False Bottom Wooden Crate




About: I'm a High School Technology teacher with Creativitis, a disease that doesn't let my brain sleep. I spend my days trying to infect my student's minds with a desire to learn. I lead by example and hope that m...
I designed this false bottom wooden crate to build with my wood shop students. Finding successful projects to build can be quite challenging for a number of reasons.
  1. Material cost for this project was minimal. We used some cedar fence boards that I acquired years ago from a neigbouring public school. Basswood was used for the corners. The bottom pieces of the crate are made from particle board which I also get for free from a local cabinet making company.
  2. Machine set-up is another difficult consideration in the shop. Because I share the shop with another teacher, I have to come up with projects that don't monopolize specific machines, and I have to make sure machine set up is quick and easy in case things have to be switched back and forth.
  3. Student engagement is another determining factor in the success of a project. If they don't want to take it home with them when it's done, then it's not worth while. 
A crate in itself is a practical and useful project. I based this design on the size of a standard milk crate. I decided to add the secret drawer, because that's the element that really sells it for my students.

Step 1: Materials and Machine Setup

If you look online you can find a number of different designs for wooden milk crates. You might look at my design and wonder why I decided to build it this way. There are some important considerations I made while designing this crate.
  1. I didn't want the design to be so simple that my more advanced students would be finished in a day.
  2. Because this was the final culminating project, I wanted to challenge them a little more than usual.
  3. I was able to introduce a couple of joinery techniques with this project, including tongue and groove, and floating mortise and tenon.
  4. I wanted to see how well they could follow the plans I provided. Although this project looks simple, the success of the build hinges on the ability of my students to measure accurately and follow instructions closely.
So, there are many ways to build a crate. I'm hoping that you use this example as inspiration for your own design. I'm going to provide the plans and steps, but don't be discouraged if you do not have the required tools to build an exact replica. For years I showed my students videos from New Yankee Work Shop and a series called Wood works. They always had some fancy machine that we didn't have. That's the reason I purchased a Multi-router when I had some available funding. It's an amazing machine to use for a high school shop because it simplifies mortise and tenon joinery.

Step 2: Plans

The plans I make up for my students are not standard plans. I try to make them as simple as possible. I have to remind my kids to look for the information. They typically want to ask for the answer or just assume that the person that set up the machine before them did it correctly. I always ask them, "What would you do if I wasn't here?" This does not always produce the desired answer, but I roll with it.

After demonstrating all of the specific machine set up and parts to the project, I have my students fill in a Bill of Materials and write a short Plan of Procedure. This forces them to interpret the plans and helps to eliminate confusion and mistakes. I don't let them start until they have a decent grasp of the build. I point out that even I make mistakes when I'm following my own plans.

Step 3: Building the Side Pieces

Depending on the number of students in the class, I Iike to have projects that let students start on different elements of the project at the same time. In the case of the crate, I can have students cutting the side pieces on the table saw and the router, while another group can start planing the material to make the corners.

 For the purposes of this instructable, let's start with the sides.

According to the plans, we need 16 side pieces. Most of the cedar fence boards I had on hand would yield at least 3 side pieces.

Important notes for the side pieces:
  1. The width of all the side pieces is 3-1/4" except for piece F. It is 2-7/8" wide.
  2. The length of each piece is 12". Use a stop block on the miter saw to ensure the lengths are equal and make sure each end is cut square.
  3. Pay close attention to the plans to see which pieces have a mortise cut in the ends. These will be done on the multi-router.
  4. Pay close attention to which pieces need tongue and groove cuts.
In the interest of consistency, I always set up two routers for this project, one to cut the grooves and one to cut the tongues. 

Step 4: Building the Corners

To build the corners, the plans call for two pieces to be glued together. This a cheaper alternative to using thicker lumber to start with. It also adds a few steps to keep my students busy and tests their ability to a proper glue-up. 

Important notes for the corners:
  1. Add some extra length to the pieces so that they can be nailed together at the ends while gluing. 
  2. Clamp the corners in a bench vise to ensure a good bond.
  3. Be careful with  material selection and grain patterns. If you choose wisely, it will be hard to determine that the corners were made with two pieces.
  4. Measure accurately at the planer and table saw so that the corners are the exact size.
  5. When gluing the two pieces together for the corners, lay them flat on the table so that the surfaces line up.
  6. Have a damp cloth on hand to clean up any excess glue.
  7. When the glue has set, you can quickly sand your surfaces smooth.
  8. Then cut of the ends on the miter saw using a stop block to ensure that they are all the same length.
  9. Make sure you don't cut through your nails.
  10. The corners will then have mortises cut on the multi-router.
Again, if you don't have a mulit-router, there are many ways this project can be adapted. I feel it's important to show the usefulness of making jigs in the shop for repeat cuts and student set-ups. Even though the multi-router is quick and easy to set up, I still needed to make a custom jig to make it easy to cut mortises in the sides and the corners with the same set-up.

