Reclaimed Wood Tool Tree




Introduction: Reclaimed Wood Tool Tree

In our lab, we consistently face an issue of keeping our tools properly and keeping them organized. Often, we end up losing or damaging many small items due to their improper storage. Taking inspiration from a Christmas tree, I kept multiple levels with each higher layer reducing in size and capacity. This allowed us to make space for tools of all sizes.

Project Level: Easy

Time Taken: 8-10 Hours


  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Hand Drill Machine
  • Jig saw
  • Hack saw
  • Blades
  • Wood Glue
  • Clear Varnish
  • Sand Paper
  • Hand Grinder Machine

Step 1: Choosing the Material

I receive a lot of lab equipment and heavy machinery and as a result, I had access to a lot of unused wooden crates with solid wood. I made this using plywood for the base and soft wood for the edges. This allowed me to get a beautiful wood grain finish on the edges and a very strong yet light base for the actual storage sections.

The same shelf can be made using cardboard/corrugated sheet as well (I had made a prototype of the shelf from cardboard before making it from wood to minimize the potential error and wastage.) I would, though, suggest wood not just because it is easier to work with and gives a better overall finish but it also ensures longevity and hardiness especially given the lab application that we had designed this for.

Step 2: Marking the Dimensions and Cutting It

Once that is done, mark out the dimensions that you need on the wood. I used the following dimensions:

  • X 1 = 38 in x 5 in (2 pieces)
  • X 2 = 26 in x 8 in (2 pieces)
  • X 3 = 18.5 in x 6 in (2 pieces)
  • X 4 = 13 in x 4 in (2 pieces)
  • Box 1 = 26 in x 26 in
  • Box 2 = 18.5 in x 18.5 in
  • Box 3 = 13 in x 13 in
  • Box 4 = 9 in x 9 in
  • Base = 26 in x 26 in

You can add a border to this as well. To do so, cut out 4 pieces each of the size of the edges of the corresponding base square. I decided to keep the height of this border as 2.5in. This can be modified as per need.

I chose these dimensions based on the size of the biggest tool that I wanted to place in the shelf. In my case, it was the Wood Shaping machine.

Modification of this design:

You can modify the size of the shelf according to your needs. For instance, if the size of the biggest item that you want to place inside the shelf is x inches, the size of the square layer above it will be 0.707*x inches to maintain symmetry. You can follow this pattern as many times as you deem fit to finalize the design.

Cutting the material:

I used a power jig-saw cutter to cut out the pieces. If you don't have access to the machine, you can choose to use a normal saw (for wood) or a paper cutter (for cardboard).

Step 3: Preparing the Wood for Joining

I. Preparing the Xs

  1. In the pieces that you have cut out for the base crosses, first locate and mark the horizontal and vertical center lines.
  2. Once this is done, mark a vertical slot in each of the pieces such that the slot is centered at the vetical center line of the wooden piece till the horizontal half line of each of the wooden planks. The width of the slot should be equal to the width of the wood that you are using (10mm in my case).
  3. Use a jig-saw or a hand saw to cut out these pieces.
  4. Use a wood file to fine-tune the slots until you can fit the two parts of the Xs tightly into each other.


To cut out the bottom part of the slot, you can make drill holes in the material and then just knock out the unwanted part.

II. Preparing the material surface

  1. Use a mixture of wood glue and sawdust to fill out any pores/holes/cracks in the wood.
  2. File the edges to remove any incongruities.
  3. Sand the surface using soft emery paper to obtain a smooth surface finish.

Step 4: Joining the Pieces

  1. Mark out the relative orientations of all the parts of the wooden shelf.
  2. Make drill holes at the places where you want to join the pieces.
  3. Make any final adjustments that you need to ensure a perfect fit.
  4. Now, simply screw it! (pun intended) You can use a screwdriver or a small screw drill (this makes life a lot more convenient).

Step 5: Preparing the Shelf for Painting

I. Filling the edges

Use a mixture of wood glue and sawdust to fill out any gaps or holes in the edges.

II. Grinding the wooden surfaces

I used a soft wood wheel on a hand grinder to finish the surface. Pay special attention to the edges and the parts where you have filled in the glue-sawdust paste. Ensure that the surface is absolutely smooth by the end of this step.

If you are planning to apply a clear varnish (like us), you need to focus on grinding the edges very carefully. In case you press down too hard, you will end up leaving a burn imprint on the wood but if you press very softly, you won't be able to remove all the surface grime. This step is crucial to bring out the fine grain on a wooden surface and obtain a beautiful finish.

Step 6: Painting and Finishing

I. Painting

In case you are using a varnish (like I did), apply a uniform coating of the varnish on all the visible corners. Try to ensure minimal splatter and a constant surface finish.

If you are using a paint for the surface, you should first go in for at least two coats of wood primer and two coats of the final color as well. It would be very useful if you could arrange for a spray gun arrangement since this allows a very beautiful finish without any brush marks.

Let the shelf dry in the sun for at least one full day to achieve the best sheen.

II. Finishing

I joined caster wheels to the base of the shelf so that we can move the shelf about and also rotate it for easy reach.

Voila! Your shelf is now ready!

Step 7: Further Modifications

  • You can choose to make and add an organizer at the top level to keep nuts and bolts or other miscellaneous items like you can see in this case. The procedure followed is similar to the one which we used for building the support Xs
  • I plan on adding small warm orange LED light strips on each level so as to improve the aesthetic appeal of the shelf.
  • I have also planned on adding a cover for the shelf to protect the tools from dust and other oddities. I will add that here when completed.

I hope that you found this idea interesting. This is a very simple design and yet can hold a deceptively large number of tools. Feel free to let me know of any suggestions/feedback/tips that you have through the comments below.

Thank you for your time.

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    9 Discussions

    Anoushkrit Goel
    Anoushkrit Goel

    3 years ago

    And that will organize my wood shop.....Great Job!!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you!


    3 years ago

    this would look great on my deck with a potted plant in each section.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Nice idea! I think that would look amazing.That is, in my opinion, one of the good parts about this shelf - you can modify it according to your needs and wants!


    3 years ago

    Nice job! Voted!!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you for the support! :)


    3 years ago

    Concept is great. No mention of wheel sizes on the bottom so the tree can move about the shop. Would consider setting the bottoms of the trays about 1/2 inch above flush so the trays could be removed and then put back on the tree. This would allow the top parts of the tree to sit near the work and to allow taking even a loaded tree apart for moving. The X design preventst any sort of tipping and forces alignment on reassembly.


    3 years ago

    That looks awesome :)


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you! :)