Introduction: Wooden Beer Bottle Crate

Picture of Wooden Beer Bottle Crate

I play for the scenario paintball team Pub Crawling . We have more than 20 members on the team and with a name like Pub Crawling we drink a lot of malted beverages after our games. We travel all over the United States to play paintball and have traveled to Scotland and England for events. In order to keep up our supply of beverages and meet the demands of the team several members have begun home brewing beer.  Naturally bringing a full keg setup for after the game isn't always a reality, and sometimes I just want to have a few beers put in long term storage to try my hand at aging them. Though mostly aging beers is more a matter of testing my patience.

What I really wanted was something that was fully enclosed and wouldn't have a lid that would come open if tipped over or rolled around in the back of a truck or trailer without anyone noticing. Also it had to have dividers for the bottles and I didn't want it to weigh a ton or cost an arm and a leg.

I looked around for plans to make wooden bottle crates to hold beer and could not really find what I was after. So I incorporated a few of the best ideas that met my needs from all of them and this is what I came up with.

Table Saw (though a radial arm saw or skill saw could do it too)

1- 1"x12"x8' Pine Board $10
2- 2'x2'x 1/4" birch panel $10
3/8" Hemp Rope

Assuming you have some rope, glue and screws on hand $20 is enough to make two crates with very little waste wood left over.  These crates each hold 12 bottles and are sturdy enough to take a beating yet aren't so heavy that one person can't carry two of them at the same time.  I will also add that I am no where near good enough of a woodworker to make anything super precise, like cabinets or 90 degree angles.  So if I can make these crates so can you.  It took me about 3 hours to make two crates including the time it took to take all of these pictures.  I'm sure someone who has even the slightest clue on what they are doing could make them even faster.

Step 1: Cutting Grooves for Top and Bottom

Picture of Cutting Grooves for Top and Bottom

The first step is to cut the grooves for the top and bottom panels. Using a dado blade in my table saw I set the groove to start at a 1/2" from the edge of the board and to be roughly 1/4" deep.  I ran the board through twice so that there was a groove for both the tops and bottoms.  I actually chose to use the nicer side of the board as the inside and used the really knotted, pitted and banged up side as the outside.  People spend a lot of time trying to stress a board to make it look rustic, I chose boards that were pre-rusticed. 

Step 2: Change Blades

Picture of Change Blades

Now take out the dado blade set and swap over to a standard combination blade, rip/cross blade or cross cut blade.  Just a small segway here about blades, spend the extra $5 to to get a carbide tipped blade.  Carbide tipped blades last so much longer than plane steel blades and you'll make that $5 difference back in no time.  A good combination blade really is worth the extra couple of dollars.

Step 3: Cut the Board in Half

Picture of Cut the Board in Half

Cut the board roughly in half.  Remember I said that this project has enough materials to make two crates.  Cutting the board in half will just make it easier to wield and to make our cuts later.  I actually cut this board about 9" shorter than half but I knew my overall dimensions were not more than 42" long.

Step 4: Cut the Sides

Picture of Cut the Sides

Now we need to cut the sides.  First make four boards that are 12" long, these are the long sides.  Then cut 4 boards that are 8 3/8", these are the short sides.  There should be about a 10" or so piece of scrap left if you cut the board all at once.  This could in theory be used for a third box depending on how much lumber you have.

Step 5: Cutting the Tops and Bottom

Picture of Cutting the Tops and Bottom

Now take a piece of the 1/4" panel and cut it 9" wide.  Do this twice so that you have two strips of panel that are 9" wide by 24" long.  This will leave you with one strip that is roughly 6 inches wide, hang on to this piece of scrap for later.

Take the two 9" wide sections and cut a piece that is 11 1/2" long out of each of them.  The 11 1/2" piece is the bottom of your box and the 12 1/2" piece is the top.

Step 6: Dry Fit

Picture of Dry Fit

This is a good time to take the panel and do a dry fit to make sure everything works right.  You can trim up any pieces that weren't cut deep enough or aren't quite square before adding glue.  Once you glue it together there isn't any going back so test fitting makes sense.

