Introduction: Suitcase Shelves

Picture of Suitcase Shelves

My wife had been after me for some time to put the suitcases upstairs, so I finally got the hint...

Actually, she got this idea from a magazine -- cutting up some old suitcases and making shelves out of them. We began accumulating a few old suitcases (and a train case and an old wood tool case) and decided to make these and mount them on a wall in our media room.

The materials required for this project were:

- old suitcases
- about 6 square feet of 1/2 inch plywood
- about 10 feet of pine 1x2 lumber
- wood screws
- toggle bolts for mounting the cases on sheetrock
- painters tape (for marking cutting line)

The tools used were:

- scroll saw with metal cutting blade
- drill & bits
- screwdriver

Step 1: Remove the Lining

Picture of Remove the Lining

The first thing I did was to rip out the lining from each suitcase. I suppose you don't absolutely have to do this, but I think it could get really messy when you start sawing into the suitcase if you don't. The lining for each suitcase came out relatively easy -- I just grabbed a corner and started pulling.

Step 2: Mark Case for Cutting

Picture of Mark Case for Cutting

I wanted to make the shelves 6 inches deep, so I wrapped the area to be cut with painters tape, then measured and drew a line at the 6 inch point all the way around the suitcase. The painters tape made the line easy to see, and kept the shoe of my scroll saw from marring the surface. It also helps to keep the suitcase from coming apart after you've cut most of the way around.

Step 3: Saw Off the Part You Don't Want

Picture of Saw Off the Part You Don't Want

Cutting the suitcase was easy. I used a metal cutting blade in my scroll saw because most of the cases had a metal band around the middle (where the lid meets the bottom of the case) that I had to cut through.

Step 4: Build a Mounting Panel

Picture of Build a Mounting Panel

Next I made a wooden panel to fill the opening of the cut suitcase. This panel has two purposes: (1) it reinforces the opening (keeps it from sagging); and (2) it provides a means of mounting the suitcase on the wall.

I made the panel from some scrap plywood I had left over from a previous project, and outlined it with 1x2 pine (to provide a place to screw the suitcase onto). I could have used thicker plywood and omitted the 1x2 strips, but I decided to use what I had, which was a bit thin to attach the screws to.

I pre-drilled all the holes, but didn't attach screws into the lid of the suitcase until after it was mounted (you need to get inside the suitcase to screw it to the wall).

Step 5: Mount on Wall

Picture of Mount on Wall

Mounting the cases to the wall involved removing the lids, drilling through the wood panel on the back, and using sheetrock anchors.

Once attached to the wall, I reinstalled the lids and replaced the screws that attach the lid to the wood panel in the back.

All that's left to do is for my wife to decide what she wants to put on these new "shelves." Fortunately, I'm not allowed to do the decorating......!


agecker (author)2011-11-08

I adore this idea! What magazine was it in....might have some other cool ideas as well! Thanks for sharing.

knife141 (author)agecker2011-11-08

Sorry, but I don't know what magazine it was in. My wife has the habit of tearing out pictures and articles from magazines, and she saw this one in a magazine she purchased while we were on a road trip. I think the magazine probably got deposited in a hotel wastebasket. Thank you for your comments!

stalledaction (author)knife1412011-11-08

I have this SAME magazine! Flea Market Style. Fall/Winter 2011 issue. Definitely a must have issue!

AlR7 (author)stalledaction2015-09-09

How funny I'm looking at it right now in Flea Market Style 2015-they must recycle articles :)

cmoody6 (author)2015-03-29

as a collector of vintage and antique suitcases I cringe at this, but as a repurposer I smile, while destroying perfectly good suitcases just to be made into shelves hurt deep inside, there are plenty of tattered, broken, and unwanted suitcases out there that could be given a new life

knife141 (author)cmoody62015-03-30

You do realize that everything you dispose of today will someday be considered a "vintage" item that someone will collect, don't you?

orlaina.barfield (author)2014-08-31

Hi.....I've been wanting to do this for a long time but could never find much on "how" to do, thanks! However, I'm not really that "handy", so could you either explain in simple terms or do a tutorial showing "how" to actually mount it to a wall...just telling me what I need to do it isn't enough for my nimble The explanation of cutting the suitcase was great, just need to know how to get it hung up. Thanks again.

