Using Milk Crates for Storage

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Introduction: Using Milk Crates for Storage

About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with!

I go camping a lot and I always struggle keeping food stored properly. I usually just have it in plastic bags and every time I need to find the sugar, I have to pull everything out (Murphy’s Law always has it in the last bag I check).

On my last camping trip, I decided enough is enough and put my mind to solving the problem and this Instructable is my solution. This storage solution can be used for anything really, not just for food.

Milk crates make excellent storage units. They stack on top of each other, are sturdy and cheap. The ones I used for this build I brought for $2 each from my local tip (dump). The cool thing about these milk crates is, there’s an open section at the front, perfect to add a door to. The door is made from ply wood and I added a magnetic latch to keep it secure.

The final result is a stackable storage system which will hold all of my food for camping (you could store anything you want really in them) and now I can easily find what I’m looking for!

Step 1: Parts & Tools

Parts

1. Milk Crates. You will need the ones which have a front opening. There isn’t really a one stop shop for milk crates so you will need to hunt around for them. Maybe try eBay, Gumtree, your local tip or even maybe a milk company. They might have some old ones that they are willing to give you. I ended up making 2 of them so make sure you take the part quantities into consideration.

2. Ply wood – 10mm

3. Hinge. Get a good quality one. I swapped mine out as they had too much play.

4. Magnetic Latch eBay

Tools:

1. Dremel – You will need to cut some plastic away so a dremel comes in handy. You can also just use a saw as well.

2. Drill. You’ll need some small drill bits and a spade or hole attachment

3. Screwdriver/Phillips Head

4. Paint (optional if you want to paint the doors or not)

5. Saw (I used a band saw)

6. Sander

Step 2: Making the Door

The plywood I use I get from work free! It’s used for packing so we have plenty of it available

Steps:

1. First, measure the size of the opening on the crate. Make sure you add the metal strip onto the magnetic latch and take it into consideration when doing your measurements

2. Next, cut out the door. Plywood can splinter if you use too big a saw blade to cut it. I use a band saw to cut it and it always seems to do a good job

3. You will probably have to round off the corners as well. I used a belt sander to do this

4. Lastly, you will need to add a small hole to be able to stick your finger in and open it. Use a round hole bit to do this

Step 3: Adding the Magnetic Latch

The best place to start is to add the magnetic latch to the milk crate. Then you’ll know what the dimensions of the door will need to be.

Steps:

1. To order to have the door sit flush to the cut-out section of the crate, you’ll need to first remove a piece of plastic that the latch will fit into.

2. Place the latch against the side of the opening of the crate and mark the area you need to remove. Use a dremel or small saw to remove the plastic

3. Next, place the latch as shown in the below images and use the screws to hold it in place. I drilled a couple small holes into the crate so I could get the screws started.

Step 4: Adding the Hinge to the Milk Crate

First and foremost – don’t use cheap hinges like I did initially. There is too much play in them and the door will move too much. Get a good hinge as you need to door to not have any slop inside the hole in the milk crate. You need to use the gussets on the milk crate to hold the hinge in place so make sure the hinge is the right size

Steps:

1. Place the hinge onto the edge of the opening on the milk crate and make where to drill a couple small holes for the bolts. You could use screws but I found that a small bolt and nut works well

2. Drill the holes and add the 2 bolts

3. Add a couple washers and nuts and do them up tight

Step 5: Adding the Metal Strip to the Door & Painting

Next thing to do is to add the small metal strip to the door that the magnet sticks to. I also added some varnish to the doors to protect the wood.

Steps:

1. Place the door into the milk crate and mark the length of the magnetic latch against the wood

2. Place the metal strip against the edge of the wood and drill a couple of small holes for the screws. It’s always best to drill holes for screws etc in ply wood as it has a tendency to split and crack if you don’t.

3. Screw into place the metal strip

4. Place the door back into place and make sure it fits and the strip is aligned

5. I used some “aged teak” varnish to give the wood some protection. Plus, it is gives a great looking finish to ply wood. I will be using these storage boxes mainly outside (for camping) so it’s important that I protect them from the weather

Step 6: Attaching the Door to the Milk Crate & Extras!

Steps:

1. First, place the door inside the milk crate hole

2. Have the metal strip on the door connect to the magnet and align the door so there is an even gap top and bottom

3. Next, mark where to add the screws for the hinge and drill some small holes for them in the ply wood

4. Secure the hinge to the door with some small screws

5. Test to make sure that the door has enough clearance to open and close. You might need to adjust if the door is getting stuck anywhere

If everything is working right you should have a pretty nifty storage unit. The next thing to do is to do it all again so you have 2! That way you will be able to stack them on top of each other. I also added a lid to the top milk crate for a couple reasons. First, to protect the stuff inside and second, I will use this as a chopping board when camping!

Step 7: Using Your Storage Units

That’s pretty much it!

You are now ready to use your storage units for anything that you fancy. As I mentioned at the start of this ‘ible, I’m using mine for camping. They are great to use as a way to protect your food whist transporting it (don’t get squashed) and also storing it whist camping.

The other cool thing that I like about using these milk crates is they are stackable. They also have handles on the side so they are easy to carry and are very strong.

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    13 Comments

    0
    SmileLove
    SmileLove

    6 months ago

    That is pretty cool!

    0
    Jack-Sprat
    Jack-Sprat

    Reply 6 months ago

    Thanks!

    0
    oragamiunicorn
    oragamiunicorn

    11 months ago

    Love the flexability of opening at the top and the side, wish we had this sort of crate here (UK)

    0
    lonesoulsurfer
    lonesoulsurfer

    Reply 11 months ago

    Yeah that's very handy.
    They work really well for storage which I guess isn't surprising - they store milk :)

    1
    2point0
    2point0

    1 year ago

    Cool idea! I would just note that storing food outside in a semi-open container like this is going to attract attention from the local wildlife. During the day around camp it's probably fine, but I would definitely put those in a car overnight or when leaving the area unattended.

    That said, this would be great for a lot of the camping knick-knacks like fuel cans, tools, etc.

    0
    dave_cody
    dave_cody

    Reply 1 year ago

    One notable point here is that the Author is almost certainly based in Australia- tip being the Aussie word for a rubbish dump. And the mention of Gumtree, an equivalent to eBay down here. Anyway, the main point is that other than ants, we don’t really have a lot of animals that eat human food.

    0
    2point0
    2point0

    Reply 1 year ago

    Good catch there, I wasn't sure about location. Here in California, we have bears to think about in the mountains, and they'll tear anything/everything apart to get to food.

    Thanks!

    0
    scirx
    scirx

    Reply 1 year ago

    Craigslist is the equivalent to Gumtree.

    0
    lonesoulsurfer
    lonesoulsurfer

    Reply 1 year ago

    Definitely. I took them with me camping about a month ago (before you weren't allowed to!) and didn't have any problems with any local critters. However, I probably got lucky. I did think at the time that maybe I could add something to the insides like fine mesh wire or something similar to stop anything from getting at the food.

    0
    Sassy Cat
    Sassy Cat

    1 year ago

    My husband and I go camping all the time, also. I love this idea, and we have several milk crates We live in an area that still has winter, so we have some time left before going camping, to make a couple of these. Thank you so much for posting this Instructible, it is awesome.

    0
    lonesoulsurfer
    lonesoulsurfer

    Reply 1 year ago

    Cheers! glad the 'ible gave you some inspiration.

    0
    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    1 year ago

    Really nice and easy way to use the crates :)