DIY: Pallet Wood Crates & Easy Image Transfer

apieceofrainbow5-1w apieceofrainbow5-3wapieceofrainbow5-2w

Here comes a project that is a total indulgence in my love of pallet wood, farm and orchard crates, nostalgic stamps, and weathered typography. These crates are made from discarded pallets, ( Here is my post all about finding pallets and lots of tips on working with them. ) and personalized with a easy image transfer method using only wax paper and inkjet printer. At the end you will also see some fabulous diy failures so you can get a more consistent result with this technique. I think wooden pallets are like Cinderella, they are beautiful no matter in a dumpster, or being transformed into thousand dollar furniture. The natural variations of the wood, the stamps & nail holes, the little and big imperfections, are all gorgeous. apieceofrainbow5-10wapieceofrainbow5-11wThe most important thing when selecting a pallet is to look for the HT stamp, which means it’s heat treated instead of chemically treated. For this project, one easy way is to cut the 1×4 or 1×6 boards from the rails using a circular saw or jig saw. First cut down the edge of each pallet as close to the end rails as possible to maximize the length of each plank. Then remove the center nails of the pallet using a hammer and a pry bar.

apieceofrainbow18 (2)If you plan to make a lot of things with pallets, then our favorite method is with this tool – a Duckbill Deck Wrecker we got on Amazon. This tool lifts those boards easily, and you can take out the nails with a hammer.

apieceofrainbow5-12wapieceofrainbow5-14wapieceofrainbow5-37w Now we can size and cut the pieces – see diagram above. Depending on the size of the crate you want, you will need 2 or 3 boards for the bottom(orange). Mark them to the length you want, and also mark 2 side pieces(yellow) at the same length. Finally, use these pieces to determine the end pieces(blue). Sand each piece with either a sanding pad, or a electric sander. We also used a Makita Multitool to trim and sand smaller irregular edges. apieceofrainbow5-15w

After all the pieces are cut and sanded, nail or glue the 4 side together first, then nail or glue the bottom to the sides. You can also use pocket hole screws to attach the pieces. We chose nails because of the rustic look we want. If you do use nails, a little pre-drilling helps to prevent cracks. Now we are ready to add our personal designs to the crates with image transfer!Transfer Image To Wood Easily!| A Piece Of rainbow

I made up some fun phrases like “California Loves You!” (how could it not, right?) with some fun fonts. The gorgeous peach and orange illustrations are free downloads from the fabulouse Graphics Fairy (thank you Karen!) The stamps are from here. The original wax paper transfer tutorial came from Angela, (thank you Angela!) After some trial and error I made a few fine-tuning and adjustments, and I am really in love with this method ! apieceofrainbow5-16w apieceofrainbow5-17bw apieceofrainbow5-18wapieceofrainbow5-19w Materials and tools:

  • wax paper, cut into sheets no more than 8.5″ wide, a little longer than 11″, so it can fold over one edge of letter size paper.
  • inkjet printer
  • scotch tape
  • 2 pieces of cloth such as old t-shirts and a soft pad such as a shoe polishing pad

First using photoshop or gimp, size and arrange the images and words you want on the crate onto a letter size file. IMPORTANT: flip the images and words – remember they are going to be transferred (mirrored)!Fold and tape one end of the wax paper onto a piece of regular 8.5″x11″ paper, this will be the end that first go through the printer. Leave the rest of the paper loose. Print your image so the ink goes on the wax paper. Be very careful not to touch the printed surface. Can you see the smudge I made on the letters ‘juicy’? apieceofrainbow5-20w apieceofrainbow5-21w apieceofrainbow5-22w apieceofrainbow5-23w apieceofrainbow5-24w apieceofrainbow5-25w Dip one piece of cloth in water, and wet the surface of the wood you are about to print on, then use the dry piece to absorb the water a little. The goal is to get the wood to absorb the ink, but if the wood is too wet, the ink would be runny. Test on a piece of wood to get a feel of how wet/dry the wood should be. Next cut and lay a piece of the design onto the wood surface, once it’s on there, do not move it anymore, hold it down and use the soft pad to rub the wax paper like you would make a print, and you will be delighted to see how beautifully the image got transferred onto the wood! Repeat this step and keep layering images until you are happy with the result. apieceofrainbow5-26w apieceofrainbow5-29w OK, time to share some lessons I learned with the 3 pictures below.

