I can never pass by an antique wooden crate without stopping. Crates are so useful, they make instant storage that is also stylish!
These crates are inspired by the character of pallet wood, farm and orchard crates, old stamps, and weathered typography. They are made from discarded pallets, and personalized with a easy image transfer method using only wax paper and inkjet printer.
At the end you will also see some fabulous diy failures so you can get a more consistent result with this technique.
I also have a video tutorial and all the stamps and images I used on these crates as a free download here -download the decorative elements for these vintage inspire crates.
Step 1: Select Pallets
If you are crazy about pallets, and want to find out more about where to find pallets, how to select and work with them, etc, here's a detailed article to dig deeper!
I think wooden pallets are like Cinderella, they are beautiful no matter in a dumpster, or being transformed into thousand dollar furniture. The natural variations of the wood, the stamps & nail holes, the little and big imperfections, are all gorgeous.
The most important thing when selecting a pallet is to look for the HT stamp, which means it’s heat treated instead of chemically treated!
For this project, one easy way is to cut the 1×4 or 1×6 boards from the stringers using a circular saw or jig saw. First cut down the edge of each pallet as close to the end rails as possible to maximize the length of each plank. Then remove the center nails of the pallet using a hammer and a pry bar.
Step 2: Make Crates
Now we can size and cut the pieces – see diagram above. Depending on the size of the crate you want, you will need 2 or 3 boards for the bottom(orange). Mark them to the length you want, and also mark 2 side pieces(yellow) at the same length. Finally, use these pieces to determine the end pieces(blue). Sand each piece with either a sanding pad, or a electric sander. We also used a Multitool to trim and sand smaller irregular edges.
After all the pieces are cut and sanded, nail or glue the 4 side together first, then nail or glue the bottom to the sides. You can also use pocket hole screws to attach the pieces. We chose nails because of the rustic look we want. If you do use nails, a little pre-drilling helps to prevent cracks. Now we are ready to add our personal designs to the crates with image transfer!
Step 3: Transfer Inkjet Images Onto Wood
I made up some fun phrases like “California Loves You!” (how could it not, right?) with some fun fonts. The gorgeous peach and orange illustrations are free downloads from the fabulous Graphics Fairy (thank you Karen! thegraphicsfairy.com) After some trial and error I made a few fine-tuning and adjustments , and I am really in love with this transfer method now!
Materials and tools:
- wax paper, cut into sheets no more than 8.5″ wide, a little longer than 11″, so it can fold over one edge of letter size paper.
- inkjet printer
- scotch tape
- 2 pieces of cloth such as old t-shirts and a soft pad such as a shoe polishing pad
First using photoshop or gimp, size and arrange the images and words you want on the crate onto a letter size file. IMPORTANT: flip the images and words – remember they are going to be transferred (mirrored)!Fold and tape one end of the wax paper onto a piece of regular 8.5″x11″ paper, this will be the end that first go through the printer. Leave the rest of the paper loose. Print your image so the ink goes on the wax paper. Be very careful not to touch the printed surface. Can you see the smudge I made on the letters ‘juicy’?
Dip one piece of cloth in water, and wet the surface of the wood you are about to print on, then use the dry piece to absorb the water a little. The goal is to get the wood to absorb the ink, but if the wood is too wet, the ink would be runny. Test on a piece of wood to get a feel of how wet/dry the wood should be. Next cut and lay a piece of the design onto the wood surface, once it’s on there, do not move it anymore, hold it down and use the soft pad to rub the wax paper like you would make a print, and you will be delighted to see how beautifully the image got transferred onto the wood! Repeat this step and keep layering images until you are happy with the result.
Step 4: Grand DIY Failures!
I never fail to create failures in every diy project I do! Time to share some lessons I learned with the 3 pictures.
- Feeding wax paper directly into the printer will cause the paper to jam 50% of the time. So tape the wax paper onto a regular sheet of paper.
- I forgot to flip/mirror the image! ahhh!!! (California still loves you though!)
- I tried taping the top and bottom edge of wax paper onto a 8.5″x11″, it resulted in the whole thing warping, and ink got smudged! So only tape the top edge!
Step 5: Finishing Wax
After the image transfer dries for a couple of hours, the final step is to protect our crates with a nice furniture wax. After some geeky research I used the recipe from Amber Dusick. She makes this luscious wax for her wooden toys. It’s 1 part bees wax, 4 parts jojoba or olive oil (I used olive oil). Place the shaved bees wax and olive oil in a bowl, and slowly heat over a double boiler till the wax is melted. Stir and transfer into a jar.
This wax is non toxic, and so nice to work with. It’s actually a great hand lotion - so no gloves here!
You can see from the photos that the color of the wood and images become richer and deeper once you apply the wax. Let sit for 24 hours, and you are ready to use them or give them as gifts!