Wooden pallets at the end of their lives are finding a new purpose through the rustic craftsmanship of one Arboles woodworker.
Chris Myles finds, cleans and strips down pallets at his workshop and turns them into handcrafted objects such as shadowboxes, bunny barns, picnic tables and a bookcase for a Pagosa Springs teacher.
“It’s unlimited, surely it is unlimited,” Myles said. “If it can be made out of wood, I can make it, and it’s really unlimited.”
Two months ago, Myles started what he describes as “more of a hobby” and has since received positive responses for his work.
People have been reaching out online to hire him and tell others about his work, he said.
Myles said he has completed 30 pieces since starting and he has booked his schedule for the next three weeks.
“It seems to be taking off,” Myles said. “People like the idea.”
One project Myles took on was a bookshelf for a classroom.
Karen Lindner, a sixth grade teacher at Pagosa Springs Middle School, found Myles on an online yard sale page where he showcased his older pieces. Lindner had been looking for a bookshelf for her classroom, so when she found Myles on Facebook, she said, “Hey, let’s give it a try.”
Lindner paid $50 for the six-cubicle, two-shelf piece, she said.
When she picked up her shelf at his shop in Arboles, Lindner was pleased with what she found.
“Holy cow, this is a solid piece of furniture,” Lindner said.
For Myles, payment comes when customers are happy with his work. He reinvests earnings back into his company.
Myles worked as a carpenter in New England for almost 30 years before a wrist injury sidelined him. Once he stopped working on houses, he continued working with wood by recycling and rebuilding furniture.
He moved to the Durango area in 2018 and set up shop with his 30-foot mobile home he drove cross-country.
Myles works on his projects on his metal-roofed porch while the sun beats down on the dry valley. He splits his workday to avoid facing the brunt of the heat by working early morning until mid-afternoon and picks up where he left off in the evening.
Myles uses a miter saw to cut the planks and smooths them down with sandpaper from the Humane Society. He had been using a circular saw when he started but increased his production and saved himself physical pain by upgrading to a miter saw.
“That was fun. This thing here has increased production,” he said.
He organizes materials and tools and spreads them around tables made of repurposed pallets. Wooden planks sit sorted by size and wood type, wood scraps sit in a bucket waiting to be emptied and metal scraps are set aside to recycle.
No part of the pallet goes to waste. Nails and scrap wood are separated and saved for recycling and burning.
Myles estimates he has prevented 100 pallets from going to the landfill in the past two months and expects to reach 80 pallets when he picks up a load in the first week of September.
He finds pallets at local electrical companies and asks for old pallets in online forums.
There is an estimated 2 billion pallets in circulation within the U.S. alone, said Brandon Hill, a program director at Resource Central in Boulder.
Many of these accumulate before being taken to the dump, and an estimated 508 million new pallets are made each year.
Myles hopes to continue his work and hopes to find help and rent a different workspace.