How to make a chic suspended shelf from an old scaffold plank

How to make a chic suspended shelf from an old scaffold plank

by Victoria Fitz-Gerald aka @fixing_up_58

Having completely gutted and transformed our Victorian London terrace along with my wood-working extraordinaire husband (“Mr-58”) we consider ourselves highly experienced DIY-ers. I document our progress alongside publishing step-by-step tutorials on my social media profiles, utilising various #gifted products along the way. I have a love for the old and a passion for reusing and recycling wherever we can, whilst making savings along the way, then sharing those ideas. Just like this plank to shelf DIY project.

I love this project because it serves our newly crawling baby, whilst preserving our more precious and precarious items that all needed lifting out of our little one’s way. But I love it even more so because it upcycles scaffold planks, and uses products from recyclable cans, both of which are kind on the environment as well as the back pocket!

Here’s what we used… 

  • 2.4m old scaffold plank  
  • Hammerite metal spray paint, smooth gold 
  • Rustins Wood Dye, light oak 
  • Chain plate rings 
  • Rope 
  • Sandpaper 
  • Drill, plus Forstner bit (or hole / spade bit) 
  • 2x corner braces 

And here’s how we did it…

STEP 1: Source your timber 

diy old planks shelf

Using Facebook marketplace, I sourced a yard who were giving away free scaffold planks. This is fairly common as it saves the individuals from paying to dispose of the wood. Our guys were even happy to cut down the boards to fit in our car, but do check that with them before you arrive, and if not, take a saw with you! 

Scaffold boards have metal end bands to stop the timber from splitting. For a more industrial look from the timber you could keep these and clean them up.  

However, we wanted the timber to look more like older oak, so we removed these. Alternatively, you could cut them down, which allows you to go for a more bespoke length, just be sure to round off the ends during the next step. 

STEP 2: Sand those boards 

When you come to use your sander, do this outside to save a lot of indoor mess! This removes all the muck on the board and allows you to soften any snagged edges. Be sure to use a higher grade grit sandpaper to prevent scratching the timber as it’s a softer wood – P120 and upwards is best, but feel free to try P80 for the mucky beginning stage. (FYI – P120 and P80 refer to the type of sandpaper and how strong the “grit” is, which helps you choose the right strength for your purpose.)

I would suggest working out the orientation of the shelf at this stage and, depending on the height of the shelf, focus your attention on the areas that will be seen the most, in our case it was the front and side edges and the underside. 

STEP 3: Spot Test, Stain and Transform!

stain a plank diy

I used Rustins Wood Dye in a light oak tone. Before attacking your freshly prepared board I would recommend testing on an off cut, or a spare board (that has been prepared in the same way). This ensures you’re happy with the way the timber reacts to the stain, and that you like the colour. I always apply wood stain using a spare rag and some rubber washing up gloves to prevent my hands from looking tango’d! These days I use Mr-58’s old, ripped work shirts as rag, it ensures a nice even coverage. 

The BEFORE – DURING – AFTER images above show how the wood stain brought out the lovely detailing on the timber and gave a great rustic finish to the wood. The stain will need to be left to dry before the timber can have any further attention (follow the instructions on the can), so use this time to attend to the next step…

STEP 4: Preparing the rings for the shelf to hang from… 

rings for suspended shelf

We wanted these in brass to match our brass kitchen hardware, but couldn’t find them, so decided to DIY it. We bought black “chain plate rings” (a bargain at £0.98 each) and used Hammerite metal spray paint in a smooth gold finish to spray paint them.

paint rings

For the perfect finish you will need a little patience here… multiple thinner layers is better than rushing it and going thicker, as you’ll end up with drip lines and clumps. I used an old cardboard box to spray paint them in, as it contains any wild spray.

STEP 5: Time to drill some holes 

You’re going to need some power tools for this part, specifically a Forstner bit (we used 12mm, but use whatever size looks like it will fit your rope, a hole bit or spade bit would also work). You’ll have needed to decide how many chain plate rings you want/need your shelf to hang from. A shelf 1m in length would suffice using only 2 rings each end, whereas our shelf is 2.4m so required 4 rings, both aesthetically as well as in terms of supporting the weight of the shelf.

dimensions

Once you have determined this, mark off your evenly spaced holes, allowing 2cm from the ends, 1 cm from the back, and 2cm from the front edge as shown. 

Then, drill. You may have previously experienced tear-out when doing this (where the wood on the underside splinters during drilling). In order to avoid this, place a piece of wood underneath the hole and drill beyond the shelf and into this piece of wood.

STEP 6: Wall mount the chain plate rings 

The beauty of making your own shelf is that everything becomes bespoke to your preference. So choosing the height of the chain plate rings needs to be steered by how big a drop you want the rope to have. As a guide our shelf sits 40cm below the bottom of the chain plate rings which gives a nice drop.  

Mount these and then the fun can begin… 

STEP 7: Grab a friend and get threading 

You’ll need a spirit level and a helping hand for this part. Begin by cutting however many pieces of rope as you have chain plate rings. It is simplest to cut them all to the same, nominal length that is around triple the length of the drop, the excess allowing for knotting. Thread each piece of rope underneath the plank, at the wall side hole and knot it from below using a standard knot tie (aka the “Overhand Knot”).

diy shelf plank

Then get a buddy who is able to hold up the shelf in place for an extended period of time, while you loop the rope through the ring, then back down and through the opposite hole at the front of the shelf. Begin by loosely knotting them to enable alterations to be made and use the spirit level to help level it (however, depending on the shelf’s placement you may need to use your eye for this instead). 

Once you’re happy with the height, level and positioning of the rope, tighten each knot, and trim them down.

STEP 8: Don’t panic! 

You may be concerned at this stage that the shelf has a tendency to flip up or down. A little reinforcement using a corner brace, or two, drilled into the wall and the least visible part of the shelf (for us it was the top) will soon secure it into position, and prevent any whoopsies once weightier items are placed on there. These are likely to be hidden by any items you will place on the shelf but if there’s any fear of them being seen I’d be tempted to paint them using the Hammerite spray paint for a coordinated finish. 

STEP 9: Dress your beauty and admire your work! 

chic suspended shelf from a scruffy old scaffold plank

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