DIY Pallet Shelf

DIY Cantilevered Shelf

MORE DIY stuff! My new apartment doesn’t have much room in the kitchen, but I have a large counter that juts out into the living space with a 5-foot wall that doesn’t have anything there. So to utilize my space better I wanted to build a shelf for all my pantry items since the majority of the time they just live on the counter and I hate clutter. I liked the style of the other pallet projects I made so I continued with it for this project. I think it looks pretty nice.

What You Need

Here is a list of materials and tools needed to finish the project.

  • Hammer (yep, when in doubt, BFH)
  • Flat bar (helpful and cleaner than a hammer with stubborn nails a godsend really when it comes to pulling nails from a pallet.)
  • Nails (short and long, new ones – don’t use the old ones)
  • Screws
  • Sandpaper (recommend both a rough and a medium grit – I bought a belt sander. holy crap that was a great buy)
  • Saw (hand or chop should be all you need)
  • Pen/pencil/paper (don’t laugh, you would be surprised)
  • Stain (your shelf, your poison)
  • Clean towels, nitrile gloves, brushes or sponges (for stain)
  • T-Square (helpful but not necessary)
  • Power sander/belt sander (again stupid helpful but if you have arms like Popeye you’ll be fine)


The Build

I saw a crafted table somewhere in a hotel or in a movie or something and it got me thinking about how I could convert the type of design into a pallet project. I mulled the build of the shelf around in my head for a bit mentally drawing and reiterating how I would want this to look like. After a good bit of thought and a few sketches I came up with this concept.


I recommend drawing up your idea before gathering pallets. It really helps when your trying to figure out how much of the wood you will end up needing for your project. I knew I would need a lot and broke it down into how many pieces of each part I would need.

Starting at the beginning, like the other pallet project, rip the wood apart from the pallet itself. This process is exactly as the others, so if you need pointers on how to pull them apart or what to expect, hop over to the DIY Shoe Rack Bench and read through that small section because I am going to skip it here.

Most lengths of the boards of a pallet don’t come longer than 40+ inches. So, if you are looking for something that requires a longer length and have the time to hunt, try tile or granite companies. The types of pallets they use can get pretty big and may have the lengths you want. I live close to the industrial Sodo district of Seattle; which means pallets for days! You can get a really good variety and pick through to find what fits your project best. Or mix and match and make it really unique.

The length of this shelf is 5ft to fit in the negative space under the counter. I could have gotten longer bits of wood, but I actually wanted to have the wood look like it was sectioned, so I stuck to the standard pallet size. That, and they are so easy to find. Here is all the wood I ended up ripping off. I used almost every last board.


It took me about an hour and a half to get all the wood out that I wanted. I figured out a technique that worked for me that allowed me to get the majority out without breaking, cracking or ripping apart. I ended up pulling about 30 full lengths I could use. That doesn’t include all the ones that I did break. Be patient and work slowly, otherwise they just break.


I used a chop saw to cut the ends down to a flat edge cutting off cracked or broken bits away. This helped me have a ground zero length for the boards.

From there I figured out how many lengths of which boards I need and cut the differences out of the wood. Start with the longer lengths first, you don’t want to get all the shorts ones cut down and realize you need 4 more boards for the longer ones and need to get another pallet. Again, draw your design first.


Once all the pieces were cut down to the lengths I needed and all parts were accounted for. It was time for sanding. No matter what the method, get a respirator or dust mask. The particulate is everywhere and you don’t know where the pallets have been.

Thankfully, I have a belt sander now.


I got everything I wanted sanded down in little under an hour.


After all is the sanding is done, I have some nice clean smooth wood ready for staining.


First, since the area I ended up staining in wasn’t exactly my part of the yard, I put an old plastic sheet down to avoid getting any stain on the brick or ground. Then laid down some scrap wood to keep the stain off the plastic. This keep unwanted bits of dirt and saw dust off of your work.



The stain gets everywhere, but that could also just be me. Either way, get some good nitrile gloves, or something equivalent. You can’t use any of those crappy turkey basting plastic things you get for cooking. they rip and shred as soon as you try to put them on, you may as well do it bare handed, so get some good gloves if you don’t want the worst henna tattoo on the planet.


Look at the stain after I got done, and you can see in the picture below the stain all over the plastic as it drips.

The plastic sheet I opened to about 6ft x 6ft and I still ended up not having enough room for all the wood after it was done. I was barely halfway through and was running out of room. So I leaned them against each other. It didn’t seem to make any big difference to the quality after all the excess was wiped clean.


Keep track of the ends, some how I always manage to miss them and find them the day later and have to touch them up waiting for the stain to dry more.


I set these out over night on some scrap wood keeping them off of the ground. I guess if you do this early enough in the morning and it is hot enough out you may be able to get this entire project done in a day, but who’s rushing.


I think the wood grain came through quite nicely. You can see the pallets I used stacked up behind the railing. I think I ended up having about 8 of them, maybe more.


This last step went a lot quicker than I thought it would. Actually the entire process went quicker than i expected. First, I started with the shelves, then moved onto the legs.

For the shelves I used a bunch of little finishing tack nails on each side of the boards. I wanted to give it a feel like it was tailored. This took a lot of nails, but was worth the tediousness and time.


I repeated this for both levels of shelving using one of the thicker boards as the support.


In the original sketch I had the ends of the shelf closed with wood to support the shorter pieces, but after putting them together I realized I didn’t want to block them off. So using the original wood I intended to use on the ends, I tacked them on as a stopper so things don’t get pushed off.


I like this much better and still adds a bit of structural integrity.

I didn’t have a specific height chosen for the bottom shelf, so I used a random piece of scrap wood as my guide at somewhere around 7 inches. I clamped this on the legs and placed the shelf in position.


For the legs I used some left over deck screws. These are low profile, strong and can easily be hidden, as intended. I used a countersinking drill bit to avoid any splitting. Three screws it probably a little overkill, but who cares, I have plenty.


They hide well and were very strong. They rarely split the wood, and when they did, I predrilled the hole and gave it a little countersink to help.

Having done the shelves as one step and the legs as the other. It went together very quick. Here are a few shots of the final build of my DIY shelf.


IMG_5810 IMG_5811


Im not really sure why I wanted the gap there, but having planned to put it there since I saw the original piece, I really like it. I felt it added a bit of appeal to the build. Well Here it is actually doing it’s job. Finally So nice to get that stuff off the counter!


I hope you enjoyed this post and find inspiration to do your own. If you do, please share your experiences with me. And again, please post comments, questions or otherwise. Good luck!


1 thought on “DIY Pallet Shelf

  1. Pingback: DIY Pallet Shelf | NDW Design Blog

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