For many years now a rumor has circulated to the effect that the Ford Motorcar Company re-purposed shipping crates that were specific in size so as to be reused as floorboards in the production of early model cars. Although this bruit has been largely disproved by many different sources, it sounds so like him that one readily accepts it as true. However that case may be, it had long ago inspired many people to adopt the attitude of that legend, and I am one of them. I recently purchased a benchtop milling machine and it came to me in a respectably made, large crate so well designed that I carefully unpacked my tool and saved most of it for reuse, and here's what I did with it and other reclaimed woodworks and free roadside booty.
**This media file image is in the public domain in the United States. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_ford_1919.jpg
Step 1: Gather and Rehabilitate the Possibles
Overall the crate size was about 30” [76cm] square, with the walls about 3/8” [9.6mm] thick and the floor about 1/2” [13mm] thick, all plywood construction. I even saved all screws that attached the case to the base, they being of the drywall type. The edges with staples were neatly trimmed off, it being easier than pulling and repairing them.
Step 2: The Ending, Here at the Beginning
Presenting the “Green Machine” as I call it, the beneficiary of reuse and recycle mindset. A fully customized work station at essentially no cost thanks to a sharp lookout whilst drivin' the 'hood. ☺
Step 3: Do the Big Stuff First
The back section, upper vertical: Here I fully used the crate's 1/2” bottom base to provide a mounting surface of two faces, in this view using scrapped 1×4 pine boards for shelves servicing the workbench side.
The back section lower vertical: This piece of 3/8” ply acts as a sway brace giving stiffness and enclosure to the structure's back end.
Bed Angle: The last two images are a closeup of steel bedstead “L” material used as upright supports, it too being a roadside find. This stuff is notoriously hard to work, requiring the use of an abrasive saw for all machining, but is superb for this role.
Step 4: Small Bits Do Big Jobs Too
Mill Stand Tabletop: Glued up from 2 x 12 joist cutoff remains, again found roadside, will easily carry the tool's weight.
Clamp Block Set: a cutoff of 3/8” ply spans the base legs to provide a hanging rail for this heavy liftoff kit.
Mill Table Protectors: Some scraps of 3/8” ply saves the precision surfaces from accidental impacts, and also serve as tool trays, a nice double action purpose.
Vise Shelf: When not needed, the heavy vice can simply be shifted off the mill table and parked in a safe place. It gets old real fast hefting a 35 pound chunk of metal up from below into position, here it's an easy, simple, lateral move.
Step 5: A Base Cabinet Roll-about
A mobile base cabinet was a discarded copy machine stand, about to receive an extensive upgrade of functionality.
Lower Pullout Shelves: Fabricated as a bi-level, from some of the remaining crating plywood, it will ride on drawer slides salvaged from a roadside bathroom cabinet.
A slide mounted Upper Pullout Tray competes the transformation, yielding an extraordinary amount of accessible tool storage capacity with room to spare.
When rolled out to the side, it's scrap plywood top provides a supplementary working surface to hold measuring tools, wrenches, samples, etc., forming a comfortable, efficient “L” operators position.
Step 6: Parting Thoughts
The base legs themselves are from salvaged 2 x 4's, and had I to do it again, I would double up on them to add extra rigidity, but overall I am very pleased with the outcome. Having this machine and it's accessories in a home that came from no- cost reclaimed material gave me a great deal of satisfaction in the end (and also more money to spend on accessories ☺).