Step 7: Cut the Door Slide

Picture of Cut the Door Slide

The top door of the box slides in the grooves at the top of the box.  In order to do this you need to cut the dado groove off from one side of the short wall section.  This will leave the perfect spacing for the top to slide in and provide a bit of friction to stop if from sliding out on its own.

Step 8: Glue and Clamp

Picture of Glue and Clamp

Add some glue to the bottom grooves only and put the box together.  Hold everything in place with a clamp or two until the glue dries.  I put a couple of screws in the box to help hold it in place.  I like to pre-drill the screw holes when they are close to the edge to stop the wood from splitting.

Step 9: Cut the Inserts

Picture of Cut the Inserts

While the glue is drying it is a good time to cut the inserts to separate the bottles.  Take the 6" piece of left over panel and cut it into two pieces that are 10 1/2" long.  Now take the second piece of 2'x2' panel and cut it into strips that are 6" wide, or equal to the width of the piece of scrap panel.  Odds are that it isn't exactly 6" depending on the kerf width of your blade it could be as narrow as 5 1/4".  Just measure the scrap and make strips from the full panel the same width.

After you have your strips of panel cut make two more of them 10 1/2" long.  Cut the remainder of the strips so that they are 8 3/8" long.  These may need to be a tad short at 8 5/16" depending on kerf width and exact internal dimensions of your box.

In the end you should have 4 pieces that are roughly 6" x 10 1/2" and 6 pieces that are 6" x 8 3/8".

Step 10: Cut the Tabs

Picture of Cut the Tabs

Now you need to cut the tabs.  These will interlock and create the pockets to hold each bottle.

To do this quickly and easily put the dado set back on the table saw.

The 10 1/2" sections will need three cuts.  The first cut is in the center of the piece, the other two cuts are centered between that cut and each end of the board.  This means a cut roughly every 2 3/4" depending on the overall length.

The shorter 8 3/8" pieces only need two cuts.  Each cut will be roughly 2 3/4" from the end.  

There is a little bit of play room in this as the thickness of the board and the overall internal dimensions of your box could vary depending how precise you are.  Your kerf width comes into play a lot here as well.

Each cut will be just slightly more than half the depth of the board.  In this example each cut is just over 3" long.  You can test out if your cut is deep enough by interlocking the pieces to see if they fit flush.  If they are not flush you need to cut them a bit longer.

Step 11: Dry Fit the Divider

Picture of Dry Fit the Divider

Now assemble the divider by interlocking the tabs.  If everything lined up right you should be able to put a beer bottle into any section and it will slide right in.  Don't worry if one or two of them are a little tight.

Now put the dividers into the box and fill all of the spots.  If a couple of the spots are to tight to fit a bottle do not try to force it.  Instead take the divider out and widen the interlocking slot a little bit.  This should give the dividers just enough play to snugly hold the bottles.

Step 12: Drill Cover

Picture of Drill Cover

Take the cover pieces and drill a finger hole in them.  Anything larger than a 1" hole should do.  Try to line the hole up over the dividers, this will stop a beer bottle from trying to fit through the hole should the crate get overturned.

Step 13: Add Rope Handles

Picture of Add Rope Handles

Now take your drill and make two holes on either side of the short sides of the box.  I used a 3/8" drill and made the holes 3 3/4" from the top and 1 3/4" from the side of the box. 

Now take about 20" of the rope and put it through the holes, tie a knot on either end and pull it tight.  These are now the handles for the crate.

Step 14: Add Beer and Store

Picture of Add Beer and Store

You should now have two wooden crates to store 24 bottles of beer in.  You can also stain/paint/laser engrave/carve whatever you want into these boxes.

We hope you enjoyed this instructable and we all look forward to sharing a cold beer with you in the future.

From your Friends at Pub Crawling


bptakoma (author)2011-10-06

How about some chalkboard paint on the side -- then you can label/relabel with whatever brew you've got in there.

DisplacedMic (author)bptakoma2011-10-14

Yes!!!! outstanding idea!

I happen to have some chalkboard paint that we used to paint my son's closet door - it works great. I am making a few of these crates for my brother in law for Christmas and i have been wondering how to decorate them a little bit so that my sister isn't pissed at me for sending her husband home with 2 "ugly" beer crates.