  1. Feeding wax paper directly into the printer will cause the paper to jam 50% of the time. So tape the wax paper onto a regular sheet of paper.
  2. I forgot to flip/mirror the image! ahhh (California still loves you though)
  3. I tried taping the top and bottom edge of wax paper onto a 8.5″x11″, it resulted in the whole thing warping, and ink got smudged! So only tape the top edge!

apieceofrainbow5-32w apieceofrainbow5-35w apieceofrainbow5-33w After the image transfer dries for a couple of hours, the final step is to protect our crates with a nice furniture wax. After some research I used the recipe from Amber Dusick (thank you Amber!) She makes this luscious wax for her wooden toys. It’s 1 part bees wax, 4 parts jojoba or olive oil (I used olive oil). Place the shaved bees wax and olive oil in a bowl, and slowly heat over a double boiler till the wax is melted. Stir and transfer into a jar. apieceofrainbow5-38wapieceofrainbow5-28wapieceofrainbow5-27wThis wax is non toxic, and so nice to work with. It’s actually a great hand lotion! You can see from the photos that the color of the wood and images become richer and deeper once you apply the wax. Let sit for 24 hours, and you are ready to use them or give them as gifts! apieceofrainbow5-4wmake pallet wood crates & image transfer to wood | a piece of rainbowReady to make one? Check out this post all about finding pallets and lots of tips on working with them.

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  1. Madam Rosmerta says

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with wax paper and tape! I tried this method WITHOUT tape serveral times but it always ended in a mess with the printer.
    Greetings from Austria!

  2. Gahrajmahal says

    Wow, one of the most thorough how-to write ups I have seen. I will attempt this in the future and will share it with the more crafty students in my adult education carpentry classes.
    Looks awesome, thank you for your efforts…

  3. Scott says

    I love your project. I just want to recommend not using olive oil. Olive oil is a perishable food product and will spoil and go rancid. I love the idea of making your own finish but stick to mineral oil if you want it to be food safe. or there are many other formulas for wax/oil based finishes. Google Sam Maloof finish recipe for a few good ones.

    • says

      thank you scott for sharing the tips!! i have not experience any problems with olive oil, but will be trying new recipes you mentioned! =)

  4. says

    I just tried it and the first one worked!! 2nd and 3rd trys…not so much but will keep at it.

    Can you do this on painted wood (one coat of flat or eggshell finish)?

    Is it normal for the color to not be vibrant when printing on the was paper? Mine was fairly muted?

    • says

      hi krista! the ink soaks into the wood, so if the painted wood is still porous it should work.
      the ink on wax paper is the same as on paper, but some wood has darker colors, so use images with higher contrast can give better results! =)

  5. Destinee says

    Lovely! Can’t wait to try and make something. I’ve been looking for an easy way to transfer images. I do have a question…do you have to transfer the images right away? Or can the images be left to transfer another day if I don’t have time to complete the project?

    • says

      thank you ! :) I think it works better to transfer when the ink is still moist, but I have used sheets printed days ago, and they do work fine !

  6. says

    Ananda…this is a serious question here…it’s not just a blog comment. Do you sell these? If so, we need to chat, because these would be amazing in my prop gallery. I can **SO** imagine these in my food photography. If you’re serious about selling them…email me

    p.s. I think it goes without saying that I ADORE these. But, I don’t have time to do them. I would love to have the opportunity to buy your ready-made designs!

    • says

      oh kristi you are so sweet! i am so restless, so i never get to sell anything if i need to remake it more than twice lol! =) i do LOVE wood in food photography, and have no doubt you can bribe a family member to make some in exchange for something delicious! xoxo

  7. Kev says

    Could you give me rough sizes of boxes, know that it really depends on boards but a general size would help. Great project cannot wait to make some….

  8. Giancarlo says

    I’m reading your tutorial on transferring images translated into Italian by Google and the translation is not accurate. One question: the wax paper is the one that is used to make sure that the food does not stick to the bottom and that is also called baking paper? Congratulations for the work you’ve done.

