DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf

Anyone else love turning trash into treasure? That’s one of my favorite things about working with pallets! Not that all pallets are trash, but the ones I find in the alley outside our apartment definitely are. 🙂 I love taking something that someone else has thrown out and making it into something useful, functional, and pretty for our home.

Last year I turned a pallet into a bath shelf, and I still use that thing every time I take a bath! So I was super excited to find another pallet, because I had the perfect project in mind for it. I turned a beat up old pallet into a gorgeous shelf!

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from

I know the black stain doesn’t match the rest of the wood in the kitchen, but it was just so gorgeous I couldn’t resist!

In college we kept our bottles of alcohol on top of the fridge (easy access, and we always knew when we were running low!), but now that we’re real adults, I felt like we needed a more “adult” way to store all those bottles. 🙂 So when I found this pallet out in the alley, I knew it was exactly what we needed!

And transforming it from a pallet into a shelf was really pretty easy! If you have a pallet, a saw, a hammer, and some nails, you have everything you need!

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf

Here’s what I used:

I started with a whole pallet I found out in the alley. I have actually found a lot of pallets in the years we’ve lived here, but I had a specific type of pallet in mind for this project. I wanted to find one with rounded cutouts in the bottom of the runners because I thought that rounded cut would be pretty in the finished shelf. But really, any style of pallet will do for this project!

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | Start with a pallet

The top deck of your pallet is going to be the back of your shelf. so cut all three runners of your pallet to the desired height, leaving as many top deck boards on as you want. I cut mine sorta close to one end, leaving only the very last three boards attached.

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | Back half of pallet shelf

If you have some alcohol bottles handy (or whatever you plan to store in your shelf), try sticking them in the pallet to make sure they are all going to fit. I noticed that skinny bottles (like a standard 750ml size) fit just fine, but odd-shaped bottles like Bailey’s were a bit too wide to fit inside the pallet. So I decided to add a few spacers.

The first thing I did was pull off the board on the underside of the runners (see how the “front” board is missing in the photo above?) Then I made spacers by cutting an extra piece of wood into three skinny strips, about the height of the board I removed from the pallet.

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | Spacers

Next, put one skinny strip of wood on top of each runner, and nail the board back onto the shelf, through the skinny strips. This will make your shelf a little bit deeper, and I found it was exactly deep enough to hold all of our bottles!

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | Shelf widened by wooden spacers

Now the pallet is basically back to its original shape, with just a few extra spacers in it. The next step is to add a board to the bottom of the shelf so the bottles don’t slip right through the pallet!

I pulled a board from the other half of the pallet that I wasn’t using, and nailed it to the bottom of the shelf. If you use 2-1/2″ nails, you should only need two or three through the board into each runner to hold the bottom on pretty securely.

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | Bottom added to pallet shelf

And you’re done putting the shelf together! If you like the natural look of the pallet wood, hang it on the wall and be finished! If not, it’s super easy to give it a few coats of stain and turn it any color you’d like.

I gave the entire shelf two coats of ebony stain and let it dry between each. Once wood stain dries, it can look very dry and faded.

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | One coat of stain

But a coat of finish will fix that right up! I used polyurethane to seal the wood and give it a bit of shine.

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | Finished DIY Pallet Shelf

Once the finish coat has dried, hang it up! A shelf the width of a pallet should span at least two studs on any standard construction wall, so get out a stud finder and find a few studs to securely hang your shelf. I used 1-5/8″ screws to hang my shelf, two into the upper board and two into the lower board, about 16″ apart because that’s how far apart our studs are.

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf

The screws I used are a bright gold color, and the heads really clashed with the black wood, but it’s simple enough to fix! Just grab a black Sharpie and color in the screw heads! Nail polish also works great and comes in a bajillion colors. 🙂

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | Coloring in screw heads with a Sharpie

Fill the shelf with bottles, and enjoy!

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf

JM really loves this shelf because it puts our liquor in an easy-to-reach place and we no longer have to store alcohol on top of the fridge or in the hutch in the living room. The bottles are easy to get to and the shelf with bottles in it is really pretty!

And did you notice the fun pattern on the front board? This isn’t the board I took off the pallet originally. That board was boring and ugly. But this one isn’t! Not only can you see the grain of the wood, but there are these fascinating saw marks across the whole surface. So gorgeous!

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | Wood grain and saw marks

DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf Tutorial from | DIY Rustic Pallet Shelf

Have you ever rescued a pallet and turned it into something awesome? What did you make?


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Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Kelley says

    11 years ago

    Great idea and love the step by step instructions!

  2. Bonnie says

    11 years ago

    I’ve been thinking about doing something like this! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Kim says

    11 years ago

    Jessi, I absolutely love this! And I admit that I’m a little jealous that you have access to pallets! My son works at Kroger, but he can’t get pallets because there is a pallet recycling place just down the road – so they take all their old pallets there. You can’t even BUY old pallets from them. I’m all for recycling, but I want some pallet love!! LOL!!

  4. Kayla says

    11 years ago

    Wow, what a great idea! It seems so simple, but looks great. I’m going to have to find myself a pallet and try this out! 🙂

  5. Shannah @ Just Us Four says

    11 years ago

    I love this idea! I actually have a pallet in the backyard too…guess I know what I am doing with it now!

  6. Abby @ Just a Girl and Her Blog says

    11 years ago

    This is so clever! Definitely a thumbs up for the dark stain, too–so pretty! I love a great upcycle, and this definitely qualifies! Hope you’re having a great week, Miss Jessi!

    ~Abby =)

  7. Heather says

    11 years ago

    Love the rustic touch and the ebony stain you chose! I need to scrounge some pallets!

  8. Crystal says

    11 years ago

    Love it!! What a great idea!! I love that you put it above the doorway!! Awesome job!!

    • Jessi @ Practically Functional says

      11 years ago

      Yeah, our kitchen is kinda small so all the available wall space either already has a cabinet on it, or has a window in it, so above the door is pretty much the only space! Plus it really utilizes a space that usually is forgotten about. In a tiny apartment you gotta use all the space! 🙂

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