In the October issue of the 1983 Model Railroader magazine was an article by young Steven Wesolowski who, with the help of his dad, built a jig for making wooden pallets. I thought that was a great idea and a wonderful simple project to do. Pallets are everywhere in the real world, so our scale world should be littered with them as well. I pretty much followed the steps in the article. My thought was to build a single base that held three pallet-building jigs so that I could build one while the others have their glue drying. So, I used some strip styrene and glued it to a styrene base, as seen in the first photo.
The wooden pallets are going to be built upside-down. The purpose of the jig is to produce repeatable pallets that more or less look the same. So, I wanted to make them such that there are five, one-inch scale thickness boards at the top. I cut five pieces of 1x4 strip styrene, and using the 1"-thick wooden boards as my go-by, spaced them such that the wooden boards fit in between in a relaxed manner. Wood has some fuzz along the edges, so if you make the jig too tight, the board won't fit. Plus a slight angular variation is good. Trying to make sure the jig was square everywhere, I discovered that for some reason the first jig's styrene strip was not glued down perpendicular to its other strip, so that one got the big black X marked on it. Oh well, two are enough. The pallets are going to be 48" by 40" in overall size (in the photo, 40" is from top to bottom, 48" is from left to right).
The wooden boards, by the way, are a scale 1"x5". I would have used 1x6, but I didn't have any wood strips of that size in stock. The next step is to start installing the styrene spacer blocks against which the 2x4 boards are glued that make up the vertical parts of the pallet. I cut a bunch of small styrene blocks, but soon found out that they weren't square. So, I started over again by first marking, with a pencil, one side of the styrene strip from which I was cutting those blocks. The pencil marks are lines drawn length-wise over the strip styrene. This means that when I cut them, I will be able to orient them all in the same direction for consistency. It then matters less exactly how thick they are. I glued five of those blocks on top of the 1" styrene strips glued in the previous step, against one of the legs of the jig. To hold the wooden boards in place while I got ready for the next step of the jig's construction, I went ahead and glued a 2x4 board down.
I then marked the exact center of the wooden board, so that I knew where to put the second 2x4 vertical board. I glued that one to the 1" wooden boards, using a small ruler as my guide to make sure that it was perpendicular to the jig's leg. After that was dry, I now had a place to glue the second set of styrene squares, i.e. against the second 2x4.
The third set of styrene blocks go at the other end.
This, then, completes the basic jig, and my first wooden pallet.
I built four more to see if the jig works. Of course, the purpose of going through the effort of building a jig is that subsequent items are faster and easier to produce, which they were. I just place the five 1" wooden boards in the jig, and then in one step glue the three 2x4 boards to them, using the tip of a toothpick to place a tiny blob of glue on the underside of the 1" boards. Letting it cure for a few minutes is the most time-consuming part. After that, I can use a pair of small tweezers to lift the pallet out of the jig. Being able to build two at a time helps. Three would have been better.
I then applied a single coat of india-ink-and-alcohol stain to all sides of the pallets. And this is the end-result that I was looking for; a naturally cluttered scene of the company's employees having placed a pile of unused pallets on top of each other outside the door.
I am going to build quite a few more of these.