Decorate your home or yard for Thanksgiving with this easy, inexpensive turkey project. It’ll only take about an hour and requires few supplies. It’s a great DIY decor project that adds rustic charm to your home during the holidays and will last season after season.
- Wooden pallet
- Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue
- Hammer and nails
- Circular saw or jigsaw
I’ve recommended Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue, but you might prefer a different type of wood glue. I like this one because it requires half the clamp time of traditional wood glues to dry, allowing handling within 20 minutes of applying pressure. It won’t run or drip and remains in place when applied.
The glue can be applied at temperatures as low as 55°F. It will fully cure in 24 hours at 70°F. At this temperature, the open assembly time is 10 minutes.
Step 1: Get a Pallet
Pallets are excellent materials for DIY crafts and projects. They’re often free or cheap from local businesses. Retail stores, pet shops, and furniture companies are often happy for someone to haul away their used pallets.
Check Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, too. Many people list free pallets for pickup. They often don’t have much value on their own, so you likely won’t pay over $5–10.
Look for pallets made from untreated wood. Avoid pallets with potential chemical residues from hazardous materials transport. When sourcing pallets, find ones roughly the same size so project components fit together properly.
Inspect the pallet before taking it home. Avoid cracked, split boards. Make sure the nails holding it together don’t protrude dangerously. You want straight, sturdy boards for your turkey.
Step 2: Make the Turkey Feathers
Before taking the boards apart, remove the back end. Only take out the back of what will be the feather top. Mark a half-moon shape where you’ll cut the feathers.
Use a jigsaw to carefully follow your line, cutting the curved feather shape. Go slowly and keep the blade straight for a smooth cut.
After cutting the feathers, carefully remove all boards from their base using a hammer and pry bar. Don’t throw away any wood — even small pieces will help later.
Examine the boards and set aside the best and straightest for feathers and body. Uniform boards give the nicest result. Consider pre-staining boards if you want a colorful turkey. Staining helps cover discoloration and flaws on the pallet. To speed up the process, you can use a fast-drying stain solution.
Step 3: Make 45-Degree Cuts
To form the base of the feathers, you’ll need to cut three of the boards into arrows. Use a speed square to precisely mark 45-degree angled lines across the bottom of each board face. Securely clamp boards before cutting.
A circular saw makes straight, even 45-degree cuts on pallet wood. You could also use a handsaw, jigsaw, or miter saw for the angled cuts. Secure the board firmly before cutting for safety and accuracy. Cut slowly for best results.
Step 4: Glue the Feathers
Apply a thin, even layer of glue to the angled edges. Use enough glue to fill in cracks and flaws.
Clamp the glued boards tightly. Allow 30 minutes to an hour before removing the clamps for the glue to cure.
Once dry, glue two more boards to the back of your feathers. Wait an hour, then reinforce with finishing nails. This helps support your turkey over time.
Step 5: Design the Turkey Body
To create the turkey body, use one of the remaining pieces of wood. Draw the body and head shape onto the board, then cut out your turkey body. Use one of the triangles from your 45-degree cuts as a beak. Glue and nail the beak onto the head.
For a smooth finish, use wood putty to fill gaps and flaws on the body. Sand once dry before painting.
Step 6: Attach Turkey Pieces
Once the glue fully cures on all pieces, attach them together to form the turkey. First, glue the body to the feathers. Apply glue to the rounded body back before pressing onto the feathers.
Reinforce with finishing nails. Once the glue joints are fully cured, your turkey will be solid and sturdy.
Step 7: Create a Stand
Cut 2×4 pallet boards into blocks to make turkey legs. Use shorter stacked blocks to achieve the desired height. Glue and nail leg pieces into a “U” shape for stability. Make the stand wider than the turkey body for support.
Use scrapboards as a back support. This reinforces the turkey’s position on the base.
Securely glue and nail the entire base together. Allow several hours for full glue curing before placing the turkey on it.
Step 8: Decorating Ideas
Consider decorative touches for your pallet turkey:
- Pre-paint or stain the wood. This covers flaws and allows for creative color schemes.
- Hot glue colorful fallen leaves for fun feather accents. Fake leaf garland also works nicely.
- Use craft paint to add stripes, dots, plaid, or other designs.
- Glue on googly eyes, pom poms, or fabric for silly turkey features.
- Distress paint your turkey for a vintage, weathered look. Antiquing wax works well.
- Add a simple “Thankful” sentiment to the body or base for a perfect Thanksgiving decoration.
The finished turkey makes a wonderful handmade holiday decoration. Prominently display it on your porch or use it as a table centerpiece. It also makes a unique Thanksgiving host gift or pallet wood crafts project.
Save any leftover pallet pieces to use for other pallet crafts like this DIY wood pallet Christmas tree.
So, Is Creating a Pallet Wood Turkey Worth the Time and Effort?
Crafting a DIY pallet turkey is a fun Thanksgiving project that is absolutely worth the time and effort. Total hands-on time is about an hour, spread over a day or two for glue drying. Yet the result is a unique turkey you won’t find anywhere else. Kids especially enjoy decorating these turkeys.
Plus, if you source free pallets and already have basic woodworking tools, the cost is $0. Even purchasing supplies, the total spending is under $20. A comparable store-bought decoration costs far more.
The relaxing, rewarding process of handmaking your own turkey gives it extra sentimental value over mass-produced decor. It becomes a Thanksgiving tradition you can do annually and pass down for generations.
So, if you want a unique turkey decoration to make guests smile, this easy pallet project is certainly worthwhile.
FAQs About Making a Pallet Turkey
What size pallet should I use?
Standard 48″ x 40″ pallets work well. This provides usable boards to construct a medium 2′ tall, 1′ wide turkey. Adjust size based on preference and available materials.
Can I make a wood pallet turkey on a budget?
Absolutely. Source free pallets from local businesses. Use leftover wood, paint, and craft supplies. Shop dollar stores for cheap embellishments, or just keep it simple.
What basic tools do I need?
You’ll need a hammer, pry bar, wood glue, nails, sandpaper, saw (jigsaw, circular saw, or handsaw), safety gear, clamps, and paint brushes. A speed square and miter saw also help but aren’t essential.
How long does the wood glue need to dry between steps?
Allow 30 minutes to 1 hour between gluing major components like feathers and body. Let the glue fully cure overnight before decorating or moving the turkey. Follow your glue product’s instructions.
How do I weatherproof my outdoor pallet turkey?
Apply a protective polyurethane sealant after painting. Consider spraying with clear matte varnish. Store the turkey indoors after the holidays. Bring it out again next Thanksgiving.