There was once a time when ready-made, sturdy, and durable baskets for storing LP records were easily procured from behind any gas station, corner store, or supermarket in the form of the lowly milk crate. In the days before 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and the newfangled MP3 players, vinyl was king and this was readily evident for a dairy industry that saw it's crates disappear in such large number they were bleeding money, prompting them to change the size of their crates to prevent a 12" LP from sitting happily in it.
Today, the LP has largely waned, but the shrunken milk crate remains the standard, frustrating record collectors searching for a strong but cheap storage crate for their records. Crates similar to those of the olden days can be had for cheap, but they are an inferior breed to their elders, being made of thin and flimsy plastic. When I went looking for a suitable alternative to the venerable milk crate, I found myself looking at a pile of discarded newspaper racks. Their grating would work well.
Anyway, in this Instructable I'll show how to make steel mesh baskets suitable for keeping records in. I used plastic coated sections of an old news stand (the same stuff as from my bike rack), but "hardware cloth" is a very similar material that's available from hardware stores and if you can find some that's squares are 3" you can easily use that and paint it to your liking. These baskets should last a lifetime and can hold around 50 12" LPs without a problem.
Step 1: Cut Out Metal Grating
The first thing you need to do is cut the outline of your basket out of the metal grating. Using a grinder, hack saw, or in my case bolt cutters, cut a pattern similar to the one in the last photo below out in your material. The below pattern uses 3" squares, so you may need to modify it if your material is of different dimensions. The second and third photo show the donor panel and the grating freed from the frame.
After cutting out the outline, you'll probably want to file or grind the ends of the cuts smooth since they're probably going to be pointy or sharp.
Step 2: Shaping the Basket
Next you'll need to bend the basket into shape. This basically consists of placing your foot onto the "bottom" of the basket and bending the four sides up into roughly the place you want them. This can be easier said than done depending on how hard your metal is. Keep in mind that since the metal mesh is made with the lateral bars sitting on the vertical ones you want your vertical bars on the inside of the basket since making it the other way around would likely not leave you enough room for your record sleeves to fit, it's already a pretty low-tolerance fit. Let me know if you need further explanation. Don't worry about the edges being too round, you'll fix that next.
Lay the basket on one of it's sides now. Grab a rag and a hammer, lay the rag over one of the vertical pieces near it's bottom edge with a few folds. Beat a square corner onto this piece of bar, remove the rag, and repeat for each other vertical bar. You just need to get the corner at a right angle, not the whole side, as this can easily be done once the corners are correct. You may also forgo the rag since that's just for keeping the paint/ plastic coating from being knocked off.
Step 3: Securing the Corners
Now that you have the basic shape set, you should add something to tie the edges together. I used zip ties, one on each corner since the metal was already strong enough to hold it's shape pretty well. If you have a softer metal you may want to opt for hog rings or more zip ties than I used.
Give the whole thing a good paint job if you like and your basket is done. Load up on records and you're good to go.
Step 4: Alternative Uses
As this basket is so strong and simple to make, there are plenty of other uses you could make this basket work for. I originally intended to use it as a bike handlebar basket but when I set it down on the floor next to my records I noticed how they looked to fit well. Made to a smaller or larger size, a "lid" attached, or with a smaller or larger mesh you could take this basic folded crate design and make it work for whatever you need an open container for. Go nuts and get creative with it!