How to mount these on the wall is explained in steps 4 & 5. Thanks for your comment.

parisusa (author)2013-09-15

These are Great! They look like something out of a decorating magazine! :)

JFabor (author)2013-03-11

Super great instructable! I've been wanting to make one of these for a while, you were just the inspiration I needed! Here's the one I put up last night using your instructable.

knife141 (author)JFabor2013-03-11

Very nice job -- looks great! Thank you for your nice comment.

foobear (author)2013-01-29

oh aaaawesome do love it

shuja.shaher (author)2012-05-05

great instructable
GREAT idea
as sharp as a KNIFE

Dapper Hippo (author)2012-05-01

What a great idea.

hgkjggjgjhg (author)2012-02-28

thats pretty neat

jessyratfink (author)2011-11-04

That's fantastic work! Never would have thought to use them for that.

knife141 (author)jessyratfink2011-11-04

Thanks for the nice words. If my wife hadn't saw something like this in a magazine, I wouldn't have thought of it either!

benderautomatic (author)knife1412011-12-19

Originality is the art of concealing your sources. Good job.

chicopluma (author)2011-11-20

It would be cool if you can open them, so you can store things inside and on them.
And I just have this blank space in my bedroom wall and I was looking for something to put that wasn´t just decorative.

knife141 (author)chicopluma2011-11-20

I suppose you could fix them where they would open -- you could make a 2nd cut across the top and hinge it. You would probably have to slant the cut on the sides a small amount toward the front to allow for the lid to clear the bottom section, but it would probably work. I didn't consider storing anything inside these, since they're designed to be used as shelves. Thanks for your comment.

blueyedcookie (author)2011-11-20

Awesome idea. I too love to turn trash into treasures....especially when it can be useful. Very unique and creative.

knife141 (author)blueyedcookie2011-11-20

Thanks for your comment! I believe that re-purposing and reusing is the ultimate recycling.

maryan1 (author)2011-11-08

Thank you very much, to me it,s more than just one idea......opened the creativity
Window and also receiving lots of beautiful scene of sharing is another gift .

knife141 (author)maryan12011-11-09

Thanks for the very kind words! What you've said is something I really like about the Instructables site -- I get a lot of inspiration from reading about projects done by others. Thanks again.

raviolikid (author)2011-11-08

So cool! Very clear instructions and good photography!

I could see these used in some sort of trendy boutique. Your wife is a lucky woman!

knife141 (author)raviolikid2011-11-08

Thank you for your comments, and "yes," my wife is indeed a lucky woman! I remind her often......... :-)

fauxreal (author)2011-11-08

Love this idea... I can totally see it in a guest bedroom for wall decor/display shelves...

knife141 (author)fauxreal2011-11-08

Thanks for your kind words and your comment!

Retirement1 (author)2011-11-08

This is fantastic!! Bravo to you and your wonderful project. How fun would it be to mount the other half on the other side of the wall!! I can imagine people walking around the corner and seeing the bottom half (sticking out) of the the wall in the next room.

knife141 (author)Retirement12011-11-08

Thank you for the kind words! Actually, I did in fact mount one over a doorway that is half on one side and half on the other. You can see it here:

bright.n.squirrelly (author)2011-11-07

I love this idea. Would it be possible to actually put a hinge on the top and use the inside of the suitcase for storage?