    Although this paper has been translated with Google, speramo is understandable

    saluti, Giancarlo

    • shawn Daughton says

      Giancarlo, I think you are talking about parchment paper which is not exactly the same as wax paper…..wax paper actually has wax on it so I don’t think you can heat it in the oven like parchment paper. …..

  9. Rita Cristina Frissong says

    Me encanta este blog, soy de Argentina y lo acabo de descubrir, felicitaciones por la creatividad y el amor a las cosas hechas con nuestras propias manos. Voy a suscribirme para tener sus noticias en mi correo. Gracias

  10. says

    Thanks for the tip on the HT marking on the pallets. Never knew that! Your easy step by step instructions make me want to run out make one right now!! In fact….I think I will! ❤️

  11. Thistlefoot says

    This is an awesome tutorial! Thank you so much! FYI: I used transparencies instead of waxed paper and it never jams. You just have to make sure you specify in the printer settings that you’re using transparencies. Also use it right away so the ink doesn’t have time to bead up if there’s any humidity in the air. Thanks again!

    • ananda says

      thank you so much for sharing the great tip thistlefoot! i will eventually update the post with great tips from readers and yours will be included for sure =)

  12. Christine says

    Merci pour ce super tuto
    Je suis impatiente, nous sommes dimanche et tout est fermé mais demain je me lance
    Bravo pour tout

  13. Lis says

    LOVE, LOVE , LOVE this tutorial, or as one person said, three-in-one tuts! Can’t wait to try this in the summer!
    Thanks so much for taking the time to construct your tutorial..

  14. Ristina says

    Thank you so much for the thorough explanation. For sharing with us the failures so we can skip that parts. I’m looking forward to try it!!

  15. Jacque says

    Great idea! I can’t wait to try it. I have done some image transfer, but never on wood and never with waxed paper, so this is all new to me. Thank you for the diy ideas.

  16. says

    Hi! This is so great! WHO wouldn’t love beautiful wooden boxes and lovely prints on them! Thanks for a great tutorial! x Teje

  17. says

    Love your crates. I’ve got a collection of old crates and have always planned to make some of my own. You’ve inspired me. Not only to go make some crates, but to go find some pallets! LOL Thanks. I found your blog at Funky Junk.

  18. says

    I absolutely love these. I am a big fan of using wood crates for storage, but I love how you transferred the images onto them. They really look like vintage boxes. Ah, LOVE them! I just pinned onto my creative ideas board.
    I, along with five other bloggers, host a link party each week called (The Lovely Ladies link party) if you’d like to come link this and your other lovely ideas & recipes up. You can find it on my blog
    I’d be happy to see you there :)
    I’m not following your blog so I’ll definitely be back.

  19. Shelley says

    Hi Ananda
    Love the post, the crates look so professional. Cant wait to have a go. Can u tell me if there is a speciic side of the wax paper to use or are both sides the same? TFS

  20. says

    From a fellow blogger to another I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite tutorials ever. So beautifully done. Love love love it. Thanks for sharing!!

  21. says

    I found you at Beckie’s RR

    Love your crates, great tutorial on the crates AND the transfer. I’ve never used wax paper yet… someday!


  22. Tess S. says

    Amanda!!! This is so exciting!!! I want to try this immediately. Where do you find the HT pallets for free? Any suggestions? BTW, I live in Albuquerque, NM. OOOh, I’m so excited!!! They look BEAUTIFUL!!!

    • ananda says

      Hi tess! Ht pallets are easy to find, check stores that sell building materials, like flooring, stone, tile, or plant nurseries. Have fun ! =)

  23. says

    Hi Ananda: Your blog is amazing and I see that you are taking BYW. I’m not registered for this session, but I’ve taken 3 courses in the past and the information you will get is invaluable. It looks like you’re well on your way already. I agree with Claudia, your photos are gorgeous and your blog is already very polished. Good luck with the course and your blog. I’ll be back!

    • ananda says

      Thank u so much cyndi !! I look forward to visiting u soon when i get to a computer _ traveling right now ! =)

  24. says

    Hello Ananda! Here I am straight from the BYW forum to your beautiful blog. Love its name and colorful yet delicate header and looking forward to following you for an enriching sharing experience. Take care and enjoy the Easter holiday ahead!

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