Introduction: Make a DIY Vintage Wooden Storage Crate!
Is your home missing a certain rustic touch? Does it need a meticulously hand-crafted piece of art that also acts as a practical storage container? This antique-looking crate, made of fully new materials, can do all of that and more! It provides a great project for any beginner/intermediate woodworker looking for a challenge.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this project is that it is very forgiving. If you’re going for an aged look, any mistake you make in the creation just adds to the character!
This design is also super versatile. It could be for a kids room, as a planter, or in a wine cabinet. You can change how worn down it looks or the overall color. I’m using it for a spooky Halloween decoration (of which I’ve posted a tiktok!)
P.S: This is my first instructable that I’ve ever written! If any instructions could be more clear or there’s an error somewhere, please tell me. I tried to write this in the most concise way possible!
- 16 feet of 1x4 wood: This works out to be 2 boards that are 8 feet. You can use any variety of wood depending on your use case. If you want a nicer look, you may want to go for poplar. If you want a more aged appearance, you'll want to go to your local hardware store and find any wood that looks less pretty. I am going for a very broken-down box, so I chose pieces with a few knots and chips. Be careful, though, because choosing wood that is too dry makes it very hard to work with. You'll want this cut into 6 pieces that are 1 foot, and 6 pieces that are 10.5 inches. The rest will be used later.
- 1 plate of 10.5 x 10.5 plywood. This will be used for the floor of the box. Again, depending on how you'll use this, the look and thickness will vary. A thinner wood will be more fragile, but I couldn't imagine needing more than 1/2” plywood for this. Note that a plywood that is too thin will result in the screws on the brackets poking through it (see step 9).
- Wood glue (any will do)
- Stain & Brush
- This, again, will depend on your use case. A more brown stain will look more rugged, but if you want a look for inside your house, you might go for something more gray. I used a red-ish stain.
- 4 small metal L-brackets & 8 small 1/2 inch screws
- These will be used to attach the floor to your crate.
- You'll want at least a base sanding of ~80 grit, and a ~240 grit is optional to wear the paint for a certain look later on (see step 2 for a comparison picture).
- An electric sander is recommended, but not required. I use a Ryobi Corner Cat (also known as a mouse sander) for small projects like this.
- Table saw
- If you don't have one or don't feel comfortable with one, a jigsaw can be used instead. The jigsaw can also be used to create artificial chips in the wood if desired, as will be seen later on.
- Measuring and marking tools (square, pencil, measuring tape, etc.)
Optional (for the go-getters)
- Nails and a Hammer
- You can nail the posts onto the box, which adds support and to the look of the project. More info on step 5.
- Jig Saw
- This can be used to cut segments out of the wood to get the broken-down look that can be seen in mine.
- Drill and Bits
- Using various-sized bits to randomly drill holes into the wood can also make the box look knotty and broken down, depending on the use case.
- 240 grit sandpaper
- This can be used to wear down the paint, which provides a really nice authentic-looking touch to the final product.
Step 1: Make the Frames
Glue and clamp the 1-foot and 10.5-inch boards together to make a 1x1-foot frame.
If desired, you can drill random holes into the frame to make it look like it has more knots than it does, giving that antique look. You can also use a jigsaw to cut notches and dents into the wood, giving the broken-down aesthetic.
Then, sand it with your 80-grit paper to smooth out the wood. Sanding the edges will make it easier to handle. Stain the wood. I didn't need to stain the inside of the frame, but I still sanded it for the sake of not giving myself splinters!
This step has a lot of personalization because you can wear it down however much you want.
I would also like to note that this step is what takes a lot of the time and effort of this process, as the rest of it is just putting the frames together; don't give up!
Tip: I marked my frames in pencil with "top, middle, bottom" to make sure I knew where I wanted to put notches. This isn't too necessary unless you really like specificity and attention to detail.
Also, you need to do this 3 times. Good luck!
