Introduction: Illuminated Antique Crate Table

Convert an old wood shipping crate into a practical illuminated storage table. A great piece of furniture for any kid that wants a place to hide and secure their stuff from their sibling!

Acquired this box from a friend that gave me a call asking if I had any interest in some old duck decoys that were cluttering his folk's garage. When I went to pick them up, he had about a 1/2 dozen in an old canvas bag and another 3-4 in this old wood box. I was happy to take them in hopes of restoring the decoys. He offered the box as well saying it would just go in the trash if I did not want it. So, I took the box with no idea what I would do with it due to the unsightly condition. After a little thought as I was removing the old paint this is what I came up with. An illuminated storage crate table. A great addition to my son's bedroom.

After working with the box I discovered it was an antique! Read more of the instructable to learn the history of this shipping crate. Hope you find the time, effort, and creativity worth a CONTEST VOTE!

Step 1: Assess Condition Before Work

Just wanted to show the condition of the shipping crate before I started any work. Considering this crate could be over 100 years old in was in solid condition. While some of the boards had cracked, it was a solid box with only a few nails working their way out.

The inside was a little smelly from being stored in a garage for the past 30-40 years. Obviously you can see the pain finish was peeling extensively.

Perhaps 100 years of dings, scratches, gouges and dents.

The hardware, hinges and handles were in great condition.

Step 2: Wire Brush, Hammer, and Air Gun

    Tools Needed

    • Hammer
    • Wire Brush
    • Air Gun

    What to do...

    1. First thing is to look for any unsound areas of the box that might need maintenance. Perhaps replace screws or nails. Lucky for me everything was intact. I think there were about 3 nails that need to be hammered back to flush with the wood. All screws were well seated in the hinges and the handle.
    2. Before going to work with the wire brush I through a tarp down to collect the mess. I knew there would be a lot. I then wire bushed the heck out of this box. Lots of flaking paint was flying!
    3. After the wire brush came the air gun to blow out the grunge that had collected over the years. Lots of grunge in the board cracks and seams of boards. Little more paint came off with the air pressure was well.

    Step 3: Sanding 60,150,220 Grit

    Tools Needed

    • Orbital Power Sander (or a strong arm, shoulder, and sanding block)
    • Sandpaper 60, 150, and 220 grit

    What to do...

    Since this crate was majorly distressed, I hit it hard with 60 grit sandpaper. Nothing but improvement to get as much of that paint off as possible.

    FYI.. I had thought about using a chemical stripper, but did not want to deal with the mess of chemicals. I have tried them before and did not think this project was worth the trouble.

    After about an hour with 60 grit, I was left with some stubborn paint and primer. Made the decision this would have to do. Decided I would at this point go with a coat of primer and paint as a final finish. Again, not really worth the time and effort to get everything off for stain or clear coat.

    My first thought about hinges was to work around them instead of risking breaking a ceased or rusted screw or worse yet, stripping the flat head. But, changed my mind and went to work on the flat heads with a utility knife to remove the paint. Once the paint was out of the screw slot, I was able to slowly ease out the screws with a flat head screw driver.

    I then repeated the sanding process with 150 and 220 grit over the entire box. More of the paint and primer disappeared with each level of sanding. Primer Ready!

    Step 4: Hidden Labeling

    While sanding the inside of the box I came across some hidden labeling. This was a pretty cool find which led me do some research. On the inside back of the box it appears to read "3 1/2 Rms National Carbon Labels" On the bottom inside I was able to make out "Front" Unsure of the word below Front. If anybody can elaborate more on what they think was the original contents of this shipping crate, would love to hear from you.

    After a quick google search I would assume this crate originated from the National Carbon Company. To make a long story short and let you read the history, it appears the company was what we now know as the Eveready battery manufacturer.

    This company was located only about 10 miles from where I live. So I would have to guess I am accurate in my assumption of the origin of the shipping crate. You can read more on your own.

    Overall a pretty cool find. So... will need to preserve this piece of Cleveland history.

