Wooden Pallet Pirate Flag

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I’ve always admired large sailing ships.  They used to dock on the Potomac River in Alexandria, VA.  We would go down to admire them and their immense sails.  It was fun to imagine sailing the open seas as an explorer.  They were so large, though, I couldn’t even start to think what it was like swabbing the decks.  

When I started planning my little’s pirate birthday, it was these large sailing ships that came to mind.  I wanted to create a backdrop using a pirate flag flapping from one of those great ships. 

But, for some reason, my thoughts wandered to a pirate emblem that came right off the side of the ship when it was destroyed in a storm.  The broken off section washed ashore and became this wooden pirate flag.   

Now I will be honest with you up front.  Although I usually create party crafts that are simple and easy to put together, this one is a bit more time consuming.   There are multiple steps and a hammer involved.

But, we decided to hang it above his headboard in his ocean themed bedroom afterwards.  So, it was going to get further use beyond just the party day.  

To make this wooden pirate flag, I started with a wooden pallet.  This is a great way to recycle wood.  If you don’t have a wooden pallet, stop by your local home improvement store or lumberyard.  Many times they are giving these wooden pallets away for free.  

Truth is that I have never made anything with a wooden pallet before.  But, it turns out that wooden pallet projects are really popular.  You can make everything from bookshelves to desks to coffee tables.  For more inspiration, be sure to check out these cool wooden pallet project ideas here.  There’s an entire art form dedicated to wooden pallet creativity that you can explore.

When choosing a wooden pallet for this project, it’s important to consider the treatment code.  Not all pallets are safe to use for your projects.  Some woods are treated with harmful chemicals.  There are three different treatment codes on wooden pallets:

HT: Heat Treatment

DB:  Debarked

MB:  Methyl Bromide

The heat treatment (HT) and debarked (DB) are safe to use for your wooden pallet project.  If the wooden pallet has MB treatment code on it, you shouldn’t use it for any project since it’s covered in harmful chemicals.

You can find this important information on the IPPC marking.  It shows you the country code, treatment type and registration number.  If you can’t find this label on your wooden pallet, check with where you got the pallet from.  They should know whether or not the pallet has been pre-treated with chemicals.

For this project you will need:

Wooden Pallet with HT or DB markings 


Protective Glasses (affiliate)

Wood Glue (affiliate)

Black Spray Paint (affiliate)

Enlarged Pirate Skull and Crossbones

White Chalk

1. Find a wooden pallet that has HT or DB markings to make sure that it’s not been treated with chemicals.  If there is no labeling on your pallet, double check with where you got it from.

2.  Take apart your wooden pallet using a hammer.  Remove any nails holding the pallet together.  Be sure to wear protective glasses to protect your eyes in case of flying shards of wood.

3.  Lay out the pieces of wood in a flag shape.  My goal was to make the wooden pirate flag look like it came from the side of a ship.  So, I picked pieces that had different color variations and sizing.  I didn’t want it to look like a perfect rectangle.

If you prefer a more traditional wooden pirate flag, though, you can choose pieces that are more uniform.  Change up the pieces until you have a wooden pirate flag shape that works for your vision.

4.  Take two pieces of wood and lay them vertically.  Space them so they are each a little bit from the edge.  Drizzle wood glue on each of the vertical wooden pieces. 

Place the flag pieces horizontally across to recreate your flag shape.  Place something heavy on top of the wooden pieces to weigh in down.  This will prevent the wood from curling up as it’s drying.  Let completely dry.  

5.  In a well ventilated area, spray paint your pirate flag black (or choose another color if you prefer).  Let dry.

6.  Print out your pirate skull and crossbones template.  To find a pirate skull and crossbones clip art that you like, you can check out this assortment pirate graphics (affiliate) or another design website.  If you aren’t using the graphic for commercial purposes (such as reselling your pirate flag or using as an event planner for a party), you might be able to find one for free on a graphics sharing website.  

When looking for a good skull and crossbones to use, try to find one with simple lines.  This will make it easier to cut out and paint.

If you are making a larger pirate flag, you might need to have your template printed on larger paper at a local print shop.  You can also divide the template into two and print one half on each page. 

After I printed my skull and crossbones graphic on letter sized paper and cut it out, I realized I needed it to be a lot bigger.  But I didn’t have the time to get it printed larger at our local print shop.  So, when tracing it onto the pirate flag, I made the tracing about 2 inches bigger around.  This made the skull and crossbones bigger on the flag.

Cut out your template. 

Then, trace on the wooden pirate flag using white chalk.  This way you can see the skull and crossbones on the black pirate flag for painting.  And if you make a mistake, the white chalk can be easily wiped away and you can start over again.

For the eyes, trace circles in the center of the skull with chalk.  When painting, you will leave the center of these circles black to create the eyes of your skull.

7.  Paint the pirate skull and crossbones onto the flag.  Start by using white paint to trace an outline. 

Then, fill the template in using a larger paint brush.  Paint around the eyes and leave them black in the center.

8.  Once the skull and crossbones is dry, touch up any spots that need it.  If there are excess chalk marks that won’t wash off, touch up with some black spray paint.  For a more rustic or worn look, use sand paper to remove some paint here and there.  This step really makes your wooden pirate flag look like it fell right off a ship.

Hang your wooden pirate flag behind your dessert table or on the wall of your party room.  You can even use it as a backdrop for a virtual birthday party.  It will really make you look like you are celebrating on a pirate ship.

Another idea is to lean it against the wall if it feels too heavy to hang.  We could hang our pirate flag since the space I chose usually has a mirror on it.  The the hangars were built to hold things that were extra heavy.   

Looking for some more ideas for celebrating a pirate birthday?  Check out these tips for organizing an amazing treasure hunt or make a treasure chest with surprise birthday loot.  Pirate birthdays are so much fun.   

Happy Celebrating,


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