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Author Topic: thinking outside the box.....pallets for train tables?  (Read 4510 times)
jward


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« on: November 14, 2009, 08:44:59 AM »

i work for a flooring distributor and we use shipping pallets (skids) every day. i was wondering if anybody ever thought of using them as a base for a layout?

i can see several advantages. they often are extremely sturdy in construction. they are set up in a way where they could be connected end to end. legs could be easily attatched, and a plywood top added.....and best of all they are portable. you can get them into almost everywhere and they are designed to be moved.....

they come in many sizes, ranging from about 30x40 up to about 48x96. the most common sizes are 40x48 and 48x48. the 40x48 wound make an excellent base for an n scale layout, a 48x48 sheet of plywood would fit without objectionable overhang on the sides. two would give a standard 48x96 area which many published HO track plans are designed to fit.

modifications i'd make to the pallets would include replacing the nails that hold the slats in place with screws. i'd also screw the plywood down to the slats, it would tend to straighten out any warped slats, and the slats would in turn provide more than adequate support for the plywood. in fact, you'd be able to walk on a train table built from a pallet. i've seen them support over 2500 lbs without damage, i am sure none of us weigh that much....lol

when i was a kid we'd often take them and build tree houses with them. during deer season the hunters would be up in them all day, and for all i know some pallets may still be there 30 years later.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
ebtbob


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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2009, 09:25:48 AM »

I worked in a pharmacutical plant where pallets were used to bring in raw materials.  Yes,  they are sturdy,  but.....make sure they have no bug infestations.
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Bob Rule, Jr.
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mabloodhound


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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2009, 10:44:04 AM »

My thought is they are too heavy and overbuilt for layout use.   Also, many pallets are boarded on both sides which will cause problems doing under-layout wiring and turnout motors.   I think you will spend more time trying to adapt the pallets for use than building a lightweight table from scratch.
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Dave Mason

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CNE Runner


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« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2009, 10:45:16 AM »

While attending graduate school many years ago, I drove an 18-wheeler for an alloy company ('gotta pay for those books some how). In the course of my deliveries, I would end up with a considerable number of pallets...which the home company didn't want. I used to take them home, cut them up with a chain saw, and burn them in our wood stove. The pallets I used were oak and burned very hot...albeit leaving lots of nails in the stove. Having said all that, I remember pallets as being very rough wood (the company policy was to wear gloves anytime we handled them). Additionally, pallets are not straight - which could cause problems in the model railroad environment. I would just as soon stick to either plywood (laminated) or #1 pine (1"x 4"). I think to save a buck you will give yourself $10 worth of grief.

Ray
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jerryl

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« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2009, 10:51:44 AM »

Pallets are made from green wood. They warp & crack as they dry. also made from scrap wood that can't be used for construction.  Most are not flat, or won't be when they dry out.  They are too thick & the larger the volume the more they will react to temp. & humidity changes.
  To sum it up, use the best quality wood you can afford to construct your layout...don't be sorry later.  I think the best material is 3/4" plywood ripped into 3' strips. Warping & shrinking will be kept to a minimum because of the fact that the grain runs in both directions.   jerry
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jward


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« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2009, 11:57:05 AM »

alot of the heavier duty pallets are hard wood such as oak. those are mostly 48x48. many of the other sizes appear to be pine.....

as for overbuilt, i'd much rather have an overbuilt layout than one built too light. it is hard to strengthen something that is too flimsy. as for wiring, most of the pallets i've seen have slats all the way across the top, on the bottom they have one slat at each end, and one or two in the center. with a little planning, your wiring can be routed around these slats.

most of my layouts have been built out of pine, i've found it to be sturdy and easy to work with. plywood, while something i would consider if using prefab track, is not really suitable for handlaying track, as the wood is too hard to drive spikes into. i had used plywood in my original example of a hypothetical situation. in practice, i'd be using pine lumber for track boards.

warpage could be a problem. care would have to be made in the selection of the pallet. but as long as the 3 thick pieces that form the backbone of the pallet are straight i see no reason anything else would be more than a minor problem.....
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
NarrowMinded


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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2009, 09:32:06 PM »

If your on a budget or a penny pincher (who isn't these days) use what ya can if it works for you, I would be weary of them pallets we have at our shop that we have used for storage have a high amount of curling on the slats which would cause a big headache.

Just my two cents

NM
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az2rail


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« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2009, 10:04:18 PM »

I work in a print shop, and we get pallets all the time. Some are not even fit to use as fire wood, and some would make fine bench work. All you need to do is be picky as to what you use. You will know a good pallet from a bad pallet when you see one.

I am using the shipping crates that one of our copper die makers receives their copper in. They are more like framed plywood, but work real well.

Bruce
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If your parents never had children, chances are you won't either.
jward


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« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2009, 10:35:19 AM »

the thing that got me thinking about pallets is that in my layout's current incarnation, it is only about 4' x 4 1/2'. it is not much bigger than a pallet. i built the platform out of 1x3 lumber in the traditional way, but got to thinking there had to be a better or easier way.

completed handlaying the mainline thursday night, ran the last wiring friday night, tokk the son to the train show yesterday and bought him a trainline gp9. this morning he is happily hauling freight......
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
NarrowMinded


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« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2009, 01:53:48 PM »

I find it curious that a person that hand lays track needs an easier way to build a train table.

 Tongue
NM
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jward


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« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2009, 03:43:47 PM »

it's simple. benchwork is one of those areas of the hobby i don't particularly like. it's also called thinking outside the box......
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
mf5117

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« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2009, 04:49:05 PM »

depending on the climate the oak will tend to cup .as in the earlier post they tend to draw bugs and flea's . 1x4's and plywood is the way to go ,if your not strap for cash .Or the easier softerway a 5x9 ft ping pong table.

I was wondering that also at one time as we get sheet metal pallets that are 4x10 ft most of the time .but in the long run I wouldn't want to risk all the hard work later and have humps and valleys due to dry lumber tweaking and moving due to cold and hot temperature changes . In Texas it's bad enough with the humidity . Even with the good old a/c.
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jbsmith


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« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2009, 12:23:07 AM »

it all depends on what you are able to find.
Working in a warehouse myself i get all different kinds of wood skids.
Some are broken, some are good, some are cheap,light-weight & flimsy throw aways and some  others are built well like tanks out of good materiel & meant to last, and weigh a ton.
IF you decide to go this way,,bring a tape measure and a carpenters-bubble-glass level !
Let your MK-I eyeballs be the judge of the quality of the skid.
About bugs,,,Spiders Love Skids!

A well made skid is the frame of a table waiting to happen, just remove the bottom cross boards, or keep the ones at the ends, they would make handy storage areas for whatever. and then just add legs!
« Last Edit: November 18, 2009, 12:26:19 AM by jbsmith » Logged
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