Picture of Make a Rustic Shadow Box, pallet lumber
This guide will teach you everything you need to know to make a great rustic shadow box.  You can use it yourself or even give it as a gift.  All the ladies in my life love them, my wife, mom, mother-in-law, grandmothers, etc.  If they don't have a few of them they are always asking, if they have a few they want more!!

Here is the best part of this project... it can be done for very little money.  Just a little bit of elbow grease!

If you like this, but really just don't want to make it you can always visit my Etsy shop at 

You will need the following to complete this project:

- One pallet 
- Saws power or strong arm
- Pry Bar
- Hammer
- Nails
-Glue  (optional)
-Sandpaper (optional)
- Finish (optional)
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Step 1: Choose your materials

Picture of Choose your materials
A quick word on pallets, most places will give them to you for free.  Always be sure to ask first!

Pick up a few that are clean and not too broken up.  Also check carefully for the tag, see the picture the one with the HT on it is the one you want.  This means the pallet wood was heat treated, not chemical treated. 

Step 2: Dismantle the pallets

Picture of Dismantle the pallets
There are several good instructables and other sources for the many methods that can be used to dismantle the pallets.  Some methods are better than others, no method is going to be super easy, this will require a little bit of work.  I use a hammer and pry bar to free enough long boards to make the tops and bottoms of these boxes, then use a circular saw to just cut the center sections out of the rest of it.  this leaves a small piece of wood with the nails still in it stuck to the think upright supports... its ok you will not need those pieces.


Also wear safety glasses and gloves while beating the pallet apart.
makeitblakely11 months ago
Hi! Your shadow boxes are impressive. I was thinking of making one on my own but realize yours are way better. I'm wondering if you'd do a custom order of a single shadow box--one around 6X6". Have you ever installed glass on the front of a shadow box? I have a collage on a canvas and want to keep it protected from dust (and people) by keeping it behind glass.
Nice instructable. I just made my first one based on this and I can't believe how well it turned out. You just created a monster ;-)
kifany2 years ago
Excellent work :)
pfred22 years ago
If you planed the pallet wood then it wouldn't be rustic anymore.

100% pure pallet wood. You never know what some of that pallet wood is until you clean it up.

Flame maple.
hoodwoodwork (author)  pfred22 years ago
I agree, the purpose of this article was a rustic project, I have planed down a pallet or two in the past...... but hardwoods are plentiful and relatively inexpensive around here.

And you are correct if you factor in your time, "free" does not always mean no cost!!!
bigmark2 years ago
That would be a great DVD or video game storage rack for our kid's play room...I'll defiantly try this...Thank's & great job!!!
hoodwoodwork (author)  bigmark2 years ago

Just make sure you go bigger, should be easy enough.... as sized it might not fit many of them, but if you are using free (pallet) lumber then using more of it should not increase the cost!!
"Free" wood is anything but. I was reminded of this again today when I picked up some "free" wood someone had left out. All I had to do after I got it home was delaminate the top, pop about 20 carriage bolts out of it, then scrape construction glue off of it, and pop a load of pneumatic brads out of it too. Then I ended up with a half a sheet of plywood. Well, it is still painted on one side ... but other than that, just free for the taking!
hoodwoodwork (author) 2 years ago
Thanks ma'am, I appreciate the feedback!!
What an awesome use for a pallet. Looks great!