How To Make Wood Crates


This week, I’m continuing with the transformation of our guest bedroom into a craft room. My wife has a lot of knitting and quilting magazines and books that need a home, so we decided a bookcase was in order. Since the design of this room and most of its colors are rather quirky, I knew I didn’t want to make a standard bookcase, so decided to make wood crates and use them as a bookcase.

how to make wooden crates

I also thought this would be a good opportunity to bring some dark stained wood into the room as a visual break from all the bright colors.

These crates are quite simple to make and are very sturdy. I used 3.5″ (9 cm) wide pine boards for the slats and 3/4″ (19mm) plywood for the sides.

3.5" wide boards

Cutting the boards

All the boards are the same size, so I set up a stop block on my miter saw. The fence on my saw isn’t very long, so I extended it by clamping a board to it, and clamping a stop block to it.

The actual measurements of these slat boards really isn’t critical, just so long as they are all identical.


The only other wood to cut to size is the plywood for the crate sides. If you don’t have a tablesaw. you can cut these using a circular saw.


To make the long handholds, drill two large holes with a Forstner bit. A drill press makes this a lot easier. Then draw lines connecting the edges of the holes and cut it out using a jigsaw.

If you don’t have any Forstner bits, just draw out the shape of the handhold, drill a small entry hole, and cut it out with a jigsaw.



Soften the sharp edges of the hole. I used a 1/4″ (6 mm) roundover bit on my router. Alternatively, you can just sand them smooth with hand sandpaper and a lot of patience!


Assembling the crates

The most difficult part of putting these together is the first board. I clamped it to the bottom edge of the plywood side pieces. In this picture, you can see how the crate is on its side and the pine board is flush with the edge of the plywood side.


Its almost always a good idea to drill holes before inserting screws, but it’s especially important to drill pilot holes when the screws are as close to the end of a board as these are. This will prevent the board from splitting. Plus, it will ensure that the long screws go straight into the plywood edges.

I used 2″ (5 cm) screws, driving them into the edges of the plywood. Using long screws provides a very strong joint.



Once the first board is attached to the bottom, you don’t really need to use the clamp anymore, unless a board isn’t lining up correctly and needs some persuasion. On all three sides, attach the two end boards first, then center the middle board by eye. Screw them all in as before.



Ta-da! that’s all you need to do to make a wood crate. This version is very strong and will take a lot of abuse. There are so many uses for the lowly wooden crate!


A wood crate!

Making the crates look authentic

I stained the crates with a dark Provincial stain using a disposable foam brush.  I work quickly and splash it on without a lot of finesse. The most important part about applying stain is to wipe it off with a rag once it’s been applied. If you don’t wipe off the excess, it won’t dry but will just become sticky. Stain works by soaking into the wood, not sitting on top like paint.


Vintage fruit crate labels

I did a quick Google image search for “Vintage fruit label” and printed out four I liked. They look best when printed on regular paper, not photo paper.

I also Photoshopped in “aged paper” backgrounds to them, using a blending mode. If you are not a Photoshop user, just printing out the labels themselves will look great!


I sprayed on a pretty thick coat of spray adhesive to the backs of these prints.


And pasted them to the sides of the crates. This part is so fun and rewarding! Instantly, the crates take on a cool new look.




To protect the paper as well as the wood, I sprayed on several coats of spray lacquer.


Finally, I mounted all four crates to the wall of the craft room, staggering them. I attached them to the wall using lag screws driven directly into a stud, and toggle bolts for the sides without a wall stud.

how to make wood crates




  1. Steve, very nice. I had built a similar project with 1×4 furring strips. Different build technique with more panel glue-ups. The first edition didn’t have the finger holes. The second (not posted online yet) has the same finger holes. Must be a good sign that this mere mortal woodworker is coming up with good project ideas.

  2. Hello Steve from Czech Rep.
    It is a perfect idea as usual! I will try to make it too. I have only one comment. I feel it would look better five or three wood crate bookshelves on the wall maybe..

    By the way I hope to win Ice Hockey World Championship 🙂


  3. Hello Steve from Czech Rep.
    nice idea as usual. I will try make too. But maybe three or five this wood crate bookshelves.
    By the way I hope so we win Ice Hockey World Championship:)


  4. LOVE this. We were looking at some crates this week at [insert name of ridiculously large retailer here] and I was laughing at the “quality” of the lumber and assembly. Have a bunch of scrap 1x4s sitting around and some plywood from (failed) attempts to make some table saw sleds.

    Now I know how I’m spending the rest of my weekend.

  5. Hi Steve, Just completed my first 2 crates. I still need to attach the labels and stain them They look good. Hope the sell in my fleamarket booth. I’ll let ya know. Keep up the good work. We need more artists like you. Thanks again, Ted

  6. Nice project. I’m always worried about the finish being blotchy when staining pine. How’d you manage such a good look without conditioner?

    • It’s pretty blotchy, but I kind of like that effect on the crates. Usually, I would use a conditioner though.

  7. Thanks for sharing this guide on making wooden crates! It is definitely nice that you can assemble so many crates pretty easily with plywood. However, I don’t have something that can cut wood this precisely. Do you think it would be a better idea for me to just buy crates, or should I go out and buy a cheaper saw? Either way, I am open to suggestions!

    • Seems to me you could easily get the good people at Home Depot or [some large home improvement], at their lumber yard, to cut a long plank into the right number of Sized-pieces. This is what they’re supposed to do anyway. (Ok, and tip the person who does the cutting, and you’ve saved yourself lots of time and expense!)

  8. Thanks for including so many steps and details like the provincial stain. I’ve been looking for a good project to start this weekend. Those fruit labels are a really nice touch. I would like to see what other kinds of vintage images would go well on the crates.

  9. I’ve seen people do some really cool stuff with pallets and wooden crates and it made me want to try it out as well. I don’t have any wooden crates though, so I figured that I could just make my own boxes. I wasn’t sure how to go about making these boxes, but after seeing the steps here about how to make them, I feel much better about trying it out.


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