Tutorials/Crafts, Wood Craft

Pallet Bookshelves Tutorial

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I’ve been seeing pallet book shelves all over the internet (like this one over at Little Lucy Lu) and knew I had to make them for my little boy’s room! He loves books but I hate having them scattered all over, so this was the perfect solution. I had been scouring the town look for pallets behind every grocery store and finally found one that wasn’t too beat up! Nothing beats free, right? The best part about this project is that it only cost $5 to make!

Here are the steps to make your pallet shelves:
Step 1: Make two cuts in your pallet where the dotted lines have marked. I used a handsaw and it only took a few minutes! Make sure to cut as straight as possible.
Step 2: Pry off and save the boards in the middle of the pallet to nail to the bottom of your shelves.
Step 3: Sand down your shelves as well as the boards you will be nailing across the bottom. My husband used an electric sander and had them all sanded down in about 30 minutes!
Step 4: Prime your shelves. I used Kilz Spray Primer (about $3 at WalMart). Be sure to have some brushes handy in case the primer drips.
Step 5: Paint your shelves. We used cheap red spray paint (only $1 a can!) from WalMart but any kind will do. If you decide to use spray paint rather than regular paint, be sure to buy 2 cans! We sprayed 2-3 coats on each shelf, but if you feel you need a little more coverage, you could add another coat.
Step 6: Sand down the edges. This is completely optional! I just wanted a little bit more of a “rustic” look to go along with the weathered wood. I just used sand paper and sanded the edges by hand.

Step 7: Hang Shelves. We used 3 of these swivel hangers on the back of each shelf so there was one on each end and the middle.

We used “Hercules Hooks” to attach the shelves to the wall. There are a lot of different names for these and you can get them at any hardware store or WalMart. The nice thing about these hooks, is that you can hang things directly into the wall without being in a stud. Each hook holds up to 150 pounds, so this is definitely strong enough to hold books.

I hung them low enough so our little guy could get to his books by himself and he LOVES it!

You’re all done!

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  1. says

    Having worked at a grocery store, you should probably ask before you just take a pallet. Sometimes they store them outside and if you take it then you are stealing. Just a heads up.
    Clever project!

  2. says

    SOOO simple and creative!! love it and the color you chose to paint it!

    I’m waiting (forever now) for my fiance to build us a head board for our bed out of wood pallets. You can hang bookshelves and little reading lamps in between the pallet boards!

  3. says

    This is so great! I’ve been needing a solution for all my son’s books, and I think that this just might be the ticket. Thanks for the great tutorial!


  4. says

    This is nothing but GENIUS! I teach preschool and we simply must have this in our classroom to get the books off of the bookshelf which the children constantly dump onto the floor!

  5. says

    I’m in the U.K and stumbled across your blog, and have to say you all have some fantastic ideas, I feel so inspired. My neighbor has a pallet in their garden so I’m off to see if they want it as with 4 children and a whole library of books we need these!
    Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. Timo says


    really a great bookshelves! But what kind of pallets do you use for it? Do they have a special title? Looks like here are other pallets in use in germany…


    • Cyd says

      Just pallets found at grocery stores or ones used for grass sod. They are all over in the US. Good luck finding some. :)

  7. Kat says

    Will these stand up on their own? I was thinking of putting them on the floor in my classroom so my Kindergarteners could access books easily. Very cute!

    • Cyd says

      Just make sure your bottom board is flat and not warped. It should do well leaning against the wall. Best of luck. So cute for your classroom!

  8. Lizzy says

    These are just what I’ve been looking for for my son’s nursery! One question, though. Between steps 2 & 3, the wood appears to have been knotched down or cut out, but this is not described as a step, and it does not appear that removing the boards would create the knotch.

    Not sure if that makes sense, but if what I’m seeing is correct, how did you do it and what tools did you use?


    • Claiborne says

      I was wondering the same thing until I took a good look at the pallet. There is a groove cut for the forklift. That’s what it is.

  9. Stephanie Compton says

    Stealing Little Lucy Lu’s pallet bookshelves tutorial and publishing in your book without due credit or permission….BAD CALL. We will be contacting a lawyer.


    Stephanie Compton
    Sister of Little Lucy Lu’s author.

    • Cyd says

      There is a link back to her site at the top of the post. It has always been there. Bec@LucyLu already thanked us for the mention. We love her blog. Have a great day! :)

  10. Merrilee Stevenson says

    My husband loves working with repurposed wood an spent many years working in grocery. He said that not all pallets are alike; some are heat-treated while others are chemically treated to prevent “things from growing on them” as they sit out in the elements. You want the heat-treated kind.

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