Step 2: Sand to Wear the Paint (optional)
This doesn't take too much effort, but I think it really adds to the design. A comparison picture of the before and after is shown above. It looks really natural and adds to the quality and craftsmanship of your work. Be aware that once you use a piece of sandpaper to do this, you won't be able to use it for much else, as the paint gets stuck in the grit of the paper (worth it!).
I like to think about which parts of the design would likely see more wear, which is usually the edges and the notches that you may have cut out. I sand these parts more than the others to give the appearance of more aging.
Step 3: Make the Posts
These posts are what are going to hold the frames together in the next step. Take the excess 1x4 board and cut it down to the desired height of the box; the height of my box is 10.5 inches, so this is the length that I'll be writing about. Be aware that the height of the box can't be less than 10.5 inches, as this is the width of the boards added together. To make the posts, you'll need to cut this 10.5x3.5-inch rectangle into 2 or 3 strips that are 10.5x1-inch. You can use a table saw to do this, but don't use it if that makes you uncomfortable. A jigsaw could be used instead.
Step 4: Attach the Posts to the Frames
This step can be tricky because you want to get the placement of the posts against the frames just right. Set the frames sideways, as they would be arranged in the final product. Place the posts on top and get the spacing just how you like.
Once you feel comfortable with the look of the boxes, add glue to the bottom of the posts and put weight on top of it to hold the glue down. Clamping isn't too necessary, especially if you nail it in the next step (no pun intended!).
Step 5: Add Nails (optional)
This step not only adds to the look, but it also adds to the structural stability of the product. Of course, the glue should be strong enough on it's own, but adding nails gives it that extra strength. I put 2 nails in each section of wood on each edge, meaning 24 nails in total.
As seen in the first picture, the nails can pretty easily crack the wood, depending on the type of lumber. To counteract this, drill a small hole in each spot where a nail will go before hammering. This makes it much easier to keep the wood from splitting.
As mentioned before, however, the splitting can be ok (or even desirable) depending on how you want the crate to look at the end, whether it’s broken-down or not.
Step 6: Measure & Cut Side Braces
This step requires a bit of thought and math (I promise it's not too bad!). If you're dimensions are the same as mine, meaning your box is 10.5 inches tall, your measurements should be pretty similar, if not the same.
The length of the brace will be from both of the inside corners of the posts (that was confusing; look at the picture). Mine came out to 14 3/8". Cut a piece of 1x4 to this length. Then, much like with the posts, you'll want to rip-cut this, but in half this time.
Place the brace on the side of the box (like in the picture) from the inside corners that you measured. Mark where the edge of the wood is with a pencil.
Measure, as shown in the image, the angle of this line. My angle was about 50 degrees. Then, mark that angle off of the long side of the brace. Mark and cut this angle with the jig/table saw. If the brace's angles fit in the posts, then good job! That was complicated.
Stain and sand these braces like we've done with everything else, and don't forget to erase those pencil marks you made!
Step 7: Glue on the Braces
This step is easy! Put glue on the bottom of the brace, insert the brace between the posts, and clamp it down. Wait for this glue to dry and do the same to the other side. This is starting to look like an actual crate!
Step 8: Cut the Box Floor
Almost done! This box isn't very useful without a bottom, which will be a plywood square. The dimensions of this piece should be 10.5x10.5, but things like human error and warped wood could change this a bit. Remember: you'll want the floor to be smaller than the frame as opposed to larger. When I measured mine, I found that one side had to be about 1/8" shorter than the other side. Mark and cut this, then place it into your box to make sure it fits.
Step 9: Attach the Box Floor
Place the four L-brackets at the bottom of your box with the floor. Find your short screws and attach these brackets to the floor, finishing your box! You can stain the floor before attaching it if desired, but you likely won't see it.
And it's done! This versatile design can be used almost anywhere, whether a kid's playroom or a modern-yet-rustic kitchen. It adds a fantastic barn-aesthetic to any room, and it's definitely a higher quality than anything you'll find at a store.
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