I suppose you could -- but make sure there is enough clearance for the suitcase to actually open, since it is mounted flush against the wall. I didn't consider making it where it could open, since I was planning on using the suitcases as shelves. Thanks for your comment.

jlancaster4 (author)2011-11-07

How did you measure it so that the shelf was 6 inches deep all the way around the case? It seems a difficult thing to do since you dont have a single point you could measure from on every side?

knife141 (author)jlancaster42011-11-07

Using a carpenter's square placed on the front about 3 inches from each side, I marked a 6" point at two places on the top and the bottom. Then I used a flexible yardstick to mark the top & bottom lines. I then connected the top and bottom lines using a string pulled tight on each side. I then drew the connecting lines on the side by following the string. Another option would be to set the suitcase down (in the handle-up position), then stack blocks of wood and books until you're at the 6 inch point. Lay a marker down on top of the stack and move the suitcase against the marker until the line is marked all the way around. Hope this description makes sense!

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2011-11-04

Awesome idea! And are those just books stacked above the door on the left?

Yes, that's a floating shelf. Thanks for your comment!

Manny B (author)knife1412011-11-07

I think we need an instructable on that shelf too! Very clever.

knife141 (author)Manny B2011-11-07

You're in luck! Just search for "floating shelf" and you will find several instructables already posted!

Manny B (author)knife1412011-11-07

Cool. Thanks!

pddonovan2011 (author)2011-11-07

VERY cool idea! What a great Instructable! Come to think about it, I have a pile of old tool boxes that are no longer needed because I bought one huge toolbox that holds everything (It's harder to steel a toolbox that weighs 7800 pounds, fully loaded, than it is to make-off with a bunch of handled toolboxes! Some old, some new, some aluminum, some with Hammertone Paint finish and all of them varying ages! I'll have to do an Instructable for that one because it will involve metal working! Ooo! Thank you' for the 'Idea' implant!

knife141 (author)pddonovan20112011-11-07

I think doing this with old metal toolboxes would look really great. Nice idea! Thanks for your comment.

porcupinemamma (author)2011-11-07

Very cool! Well done!!!

knife141 (author)porcupinemamma2011-11-07

Thank you for your comment.

kylara70 (author)2011-11-07

This is so great! Thanks for sharing your project. I love seeing unusual objects suspended as shelves. This was a VERY creative idea. Your instructable is VERY well done.

knife141 (author)kylara702011-11-07

Thanks! I appreciate your comment.

qwerty9988 (author)2011-11-07

Very cool look! Would it be possible to combine the 'floating shelf' and the suitcases? I would like to be able to keep the suitcase complete and pull it out to store my stuff. I could then put a luggage tag on each suitcase indicating the contents. I don't want to have to remove all the stuff on top of the suitcase to access the contents, so that's where the floating shelf comes in.

knife141 (author)qwerty99882011-11-07

The phrase "is it possible..." is a tough one. I suppose it is, but I'm not sure how you do it. If I understand you correctly, you want to keep the suitcase complete (not cut off), and you want a floating shelf above it. If this is what you're describing, the floating shelf is certainly doable. I'm not sure how you could attach the suitcase and make it appear to be attached to the wall. I suppose you could use a regular shelf, but I don't think that's what you're describing. Or, you could use a floating shelf to hold the suitcase -- that's certainly possible, but would take a pretty strong hidden bracket. At any rate, thanks for your comment!

andrewcaseley (author)2011-11-04

is that the Book shelves i spy above the door ? and love your work

knife141 (author)andrewcaseley2011-11-04

Yes, that's a floating bookshelf above the door. Thanks for you comment!

dimdiode (author)2011-11-04

This is really great - I love the concept, and it's been carried out very well indeed. Congratulations on a terrific project, I wouldn't have thought of it either!

About This Instructable




Bio: I enjoy taking a pile of junk and making something unusual out of it. I like wheeled vehicles, and currently own two motorcycles, two electric ... More »
More by knife141:Padded Armrest for TruckA Dog Named LaskoChromebox Computer In Old Case
Add instructable to: