How-To Build a Rustic Door Shelf

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DIY Rustic Door Shelf Tutorial

Hi everybody! Today we are going to do a really awesome how-to. I’m going to teach you how to take an old door and turn it into a leaning door shelf. This is a project that most of you can do on your own, but if you aren’t comfortable with using a circular saw, find someone who is familiar with it that can help you out on that step. The rustic and vintage styles are very popular right now. This is mainly because of the sense of warmth and comfort that these pieces bring to our homes. The feeling of history that comes with a piece like this is absolutely priceless. Up-cycling is another great trend that no only helps to save money, but helps our environment as well. Let’s get started!


The door I used for our door shelf comes out of out of our surplus selection. The great thing about our surplus doors is that you never know what you’re gonna find! We’ve got some really great interior and exterior doors out there and I happened to come across this beauty. It is an old 5 panel, solid wood door with an imperfect finish on it. It is perfect for this project, so I’m excited to share it with you!


Rustic Door Shelf by Builders Surplus


Tools You’ll Need for Your Door Shelf:


Here are the tools that we’re going to need today. We have a circular saw, we’ve got some small screws, 2 picture hanging kits, some decorative chain, a nice decorative door knob that I got from Hobby Lobby, some clamps, a straight edge, and a level. We also need our safety glasses and ear plugs for when we’re using the circular saw. Safety First! You will also need a drill, a hammer and a chisel.


  • 5 Panel Wood Door
  • Circular Saw
  • Safety Glasses & Ear Plugs
  • Clamps
  • Straight Edge
  • Level
  • 2 Picture Hanging Kits (You Can Use Eye Hooks As Well, If So You Will Need 10)
  • Decorative Chain
  • Decorative Door Knob
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Small Screws


Step 1:

Decide Where To Put Your Door Shelf and Take Measurements


First, you are going to take a look at your door and determine where you want it to be in your home and how far you’ll want it to lean. Because you will be using the panels of the door as shelves, you need to realize that the top 2 shelves will need to be cut, or they will hit the wall, making it impossible for them to lay flat. You will need to measure the space from the wall to the door on the top 2 panels (maybe 3 depending on how your shelf is leaning). For me, my top shelf was 3″ from the wall, and my second shelf was 6″ from the wall. The rest of my panels were fine at the size that they were.


Step 2:

Cut 3 Sides of Each Panel in the “Lip” Area With Circular Saw


The next step in our Door Shelf project is to cut out these panels on the back side of the door. Once you have decided which side you would like to be facing out in your home, find a table and flip the door with the back side facing up. This is where you are going to need your circular saw. Again, if you are not familiar with a circular saw, find someone who is to help you out. Make sure you are wearing your eye and ear wear when using the circular saw. We are then going to measure from the blade to the edge of the saw. For me, that is 5 3/4″. I will then place the saw on the spot that I’ll be cutting, and will take a measuring tape and measure 5 3/4″ from my cutting area. I then mark that spot with a straight edge and 2 clamps. This area is called “the fence”. This will ensure that I get a straight cut, as the circular saw will move along “the fence” while I’m making my cuts.


Panel doors such as this will have a “lip” area around the panels. This is to hold the panels in place, as they are not glued or secured in. They simply sit in slots inside on the wooden “lip” surrounding the panel area. Because of this, we will only need to cut out 3 sides of the panel, because once your 3 sides are gone, you will be able to pop and slide the panels out. Be very careful when cutting, but if you happen to go a little too far on your cuts, it is not the end of the world. The beauty of projects like these are that the imperfections make them beautiful. You will cut the bottom lip and the left and right side of each panel “lip” on all 5 door panels.


Step 3:

Chisel Out The “Lips” and Pop Out The Panels

Now that your 3 lip sides are cut, you will need to chisel them out completely  to make sure your panel can come out as easily as possible. Take your chisel and place the flat side up against the door, not the panel area. Take your hammer and get it down to the bottom of the “lip” wood, and then pry any remaining pieces out. After you’ve done the sides, make sure you get in the corners and tap those out as well. Repeat that process for the remaining panels.

