I thought I should share the three wood project ideas. I used hand tools and minimal materials to create something useful for the home and garden. The three projects have three things in common: I started as a beginner, the starting materials were wood timbers taken from the used pallets, and they were custom-made to fit exactly into designated spaces.
Readers note: The images provide quick infographics of the three projects (kid’s book storages, pallet bookshelves and raised garden beds). Skimming through the article is probably enough to get you started on a DIY wood project. The details of the tools, materials and how-to instructions are provided under each project ideas for beginners. It is perhaps important to consider the starting points for making kid’s book storage boxes, pallet bookshelves and raised garden beds in this article. The points will set you on the right path to making the ideas a reality.
Building the book storage boxes, pallet bookshelves and raised garden beds was satisfying. I started with what I found at home and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process as well as the finished products. In fact, I embarked on each project each time there was a need for it. I made the book storage boxes and bookshelves for the children to store the children’s picture and reading books. I did the raised garden beds for fun since I had lots of wooden pallets I did not want to throw away.
The three projects were simple. Having looked back, those were the best things I’ve done instead of buying the items from a furniture shop and assemble them. Three simple wood project ideas, practical and; and brings of satisfaction.
Most (if not all) DIY woodwork ideas probably start because there is a need or for fun. Either way, start with an idea of the space the final product is likely to take up. For example, I know that the kid’s book boxes I’ll put in the children’s rooms. So I started by measuring the children’s books and the length of the space in the room. Here is how I started:
- Measured the length (L) and width (W) of kids’ books which are going to be the height (H) and width (W) of the book storage box, respectively
- Determined the length (L) of the available space where the book storage boxes will be placed once it is complete. Note that the length of the space will correspond to the length of the storage box.
- Did a rough sketch of the book storage boxes.
- Cut the starting materials to length. If you are buying from a hardware shop, ask them to cut the materials to length.
- Painted the starting materials before assembling them as this will give a good finish.
Hammer, Clamps, Drill, Hammer, Hand Saw, Tape Measure, Square, Nail punch, wrecking bar with the chisel end
Project 1 – Kids Book Storage Boxes
Wood glue, Putty, Nails, Sandpaper, Paint, MDF Board, stencil printed off the internet
As mentioned earlier, building the book storage boxes was a satisfying wood project Idea for me as a beginner. The kids were involved with painting the boxes which were the highlight of the whole process. In fact, it was great fun when they worked with the ready-made A4 stencil designs and decorated their book storage units. It took me a day to collect materials and complete the project in one week. This wood project idea worked out well. The kids had them for 5 years and are still using them.
When building more than one book storage make the dimensions neat and tidy. Keep the depths (D) and widths (W) of the storage boxes the same. Only vary the length which is also the length of the space in the room. Keeping D and W consistent is also beneficial because most DIY shops and hardware can cut the MDF boards to dimensions if you ask the staff to do it for you. I did and it worked out well. In fact, the fine cuts give a great finish.
The boxes in the above image have the following length (L), width (W) and depth (D): Book storage book one 34 cm (L) x 34 cm (W) x 30 cm (D), Second book storage box 64 cm (L) x 34 cm (W) x 30 cm (D) and the 3-units book storage box 94 cm (L) x 34 cm (W) x 30 cm (D).
As mentioned earlier, the lengths of the three book storage boxes were determined according to the spaces available in the children’s rooms. Making it the perfect fit with the right height for the kids to pick and return their books. Practically, the width of 34 cm and a depth of 30 cm were just the right dimensions (W & D) for any DIY book storage units of the same kind. And, can hold children’s’ books without a problem. If there are larger picture books, I’d recommend widening the W of the box.
3 finishing stages
Painting the MDF boards before putting them together is, probably, the best thing to do. From building the first book box, I realized that it was harder to get a consistent coat of paint along the sides and inside the book box. Painting the MDF boards prior to assembling the sides guaranteed a good finish.
At this stage, there are five sides needed covering. With the five pieces of MDF boards cut to dimensions and painted, we then move on to applying the glue and nailing the five MDF boards into place. The general list gives further details about the cut-out pieces for the DIY kids’ book storage units.
Perhaps it is important to start with the base MDF board. I started by nailing a small timber (1 cm x 1 cm) to the baseboard, on each end. The wooden not only formed the strong base stands but also provided the support for the other sides (widths and length sides) to be nailed to. Another feature that I found useful were the four ‘brown’ covers sealing each corner and reinforced stability around the corners.
Decorating the kids’ book storage unit was the part that I enjoyed the most. As mentioned earlier, the children got involved painting their chosen book storage using the cut-out stencils and had enjoyed the experience thoroughly. We used the A4 stencils for the designs which worked out well.
