How To Build a Bookshelf From a Pallet

John loves reading. I think it's a great habit, and I definitely want to foster his passion for books. As a toddler though, he's a very "intense" reader, and the books often take a beating.  The cardboard books tend to last a lot longer than books with pages.  And as much as I loved Maisy Grows a Garden, those pop out cardboard figures didn't even last one session of John reading it by himself (we still love reading it, even without them).  We needed a place to keep some of these more delicate books, yet also keep them accessible for our nightly story time.  His room was long overdue for a bookcase of some sort. I love building stuff myself, so I had in mind to build a full blown bookshelf.  We didn't really have that many books yet, but I definitely wanted something that blended style, with craft and utility- and thus the pallet bookshelf.

Materials Needed:

  • 1 pallet (Home Depot by me was allowed to give one free pallet to each customer.  Each pallet can make two bookshelves.)
  • Can of wood stain - I went really dark
  • Sandpaper, 60 and 110 grit
  • 2.5 inch dry wall screws
  • Anchors (if you can't find a stud)

Tools Needed:

  • Saw
  • Sanding block, or powered sander
  • Brush (or something to apply the stain)
  • Level
  • Power drill


1. Cut your pallet "short ways" right where John is pointing in this picture:  

The detached piece should look like this:

2. Pry off one of the boards from the larger piece, but don't attach it to the smaller piece yet.  This new piece will serve as one of the book holders (depending on the pallet that you get, you may or may not need to do this), but I want to sand it first.  It's easier to sand when not attached to anything.

3. Sand the single plank and smaller piece of the pallet.  I wanted to sand it enough to remove the discoloration and ink, but also wanted to maintain some of the "roughness" of the wood.  I decided to first use 60 grit, and follow it up with 110 grit.

4. Stain the pallet.  I'm still getting the hang of the proper way to ultimately treat wood in a way that I like.  I absolutely hate using paint thinner to clean brushes.  I feel like you can never get all the stain or polyurethane off the brush.  I'd rather just use a new brush every time.  As a result, I wanted to do a one-coat stain so I'd only use one brush.  I laid it on thick!  Probably a little too thick because it took forever to dry.

5. Reusing some of the nails I pried out of the pallet, attach the loose board to the front of the bookshelf.

6. Using a level and the drywall screws (and optionally anchors), mount the bookshelf to the wall in the desired location.  I hung it about 5 feet off the floor so it would be out of reach from John, and thus a good place to store the books with paper pages.

7. Fill it with your favorite books.  This is a good step for a helper.