    Step 5: Clean Hardware and Prime

    Tools Needed

    • Bench Grinder with Wire Wheel
    • Cheap paint brush
    • Small Wire Hand Brush
    • Prep and Primer
    • Spray Primer for Rusty Metal

    What to do...

    Since I removed all the hardware and noticed the amount of rust was insignificant I decided to save and reuse it all except for the wood knobs that were probably not original to the shipping crate.

    After about an hour of work at the bench grinder with a wire wheel I was able to get the handles down to bare metal. There was evidence of some pitting from minor rust. That just added a little more character to the pieces.

    Before giving a coat of primer, I used Jasco Prep & Prime. Basically this stuff is brushed on and let to work overnight. It will convert any remaining rust to iron phosphate, allowing it to be primed and painted.

    After an overnight application of the Jasco, I used a small wire hand brush to remove any residue then a coat of rusty metal primer just in case something did not convert properly. Ready for Paint!

    Step 6: Paint Hardware

    Tools and Materials Needed

    • Drop Cloth for over spray
    • Hammered Finish Spray Paint

    What to do...

    Next I laid out a tarp and my hardware. In addition to the original hardware I purchased some large round wood furniture feet from Lowes for the conversion from shipping crate to table. Not pictured, but were also painted with this finish were the metal mounting plates for the round wood feet.

    Used a Hammer finish spray paint to give that antique look.

    Step 7: Prime the Box

      Tools Needed

      • Air Gun (tack cloth will also work)
      • Couple Paint Brushes
      • Latex Primer
      • Satin Clear Coat Finish

      What to do...

      1. Before priming I used an air gun to rid all of the box of sanding dust.
      2. Primed with a stain blocking latex primer.
      3. Preserved the inside labeling by coating with two coats of clear coat.

      Step 8: Paint Box and Top

      Tools and Materials Needed

      • Drop Cloth
      • Satin Latex Enamel Paint
      • Paint Brush

      What to do...

      Pretty simple and straight forward with this step. Used a latex enamel paint to cover both box and top on the inside and out. Let it dry overnight before giving a second coat as the primer is showing through after one coat.

      Step 9: DELETED IMAGES :-(

      Unforunately, for the next steps I accidentally deleted a bunch of images in my transfer from camera card to computer. ARGH! The remaining images are of the finished product rather than the actual step by step images I had. Will do my best to detail what happened minus some great images.

      Step 10: Install Feet

      Tools and Materials Needed

      • 4 mounting plates
      • 16 wood screws (came with the mounting plates)
      • 4 furniture feet
      • Drill
      • 1/16 drill bit
      • Screwdriver

      What to do...

      1. Evenly space out each of the mounting plates on one of the ends of the box which will now be the bottom of the table rather than a side of the box.
      2. Mark and drill pilot holes for the screws for each plate.
      3. Drive screws to mount each plate with screwdriver.
      4. Screw on feet to mounting plates
      5. Stand crate table on end.

      Step 11: Install Handles

      Tools and Materials Needed

      • 2 Original Handles
      • 4 Brass Screws (purchased new #8 screws to replace worn and rusted screws)
      • Drill
      • 1/16 drill bit
      • Screwdriver
      • Tape Measure

      What to do...

      1. Measure desired placement of handles on each side of box.
      2. Mark and drill pilot holes for screws
      3. Install handles with brass screws.

      Step 12: Install Hinges

      Tools and Materials Needed

      • 2 Original Hinges
      • 1 dozen #12 wood screws (upsized from the original #10 screws to compensate for the large original holes that were already in the box and lid)
      • Screwdriver
      • Gold Permanent Sharpie Marker

      What to do...

      1. Places hinges over original holes on box and lid.
      2. Install hinges with #12 wood screws and screwdriver
      3. Used gold color sharpie maker to color the screws that were chrome. Little trick to full the naked eye to believe they are brass screws. Much better looking than the chrome.

      Step 13: Install Interior Lighting

      Tools and Materials Needed

      • 10 ft. Battery Power Micro Led Light String (can be bought at in various lengths)
      • Hot Glue Gun
      • Hot Glue Sticks

      What to do...

