I had to decide on a way to get aboard. I decided a small opening in the main deck wall would be the best for getting on board and getting to the quarter deck (where the steering wheel is). This was a little tricky cutting the angles and across the bottom while the board was vertical but if you are careful it can be done. I used a circular saw for the main straight cuts and didn’t go to the corners, I then went in with a jig saw and cut the last of the corners out. The Captain came on board and declared it was good and that she can’t wait to go raiding on the high seas.
Here’s a view of some of the stuff I collected to use for this project. As you can see there’s a lot of warped wood and some weird curly metal things. Sometimes it pays to collect strange things. I like to collect as much of the material I have available for projects like this and lay them out around while I’m working. It never fails that I will find the perfect use for a really strange/warped piece if I can see it as I’m building. Always look at your warped wood and see what it wants to be, not what you want to make it.
Every pirate ship needs a mast to hang the sails on so… An old 2×4 and a brass sphere and a little cutting. The top of the mast can be a flat cut but I had several of the brass spheres and thought it would look cool. Which it does. You could also use parts for a fence post for the top. They sell lots of different tops at the large home improvement stores like Loews. Get creative, maybe a plastic skull from Halloween or something.
For the sail I decided to use some leftover lattice. I used two 2×4’s with the ends shaved down as cross bars and simply cut the lattice with a jig saw into a curve from one cross bar to the next. Once screwed onto the main mast it looked great. I had to add extra 2×4’s to both sides of the mast to keep if from flexing once the sail was on but that just made it look better. As a note, the lower cross bar is only about 5 feet up from the deck so it gave me a couple of smacks to the head as I was working around it. Lesson learned is to save the sail for last. LOL, Oh well it looks cool. At this point I also attached the “dash board”, not sure what to call it, but the board that the steering wheel will attach to. The other side of this board will attach to the rear mast later, but for now is just hanging in the breeze.
Next I started up the sides with my planks. I had already decided that the walls would have gaps for air flow/ vision and I used a left over rail post as a spacer but any piece of wood the right size would do. On the starboard (right) side I used a 4″ hole saw to make port holes. I measured the spacing out and lined them all up but you could just drill them out randomly for a different look. I’m just a little too OCD for that.
I attached the rear mast and now it’s time to get back to the walls. After cutting out the lower wall board I screwed a couple of 2×4’s to the inside even with the top of the opening. These gave me a place to attach the rest of the wall boards. As a trivia fact the right side of a ship is Starboard, named because ancient sailing ships had their rudders on the right side and they were called “stear boards” which over time became starboard. The left side of a ship is called the port side because that is the side that would face the port when loading and unloading to prevent the “stare board” from getting crushed against the docks. So now you know.
The next step was to keep adding side boards. As I worked around the sides I would take each board and check it against the side. As almost all of the wood I was using was warped it really takes some time to find the right spot for some of the pieces. Use the woods twist and bends to your advantage and people will wonder how you got such nice curves. It’s starting to look like a ship now.
Rather than close the ship off and only have one entrance on the side I chose to run a 2×12 out the front and make it into a boarding ramp/plank. I attached some more 2×4’s to the front wall boards to tie them into the main structure. The plan is to fill in around the ship with mulch and hide the lower parts.
Because I put the plank out the front I had to remove the particle board. Now I need to build the fore deck out of 2x planks to make the deck even. It’s a good thing I have lots of little pieces left over.
I picked up the ships wheel at Loews for around 20 bucks. Now it’s time to build the rear frame and sides. Ah yes those strange curly things. So after several years working at a metal yard I had accumulated more than a few odd parts. These curved metal pieces were originally used for street lights or something. Now they were to be the sides for the quarter (rear) deck. Using the metal parts as a guide for the angle I cut two planks for the rear uprights and two more for the top rails.
I notched the top rail pieces to fit around the rear uprights and then installed a horizontal cross bar as well as a seat.The seat is a little too far back to steer and sit for a kid but it fits me fine and it gives the kids plenty of room to sit and someone can still stand in front of the wheel.
Here is the starboard side view of the quarter deck and captains seat area. The rear slant really gives it that pirate ship feel.Now it’s time to work on the front a little more. In the pictures you can just see two more curly metal pieces attached to the front of the side walls. These were almost a perfect fit for the front end of the ship, I had to drill a couple of 1/4″ holes to be able to screw them on but other than that they fit perfect.
I took the curly pieces off so I could work on the top rails first. Again it pays to check your boards against where you need them. My last couple of 2×4’s were extremely warped and curvy but with a little help they fit perfectly on top of the sides. In fact a straight board would not have worked.