(please note I don't mean to call these ugly. far from it - i think they're lovely as will my brother in law, but my sister is already miffed at the amount of beer "junk" in their house so i'm afraid i'm going to need to "pretty" them up a bit)

Anyway - i was thinking of laser engraving but I don't really have any good ideas for decorations so i have been racking my brains. chalkboard paint it is!!!

As a side note, we also purchased some magnetic paint and dry erase paint for my office. I painted magnetic paint and then the dry erase on top. Works fairly well - but nowhere near as close to a magnetic dry-erase board as the chalkboard paint is to a real chalkboard.

Either way - good idea!

"Utilitarian" :)

They aren't wining any beauty pageants but they do have a rustic farmhouse type of appeal to them. Home brewers tend to go for that kind of stuff.

If someone wanted to go all out they could source some nice oak or walnut instead of scrap pine. Use some miter joints and add a little clear stain to protect them and away you go. But that would probably drive the price up a little more than $10/box and take more than a couple of hours to make them.

I agree though, they do need some finishing touches to them. I like the chalkboard paint idea, possibly on the lid. I'm still leaning to vinegar/steel wool aging. I'm also rolling around the idea of countersinking the screws and using a dowel to cover the holes.

One comment on using a dowel as a woodplug - i've had problems doing that in the past when applying stain - the dowels tend to suck up stain like a sponge and get real dark. it still looks better than a screw but they still stick out. if you cut plugs from the original wood they will at least react the same way to stain in terms of colour....

Might be time to buy some plug cutters then. :)

yeah i was thinking of doing the same. any tips on filling in the exposed groove? i know you said you left them in the instructable, but moving forward, how do you plug a non circular hole? whittling knife?

Use a piece of scrap from the left over stock and cut a small strip the same size as the hole. Add a little glue and use a mallet to hammer it into place. My blade holding tool often doubles as a mallet.

ha - you mean that thing i bang my tires with to knock them off for a rotation is also a blade holder? ;p

thanks again for all of your help - i'll be sure to let you know when i finish my set of crates.

you've got my vote - i hope you win the engraver!

pubcrawlingpb (author)bptakoma2011-10-06

I like that idea! I may do the tops in chalkboard paint. I am definitely thinking about how to finish these up with some sort of stain or something. They were meant to be a simple easy to build project that I can change over time as I get new ideas. And heck for $10 each it keeps me busy and out of trouble for an hour.

Debbie742 (author)2016-02-14

Fingers are crossed you still pop in for any questions, as i see this post has been here for some time.

I'd like to make some inserts for a crate, something like yours, but am fairly new to the woodworking. Did you use the table saw with a dado blade to make the bottle dividers? If so, did you just have a line on the board you were putting the grooves into, so you knew when to stop?? Is the board you are cutting laying flat, or standing up?? I'd like to do this to some 3/4 wood, (1x6, but i'd trim it to the width that would fit a blade) Sure could use any hints or pictures you may have handy...or a tutorial?

Take care,


pubcrawlingpb (author)Debbie7422016-02-15

Hi, I did cut the dividers with the dado blade. But depending on the width of material and the kerf of the blade you might not have to. You can either lay them flat or stand them up and cut them all at once if your blade can raise high enough. My saw could not so I laid mine flat. Hope this helps.

kreggphillips made it! (author)2016-01-13

Made one for a white elephant party with some laser engraving. Used vinegar and steel wool as the stain (first time - and it got dark fast). Also used the laser to make the top and inserts so I could be more exact with the notches and such. Great instructable. Thanks!

CatTouchThis (author)2015-11-23

If any one could help me that would be great, trying to make these
for my boyfriend for xmas/his bday, not a carpenter at all... For the
1"x12"x8' Pine Board I know we are cutting the length of 12" and 8 3/4"
but what is the width? Are we just leaving that board at 12" wide?
Meaning we need FOUR 12"x" in boards and FOUR 12" by 8 3/4" boards for
the Pine long/ short side? Then TWO 11 1/2" x 9" and TWO 12 1/2" x 9"
for the top/bottoms of the 2 boxes?

