Introduction: Rustic Shelf From Recovered Fence Pickets

I needed a couple of shelves for the living room. The shelves had to fit the “rustic farmhouse” décor my wife was going for (see blanket ladder instructable).

It just so happens I have two planks of dog-ear fence pickets that are 6 feet long each.

They look rough and worn, have a dark stain, and look “rustic”. Perfect!

Step 1: Materials and Tools


  • Wood fence picket 5/8” x 5 ½” x 6’.
  • Short nails
  • Wood glue
  • Wood stain: Ebony and/or other dark brown color (optional)
  • White primer paint.
  • Gloss white spray paint
  • Shelf bracket (in a style you like)


  • Saw
  • Tape measure
  • Square or right angle
  • Pencil
  • Sandpaper: 80 grit, 100 - 200 grit
  • Hammer
  • Paintbrushes
  • Sanding block
  • Clamps
  • Something to cover the floor.

Step 2: Cut

Using your hand saw, cut 2 equal lengths of the fence picket in the length you want your shelf to be. For me, I needed 24” shelves.

Then cut two 10” sections.

Step 3: Sand the Wood

Starting with 80 grit sandpaper on a sanding block, sand the pieces to remove splinters and to round the edges. If there are notches in the wood, use the sand paper to smooth out the notches but do not sand them flat. Keep as much of the woods imperfections as possible while removing snags and splinters.

Sand with 120 grit then 200 grit until the desired finish is achieved. For me, I used 80 grit to remove splinters and snag points but I did not sand so much that I sanded off the discoloration and weathering of the wood.

Step 4: Assemble

Take the two longer pieces and lay them flat and parallel against each other.

Take the 10” pieces and glue one on each end perpendicular to the longer pieces.

Use several nails to give additional structural integrity.

I forgot to take pictures of this step, so please accept my very crude drawings.

Step 5: Stain the Wood (optional)

No pictures for this one since the pickets I had were well stained by the elements.

Lay out tarp or some sort of floor protection. Paint an
uneven coating of really dark wood stain. Paint with the grain of the wood.

Let stain dry for at least 24 hours.

Step 6: Paint the Wood

After the stain has dried for a day, take a rag and wipe it

down. Some stain may wipe off, that is ok.

Brush on the white primer. Do NOT try to be perfectionist when applying the primer. Just brush in on unevenly. It should be thicker coats in some spots and barely there in other spots. It should be a very sloppy paint job.

Let the primer dry for about an hour.

Use the glossy spray paint and randomly cover some areas of the shelf. There is no need to cover the entire thing with glossy paint. Perhaps cover 25%-40% of the shelf in random spots.

Let the paint dry for an hour.

Step 7: Sand the Shelf (again)

This is where the rustic effect happens. It is very

important that the sanding be done by hand without any electric assistance. That is, no power sanders. We want a lot of control on how much paint is removed and where it is removed. The only way to achieve this is to sand by hand.

Use 80 grit sand paper.

Sand with the grain of the wood. Sand the edges to wear down the white paint. As much as possible, avoid sanding the stain off. Sand just enough to remove the primer and the glossy layer to make the dark stain appear.

After the edges are done, sand the flat areas.

Once you achieved the worn look you desire, move to 100 or 120 grit for fine touches to the wear pattern.

Let dry for at least 2 days before mounting to wall and placing stuff on the shelf. Make sure the paint is no longer tacky.

Step 8: Mount to the Wall

Use a spirit level and some screws to mount the shelf to the wall using your preferred shelf bracket design.

If mounting into dry wall, make sure to locate a stud and screw the brackets into that or use good dry wall anchors.

Great job!

Reclaimed Contest 2017

Participated in the
Reclaimed Contest 2017

Hand Tools Only Contest 2017

Participated in the
Hand Tools Only Contest 2017