      1. Starting at one inside corner of the box to string and glue the light string around the back perimeter of box.
      2. Apply glue every 4-6 inches to keep the glue string in place.
      3. Let each application of glue dry 30-60 seconds to secure light string.
      4. Extra light string can be glued to inside top of box.

      WARNING: If you have never used hot glue, there is a reason they call it HOT... Because it is HOT! Don't get it on your fingers.

      Step 14: Install Magnet Switch

      I wanted to add a cool feature to the lighting. The lights are switched at the battery pack which can be cumbersome to turn lights on and off. So.. I thought a magnet switch would be a good way to illuminate the box when opened. When the box is closed, lights turn off. Brilliant Idea!

      Tools and Materials Needed

      • Magnet Switch purchased at for about $8.00
      • Wire cutters
      • Wire Strippers
      • Screwdriver
      • Velcro adhesive tape

      What to do...

      NOTE: I have two sets of wiring directions below. The first set is the CORRECT set of instructions. I left the second set just so you could see my original error or in case someone followed my poor directions before I discovered the error in my design. I have now included a drawing of the correct wiring.

      There may be 6-12 inches of wire between the battery pack and the beginning of the light string. I recommend working from the middle of this section of wire to give wiggle room in your work. Of course, you need to make a decision based on how and where you are installing your lights.

      From the battery pack you have 2 wires.

      1. With a utility knife, razor, or even your finger nail separate the two wires.
      2. Cut one of the wires. Now you will have one wire cut and the other is still intact.
      3. See diagram below for wiring from battery pack to switch.
      4. Make connections as shown,
      5. Connect cut wire from battery to NC (Normally Closed) Terminal
      6. Connect cut wire from lights to COM (Common Terminal)
      7. Attach switch to inside edge of box. (my switch came with mounting tape)
      8. Attach magnet part of switch to inside edge of lid being sure to align the magnet with the switch.
      9. Attach the battery pack to the top inside of box with Velcro adhesive tape.
      10. Switch ON battery pack.
      11. Lights should light!
      12. Close the box and the lights will turn OFF!

      If lights operate opposite, then the wire coming from battery to switch terminal is on the wrong terminal. Switch the wire from the (NO) Normally Open terminal to the (NC) Normally Closed.

      These directions below were wrong. Technically, the lights did turn On and Off but... in less than 24 hours the batteries were drained of power in the OFF position when door was closed. Thanks to the help in the forums of I discovered instead of breaking the circuit with the closing of the door, I was actually shorting out the battery pack. No harm no foul. Changed my wiring to the included image and all is well.

      1. Mark one of the two wires with marker to identify the wires before cutting the wire near the battery pack.
      2. Strip about 1 inch of insulation from the ends of each wire. Four strips total.
      3. Twist the wire back together as you marked earlier.
      4. Connect one twisted pair to the Comm (Common Terminal)
      5. Connect the other twisted pair the NO (Normally Open Terminal)
      6. Attach switch to inside edge of box. (my switch came with mounting tape)
      7. Attach magnet part of switch to inside edge of lid being sure to align the magnet with the switch.
      8. Attach the battery pack to the top inside of box with Velcro adhesive tape.
      9. Swith ON battery pack.
      10. Lights should light! If they do not, you have the wires on the NC (Normally Closed) terminal. Change to NO.
      11. Close box and the lights will turn off!

      Step 15: Optional Shelf and Lockable Latch

      The inside of the box is now open for customization. I had a some scrap would and nailed a small shelf into the box. Will let my son decide if he would like another shelf installed. Inside of the door also allows for some customization.

      Add a latch to keep closed so the door does not come ajar and drain the battery pack.

      I have staged this for images. It will be interesting to see what my son decides to stow away in his stash box. Only a matter of time he asks for a lock to keep his big sister out!

      Comments welcome. Please VOTE!

      Wood Contest 2016

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      Lamps and Lighting Contest 2016

      Participated in the
      Lamps and Lighting Contest 2016