Any help I can get would be crate :)

Yes you just leave the board 12" wide as that is the height of the box. You should not be ripping the boards down to a narrower width at all.

musicbymark made it! (author)2015-04-19

I made a bunch of crates with Matthias Wandel's Screw Advance Box Joint Jig. It was tons of work / hours, but the crates came out gorgeous. I'll post if folks want to see them.

musicbymark (author)2015-04-19

I can't find the comment I posted in the past day or two. Hmm.

musicbymark (author)2015-04-15

Love your use of rope. I finally finished building my crates after around 1.5 to 2 yrs. They came out great, but I spent ridiculous # of hours designing, tweaking, and building them. I'll post my pix soon. Really cool addition was reverse printing logos on slipper sticker paper (w/ stickers removed), on inkjet, and then transfering onto the wood.

TimG45ACP (author)2015-01-11

Thanks for the idea! My brother brews his own beer and I thought this would be a great present for him. (I give him wood stuff and he gives me beer - what could be better!) I made a few changes (18 instead of 12) to incorporate a few other ideas I picked up along the way. It turned out great!

acthompson (author)2014-06-03

neo71665 (author)2013-06-26

If you can get your hands on some plastic election signs they make great lightweight dividers (and free). I also use them for a top but don't ship my cases.

Suvo1 (author)2013-02-06

nice....the games begin

LogTrotter (author)2012-09-17

I'm going to make one similar to this tomorrow but I will put Jones Soda in it instead.

Iamjpham2 (author)2012-08-09

This is awesome, Absolutely love it. I figure with this design I'm probably going to make one this size and also make one half the size for a 6 pack holder :D Have you ever thought of using a box joint to join the sides? I like to use them because it's a little more secure and you get a nice look to the edges. One last thing I figured if you just drilled a small hole on the top you can put a small locking pin/dowel but Idk how well the top stays in place for your crate. Absolutely love this though

pubcrawlingpb (author)Iamjpham22012-08-09

Thanks for the comment. The lids stay on and fit very tight. They require a bit of force to open.

I did try box joints and was not succesful due to my lack of any real woodworking skills. But I got a router for Christmas and I think with a jig I could do a better job. Its on my list of things to try.

Ritterlichkeit (author)2012-03-20

Great idea and really easy, I think I will use the box design but put the dividers a little closer so there is more of them. I can see this being a great firecracker holder box, maybe not as large but the routed slotting sides is a great idea. Thanks man

pubcrawlingpb (author)2012-01-26

I may need to get a dovetail jig:

Upir (author)2011-10-06

I'm gonna make a bunch of these to store my mead in. Gonna make X-mas a lot easier when toting them around for gifts too.

pubcrawlingpb (author)Upir2011-10-06

One of the big reasons I wanted these was for storing strong ales or bottle conditioning specialty beers that could take months before they were finished. The problem with cardboard boxes is that they start to fall apart after about a month in a semi-humid environment like a basement or garage. These boxes will last for years I'm sure.

I've never made mead but it is high on my list. To my understanding it can take quite a while for mead to fully ferment and condition as well. What kind of mead do you make?

Alderin (author)pubcrawlingpb2011-10-07

I've been making mead for two years now, so: still a beginner. :-)

Mead can be drinkable in 6 months, but can age similar to good red wines (sometimes longer is better, I've heard 10 years!) My attempts tend toward 13% alcohol by volume, but fermentation has seemed to take a month to a month and a half, versus the two to three weeks for wines and beers. Some recipes claim 90 days to drinkable, but I haven't tried those.

Clarifying is the part that takes the longest, but I've come to the thought that letting it clear "naturally" instead of adding clarifyers gives me a better idea of when it is really ready to drink. 4-6 months everything settles out and it is clear and tasty!

I should do a mead 'ible for my next batch...

pubcrawlingpb (author)Alderin2011-10-07

I'd very much like to see a good mead'ible!

+1 for the request for a "meadible"
would love to learn more

Upir (author)DisplacedMic2011-10-14

When I can get ahold of the supplies I'll try an put one up that can be drinkable, and good, in about 3 or 4 months start to finish.

pubcrawlingpb (author)Upir2012-01-24

Just an update, someone did a mead'ible!

Looks good. Will have to try it I think :).