From this experience, I’d recommend keeping the dimensions (L, W & D) in even numbers. This enables equal partitioning of the spaces within a storage unit. Keep W and D at 34 cm and 30 cm respectively. Only adjust the L according to space where you plan to put the book storage unit. Cut the MDF boards to length at the hardware or DIY shops. Fine cuts, great finish.
Recapping key steps
Measure the length and width of the biggest kid’s book available. The book’s length and width will translate to the depth (D) and the width (W) of the storage unit, respectively. And, the storage unit’s length (L) will be equal to the length of the of the available space in the child’s room. This would be the ultimate location for the book storage unit.
Make a rough sketch
Ask the hardware to cut them to dimension
Paint the boards forehand makes for a good finish
Use A4 stencils for designs and decorations.
Fit for space
Having gained some experience making the first book storage box I went on to building five others – beautiful yet practical and fun. I sold one for K100, gave one away as a birthday gift and kept three. The kids have used two for all their books. As the number of books grows, we had to bring the third box from the garage in. These book storage boxes are at the right height allowing the kids to pick and return their books with ease.
Out of curiosity, I searched Amazon and kids’ online retailers. To be honest, I found that boxes of similar dimensions cost more to buy than make. All in all, it took about a week of my free time to build the three elegant book storage book boxes.
Project 2 – Wood Pallet Bookshelves
Nails and Timber
Buy vs make
This wood project idea came about when I realized a need for bigger storage. The obvious choice would be to buy two bookshelves. When I went to the furniture shop, I realized that I can make two for the price of one. I also had earlier collected 2 pallets from a recent relocation and thought why not build one. It was the right choice because I built two and saved some money.
The image collage shows the steps taken to put together the wood pallet bookshelf. The important beginner point is getting the two 90 degrees frames right the first time. Another feature is the 4 stands. The stands (taken from a crate) provided stability and lift which made the bookshelf slot nicely into the back wall. A rope attachment at the back of the back of the shelf was used as ‘stopper’ to avoid it falling on someone.
I spent K157.20 to build this bookshelf – 110 cm (H) x 30 cm (W) x 140 cm (L). Such a sizable bookcase would, ideally, cost around K500. I saved more than K300. Additionally, I now have materials (nails, off-cut timbers), tools and knowledge and skills to make the next one better.
The three-layer wooden pallet bookshelf is a ‘real’ storage solution. In a household where there are lots of books and puzzles, bookshelves like these are not only creative ways to use wooden pallets but also useful storage. The 5 steps in the image gave details on how I assembled the bookshelf.
Like the previous projects, the critical part was the making of strong vertical frames. First, I nailed two timbers at right-angle to each other to make a vertical stand, you need two stands (Step 1). Second, I nailed the horizontal piece along the bottom layer (Step 2) and the other layers into place (Step 3). Then I secured the bookshelf with braces and close off the corners with well-sanded timbers (Step 4). And finally, I put the bookshelf in its designated place and secured it using a safety rope.
Project 3 – Wood Pallet Garden Raised Bed
You can use wooden pallets to enhance home and garden features. The challenges associated with wood pallet projects are many. Note the two challenges stated at the end because the correct hand tools will help you to deal with the rough timbers and make the wood project ideas for beginners come true.
Pallet timbers and Nails
You will need 8 pallet timbers to make the corner stands using the right-angle technique I mentioned earlier. Building a square garden raised box would require 4 timbers on each side and underneath (20 timbers of the same length). My raised garden box was 40 cm in length, width and depth.
To build the raised bed, start by inserting the four corner posts firmly into the soil. The posts must be equal distances apart length and width wise. You will need 12 standard (3 x 1) pallet timbers for the 4 sides. Hammer the nail into the timbers at the bottom and all the way around. Finish by nailing the others upwards to complete the raised bed. The beds were a simple project idea and a creative way to use wooden pallets.
The raised garden box stood 5 cm above the patio. It proved tricky to strengthen the 4 corner stands. The better way to achieve strength is by nailing two pallet timbers at right-angle to each other. Make 4 stands, all the same height using the right-angle technique.
Challenges of working with wooden pallets
Working with wooden pallet timbers is challenging. That means that it is difficult to remove the timbers from the jawed nails. You are likely to spoil the timbers without the right tool. A wrecking bar with chisel end is a perfect hand tool for removing nails without destroying the timbers. I hope the 3 DIY projects inspire you to find creative ideas to make home and garden projects and have fun. If you have a wood project ideas for beginners, let me know on Twitter.