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Picture of Ultimate Wooden Crate
broken small crate.jpg

How do you organize and carry a number of items and then use the same carrier to display those items? Paper bags can work, but can be pretty weak and definitely aren't show-worthy. Cardboard boxes work well enough, until they get wet or you overload them and once again, not much for the eyes. Milk crates are great if you happen to have a slew of them to use, but they are relatively small and not the most attractive thing. You could also go to your local craft store and order some nice wooden crates with 3/8" thick slats and 3/4" wooden sides with handles. These work well overall and look nice but over time the thin slats will break, come detached, or loose.

So what do we do? That's easy enough, build the ultimate wooden crate! These beasts are used by my wife to carry all of her goods to the markets she attends. Mostly she uses them for her breads, which are loaded up in her bakery and then stacked in the truck. The depth of the crates was purposefully designed to fit the breads in them vertically so that there would be enough room between the top of crate and the end of the loaf of bread to stack another crate directly on top. The crates are designed so that, when empty, they can be stacked with a third crate sandwiched between them to help conserve space. They are made entirely of 3/4" eastern white pine bought at a local mill (to make five of them cost only $50). They are simply glued and nailed together and are truly indestructible. The crates are also used to carry both pottery and woodworking to the markets and have easily been loaded with fifty pounds of material with no problem (I am certain you could double that no problem... but then again, what are you bringing to a market that is that heavy?).

They are easy to build and are a great project for the beginning woodworker... that's why I wanted to post it here to instructables. I had my youngest brother helping me out in the shop because he expressed some interest in using woodworking machinery and this project includes the use of router, bandsaw, miter saw, table saw, air compressor, nail gun, orbital sander, and measuring tools such as squares, tape measures, and rulers. A perfect project for the budding woodworker!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

Components of the crate:

(6) 3/4" x 3-1/2" x 24" eastern white pine - these are the side slats

(6) 3/4" x 3-1/2" x 14" eastern white pine - these are the end slats

(4) 3/4" x 1-5/8" x 12" eastern white pine - these are the support slats

*Note: I purchased 3-1/2" wide pine (1x4) but you could use any other variant that you like

(1) 1/4" x 15" x 21" birch or pine plywood - the bottom

Hardware and other materials:

Wood glue

1-1/4" brad or finish nails

2" brad or finish nails

1" staples or 3/4" roofing nails

Tools needed (with alternatives in parenthesis):

Router with 1/4" quarter round bit (you can use sand paper to round the sides and corners too)

Chop saw or miter saw (you can also use a miter box and back saw)

Table saw (you can use a handsaw and a steady hand or a jigsaw, bandsaw, or alternatively a circular saw)

Bandsaw (you can use a jig saw or coping saw)

Air compressor and brad/finish nailer and stapler (you can use just a plain old hammer and nail too)

JIMO124 months ago
I make similar crates to hold homebrew. I have found that by installing the support slats 1-1/2" lower then the bottom (hence 1-/2" lower at the top) it makes them nice and stackable.
They lock together with out sliding around.
ctstarkdesigns (author)  JIMO124 months ago
I really like this idea and might find a way to incorporate it into future crates I will be making. Thanks for sharing!
allangee4 months ago
When I make crates, I run a rabbet around the inside bottom, about a 1/4" up, and inset the plywood bottom in the groove, gluing it in place. Once the glue dries the bottom is never going to fall out and the entire crate is more rigid. I also prefer to put my slats against each other, instead of gaps between them, but that's just a matter of practical storage versus decorative aesthetic. Nice Instructable!
ctstarkdesigns (author)  allangee4 months ago
Thank you! I like the idea of using a rabbet to retain the plywood and did think of that but originally decided against it so that The plywood underside could take the brunt of the abuse instead of the pine when my wife slides these into and out of the truck (we have a truck liner and it kind of acts like sandpaper). I bet with the rabbet you could hold an insane amount of weight in them and they would look really sharp too. Thanks for sharing!
SylvanB4 months ago
Very nice! Been toying with a similar design and yours looks great!

One thing I've been considering and I would like to know your thoughts... What about positioning the support slats about 1/2in low on the sides? This would create legs that protrude a little (1/4in or so) below the bottom, and offset them below the top of the slats (about 1/2in) to receive the legs of a crate stacked on top. I think this would help the stack interlock a bit, and sit a bit better than a flat bottom on imperfect surfaces.
ctstarkdesigns (author)  SylvanB4 months ago
Thank you! I love that idea of positioning the support slats to go lower to act as short legs that interlock into the next crate. I was also thinking you could set up a similar system so that you could stack the crates in multiple orientations and they would lock together to form a solid display unit. They definitely have some mass to them and when loaded down they will have a lot of inertia, so I don't picture them sliding around, but it might allow some unique configurations. If you decide to build them please post your take on it, I would love to see how they turn out.
I'd like to make this with doweled side connectors.
Nice, that would look classy especially if you were to use a contrasting wood. You could also use countersunk screws and a plug cutter like this. I have had a lot of success using these plug cutters.
jessyratfink5 months ago
Great design :D
ctstarkdesigns (author)  jessyratfink5 months ago
Thanks so much! Happy you like it.