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Simple Wooden Crate

by Chris Bird

The idea of making wooden crates using lollipop sticks is not new, but I have made a couple and on the second one, found a really easy way to do it. If you haven't already made some this way, it is very simple and very low cost.

First get hold of some sticks. There is no need to collect them on the beach, as we did when I was a kid, because every craft shop sells them for very little. They are also available on Ebay.

I got some from The Range here in the UK:

Some will vary in colour and that is good. Even slightly bent ones can add character to a crate (or be used as paint stirrers - so keep them all.

Now find an offcut of wood of a suitable size. I used a piece of about 3" by 1 1/2" that I had been using as a stand for painting parts. I didn't worry about the paint and just rubbed it down a little.

Do not cut it to length at this stage. Simply smear one side with PVA glue and arrange a row of whole sticks to cover. If there is an overlap at the side, just slide them until the overlap is even. Wipe any excess off with a damp cloth. Leave for ten minutes or so and then turn it over and repeat. Then stand it on a flat surface that it will not stick to and put a weight on it.

When this is set - in a couple of hours or overnight to be sure, trim off any overhang with a plane or a sharp knife. It doesn't have to be perfect.  Then repeat for the other two sides.

When that is dry, cut the block to length. This is incredibly easy if you have a chop saw, but you could mark all round and cut with a fine saw. The far edge will be ragged, (though this is much reduced if you use scrap wood under and behind the block when using a chop saw) but it is easy to finish with a bit of coarse sandpaper.
I cut one end with the chop saw and it looked like this:

With both ends trimmed, plank the ends in the same way.

Then, when set, use a fine saw to cut off the excess. I used a razor saw.

As I planned to stain the wood, I sanded over the surface with quite coarse sandpaper to remove any glue.

Now is the time decide where you want the reinforcing battens. They can be at the ends or slightly inset and you can add diagonals if you wish.

I opted for simple inset ones made form the same sticks. First I stuck them to the top and then the bottom. It is important to get the inset the same. I put a heavy book on these and left to set.

Then I cut the ends off and repeated the exercise. It is much easier to cut them in situ rather than doing lots of measuring.

Now for the nails. I used a pointed scriber, but any pointed tool will do - even a nail. Just prod it into the wood where you think the nail heads would be. If it splits it is no problem as the real thing does too!

You can leave the wood 'as new' but I prefer a little age on my crates, so I made a dilute wash of dark brown acrylic with a little yellow and touch of black. Practice on some offcuts to get it right and remember it will be paler when dry.

The wash will highlight the nail holes to some extent, but when dry, just twizzle a sharp pencil in each hole to simulate the nail head.

You can finish with stencils, transfers or even a printed paper label, stained with the same wash to blend in.


I tried the simplest form of label by printing in 20pt Stencil font on to a sheet of ordinary labels. I then colour washed these with the same wash used for the crate and allowed them to dry. I then cut out the word and stuck it on. In the photo here you can clearly see it is a label, but from a distance looks OK.

It occurs to me that if I cut the label to the same size as the plank, it would show less......

Mass Production

Well making a few at a time! I found an off-cut of roof batten which is about 1.5" x 1" and decided to make four long crates. Now a word of caution here: think carefully about the size of the finished crate because it will be four sticks wider and two sticks longer than the wood block inside!

Think also about the best way to arrange the sticks on each side. Decide on the right overlaps to give the simplest result - and you might decide to leave the bottom plain.

Here is my batten after sticking and planing off the overlap. The plane needs to be really sharp as the soft sticks can snag. I found a rasp type plane (Surform in the UK) quite useful.

I measured very carefully but ended up cutting them at 95mm long when 90 would have been better.

I then planked one end and then quickly turned it over to plank the other end so that all four could be left to dry together.

A weight in the form of a cookery book helped the process:

Now when I made the single crates, I cut off the excess with a razor saw, but for these i used a pair of side action, sheet metal sheers. With the block held the right way (some sheers are left hand, some right hand cut), this sheared off the excess very neatly and quickly. The important thing is just to use what you have got - but would recommend trying it on some sticks first.

For these, smaller crates I decided to have the bracing at the ends and then rope handles. The rope is simply some sisal string glued into drilled holes.

For the labels I went down to 14pt. and then tried various washes. Here is the final sheet:

This time I cut them to the same size as a plank, and when they were in place I tinted them a bit more to sort of match the wood.