Turn a Wood Pallet Into a Halloween Jack-O'-Lantern

Spook up your front porch, walkway, foyer or any dark corner with this rustic recycling project that uses a (free!) wood pallet to craft a Halloween pumpkin you can display year after year.
Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Beauty 1

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Beauty 1

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Materials Needed:

  • wood pallet
  • 1/2" mdf cut into (2) 15"x15" squares
  • 1"x1/2" craft strips: (2) 15" and (2) 14-1/2"
  • 1/2" finishing nails
  • 3/4" nails
  • spiral saw
  • orange craft paint and wide paint brush
  • tap light or battery-operated votive
  • wire

Disassemble Pallet and Lay Out Boards

First, break apart the pallet and cut the boards into 12 to 16 pieces that are 22" long and 3 to 4 pieces that are 17" long. Next, cut 2 of the wood craft strips into 15" segments and 2 into 14-1/2" segments. Place the pallet pieces on the floor with the 15" x 15" mdf board in the middle, creating a cross shape. For the front and back of the box, lay the pallet pieces 1/2" past the edge of the mdf board. Measure the space in between the two outside pieces and subtract 1/2". Use that measurement to cut the remaining board for the middle, if necessary. Repeat for the sides; however, the side pieces should not extend beyond the edge of the mdf boards so that once your box is assembled, the front and back boards will overlap and nail into the side boards.

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 1

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 1

Begin Assembly

Once your pallet boards are in place, attach the 15" strips to the front and back pieces 1/2" from the top and 1/2" from the sides using 3/4" nails (Image 1). Then attach the 14-1/2" strips to the side pallet pieces 1/2" from the top and 3/8" from the sides using 3/4" nails (Image 2). Bring the front, back and side pieces together with the mdf board at the bottom and the craft strips at the top; clamp together with long clamps and use finishing nails to secure the joints at the corners (Image 3). Turn the box on its side and secure the bottom of the pallet boards to the mdf board with 3 or 4 finishing nails per board (Image 4).

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 2

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 2

Finish Pumpkin Assembly

Lay the other mdf board on top of the box resting on the craft strips. Line up the two outside pieces with the edge of the box. Measure the space between them and subtract 1/2". Use that measurement to cut the middle piece if necessary. Next insert a 1-1/2" wood screw through the center of the middle pallet piece on the top from the back of the wood through to "good" side (Image 1). This screw will later be used to attach the stem to the top of the pumpkin. Nail the top pallet pieces to the mdf board with finishing nails (Image 2). For the pumpkin's stem, break some of the pallet scraps and find two pieces that can be glued back to back for a stem, apply wood glue and clamp the pieces together to dry while you finish the project (Image 3).

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 3

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 3

Draw Then Cut Out Face

Use a marker to draw the jack-o'-lantern's face onto the front of your box (Image 1). Use the template as a guide or create one of your own. Use a spiral saw to cut out the face design (Image 2). Tip: At no point should the design cut completely through the middle board.

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 9

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 9

Create the Vine

Cut a piece of floral wire to about 4 feet long. Wrap tissue paper around the wire from one end to the other, securing with tape whenever needed (Image 1). Use floral tape to completely cover the tissue paper, overlapping each time. If desired, attach a few artificial leaves with floral tape and set aside (Image 2).

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 11

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 11

Paint Pumpkin, Add Vine and Light

Mix 2 parts craft paint to 1 part water. Dip a wide brush in the mixture and dab it on newspaper to remove most of the paint. Drag the paintbrush over the box for a rustic, dry-brush effect (Image 1). Allow to dry completely before proceeding. Once dry, wrap the wire vine around the screw in the lid once. Then add the dry stem on top of the vine by screwing it onto the exposed screw (Image 2). Finally, place a light inside the jack-o'-lantern to bring your Halloween decoration to life (Image 3).

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 13

Pallet Jack-o'-Lantern Head: Step 13

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