The Original Pallet Shelf Tutorial

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The original tutorial to recycle a discarded pallet into a very useful wall shelf. Featured on Please be certain that your pallets are clean and do not contain hazardous materials.


Normally I don't let much get in the way of a creative spark. When I get an idea, I go for it. And I've had a great idea since last week, but one big giant thing was in the way.

Who knows how many thousands of pounds of masonry rock for the face of our house was right in the way of my next DIY project. That, and taxes.

Well, taxes, kids, dinner, husbands, housekeeping AND this gigantic pile of concrete.

What to do? Well, I could ask the RAM (Real Alaska Man) to move the concrete. But that's just not right. And even I, the firm believer in natural exercise, thought this might be a little much for me and Grace to handle. I tried - I couldn't even lift one box.

So I waited. I waited until Wednesday, when the delivery truck comes with our organic produce, our groceries for the week.

There's our groceries for the week, delivered right to our doorstep! Oh, the things I can do with a moose in the freezer and this box of produce! And no, I didn't bum the pallet jack off the driver.

Instead, I bummed a pallet off the driver.

And although I was very thankful, it did not have as much character as the one's under the masonry rock

See the blue and green on the bottom pallet? Yes, these pallets will get put to good use after the masonry rock is put to good use. And I wasn't complaining about my absolutely free pallet. After all, when someone gives you something, you shouldn't complain. You shouldn't immediately chop it up either, with a 1 and 3 year old watching. I at least waited for the truck to leave the yard.

Do they make safety glasses for infants? Sawsall. Yes, the tool is not creatively named, but very effective. A handsaw would have been just as effective, but I didn't have the time. Not with my two helpers standing in the snow holding their ears.

Then we went in the garage and took a quick measurement of the openings on the bottom of the pieces I had chopped up. Roughly 18". And I knew the sides were 2x4s, so I grabbed some scrap 1x4s and cut four pieces at about 18".

Then I grabbed my nailer and put some 1 1/4" nails into the edges to form a bottom on the pallet pieces. I also nailed down a few loose pieces from the pallet. And then I brought the pieces inside and plopped them down on the floating shelf from yesterday (my husband has asked me not to poke any more holes in the wall just for fun).

And then grabbed a few random items and . . .
photo by Ana White, Reclaimed Wood Shelves designed and built by Ana White
Made myself a reclaimed wood collector's shelf . . .
photo by Ana White, Reclaimed Wood Shelves designed and built by Ana White

No, I actually made myself TWO free reclaimed wood shelves, in about five minutes (for both shelves) out of reclaimed wood with a 1 year old and a 3 year old watching, in the snow.

And when my husband came home, I got the ultimate compliment . . . "Whoa, where'd you get those?"

It took longer for me to explain the whole story to him than it did to actually build (can I use the word build here?) these shelves. Of all the projects I have completed over all the years, this one, these simple shelves, was by far the most dramatic results for the time investment and the money investment. And this project is very useful, think about kid's books, bathrooms, spices, even my wine bottles and ballet flats could fit in there! And this project is green - it's made from reclaimed wood and takes someone's trash and turns it into a treasure. Or at least a beautiful place to hold your treasures.

I can just imagine this:

Reclaimed Wood Pallet Shelves. Hand selected and hand cut, each shelf is unique and bears the character of years of use as a shipping pallet. No two shelves are the same, and may have shipping markings, unique discolorations, or non structural cracks, all telling a story of mysterious travels and precious shipments. All shelves have authentic original nails, and are FSC certified.

Skilled artisans hand cut each shelf from a pallet. Sold unfinished, your shelf will continue to develop in character over time. $329. Some Assembly Required.

And yes, this shelf has character. Lots of character. I love the stamp on the end, the cracked board on the front, the rough cut notch out, the authentic nails, these are the details that could be very expensive if bought. But you are smarter than that. You are not going to buy what you could build for free.

photo by Ana White, shelves designed and built by Ana White
photo by Ana White, shelf designed and built by Ana White
So how to build? Let's summarize.

1. Reclaiming Wood. Score a pallet, the more character the better.

2. Cutting the Pallet. Cut the pallet up on the supports, you should be able to get at least two shelves out of one standard pallet. If you have to transport the pallet, you could cut it before hauling, getting it to fit into just about any station wagon.

3. Cutting the Bottom. Measure the length of the opening on the bottom of the pallet and cut a 1x4 board to fit in the opening. For a standard pallet, this measurement should be about 18". You will need 2.

4. Bottom. Fasten the 1x4 boards to the bottoms of the shelves, I used nails, but you could use screws.

5. Hanging. Either attach a picture frame hanging kit to the back and hang as you would a picture frame, or screw through one of the back boards directly into a stud in your wall to hang.

And of course, you could paint or stain as desired. And I want your photos, how you used your free Reclaimed Wood Pallet Shelves.


Lyssa (not verified)

Wed, 04/21/2010 - 09:22

So so awesome! There are always free Pallets on craigslist in my town. I want to try this!! You are a genius!

nateandcole (not verified)

Sat, 04/24/2010 - 13:46

What a fun idea. Love how they look. I did this as my first project with a few pallets we already had. I like it, but my hubby's not sure...I think it will grow on him. Now that I know I can do it, I'm ready to try another one of your projects.

