Pallet shelf projects

On December 26, 2012 by Shawn

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of fun making stuff out of shipping pallets. I made our hog house out of pallets, I’ve repaired some pieces of our old barn with pallet wood, and now I’ve been dabbling in making small shelves out of pallet wood.

The greatest thing about wood from pallets is the fact that it’s free. Now, not all shipping pallets are free, as some businesses get pretty upset when you take pallets from behind their buildings, and some even try to sell them! Most of the time, though, they’re discarded as trash. But you should always ask before loading your truck up.

shelfMy first pallet shelf project was a small shelf for our bathroom. I’m really big into the rusty and worn wood look, so I wanted to make this shelf look like something that had been lying around for a long time. My wife saw something on Pinterest for a makeup shelf with a metal backing that could be used with magnets to hold up small makeup cases. So I grabbed the side panel of an old computer case I had lying around and painted it to look rusty. The fan vent holes are perfect for hanging earrings and the rest is great for holding small toiletries.

So I framed up the shelf itself with pallet wood that was literally laying in my pasture from the previous owners and painted the screw holes with a bit of black acrylic paint to make it look like nails do when they leech into old, weathered wood.

As I said, this was a bit of an experiment at first, but I really like the way it turned out, so I began gathering more pallets and more pieces of old rusty metal, or at least pieces I could paint to look rusty.

Next on the agenda was a spice rack for my wife’s Christmas present. I gathered up a few really old pallets, began taking measurements of her common spice bottle sizes, and went to work. I tend to work from plans in my head instead of anything precise and blueprinted (which often gets me into trouble), and I knew that I wanted this one to look like a few old wooden crates stacked loosely on top of each other. I knew that I wanted the pallet wood’s nail holes to be a prominent feature and the more broken, the better.

The first step was to get that old wood taken apart from the main pallet frame. I used my trusty reciprocating saw (aka Sawzall) and cut the boards directly off, nail heads and all. I think keeping the nail heads in there really adds character.


Next, I laid the boards out and scrubbed them down with water and a stiff brush. The aim here isn’t to clean these completely, but to get the chunks of debris and other nasties off. As you can see from the picture, even when “cleaned,” they still look pretty dingy. That’s a good thing in my book.

boardsI knew that I had to make a box 5 1/2 inches high, one 8 inches high and two 2 1/2 inches high. I didn’t worry too much about the length of the boxes at first, but I knew that the total width of the spice rack couldn’t exceed 24 inches. I decided to go for 24″ x 24″ overall. I cut the pieces I needed for each box and laid them all out on the floor before driving one nail. This helped me determine the layout, look, and if I’d need to cut any more pieces.

I was originally going to go with a rusty metal backing in each box, but then decided that a plank backing would look much better. So I cut some pieces to show off the old rusty nails and put them in the back, leaving a few boards out to add to the old broken look. The frame is tacked together with 1/2″ brad nails and each box is screwed to one another for stability. On the bottom, I screwed in some old hooks so my wife could hang her apron and oven mitts.


To attach the shelf to the wall, I’m using 3/4″ cabinet screws. The screws are originally flat black, but I dusted them with a rust-colored spray paint to add character. I hope to attach it to the wall soon (it’s on the workshop floor in the photo below) and will post a picture once it’s up and filled with spice bottles.

Overall, I’m very happy with how this turned out. All wood and hardware was free from salvaged pallets or what I already had lying around my workshop. I plan to make many more of these in various forms (some with metal, some with more rusty hardware, etc) to add around our house.


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