This shoe bench was a sort of commission from a friend who had both a shoe organization problem, and two old wood pallets. The design I had in mind was simple and would highlight the character of the weathered, old wood. It’s also repeatable, so you can build one too.
Step 1 – Find the Pallets
The bench I made was 20 inches high, 30 inches long and 14 inches deep, and it used up most of two pallets.
If you’re going bigger in any dimension, you need at least one more. Pallets are made from irregular wood, but the thickness of the slats is consistent. Just make sure all the pallets you get are of the same type and size. Search in alleys and around construction sites and other places where deliveries are made and pallets are discarded. Of course, you can also buy them.
Step 2 – Break Down the Pallets
You need the long slats, not the structural pieces. With a reciprocating saw and a wrecking blade, cut between the slats and the structure. It can be an awkward angle. Cut through the nails and if you have to carve up the wood too, make it the structural pieces, not the slats. I find it easiest to buzz off the nails on the outside edges first, and then cut out the center nails – removing one slat at a time.
Step 3 – Chop the Slats to Size
This goes a lot faster if you have a miter saw, but you can do it with a circular saw if you have to. Each leg consists of 2 20-inch slats, so you need 8 cut to that length. Cut 4 slats to 30 inches, for the front and back of the top and shelf. Cut 4 slats to 14 inches for the sides of the top and shelf.
Remember that you’re working with wood that has personality. Think about what slats will be in the front and what you want to feature. I found two slats that had similar knotholes and cut them so they would be the legs on the face of the bench.
I chose the most picturesque slats to be the long stretchers for the top and the shelf, but I made sure that they all had one good flat edge to face up and support the slats above.
For the surface of the top and the shelf I needed a lot of slats, all 14 inches long. I would be reluctant to do the math on how many slats I needed, even if they were regular in size, accounting for the gaps between them, but these were many different widths and not even straight sided at that. I set up a stop on my saw at 14 inches and fed in the slats until I had a pile that looked like it might be enough.
Step 4 – Sand Everything
This is the second most boring step, but at least you get to use a power tool. You’ll never get this wood to be perfectly smooth, but you need to knock the splinters down and even out places where the grain is fuzzy. I used a random orbit palm sander with 100 grit paper. Wear breathing protection.
Step 5 – Tack the Frame Together
Each leg is 2 pieces butted together and tacked in place at a right angle along the long edge. I used the Ryobi cordless brad nailer, which is perfect for this. Use a speed square to keep the angle set and tack them together – 3 brads should do it. Do all four legs. Measure and mark on the inside of each leg for the height of the bottom shelf. This will depend on the width of the wood you selected to be the front and sides – in my case it was 7 inches.
Taking note of which legs you want facing forward, tack one front stretcher flush with the top of the legs and one on the mark inside the angle. Tack on the sides, the rear legs and the back stretchers.
Step 6 – Tack On the Shelf and Top
This is like putting together a puzzle. In my case, some of the slats were as wide as 4 inches and some as narrow as an inch. Again, keeping in mind that it should be interesting to look at, lay the slats out so they cover the area with as few gaps as possible. Do the bottom shelf first so it’s easier to access with the nailer. Depending on the width of the slat, shoot 1, 2, or 3 brads to keep it securely in place. Keep the gun square to the piece so the brad doesn’t pop out the side. If it does, you can clip it off with wire cutters.
Continue all the way across and then do the top shelf too.
Step 7 – Clamp and Secure
Squeeze the corners from edge to edge with long clamps to make them fit as tight and square as they can. I used F-clamps, but bar clamps or even bungee cords will do. From the inside, drive 2 woodscrews through each angle of the legs and through the front and side stretchers. Do this in all four corners on the top and on the shelf. Now your bench is strong enough to sit on.
Step 8 – Stain and Seal
Now we’ve come to the most boring step, and you don’t get to use a power tool. Some people love applying a finish, so if that’s you enjoy this. For me, I can’t settle into the Zen of it, but it needs to be done. This bench will get some wear and handling, so you have to protect it. I chose a stain and sealer in one, in weathered wood gray. This would lock in and highlight the natural color, and protect it from the shoes and people sitting on it. Brush on at least two coats, lightly sanding between each application.
That’s it. When it’s finally dry find a place for your brand new bench and load it up with shoes.