We continue our series of interview, this time with Heather Poole who is an active contributor at 1001Pallets and she's making a lot of useful things out of repurposed wooden pallets. If you think you deserve to be featured in the next interview, please, drop us an email.
Tell us a little more about you? Who you are? Where are you from?
Hello! My name is Heather Stiletto and I’m currently living in Southern California, USA. I was away in other states for almost 20 years, but moved back here in 2004. I'm a LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse) and also a nurse educator. I've got 2 Mastiffs (an English and Neapolitan), and 3 cats. No children, but I do have some fun vehicles! :D
Why do you craft?
I have always enjoyed crafts in general to get my mind off of work, stress, life – the normal reasons – but I started experimenting with woodworking for two reasons: 1) to continue an exercise program by being outside, working in the yard, keeping myself away from food and 2) because of necessity. I’d love to say I’m rolling in dough, but I worked part-time, and I had more wants than funds, so when a plastic chaise lounge broke a couple of years ago, I was frustrated with having to replace it each summer due to sun rot… and wanted a better quality one. I looked around and nice wooden chaise lounges (well, I use the term “nice” loosely; as many of them were of poor quality for the exorbitant prices they were carrying). I started to look closer at the forms and designs, and thought, “I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve got some leftover lumber from other projects.” My husband had been bringing pallets home to collect enough for some shed repairs, but I snuck some boards…. Downloaded some pictures and ideas, and a few different plans and combined the elements I liked the best into my own chaise lounger. That got me hooked!
How did you learn?
My father is to blame or credit… depending on how frustrated I am with my pile of wood in the yard, haha! Seriously, he didn’t like the idea of dependent females getting ripped off at the mechanic’s. He wouldn’t let me get a driver’s license until I took at least one year of auto shop; and I loved it so much I took two, plus was always his little “grease monkey” growing up. Tools came naturally. I didn’t do many of the cutting tools as a child and teen, but I started learning them when I moved out on my own and did small repairs here and there, and then when I bought my first house and had to replace the bannisters, I had to learn! I learned with the help of the ‘net, and from my husband’s experience, as he’s gutted and restored two houses, but he’s not a pro like the guys on t.v. – he’s had to do a lot of try-and-fail experiments. I learned skills over time; watched a lot of “This Old House”, and similar shows, and got past the fear by trying small things, like fencing repair, and deck repair when my Mastiffs decided they made good snacks. :-D Nowadays, I turn to Pinterest, and then just good ol’ Google!
Since when are you working with pallets?
Pallets were my husband’s idea. He knew I’m quick to learn and abandon some projects, although others I’ve stuck with for years, and he wanted to see which way I’d go. He didn’t mind me using his tools, but he didn’t want to waste a lot of money on lumber. Fair enough, he’s helpful and goes on pallet hunting missions, haha! Now, although I’ve proved my long-term interest in wood projects, it’s the principle of the thing now. I don’t want to spend the money when I can turn something ugly and otherwise useless into something interesting and maybe even beautiful!
What are your can’t-live-without essentials?
My Makita 18V XLT impact driver and drill (in white – oh-so-girly!). I love these in particular because they’re lighter, and hold up to a full day of work in the yard building a planter or whatever. I’ve never had to switch out batteries. Now would these be appropriate for a construction worker? No, probably not, but they’re awesome for me. Lighter for women, and powerful enough to hold up to a full eight hours of drilling and screwing boards onto whatever you’re building. After that, would be a chop saw, table saw, a tape measure and a pencil!
How would you describe your style? Are there any crafters/artists/designers that you particularly look up to?
I am a freelancer. I really don’t have one particular style. I live in a California Craftsman/California bungalow 1920’s home, so when I’m building things specifically for the home, I lean towards a craftsman style. For things that I’m using (such as my chaise lounger), then it’s whatever floats my boat!
How is your workspace, how do you make it inspiring?
I don’t have a workspace. I have my back yard. I work on two old reclaimed doors that are on saw horses, and I face my beautiful orchid tree and the lawn that is slowly growing over the bare dirt. I’m currently building a shed so my tools will have their own home, and not sharing it with storage and yard tools.