Step 5: Assembly

As long as you've been accurate with your measurements and have all your mortises in the right places, assembly of the project should be easy.

Important notes for assembly:
  1. Dry-fit the entire project before using any glue.
  2. I usually allow a little wiggle room in the width of the mortises to allow for some student error. If you're accurate with measurement and a seasoned wood worker, you'll want your mortises to be exact.
  3. The tenons should match the width of the mortises, and be rounded on the edges, but I usually have students make them less, because it allows for some small degree of error.
  4. The floating tenons should be cut to the appropriate length on the miter saw and then the side panels can be glued. If the tenon material is the right thickness and your measurements are accurate, you probably won't need to clamp the sided in place.
  5. The false bottom should be nailed in place once three of the sides have been assembled. The last side to go on the crate should be the front side. (the one with the drawer)
  6. The drawer slides are made from bass wood and have the tongue cut on the edges. They are simply glued and nailed in place. 
  7. The bottom of the drawer is made from scrap particle board or melamine, and has the groove routed along the edges.
  8. The sides and back of the drawer are cut from scrap pieces of material. I didn't provide these measurements because at this stage of the project they might vary from student to student. If they've made it this far, that drawer is the easy part.

Step 6: Finished Product

I think my students were quite happy to take home their very own secret stash crate. If you're a parent and you're reading this instructable, I've advised all of my students that this is the perfect spot to hide pencils and safety glasses.

Secret Doors and Compartments Contest

Runner Up in the
Secret Doors and Compartments Contest

Organization Contest

Participated in the
Organization Contest



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    23 Discussions


    Question 8 months ago on Step 6

    Good looking project! Thinking of doing it with my class.
    Question - For pieces A - G do you think one could just rip/resaw a 2x4 (actually 1 1/2" x 3 1/2") with a thin kerf blade?
    The stock would be just slightly smaller than 3/4" (but we could use 2x4's!). It doesn't look like it would effect much else...

    1 answer
    Mr. Noackjagir

    Reply 7 months ago

    Yes. shouldn't be a problem.


    4 years ago

    Were can i purchase this item thanks


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable for the crate but also in designing a project for a woodworking class! I see an opportunity to work with the business teacher and sell these in a school store or at local businesses. Kids could get some proceeds and some could go back to buy more materials, equipment, etc. Great instructable and great results!

    2 replies
    Mr. NoackSJU87

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! We have done that in the past. One year we built little kids chairs, which is one of my first ever instructables. My grade 11 class mass produced them and sold them for $50 at Christmas. We used the proceeds to build our own coin op full size arcade machine.

    johnThomas25Mr. Noack

    Reply 4 years ago

    Can i buy one of these please contact me on

    I like your project! I just scored off Craigs list, a old Craftsman Planer from roughly 1930.. had to fix a belt and fly wheel, GOOD AS NEW, and amazingly sharp. I am a Therapist by schooling, but since God knows when, I've always loved wood working, old school stuff. Can you please, please post a how to for making dove tail joints, or dato joints? I cant ever seem to make mine line up right. I want to make some new, old vintage style, Russian rifle crates for me, and my fellow local collectors-- (my friend made me some CNC computer lathed steel ww2 Russian Army, correct templates, I made in photoshop-- so fired up to use them.. some day!) Thank you for your post, might give this a try tomorrow.

    spark master

    5 years ago on Introduction

    extremely ice , I hope everyone's cam out that nice! Needs a hidden catch /release to make it perfect!


    It's very refreshing to see kids actually WANT to take a shop class. I was very into classes like this in school (not that long ago, I graduated high school in 2006), but most people my age weren't. A lot of kids ended up getting stuck in classes like this because they were required to pick an elective and shop classes were the only ones that didn't fill up. They didn't actually want to be there and often times just caused problems for those around them. The youth of today seems to be very lazy and uninterested in things compared to my generation or even before.

    1 reply

    I appreciate you taking the time to make this comment. You make some valid points. I'm doing my best to create interest in practical skills and pull some attention away from the small screens of electronic devices. My students may not realize it now, but they'll use a lot of the skills they learn in wood shop. Great long board shelves by the way. Welcome to Instructables!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hey nice instructable, looks like a fun project. I wish I went to your high school :)


    5 years ago

    Thank you for such a fun and cool project to do with my teen kids! Sissy =)