How To Make Shelves From Vintage Suitcases

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Photo: Houzz.com

Photo: Houzz.com

Vintage suitcases in faded orange and blue hues are frequently listed on Krrb and piled high at flea markets and garage sales. Although they aren’t the most convenient travel companions anymore, old-school travel bags are retro-cool for displaying in groups. We had to share this idea from Krrb member Mandy Heth for upcycling colorful suitcases into creative shelving. Check out her Vintage Baubles and Bits store for vintage clothing, jewelry and home decor. Read on for a step-by-step tutorial on crafting a few of these “travel” displays!

What You’ll Need

  • Hard suitcase
  • Sawzall with metal blade
  • Multi-purpose cutter
  • Drill with 5/8s bit
  • Pencil
  • Wrench
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Two U-Shaped brackets
  • Four bolts
  • Four nuts
  • Two L-shaped brackets
  • Six 1 1/2in screws
  • Electric screwdriver
  • Step One

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    If the suitcase has a divider in the middle, remove it first. Close the suitcase and measure the depth from the middle of the front to back. Ten-inch shelves are useful without being too big, but anywhere from 8 to 12 inches will work.

    Step Two

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    Continue to mark the same depth all the way around the suitcase to create a guideline for cutting. Keep in mind, many suitcases are rounded so to make the guideline as straight as possible, measure from the bottom’s straight-edge after determining how much is going to be cut off.

    Step Three

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    Use two tools to cut. Use a general multipurpose cutter for the top and bottom, which is usually plastic or a hard board. In the case of suitcases with metal pieces, use the Sawzall for the sides in order to cut through the metal. Very carefully start cutting along the guideline on the front of the suitcase until it’s completely cut to the metal. Then switch tools and cut each side with the Sawzall. Finally, switch back to your all-purpose cutter and cut the back. Be sure to wear appropriate safety gear.

    Step Four

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    After you’ve cut the case, you’ll most likely need to remove the liner. At this point it’s usually pretty easy to remove with scissors and a little muscle to pull it loose. From here you’ll want to start working on the brackets for installation. Install a U-bracket inside the suitcase with bolts and nuts. You’ll need to find the center of the suitcase and then measure the center between the middle and the left side and the middle and the right side. You’ll mark these as the location for your U-brackets. Center U-brackets on the top and with your pencil mark where the holes will need to be for the bolts. Repeat this on both sides. Then with your drill, create holes for the bolts where you’ve marked.

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    Step Five

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    Insert bolts through the top and place through the U-bracket, attach nuts and tighten with adjustable wrench. Repeat on the other side.

    Step Six

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    Super glue the suitcase shut. Do this last then place a heavy object on top of them and let the glue set overnight.

    Installation

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    After the suitcase shelf has dried, it’s time for installation. Grab the level, pencil, screws and L-brackets for this part. Place the shelf with the back flat against the wall where you would like to hang it. Using the level, ensure the shelf is even and then draw a straight line with the pencil between the two bolts on each side. Find the middle between the two bolts on the left and the two bolts on the right.

    Mark it with your pencil to create an upside down “T” with the level lines you drew. Put the suitcase down and pick up the first L-shaped bracket and three screws. The L-shaped brackets have a groove in the top (longer side). Line up the bracket with your “T” shape and once even and level, screw into place. Repeat again with the second bracket.Carefully line up the U-shaped brackets inside of the suitcase shelf with the L-bracket and slide into place. Your shelf is ready for use!

    Group and display your suitcase shelves for an awesome statement wall.

    Have you made suitcase shelves before? Show us how they turned out! And be sure to check out Krrb for shelving of styles and sizes.