Introduction: Man Crate (gift Crate)

This Christmas I wanted to give gifts to the men in my family in a more unique and fun way. Of course this is not limited to gifts for men. I came up with a solid wooden crate that utilized a mini prybar in order to get to the goods within (they also got to keep the prybar afterwards). The gift was practically free, using a pallet (you know how popular pallet projects are right now) and other tools and nails I already had.

The instructions that follow are meant to be more of a guideline. Pallet wood come in all kinds of thicknesses and widths and you may have to adjust your design to fit your materials.

Step 1: What You Will Need


  • 1 Pallet (this was enough to make 2 MAN CRATES, but will depend on the size you make the crate and how large the pallet is)
  • gift to be contained in MAN CRATE
  • mini prybar (optional) to open the gift and to give away with gift

  • prybar
  • hammer
  • saw (I used a table saw with a homemade cross-cut sled, but any other saw will work, i.e. circular saw, mitre saw, band saw, jig saw or a good old fashioned handsaw)
  • nails (I used an air nailer with brads, but some finish nails with a hammer will work just as well. The reason I used brads or suggest finish nails is to leave a smaller hole in the wood so they basically become invisible.)
  • sandpaper (120 or 80 grit)
  • tape measure/ruler
  • pencil/pen
  • spray paint (optional)
  • cardstock or cardboard for stencils (optional)

Step 2: Break Down Pallet

Choosing a pallet (if you have a good selection) is more of a matter of personal preference. It is in your hands if you want thick wood, new wood, weathered, etc. The only thing to remember is to try to find a pallet with boards that are similar in size. This makes the MAN CRATE more uniform and makes less cutting.

When breaking down a pallet, I try first to use a prybar to remove the full length of the board to get as much out of it as I can. This works better with newer pallets as the nails are not rusted into it. I like the pallets that are a little more weathered (not rotted) to give the wood some character and intentional defects. This, however, causes some problems with removing the boards in whole pieces. In these cases I use the saw (jigsaw, circular saw or hand saw) to cut the boards as close to the stretchers as possible. For this project this yields pieces that are more than long enough.

Be sure to take time to remove ALL nails, as these will destroy and tools they will run into.

Step 3: Cutting the Wood

After you have broken down the boards, choose a few solid boards without too much structural damage and are close in width and thickness. Nail holes, cracks, chips, tear-out and discoloration all add to the character of the crate and give it that old worn look.

Square up one end of each board to have a reference edge to measure from. My boards all measure roughly 15", so I decided to cut the boards at 10" for the long sides and 5" for the short. Setting up a stop block on the cross-cut sled or mitre saw makes quick accurate work of repeat cuts.

I first cut out four 10" long pieces for the long sides and the top (you may need an additional one for the top if the width of the crate is wider than two of the boards side-by-side. Next is about five 5" long pieces for the short sides and the bottom (the quantity can vary depending how long your crate is. Cut two for the sides and enough additional pieces to cover the bottom).

Step 4: Dry Assembly

Lay out all the cut pieces to make sure they fit together. The great thing about this project or any pallet project, is that we are not striving for perfection. The pieces don't have to be tight together and sometimes gaps add to the look of the final piece.

As you can see, my bottom pieces extend pat the sides. I simply placed the other end on top of the piece that stuck out and drew a line of where I needed to cut. Now it fit perfectly.

Once you are happy with the overall fit of the pieces, time to assemble.

Step 5: Assembly

Using the nail gun or hammer and nails, assemble the frame of the box first. There is no need to be extremely accurate or square. I put 3 nails into each side. This was enough to make it sturdy.

I sanded the bottom pieces on all edges to give it a more worn look and to remove some splinters before placing into the bottom of the frame. I drove a few nails into bottom pieces to secure into place.

I then went over the entire box of all exposed faces and edges and paid more attention to some areas to get it to look well worn. I used 80 grit sandpaper to roughen it up. I didn't feel the need to go any smoother, as that did a fine enough job getting rid of all the sharp edges and splinters. Take liberty with this step and sand away certain areas as you see fit to get some character out of certain dings and corners.

Step 6: Packing

Before putting the top on, you must place your gift inside. I first placed a sheet of craft paper in before placing the gift inside to act as a barrier between the raw wood and the gift. You can then fold/crunch the craft paper over the gift before sealing it.

Other ideas for protection/filler is crinkle paper, sawdust or packing peanuts.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

After packing your gift inside, you must seal it up. Sand the top pieces on all edges and faces before nailing to the top. Then, nail only a few nails into each board, basically enough for it to stay on, so it is not so difficult to pry open (unless you want to give them a real challenge).

I found some images online (hazard symbol) and typed up some words to print out on thick cardstock. I then very carefully cut out the letters/symbols to make a stencil for spray painting. You can also find premade stencils at craft stores to use. Of course the MAN CRATE looks cool on its own without any decorations.

Now you are the proud creator of a MAN CRATE and will make all other gifts at your next get together look like child's toys compared to this wooden beauty.

Thanks and be sure to vote for me for either the Manly Crafts contest or the Workshop contest if you liked!

Workshop Contest

Participated in the
Workshop Contest

Manly Crafts Contest

Participated in the
Manly Crafts Contest