DIY Crate Coffee Table

I saw this table on Pinterest about a year ago and have been wanting to make it since then. Now that T and I are slowly preparing to move in together, we realized that we need furniture – desperately! So we have a number of DIY projects in line to not only save money, but also to work as a team to literally build aspects of our future home together.

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Image from DIY Vintage Chic

I read directions on how to build the table on DIY Vintage Chic. Her design is great and I highly recommend checking out her site for other neat ideas. However since T and I are totally inexperienced, we felt that we needed more details from the directions. So I thought I would write about our experience for any beginner builders out there with aspirations to build a cool coffee table on a low budget.

Total Cost: $80 (approx.)

Materials:

We shopped for everything at Home Depot because that was most convenient for us. You probably could cut some costs if you have things on hand. Luckily for us, we had access to the tools because my father is a woodworker and my uncle a construction worker. For everything we did not have on hand, we staggered out when we bought materials so we did not have to buy all at once.

  • (4) Wood crates (18″ x 12.5″ x 9.5″) — We found these on sale on the Home Depot website so we ordered them and had them shipped to the store near my work. Very convenient!
  • (3) 6 ft pine boards (1×2) 
  • (1) wooden dowel — We got the smallest one we could find. I believe it was 5/16 in.
  • (4) 2.25″ tall table legs — DIY Vintage Chic used casters but we did not like the look of that (although using wheels is very practical) so we decided to buy table legs and install them on the wooden frame.
  • (2 4 packs) 2 inch corner braces (or L brackets)
  • (1) Angled paint brush (2″)
  • (2) sponge brushes
  • (1) Minwax PolyShades Honey Satin Stain and Polyurethane in 1 Step (1 qt)  — DIY Vintage Chic used a vinegar and tea stain and then finished it with a satin polyurethane. We were originally planning to do this but then we saw the all-in-one stain and polyurethane and decided to do that instead to save us some time. We are thinking of using her vinegar and tea stain on a future project or two.
  • Paint mixer
  • Rubber gloves
  • 1″ wood screws — We don’t recommend silver as they will stand out more. 
  • wood glue
  • saw
  • drill press
  • dowel jig
  • drill
  • measuring tape
  • sand paper
  • pencil and paper

Step-by-Step Directions:

Constructing the frame

1) Arrange the crates on a flat surface. Measure the outside diameter of the rectangle that is formed. You will need to cut two long pieces of the pine board and two shorter pieces of pine board. It’s important for these measurements to be accurate because the frame needs to support the table.

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2) Choose the correct drill bit based on the size of your wooden dowel. Use the dowel jig to assist you in drilling holes in your 4 boards.

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3) Cut 4 1-inch long pieces of the wooden dowel. Using wood glue and the dowel pieces, put the frame together.

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4) Measure the middle of the frame and cut another pine board to size. Then measure the width on either side of the pine board in the middle. Cut two pieces of pine board based on your measurements. We found it helpful to mark where the cross sections would attach to the frame with a pencil.

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5) Stain the frame and the middle pieces before connecting them. Be sure to allow enough time for one side to dry before doing the other side. We only did one coat as we were running low on stain. I touched up the parts that showed after we screwed everything together.

6) Using the L brackets and the pencil marks as guides, fix the middle pieces to the frame. We put one on each outside connection and four at the middle connections.

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Staining the crates

1) Find a clean, dust-free space to stain if possible.

2) Be sure to mix the stain constantly. Paint the first thin layer of stain. Repeat for each crate. Watch for drips! Remember you won’t be able to do all sides at once.

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3) Let the stain dry.

4) Paint the next layer of stain. I found that we only needed two coats. Check for any spots you missed when doing your first layer. Again, watch for drips!

Putting the crates together

1) In good light, figure out how you want to arrange your crates. Because I was inexperienced, I based my decision on my staining job (i.e. the ugly sides went on the bottom if possible).

2) Attach the crates together at their corners using the 1-inch screws and a drill.

3) Turn the table over. Use the 1-inch screws to affix the frame to the bottom of the crate.

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Table Legs

1) Stain the table legs. I found that just one coat was adequate for us. I ended up sanding off some of the stain after they dried to give them a more rustic look.

2) Using the drill and correct drill bit, drill a shallow hole. If you aren’t sure which bit is the right size, use a scrap piece of wood as a test before drilling into the actual frame.

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3) Screw in the table legs at each corner of the table.

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Insert the middle

1) Measure the middle.

2) Based on your measurements, cut your pine board. We cut 5 pieces and half of a sixth piece.

3) Stain your 6 boards.

4) Insert each board by using 1-inch screws.

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Touch up any areas you missed

1) I used a sponge brush to touch up areas that I missed or that did not look great. Don’t worry too much about getting everything!

2) Allow everything to dry.

Take a photo of your beautiful work and share! If you can, it’s fun to take photos throughout the process so you can see how far you’ve come!

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(More photos to come after we move and get it all set up!)

What we learned:

1) Create a nice and protected surface to stain on. I wish we had done this; instead I worked on the concrete floor in our cellar and ended up staining the floor with drips and smears.

2) Look up staining techniques! I also wish I had done this beforehand. Staining is hard. I struggled with drips, blobs, streaking, cat litter sticking to it (don’t ask), and missed spots.  Also, don’t lay freshly stained wood on top of saran wrap. That sounds pretty obvious, but let’s just say I learned the hard way. Luckily we were able to sand most of it off and it was on a part that was not going to show. I used a paint brush for most of the staining, but then discovered it was easy to use little sponge brushes to touch up areas because they put down a nice even layer of stain. Maybe it would have been easier to use a sponge brush for the whole thing?

3) Wear old clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting messy. Seems obvious right? I also recommend rubber gloves because stain is called stain for a reason.

4) Work in an area with good lighting. Like I said, we worked in our cellar where the lighting is dim at best. We found that it got pretty hard to see when we were screwing pieces together and trying to fix staining issues. At one point, we worked outside, but it was so cold I thought my fingers would fall off. Back to the cellar we went!

5) Measure, measure, and then measure again. Luckily T did most of the cutting and he is very good at measuring things multiple times and triple checking everything. I don’t have the patience for it, but his attention to detail really made this table successful.

6) For the middle, measure each piece one at a time. Since each crate was a little different, we discovered (a bit too late) that it would have been easier to measure each piece one at a time based on where they will go.

7) Be patient. We found that this took us longer than one weekend due to all the staining we had to do. You also want to make sure all your measurements are correct before cutting the wood. T found it easier to cut a piece just a tiny bit bigger than he needed, double checking how it would fit, and then slowly sanding the excess down.

8) Don’t be a perfectionist. When I started staining, I was told not to worry about all the little (or a lot in my case) imperfections as it will look much better once everything is put together. While I worried a bit and fixed what I could, it does look great together!

We had a lot of fun building this table and learned a lot about each other and our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to building things. I am a perfectionist in many things, but not in building. My impatience gets the better of me and I often find myself saying “that’s good enough!” Well you need to be a perfectionist when it comes to measurements and cutting, which is where T came in. He was great at being precise and triple-checking everything.

I can’t wait to share our future DIY projects!

*** Please note that this was not my design. We built it based on the plans provided by DIY Vintage Chic. Do not use these step-by-step directions for anything other than personal use.***

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