Pallet Shelves. No Big Tools




About: I’m am Systems Engineer (nothing to do with IT) by training, in my spare time I love designing building, making pretty much anything. I also love doing new thing, going to new places and being outside. I rea...

I wanted to build something with pallets but only using basic hand tools as that is all I have.


spade (for breaking up the pallets)
2 clamps
stright edge
circula saw (not essential hand saw is fine)
hand plane
paint brush

a few pallets (works well if you have one with long spaser bars)
pva glue
sand paper

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Step 1: Break Up Pallets

Break up pallets every one has their own method.

My method: take it apart the reverse way to how it went together

1. Drop the palet on a corner a few time then rotate to the next corner and repeat this will start to loosen the nails

2. use a flat spade, bar or bit of wood to pri up the slats starting at one and and working back (i found a spade worked well as a pri bar it also slot between tight slats and you can jam it close up to the nails)

( once you have taken off all the loose slats you can drop it on the corners again to help lossen up the rest)

3. denail, the nails should be fairly straight and loosened by dropping it on the corner so you can usually bang them out they way they went in then use a claw hammer to finish off

Step 2: Lay Out Your Design

I used the fat bits of the up right then the slats for the shelves and supports.

Make sure you measure where you finally plan to put it, it looked smaller in my garden then my play room so I ended up cutting it down and losing the bottom shelf in the end.

Once you have seleted, mark them up so you know where they go.

Sand and plain the pieces you want to use to your desired finish (they are pallets imperfection = character)

Step 3: Make the Frame

1. cut the 3 back slats (red lines) to the same length

2. cut the 3 upright (green lines) to the same length

3. place the upright face down

4. screw the top and bottom back slats to the uprights using one screw in each corner

TIP: you can use some glue also, pre drilling the back slats the wood can split when screwing close to the ends)

5. flip the whole thing onto its back and make sure it is all square by measuring across both the diagonal (from corner to corner blue arrows) and making sure it is the same.

5a. If they are not give the long diagonal a knock and check again.

6. flip it over and put at least 4 screw in each back support.

7. screw the top and the bottom on and check its all square (it is not to late to loosen off the screws and give it a little tap if needed)

Step 4: Notching Out the Uprights and Shelves

1. clamp your straight edge onto the frame + the distance of the guide on you circular saw

2. set the depth you want to cut on your saw (my uprights weren't the same thickness as my shelves so I only took about 30mm out of the uprights)

3. make 2 cuts one in each upright the self against the straight edge and hold in place

5. make a second cut this will take into account that some of the shelves aren't even thickness

6. make some more cuts between your first and second cuts this will make it easier to chisel out the slots

7. chisel out the slots

8. check the fit and adjust if needed

9. place the shelf in the slots and mark up

10. use the same method to cut the notches out of the shelf.

TIP: make sure you cut enough out your shelf ,I cut 50% of the width

WATCHOUT: some of my joints were quite tight and I split the end of the shelf when putting it together. if this happens just keep them until the end and glue them back on when you glue it all together.

(if you don't have a circular saw you can do this all with a hand saw)

11: repeat for all the other shelves

12. glue the shelves in (and any bits that have split off)

Step 5: Finish, Install, and Enjoy

1. give a light sand if needed

2. you can finish it however you like. You guys are more arty than me so go nuts. I used 2 coats of clear varnish with a light sand in-between


1. drill for holes in the back slats

2. offer it up to the wall and mark your holes (you might need a hand to hold and level it)

3. use some raw plus and screws or what ever you normally use. I used some thunderbolts

4. stand back and feel proud

5. fill with all your other projects, tools and stuff

Thank you for reading this is my first instructable so if you would like any more details or have any comments please feel free,or if there is to much or not enough detail

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16 Discussions


2 years ago

Thanks for sharing your plans. Made a set for my kiddos room. She loves them!

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

they look amazing love what you have done with the colours. so much fun, not surprised the kido loves them. Thanks for sharing it's nice to know and see other people's are enjoying them.

All I have is the back yard and a few hand tools too. Thank you for posting this to show how it can be done without all the fancy equipment.


4 years ago on Introduction

Not only I like the shelves but also that we can do them without having many big and expensive tools.

Thank you for that.

3 replies

Reply 4 years ago

I'm glad you picked up on that. i read alot of instuctables that feel unobtainable unless you have lots of big tools. but i wanted to show you dont always need them. dont get me wrong i would love a full work shop but at the moment i just have the garden when it's not raining and my hand tools.

Mugsy Knucklesfisho1

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

I stop reading an instructable as soon as it says "to cut this cardboard, export your CAD drawings to your 400 watt helium-neon laser cutter and 60,000 square foot CNC facility"
And the end result is a 5x8 inch rectangle.

i like that you did this with out the need for big expensive tools also. Don't stop now! I enjoyed this and have shared it with my daughter so she and her beau can do something together. thank you!


4 years ago on Introduction

NICE! This shelf could hold a bunch of my nick nacks.


4 years ago

I love it! I hope you are putting it in the woodworking contest. There are so many diys with pallets but this one really has its own flare. Love how it is kind of modern and rustic at the same time!

2 replies

Reply 4 years ago

Hi annrrr

Thanks for your suggestion I have entered it in the wood working competition so please vote for me :)


Reply 4 years ago

I'm really glad you like it. I have some more projects I hope to add soon.


4 years ago on Introduction

Have you ever try to sandblast wood? Much more impressive then sandpapering. But requires much more equipment, it's a pity.

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago

no never sandblased anything. im guesing it would leave quite alot of texture rather than a smooth finish. I'm guessing you could get some Good paint or strain effects.