A trip to our local DIY store left us depressed at the high cost of frankly flimsy shelving products. Out in the parking lot we spotted some "apparently abandoned" pallets and we helped ourselves to a few hoping to at least get the boxes off the floor and deal with building proper shelves later. Midnight musings came up with an idea to solve our shelf problem for almost free. This instructable is more about the idea than the actual construction. You have many options to use pallets as shelves but here is how we did it.
Step 1: The Math
You have three choices. (1) You could use the pallet "as Is" which is 40" X 48". This would work well if you had access to both sides of the shelves. (2) Cut the pallets in half to create two shelves 20" deep X 48" wide. or (3) Cut them in half you have shelves 24" deep X 40" wide. We chose this option because , if you look at the construction of a pallet, you will see that this is the easiest option in terms of additional bracing and ease of cutting. Two additional factors were: (1) These shelves are up against a wall and 40 or 48 inches is too deep to use full pallets and (2) 10 feet (120") long fit our floor [three pallets X 40"] and 12 feet (144") did not. Anyway this project could work from 1 pallet wide to ?.
Step 2: Preparing the Pallets
Cut the pallet in half. Measure 24" fairly accurately and make your first cut. Unless you have a huge saw you are going to have to flip the pallet over and cut the other side using the first cut to measure by. It pays here to make sure your saw blade is perfectly square. Most likely you will have to remove some nails. We used a chisel and a cats paw to remove them but they are ring shank nails designed not to pull so expect a struggle. Our carbide saw blade did nicely cut one nail that we missed with no apparent damage but nevertheless pull'em. The photo of the clamps shows us repairing loose or damaged planks - now is the time to deal with these problems. Important note here. If you plan to heavily load the shelves some additional bracing is in order here since, as you can see, the load will be carried by the "one -by" boards. You could consider anything from a "one-by" face to a "2-by" ?. We also did not add a top board to fill the gap where the pallet was cut in half. We should of but we were bored and tired.
Step 3: Erecting the Shelves
Now we can assemble the shelves. Due to space considerations we had to build pretty much in place and build up vertically. If you have lots of room it may be easier to build on the floor horizontally and tilt the shelves up. In any case you will need a support post at each corner as well at each pallet convergence. We used 6" wide plywood on the back so the shelves could get closer to the wall. Screw nails do not do well in shear so we used one 3" screw nail to suck up the posts then 16 penny galv. nails pre-drilled through the posts. We used two posts at the front outer corners for rigidity. Finally, the top pallets just sit on one by cross braces. By now the unit seemed ridged enough and we were getting cranky and thirsty which applies right now ---------- so, Cheers mate!.