How to Build a Guitar from a Wood Pallet, Part 1: Materials List

Reader Contribution by Warren Mckenney
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Don’t burn that wood pallet! You can instead salvage the wood, imagine and build a guitar. Pallets are made with beautiful wood, once planed and sanded. Pallets have to be strong, so you know the wood is good. Stringed instruments need good wood to resonate and sustain, in the musical sense, well. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy a hobby than to work without a budget. The creativity and cost savings involved in these projects justify the three ‘R’s: recycle, repurpose, reclaim. The environment will love you.

Wood Pallet Guitar Components Materials List

Below I will give an overview of the components of my pallet guitar, which has an Irish flare.

Control panel

The material list is as follows:

This guitar is made of pallet material and was handmade on a dare. Part of one of my class requirements was to have the students build or design something useful with little or no budget. They, my students, figured if they had to so should the instructor, me and my big ideas. So I couldn’t be out-shined. It is a six- string, 24 fret, semi-acoustic, dual humbucker pickup instrument. The following bullet point will list the materials used.


Body top: Book match cut willow, maple pick guard, cherry pick-up plate, walnut in-lay
Body bottom: lark (similar to fir), reclaimed stadium seat.
Edge banding: cherry, water soaked to conform to guitar shape, pallet material
Sound ports: walnut pallet material
Neck: through body, laminated maple and mahogany pallet material
Pickups: four singles paired in reverse to create two duels
Fret board: Maple with walnut inlay fret marks and walnut banding pallet material, fret wire is reclaimed.
Headstock: maple, walnut banding pallet material, tuning machines are reclaimed
Control panel: pots are reclaimed, tuning knobs are reclaimed, slide switch is used and reclaimed, from a dumpster.
Shamrocks: maple
Bridge: reclaimed Hipshot type
Finish: woods are natural, shamrocks are toned with compressed grass and cedar foliage creating a green stain liquid. Top coat is low-VOC latex acrylic clear (3 parts per gallon), well under LEED guidelines for sustainable use.

Guitar Case


Next, the guitar case. I had much fun with this piece because I had to mix species of wood in order to have enough.

Case exterior: made with combining book match cut alternating species of reclaimed pallet material, maple and black walnut, shamrock is white pine.
Case interior: reclaimed material purchased at a thrift store, price, $ 2.50.
Padding: reclaimed carpet pad. Chain stay probably mined from a dumpster as is all hardware used on the case.
Finish: natural accept for the shamrock, (again foliage liquid)

Guitar Stand


The guitar stand was fun as well, this has no mechanical fasteners and made of old flooring.

Tripod: reclaimed redwood spindles (removed from a house in). Back spindle is reclaimed furniture stock.
Top: Lattice design is throw away wood rips incorporated into a frame made of reclaimed maple flooring.
Finish: natural with clear coat as guitar and case.

Finish and Hardware

Note: All clear finish is applied with a high volume/low pressure sprayer (H.V.L.P.) system, creating little or no overspray. The only thing new is a set of strings, only after my wife, Judie, convinced me to buy for $6.00. It plays very well, and I use it often. No mechanical fasteners were used in the stand, case or guitar, other than visible hardware, such as, hinges, handles, guitar hardware, etc. All connections are doweled, mortise and tendon, or glue joints.

My next post will explain how to build this style instrument.

Attend a Guitar-Building Workshop in Wisconsin

A personal note, Judie and I won Best of Show and first place with this instrument. I still don’t consider myself an artist, just having fun with salvaged stuff. I would like to start workshops on this subject. I am hosting a pallet-guitar-making workshop at a local Marinette, Wisconsin, library for ages 9-12 building small, 3-string box guitars in February. Ages 9-12 years, limited attention span, I must be quick. These guitars are a 3-D puzzle that will work!

Read Part 2 with help in designing and planning a pallet guitar project.

Read Part 3 for how to build a guitar sound chamber.

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