Upir (author)pubcrawlingpb2011-10-06

Still just a beginner, and yes some can take time. Aging out like wine. But I have a recipe from the site I go to called JAO that is drinkable in 2 or 3 months after you start it. Though it does get better when it gets older.

jongscx (author)Upir2011-10-07

I was just gonna say the same thing...

rycollier (author)2012-01-07

I really liked your idea for nice sturdy crates for taking and storing beer. They're especially nice when bottle carbonating. I can get rid of all those crappy cardboard boxes and make my closet look a little less like a disaster area. I made one little extra feature. If you cut grooves up the inside sides up front you can make a place for a vertical lid holder when distributing beverages.

pubcrawlingpb (author)rycollier2012-01-09

Great Idea!

bullhorn9 (author)2011-10-21

Really nice way to provide the brew!
When you cut off the top edge of one of the end pieces, you could have saved the cut-off and glued it to the edge of the [sliding] top panel. It would've completed the square top edge and looked nice. Then you also wouldn't've needed the finger hole to open the lid with.
Also, are your rope handles long enough so they can cross each other over the top of the box so each box can be carried upright with one hand?

pubcrawlingpb (author)bullhorn92011-10-24

Good idea with the top edge piece.

I spent a lot of time playing around with the length of the rope handles. I tried crossing them over the top like you suggested and while it worked, it wasn't very comfortable. So I opted for shorter handles for two handed carry. I carried two fully loaded crates, each in one hand and just by one handle. Carrying them that way wasn't difficult and even fully loaded they are not that heavy.

alanemartin (author)2011-10-06

I would suggest that you only glue the butt joints where you put the sides together. That way, the bottom panel can float. If the size of the bottom panel is too close to exactly the size of your grooves, seasonal expansion/contraction might make it pop.

Nice job, overall.

You're right, I was thinking that when I was putting it all together as well. Someone made a great suggestion of cutting a rabbet into the short sides and locking them in a dado on the long sides. Then all that would be needed is some glue to hold the whole thing together.

There area a lot of little tricks like that of which I am sure more experienced wood workers know of.

For anyone interested in doing this, there is a great instructable by pfred2 on how to make jointed boxes here:

stevemoseley (author)2011-10-18

Nicely done and well thought out. I can see needing to build multiple copies of these as one just doesn't seem like it would be enough. It is also a great gift idea for the holidays for the beer lover you know.

Four of them hold 48 bottles. You get roughly 55 bottles or so out of a typical 5 gallon batch of beer. So it falls into the "almost" category.

But you can never have too much beer on hand or too many ways to conveniently store it!

I made four of them so far, two for aging and two for general transportation. I may make another four with some of the improvements listed here at some point in the future.

DisplacedMic (author)2011-10-14

What kind of dado set do you have on your saw there?

It is an old Sears Craftsman set. I don't know if they make it anymore. I know Freud makes a nice looking set.

stupid question: are they pretty standard? i have a fairly cheap 10" craftsman table saw - could i just pop into HD and find a set to switch in and out of my saw?

Oh ya, the blades are pretty much a standard size, though I think dado sets are a little smaller than 10". But you might run into an issue with the arbor on your table saw. If it is too short you won't be able to stack many blades or chippers on it. Considering the dado is only 1/4" wide though it will probably work ok. But you might right into a problem if you try to run more blades/chippers to make a thicker dado.

This would be saw specific so check the manual. I know that some of the smaller portable "contractor" style saws often have short arbors.

Worse comes to worse you could set up your fence and make two passes 1/8" off with a regular blade that has a wide kerf. That should cut a 1/4" wide slot with no issues.

ArieProduction (author)2011-10-06

My beer brewing friend, had his birthday last week, unfortunately, why didn't I think of this myself. So I will note it down to make a few cases for him next year.

Really nice idea

DisplacedMic (author)2011-10-06

So awesome!!! Fantastic instructable. I just got a new table saw and I have been itching for a project. Looks like you just filled up my Saturday

Let me know if you're ever in the Triangle area in North Carolina and I'll come play paintball with you guys! Shoot me, beer me :-)

About This Instructable




Bio: Pub Crawling is an International Drinking Team with a Scenario Paintball problem. Or something like that.
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