What sorts of things are inspiring you right now? Where do you look for inspiration?
Preparedness projects; off-the-grid projects are really catching my eye right now. I look for inspiration all over, but mostly on Pinterest and just by a Google search. Think, “DIY_________” and fill in the specific blank that you want to know.
When do you feel the most creative?
When I’m by myself, with the headphones in, and the sun shining down as my dogs snore under my work bench.
We live in such a mass-produced, buy-it-now society. Why should people continue to make things by hand?
For many reasons: 1) to recycle. 2) For independence. 3) the ability to have something truly unique. 4) Knowing what goes into your house/project. I’m not buying crappy pressboard. I’m using pine, oak, maple, etc., as I snag unusual pallets. 4) bragging rights! Even though I suck, and haven’t a clue what I’m doing yet, and go back and second-guess every design I’ve done, I still enjoy it. It’s a challenge, and I like learning by doing. I’ve undone assembly (which is why I tend to screw most of my work together and will undo and glue when I’m confident I’m liking the design).
What is your favorite medium to work in?
Pine is fun; easy to manipulate, not to heavy, and smells heavenly when you sand it. However, I’ve recently gotten some red oak and even some maple, and that’s been fun too. I’ve also reclaimed a stash of 1920’s California redwood, and that’s just STUNNING…. So much fun to see something that’s old, weathered, and ugly become gorgeous. But woodworking is just one outlet. I like assembly in general, which is why I like sewing, tatting, and jewelry making, as well as pergamano and some painting (such as decorating shoes, etc.). One of my other great passions is writing.
What are your tips for people who'd like to start crafting?
DON’T WAIT! You don’t have to be formally trained. You don’t have to be the “Norm Abrams” to pick up a power tool. One caveat – if you’ve never used a power tool before, look it up. See about safety considerations. I’ve been having fun with chop saws, table saws, routers, roto zips, Sawzalls, and other sharp and deadly tools, but have only had one injury in a year (except for lots of splinters) – and that was from a belt sander where my finger slipped and I got sanded!
I would also tell others that gender, orientation, or previous experience (or lack thereof). The best way to learn is by doing! Plus, I know I’m not uber-talented, but others out there ARE, and they are gracious enough to share their designs, plans, knowledge, and YouTube videos :D
What is your guilty pleasure?
Sunbathing on my chaise lounger. Otherwise, it’s my 2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14!
What is your favorite thing to do (other than crafting)?
Riding my motorcycle, writing, other various crafts (as listed above), walking my Mastiffs, goofing off on the ‘net finding new design inspirations, and cooking.
What do you recommend that most people do in terms of cleaning pallets and prepping them to become something else?
You don’t need a lot of fancy tools. You can absolutely disassemble them by hand, but I’ve found that a Sawzall ROCKS. Get a good set of blades (wood/metal), and just cut through the nails. I can then easily use a punch and hammer the nail heads out with no difficulty at all. WEAR GLOVES! Lots of spiders sometimes. Learn to pay attention to the different types of wood you get. Depending on which country they originated from, you can get some awesome woods! I use a hand sander (a Riobi palm sander), and have a cheapie Harbor Freight disc and belt sander combo that’s terrific. You can then see the pallets and know what to do with them!
To finish, anything else you would like to tell to pallet community?
Just that I’m so grateful for others who have very generously shared their knowledge base and design ideas, as well as amazing photographs to help us who are trying to learn more easily understand the how-to techniques. I’m thankful that others have taken the time and given me such wonderful feedback, although I do feel bad since many have asked for design steps, and I just don’t build to a plan a lot. I just see a picture and figure it out based on what wood I have. If it doesn’t work for the measurements, I change from the design and tweak it to match my ideas. I’m trying to think step-by-step directions for others, but I don’t generally because I’m not confident my stuff is up to par yet. There are some EXTREMELY talented people on 1001pallets.com, and I’m proud to be among them.