~Sha~ (not verified)

Mon, 04/26/2010 - 23:00

I am envisioning a couple of these in my wood shop area to hold plans etc... I have pallets out back!

kt (not verified)

Fri, 05/14/2010 - 15:03

We used pallets to make a STAGE for our backyard! MY--er I mean *our*--very own STAGE! My husband & oldest son used 2 pallets, topped w/ a big piece of plywood, painted a groovy shade of plum & voila'!

We've used that stage for many karoake party nights, improv shows, as well as to hold a band for my oldest's 17th birthday party.

LOVE your blog!

Tiff :o) (not verified)

Wed, 06/16/2010 - 06:01

WOw...great idea. They lok so rustic. Just the kind of thing I like. I work in a warehouse and recently took 3 unwanted pallets home but wasn't really sure what to do with them. This looks perfect! Thanks for sharing.

SeriouslyAHomemaker (not verified)

Thu, 07/08/2010 - 10:56

Oh no you di-n't!!!!


Liana Brooks (not verified)

Sat, 08/07/2010 - 09:56

Thank you, Ana! My friend just had twins and is trying to maximize the room in her house. This looks like the perfect baby present! I'm going to paint them and put some magnetic/chalkboard paint on the front strips.

I'll send pictures when I'm done!

Shelf Planter (not verified)

Thu, 09/09/2010 - 22:25

[...] The Original Pallet Shelf Tutorial — Ana White 00000hh I used to work in a warehouse and saw these come and go and tried so hard to think of what i could do with one, best i thought of was some planter boxes that didnt look half as nice as those cute shelves! nice job! [...]

Rebecca Smith (not verified)

Sat, 12/04/2010 - 07:18

What a great idea! We own a small plumbing shop in Alaska and are forever stashing away pallets for bonfires and such, but now I'm going to try my hand at some small projects...this would make a great shelf for my sewing books. Happy Holidays!!!

Sara (not verified)

Thu, 12/16/2010 - 05:51

This is a GREAT idea! We have a pallet storage & distribution company just outside our town... I'm gonna get crazy with these! They are going to be awesome storage in our playroom & kitchen! Thank you so much!

stephanie (not verified)

Sat, 01/01/2011 - 04:17

I love this idea. I am so glad that I found your website. Now I need to find me some pallets. I would like to put one of these shelves in my dining room to display some antique plates and another in my sons room to put his books in.

laura (not verified)

Wed, 01/12/2011 - 18:26

great idea! thank you so much! (now i know what to do with one of the many pallets i grabbed in a scavenging spree i had some months ago!)

michelle (not verified)

Wed, 02/09/2011 - 11:14

I plan on using a pallet for my bolts of fabric. I'll keep it as it is, but nail a 2x4 to the bottom and lean it against the wall. I'll paint the inside (or the whole thing) so the wood doesn't snag my fabric. Can't wait!

cate (not verified)

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 13:00

From working in the industry for years, the colored/painted ones are hardwood and reuseable as pallets and the wood colored ones are softwood that, in some cases, are next to impossible to get rid of.


Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:07

i made 3 of these and love them they are so easy to do.

Kiyon (not verified)

Wed, 09/07/2011 - 13:43

First I love your blog!!!
I was looking up info about wall bookshelves, rain gutter shelves and came upon this post. I wanted to ask, did you paint them after you finished or just hang them as it is? Did it have any issues with wet wood or mold, insects? I really want to take action and make something instead of just drooling over these projects. I'm very new to woodworking and probably I will need to get some tools first LOL...
Thank you so much.

Guest (not verified)

Fri, 12/23/2011 - 13:40

I love these pallet shelves, and have seen them floating around the internet-- So I asked a neighbor/farmer friend for his "ugliest" pallets, because I love the look of old weathered wood. I made sets for each of my family members who have "rustic" looking decor- including a big shelf and a small shelf (half) and I used a wood burning pen to put a monogram on them, while keeping the integrity of the wood :) Great Great idea!! Love your site!!

Guest (not verified)

Fri, 12/23/2011 - 13:40

I love these pallet shelves, and have seen them floating around the internet-- So I asked a neighbor/farmer friend for his "ugliest" pallets, because I love the look of old weathered wood. I made sets for each of my family members who have "rustic" looking decor- including a big shelf and a small shelf (half) and I used a wood burning pen to put a monogram on them, while keeping the integrity of the wood :) Great Great idea!! Love your site!!

Jessykah (not verified)

Thu, 01/12/2012 - 07:32

We just built 2 tiny cabins out of wood pallets and other reclaimed materials. We just stuffed insulation inside each pallet... I am looking forward to making these shelves for our pallet cabins! What a great way to make good use of the little space we have in our cabins! Thank You soooooo much!

CarolAnne (not verified)

Wed, 02/08/2012 - 11:32

Brilliant! It's one of those "Gee, I wish I had thought of that" ideas. I've added this to my weekend project list.

Mgirl8 (not verified)

Mon, 06/04/2012 - 10:54

Wood pallets are commonly treated with chemicals that contain arsenic, formaldehyde and other toxic substances. Treated wood should not be used for firewood, home remodeling projects, landscaping or animal bedding because it may release the chemicals into the air or ground.

Wood that has been chemically treated looks more brown, gray or green than untreated wood. Some wood has identifying marks to signify it has been treated. The wood can also be tested in a laboratory or in the field to see if chemicals are present.