DIY Pallet Shoe Rack Bench

DIY Shoe Rack Bench

I finished the coffee table up and Su was so happy with it she immediately asked me to make her another project. She had been tossing around the idea of buying a bench from Ikea, but couldn’t justify spending the cash. Since the coffee table turning out so well, I told her I would make her one after the same idea. So this project is essentially the same type of deal but a little different design.

Apparently the pallets they use at the printing company are either brand new, well maintained or simply just good quality clean pallets. Either way the wood ends up leaning more toward well crafted newish look and not so the rustic look. I guess you work with what you got, right? Honestly, it’s fine. I Like this wood. It’s soft, light and super easy to work with. Also since its in such good condition I don’t have to do too much sanding…bonus, cause that part blows.

What You Need
Second verse, same as the first!
Here is a list of materials and tools needed to finish the project.

  • Hammer
  • Flatbar (helpful and cleaner than a hammer with stubborn nails)
  • Nails (short and long, new ones – dont use the old ones)
  • Screws (dark or small headed are easier to conceal)
  • Sandpaper (I used 60, 100 for this one)
  • Saw (in case you need to cut things down)
  • Pen/pencil/paper (dont laugh, you would be surprised)
  • Stain (your table, your poison)
  • Clean towels, nitrile gloves, brushes or sponges (for stain)
  • T-Square (helpful but not necessary)
  • Power sander (again stupid helpful but if you have arms like Popeye you’ll be fine)

The Build

Since this is a bench and not a table the dimensions change a good bit and I have to do a good bit of rearranging with the wood. I had a few ideas of how I wanted to go about making the bench, but we wanted to get dimensions and general feel for style anyways so we went to ikea and checked out what she had in mind. After talking about different builds and drawing up some ideas we grabbed a few more pallets and I headed to my shop. Here are some quick reference sketches.

I dont know if the last pallets we grabbed were either older or not built as well, but these little bastards would not come apart without the wood simply tearing apart. The nails would not budge! The heads would pop off before they would move. And if they did come out it took some work and simply put, good eye protection, cause you really didn’t know where those things would fly if they did come out. They also liked to snap in half from prying the wood apart. These nails can suck it.

Not sure if you can see the the actual head of the nail ripped clean off. Guess I spoke too soon about how easy these are to work with…open mouth, insert foot.

Most nails will come out with a little work, but not these. So there are going to be a few nails in this design that are not meant to be. Haha, oh well, they can add some character.

Anyways, After getting the boards all pulled apart, I needed to get some of them cut down to the sizes I wanted. Oddly enough the height of the pallets were exactly the length we were aiming for. I decided the width to be a foot, so I chose my three boards that had a good look and feel to them. Again, I got lucky! They’re a fraction over a foot put together.

The rest of the wood needed to be cut down in similar way or another. Most of it was either too long or too wide. I want to make the shoe rack part to only be a couple of slats instead of full boards, so I decided to rip a couple of the larger pieces.

This worked a lot better than I thought and it helped stretch some of the wood out since a good bit was destroyed in the demo. The rest just needed to be cut down to length. This is all of it cut down and ready for sanding. Ugh…stupid sanding.

So. Here comes the sanding, horrible time consuming stupid sanding. On the bright side since most of the wood is in really good shape and has a good smooth surface already so it didn’t require all day. I did 60 grit and 100 grit. I could have spent another hour sanding them down at 150 or so but, they really don’t need it.

I really like the roughness of two 2×4’s I chose. Even though they are going to be on the underside of the seat, I still like it. Sanding down the knots look great too. They will show slightly off to the sides. Im hoping they will add a little character to the sides of the bench.

I rounded out the edges of the bars I ripped out. Not really sure if it will make a difference or not but I felt like doing it last minute. On the downside it adds a good bit of time onto the sanding. Not to mention a bigger mess. I looked like a saw mill sneezed on me.

