Thursday, November 10, 2011

DIY 1-2-3: How to Create an Affordable, Industrial Wine Crate Shelf

I have been collecting wine crates for a while now.  

Miller Pelaez after remodel
Our wine crate end table shown in This Old House Magazine. Photo by James Carriere
I pick them up from wine shops for a few dollars per crate. They have served as filing cabinets, end tables, storage bins for tiles, junk bins, recycling bins, recipe boxes-- you name it. I put label pulls on them to remind me what's inside.  

Until now I haven't figured out how to arrange them in a practical way.  I usually just stack them.  So, of course, when I need something, it's always at the very bottom which is annoying to get to.

My wine crates before I created a new solution
So, I had a cabinet maker give me a quote for using my wine crates as drawers and turning them into a dresser.  Something like this image below...

I was considering having something like this made but with an unpainted frame and far less wine crates
To make a simple box with 8 existing wine crates as drawers would cost $1,000. The drawers are tiny so I wouldn't get that much storage space out of the custom dresser.  That didn't seem worth $1,000.  I considered making my own dresser using some old doors as the frame but I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the time to pull that off. 

I considered buying the right sized dresser and then replacing the existing drawer fronts with my wine crate fronts similar to this dresser pictured below.

Cute re-do of an old dresser

I actually love the dresser pictured above, but I thought it would be wasteful since I'd have the rest of the wine crate box to deal with, plus I'd have to source the right sized dresser which would take time.  I wanted to finish this project NOW... Then, it hit me!

Why not stack them but allow enough room in between to grab what's inside.  I needed some way to frame the brackets, suspending them a few inches from each other.  I needed something like a corner bracket typically used in the garage. 

I found these 4 foot long by 1 1/4 inches wide galvanized metal brackets with pre-set holes at a local Ace Hardware Store (Cole Hardware). These are called "Angle Slots" from Hillman (Steel Works) SKU # 5216437.  They were about $13 each and I needed 4 for my stack of 4 crates.  

The only problem I ran into was the finish.  Many of the brackets were powder coated in a grayish paint that didn't look good.  I wanted raw galvanized steel.  I had to special order some and only 1 out of 8 came with the finish I wanted.  Since these typically aren't used for display, there is no guarantee on the finish.  The manufacturer just makes them out of whatever they have on hand and doesn't worry about the look.  

Fortunately, the nice guy at Cole Hardware cut a few taller brackets with the right finish down to 4 foot lengths.  I also had to purchase a box of 100 flat washers to cover the large pre-drilled holes in the slots, and a box of 100 1/2 inch phillips head wood screws.

Here's how I made them.  The project took about an hour or so once I had all the materials in hand.

Step 1:  Arrange the crates on the floor with the angle slots resting on the side corners of the tops of the wine crates. The angle slot is positioned about 1/4 inch from the top of the top crate and 1/4 inch from the bottom of the bottom crate.

Step 2: Place the washer over one of the holes in the angle slot then drill the screw in slowly using a drill.  I did not pre-drill the holes since the screws were small and narrow. I tied to maintain a pattern for drilling but had to be careful not to drill into the existing nails used to build the crates.  I drilled between two and three screws into each side of each wine crate. I applied moderate pressure and drilled slowly so the flimsy plywood didn't crack.  

Step 3:  Once the top and bottom crates are attached to the angle slots, I lined up the next two crates and measured the distance between the crates so that all the crates were equidistant apart.  Then I drilled those in place.  I repeated the drilling until I went all the way around with angle slots secured in each corner.

One word of caution:  As I drilled each angle slot in place, I noticed it got harder to tighten the fit between the angle bracket and the wine crate.  At times, there was a big gap so I had to apply pressure to close the gap.  Sometimes I had to use a longer screw for the pressure to sink in.  Try not to crack the plywood.

Here's the finished shelf.  Not bad for around $80!
To give it a more finished look and for ease of moving, I added chunky industrial wheels to the bottom.  I found these for $6/piece at another local hardware store-- Discount Builders Supply.  They have tons of different wheels. I also saved the plywood tops and placed them on top of each crate to hide what's inside. I just lift them up to grab what I need.

I actually built two of these.  Each crate houses something I need to get to once and a while:  Recipes, Flashlights & Batteries, Maps, Cards & Stationary, Appliance Manuals, Wallpaper Samples, Light Bulbs and Receipts.

I hope you enjoyed my latest 1-2-3 DIY project!  Happy organizing!


  1. I really love the one you were considering making without the painted frame. It's absolutely beautiful. Definitely among the best that I've seen. My second favorite is the one above that. I really like your work! I think you should seriously consider selling your pieces. They're really nice!

  2. I am so jealous! Wine crates are impossible to find around our neck of the woods. This is so amazing and I totally want to do this. Great job!

  3. This is perfect for what I want to do with my wine crates, thanks! One question...where did you get the lids for each crate?

  4. I need something, it's always at the very bottom which is annoying to get to.Great Knoxville Remodeling Company