Intro: Making a Desk Featuring Old Wooden Crates
For years i have planned on building a desk to meet my needs and use old wooden boxes and crates for the drawers. I'm not a finish carpenter but was able to cobble this desk together over a few evenings with a little trial and error.
I wanted to use crates found at garage sales and thrift stores for the drawers, have a tidy cable and cord system, shelving integrated, not conceal too much of the wall, and to fit the space that i had evenly. I also wanted to spend as little money as possible on it and use salvaged materials.
I ended up only buying a few longer screws for the drawer handles - that was the only new purchase of anything i didn't have on hand.
Step 1: Materials
Your materials will vary depending on your requirements and what you have available.
The entire desk was made out of red cedar 1x12 boards that i reused from shelving that was in the house and boards that i found in the attic and 2x2 red cedar pieces that i salvaged from the front porch railing.
The top of the desk was made with two pieces of tempered glass that i salvaged from a construction site -- they were extras.
The crates i collected slowly over a period of years from local sales.
The handles on the drawers were salvaged from a desk and a filing cabinet that were at the landfill and partially crushed.
The cable management tracks were removed from an electrical panel that was at the landfill as well.
Drawer hardware. Two of the drawers i put on tracks because i had salvaged them from old desks and because i could spare the extra space due to a crate being paired with a larger one. Friction drawers seem to be working alright with the others.
I used finishing nails for all the wood attachments and short screws with a very wide head for attaching the cable chases and the drawer hardware.
Unfortunately, my good digital camera was in for service as I built the desk so a few photos were taken with my cameraphone. Sorry about the poorer quality of them.
Step 2: Making the Cuts
I made the following pieces.
2 1x12 boards at 6' 6" - these become the back "legs" of the desk and the sides of the book case.
5 1x12 boards at 29" - these served as the front "legs" and the inside of the drawer supports under the desk top.
3 1x12 boards at 5' for the back piece of the desktop and the lower two shelves.
2 1x12 boards at 61 and one half inches for the front portion of the desktop and the top shelf.
A number of shorter boards depending on the width of your crates and the drawer/shelf pattern you choose.
6 2x2s at 11 and a quarter inch (or whatever your 1x board width comes to.)
2 (minimum) at 23 inches (or whatever the depth of your desktop is)
Step 3: Assembly
Put together the shelves, outside legs and desktop. It may be a little wobbly so attaching a board on the back diagonally may be a wise idea at least temporarily.
I suggest stacking the crates you have in a few different arrangements to determine what will work best. Originally i did not plan on having the printer below the desktop but after having it on the desktop for a while i decided to move it below. Turning the crates wide side out may leave room for a desktop computer tower behind.
I had originally intended on integrating a paper/cardboard recycling and refuse station into the design but that didn't work out.
Step 4: Imperfection
I like the "Brass Fittings" scribbled over the prune box label and "Seamer" written on the salmon roe box. In fact, the "Chevron Blazo fuel" crate is too clean and kind of stands out to me. Obviously each crate will be pretty unique. I could probably have dirtied up the clean box a bit myself. Quite apparent in this picture is the differing widths and the gaps. I could have put a board on the very bottom that would have closed the gap at the top. A short 2x2 will close up the gap on the side of the top drawer too. But these imperfections are part of the charm for me.
Step 5: Show Off the Sides
The Bartlett Pear crate has great markings on all sides so i used hardware that would show it off well. I also used the hardware because it is the thinnest - the tracks help it glide out instead of dragging on the wood.
Step 6: Move In
I have a few more crates that i might add to a section of the top drawers but i want to use the desk for a while to figure out what i might need. I lucked out with the two pieces of glass that i had that fit the desk - an afterthought that i should have considered in the design.