My wood pile after sanding. Really does look like a bunch of scrap. 

Some of the wood had cracked or had some pretty big breaks from the demo. They really started to show through after the sanding. Like the board on the right with all the knots. Either way, some of them either completely cracked and broke off or were almost all the way off. So I just finished it up and glued them back into place over night.

It’s better to break and repair than to risk it and hope they hold. Since this bench will have to hold weight from someone sitting on it, I can’t risk it breaking and falling apart. That just wont do!

Sanding is complete and the broken or cracked pieces have all been repaired. The coffee table I put together first before staining. In some ways that helped manage the wood better while staining, but in another it posed difficult to get to some of the hard to reach areas. In the end it came out ok, but this time I am going to do it by individual pieces. I am also going to wipe the wood directly after to clear off any excess stain. This should help some of the grain come through and stain less dark. We will see…I kind of like the dark stain and that is what Su had picked out intentionally, so I can’t go too light.

When I stained the coffee table I let the stain sit about 15 minutes on the wood before wiping it down. This made for a very dark stain and didn’t really let too much of the grain show through. Considering this is a make for a ‘rustic’ look, I think small differences are ok. Since I didn’t want the bench to be as dark I wiped the stain almost immediately. I would put a coat on one to two sides of one board then move on to another.

After 2-3 boards depending on the size, I would then wipe them all down. In the order of application. Paint on some stain, wipe it right off, repeat.

This let a good amount of the grain show through and still gave it a dark look and feel.

I did this for all of the wood. I think it turned out fairly well for one coat. As I write this, I’m on the fence on whether I should apply a second coat or not. I will decide after I try a small test coat on a small hidden area.

Here is everything all said and done, ready for assembly. I am really happy with how it turned out. I let it sit out in the sun for the rest of the day to dry. 

I tested out a small bit to see if it would be necessary to do another coat of stain. I was happy with the single coat, but checked with Su anyways. I’m glad we’re both content; I moved on with assembly.

A few more changes here. Since it will be weight bearing, I went with screws instead of just the nails. I could have used the same screws but ran out midway. Oops. Either way it worked out, I was able to use a smaller headed screw for the bench part. They also had pre-painted black heads for better concealment.

I assembled this together in 3 parts. The legs and inner frame, the two racks and their supports then final assembly. I used the darker screws for the body, the nails for the rack (since it won’t be shifted around too much and won’t hold too much weight), and the silver screws with the black heads for the bench.

The first part was squaring up the legs to the 2×4 and screwing them down. I wanted to make sure it didn’t wiggle or shimmy around too much. Hence the 90˚ leg piece.

I set these aside and went on to the racks. I measured out the middle line for the cross supports for the rack rails. This is where my cooking style came into the picture. I basically botched any ruler or measure. Why, I don’t know…I basically just started eyeballing everything using only some scrap 2×2 segments. Surprisingly enough they were perfect.

I nailed them down from the underside to avoid any possible snagging from laces or otherwise.

Once those were finished, it was time to start piecing them to the legs. Again, the 2×2’s came in super handy measuring out the height from the floor. It was just right. I Also used the height of the scrap to measure the distance between both racks which equaled out perfectly. Who said scraps are useless!

After screwing in the racks, all that was left was the seat. This went painlessly and quick.

DONE! After all was assembled, I touched up some stain around the screws that had exposed any bare wood. Wiped it down immediately and it finished great. Again, I have yet to take some shots of it in use at her apartment, but here are finished shots from the shop.

As promised, Here is a shot of the bench in her place. Never underestimate the number of shoes a girl can have. This isn’t even all of them.

Here is a shot I took with my cell phone – the quality isn’t as good as I would hope for but you get a little bit of a different angle.

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

4 thoughts on “DIY Pallet Shoe Rack Bench

  1. Thanks for sharing…nice rustic result..nice design too – just that little more character than others i have googled (maybe because of the dark stain)

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