Step 4:

Drill Holes for Your Chain & Pre-Drill Screw Holes For Your Door Shelf

*In my project, I had one panel break in half that mysteriously was the perfect size for my top 2 panels (step 1) of my door shelf, 3″ and 6″. Because of this, I did not have to cut any panels to fit the measurements in step 1. I doubt you will have the same luck, so you will need to take your saw and cut one of your panels to fit those measurements, using the same procedures in step 2.
We are now going to drill our holes to secure the shelves. First, you’re going to take a 3/8 bit and drill holes in the top left and right corner of each panel. On the opposite side of your panel, take a 1/8 bit and drill a hole about 1/2 inch from the edge of the panel in the center. Your final holes should be in a triangle shape on your panel.

Step 5:

Connecting your panels to your door

Your door should still be face down on a table, which is how it should remain. Take your first panel with the side with your single 1/8 hole in the center, and place it in on the ledge, straight up, on your door. You should then take a screw and LIGHTLY drill it into the center hole you predrilled to secure it to the door. This screw should NOT be tight. This is because our self is leaning. If you screw it in tightly at a 90 degree angle, your shelves will not be level to the floor. After you have lightly screwed your shelf in place, you will need to get out your decorative chain. Take one end of the chain and thread it through the first hole, going from the top of the shelf to the bottom, then across the bottom and up through the hole on the other side. Take your chain up to the corner of the opened panel area so estimate how much chain you will need for each shelf. You will not know exactly where to secure the chain, because again the door shelf is leaning. Cut your chain based on the amount you assume you will need.
You will then take you mirror hooks (or eye hooks). Drill in your left mirror hook and connect the chain to the loop. You will go ahead and screw in the right mirror hook, but do not connect your chain to it. You will need to adjust these chains when your shelf is straight up. Repeat this step on all remaining panels.

Step 6:

Connecting Your Chain & Finishing Your Shelf

After all of your shelves are lightly secured and have chain threaded & mirror hooks attached, you will carefully stand your shelf up and lean it as it will be in your home. Now that you can see where you need your selves to sit in order to be level, take the side of your chain that you did not connect, and connect it in the appropriate place to your remaining mirror hook. Repeat for the remaining panels.

Step 7:

Adding Decorative Accents

The decorative accent I chose to use for my door shelf was a vintage style door knob. It had 2 holes in it already, so I simply drilled it to the spot where a door knob would be, one screw in the top and one in the bottom. You now have a beautiful, original, rustic or vintage piece that will work wonderfully as a shelf! This is a great conversation piece and the pride that you have in building it will shine through in the finished product. You will want to make sure you test each shelf before placing really heavy items on it, but it is a strong shelf and will work for virtually anything you want to put on it.

How to build a rustic door shelf by builders surplus

My Finished Rustic Door Shelf

That’s all for our how-to on building a rustic, leaning door shelf! I hope you enjoyed it, and please check back soon for other great how-to projects. If you have any how-to video requests, please comment below and we’ll be happy to add them to our list! Have a wonderful day and I wish you luck in building your iwb door shelf!
Builders Surplus is a full service remodeling company with locations in Louisville, Kentucky, and Newport, Kentucky, which also serves Cincinnati, Ohio. We specialize in interior design, which comes as a free service to our clients. We sell building supplies ranging from unused surplus, to first quality in stock, to high end custom order and everything in between. We also provide measurement and full installation services. Our core products consist of kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities (single vanities and double vanities), interior doors, exterior doors, sinks, faucets, granite countertops, quartz countertops, laminate countertops, windows, and more! If you have any questions or would like to set up a free design consultation with one of our interior designers, we would encourage you to do so. Happy Remodeling!
Written By: Allie Bloyd