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Repurposed Inexpensive Handmade Craft Display Shelves

I learned the art of frugality from a Depression Era survivor. Join me in learning how to live on less. Save money, have fun, and be secure.

It is a common mantra today, " I don't have any money." Those of us who are crafters and sell our wares have periods when not having cash can sometimes stifle our enthusiasm for attending the next fair. But think about it. If we were creative enough to design and fabricate handmade crafts, building the tools of our trade should be easy.

Here's something anyone can do given some time, energy, and thought. Try building your own display shelf. My favorite challenge is to see if I can make one without paying anything for it!

My first display shelf was made out of a spindle baby crib. On a spring day walking near the sun fresh grass of central California, I spied a spindle baby crib a bit disheveled near a garbage can. A spindle was broken, a mattress missing, and two casters gone. Outside of that, nothing was wrong with it? "That's what I've been looking for, Eureka!"

I took all five sides down and decided to use both ends and one side. The parts will be illustrated below in build sequence.

Main Wing Pieces

Back side of main pieces for wings of display shelf -

Back side of main pieces for wings of display shelf -

"My creative self said, "Oh boy, what do I use for connectors?" In my hardware drop bin I collect screws, washers, etc. that I find in my wanders. The screws, nuts, and washers were courtesy of someone who had thrown a pressed board cabinet out of a truck. There are times when I could just thank a litterer.

Once you decide how to connect the backing you just need to drill holes in the proper place.

Make Do

The hinges required 6 screws. I ran out on the other side, but I still had 2 longer screws in my barrel. The stamp wood is used to help the nut draw up on the threads. Not all screws are threaded from tip to head.

The hinges required 6 screws. I ran out on the other side, but I still had 2 longer screws in my barrel. The stamp wood is used to help the nut draw up on the threads. Not all screws are threaded from tip to head.

Move the wings to the angle desired (or as dictated by the length of your shelf). Many times you can find something that will work fine. Two by fours cleated together work also. Don't forget plywood or old abandoned pallets. Most of us have seen these things in dumpsters or garbage cans and never thought about repurposing them.

Now for an important selling issue. Just as you wouldn't try to sell your crafts beat up, a battered-looking shelf tells customers you are not professional. This most often affects a prospective buyer's enthusiasm for purchasing your item. We hardly want the first observation to be negative - it carries through to the sale. Retailers (those with selling experience) spend a pile of money on displays. There is a reason for that.

In the instance of my display shelf, imperfections will be covered with crocheted cloths, place runners, and blankets that my wife makes. They will cover the top edges of the shelf. Chips in wood can be stained or painted. I have even on occasion used acrylic "bronze" paint on hardware. Any detail you can deal with on the free gets you that much closer to a completed sale.

I happened to have an old board I used to make a doggie door frame out of and repurposed that. A 1 x 12 construction grade pine as illustrated would be around $10, but I know if you put your mind to it, you can create a shelf (what about old PVC or cardboard?) Keep in mind that each component should be as light as possible because you will have to put it up and take it down.

In a photo above I screwed two pieces of 2 x 6 to the bottom horizontal rung on the end pieces. The pegs in the 2x6's were made from rubber stamp wood handles and an old dowel epoxied together. I use epoxy frequently. It is wonderful stuff and strong, even the quick cure. There are many times when you need it fixed right now! This is my go to epoxy. When the shelf is placed on the two by sixes and the pegs dropped through the holes, it forms a pretty good connection and the design is easy to disassemble.

The second shelf spans the very top of the display support structure. I had run out of suitable wood, but luckily I found some old U-clamps from a muffler I had replaced. By drilling holes in the shelf aligned with the top rail on the end pieces, I was able to straddle the rail and tighten the shelf down. This, with the pegged shelf, made a very rigid stand.

Here is the assembled unit without coverings.

Remember, your display shelf catches attention from passersby whose eyes are led to the merchandise! The more colorful and tasteful the display and items, the greater the chance of a sale. Anyway you can convey that your craft is desirable and will raise the spirits of the customer is necessary, not a cherry. Cherries are extra value; the sale depends on the allure of your display!

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I have not had to worry about adequate lighting. All of my shows have been outside in the Arizona sun. But lest you forget, focusing light on your creations that may have poor background light, is essential. Concentration cannot be focused on beautiful crafts without being spotlighted. Small LED lights are relatively inexpensive, use very little energy, and produce good light. If there are no outlets available at the show, a motorcycle or lawnmower battery will work well. Ugh... You might have to buy this! A frequent mistake is creating a non-professional display. You must convince your potential buyer that your craft or bobble is valuable. The same is true of display shelves. Whether made of recycled material or not, be certain they look professional when draped! You would be surprised how many crafters want better display shelves, but don't have a lot of scratch. Many are on the prowl for shelves and will offer to buy them or ask how much you want to build one. Unfortunately, you will need to explain that the display was made from repurposed material, therefore you can build one according to the general theme, but not from the very same materials. The display in the photo above was sold to a fellow crafter for $20. Not too bad for a "junkyard on the run" creation. Below is a way of making a similar shelf built from a hollow core door.


Your shelf layout will enhance your product. A little bling adorning a shelf unit never hurt. Bring the units forward in an effort to centerpiece your creations. As a seller, experience in dealing with these things once you have created your stands will come. Above all, don't forego the experience of marketing your valuable product just because you lack a display shelf. You really can make a purposeful shelf unit that is easy to transport and assemble while giving your clients the perspective you want, and it can all be for free. With a bit of labor and a lot of thought you may become the authority folks will come to for advice on how to construct a beautiful display. Who knows, you may wind up building and selling them!

Repurpose and Save!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 John R Wilsdon


John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on February 09, 2019:


Thanks for your comment! on February 08, 2019:

That’s cool!!

Nell Rose from England on January 16, 2014:

Wow, now that is so clever! to be able to see that first picture and realise that you can turn it into something so different is amazing, I am useless at this sort of thing! lol! wonderful!

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on January 05, 2014:

Thanks so much! Crafts are a wonderful way to escape. I find my mind wandering to all manner of ideas, too. Thanks again.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 05, 2014:

This is so creative and thoughtful hub!

I loved the whole idea of this article. I love crafts and something or the other is always going on in my mind. Nice way to assemble and display them.

Thanks for sharing these ideas! Voted up!

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