DIY Crate Coffee Table

posted in: DIY Tutorials | 2

Over the past few weeks, Selma and I have been on a DIY craze while getting the apartment situated. Because being real people is really expensive, we are trying to build/make what we can to save money. For example, we made our very own wall bike rack and kitchen shelf for a fraction of what it would have cost to buy a similar one pre-made. Why buy something from the store when you can make it yourself, right?

For awhile now, Selma has been eyeing this crate coffee table that she stumbled upon online. The concept seemed fairly straight forward. You simply get four crates and screw them all together to make a square. Unfortunately, it involved a little more work than that but the end result was totally worth it.

Things you will need:

  • (4) crates (you can get them from Home Depot)
  • (1) piece of plywood
  • (4) steel casters
  • (4) L-brackets
  • Wood stain
  • Polyurethane
  • Paint brushes/sponge brushes
  • (16) 3/4″ wood screws (for the casters)
  • (12) 1-1/2″ #8 bolts with washers and bolts
  • Power sander/sand paper
  • Power drill

Step 1: Gather all of your materials. For the crates, make sure that they are in good condition (no cracks, breaks, loose sides, etc.) and that the wood slats on all sides are evenly spaced. This is actually harder than it sounds because the crates aren’t that well made. They wont be perfect but try your best to find good crates because it will impact your build later on. For the piece of plywood, we had ours cut for us at Home Depot to (24″ x 27 1/2″). They will actually cut anything to any dimensions for you for free if you ask nicely. The plywood serves as a base for the crates/casters and will help elevate the table another inch or so off the ground.

Note: You can also do the same thing with old wine or apple crates if you can find them. Just note that some of the screw sizes and measurements found here may be off a little.

2014-09-28 15.03.34

Step 2: Sand your crates. This step is actually crucial because it will even out any rough edges and prepare the surface of the crates to receive the stain evenly. Give it a good once over with 180 grit sandpaper and then a final sanding with 220 grit.

2014-09-28 15.30.23

Step 3: Staining. Once your crates are sanded, it’s time to apply the stain. This process will be the most time consuming because of the multiple coats/drying process. Make sure all of your crates are free from dust and that you have a clean working space. A pair of rubber gloves will also prevent your hands from getting stained as well.

2014-09-28 15.56.46

I began with staining the insides first and letting it dry overnight but you can do it anyway you choose. Just be sure to let them dry completely before applying another coat. We went with a darker stain so we only needed one coat but the color and shade is completely up to you.

2014-09-28 20.57.25

2014-09-28 16.18.10

Don’t forget to stain the piece of plywood as well.

2014-09-29 21.46.40 2014-10-01 20.02.23

Step 4: Seal it. We went with polyurethane because that’s what we had lying around. This will give the table a nice glossy finish and protect the crates from unwanted moisture and stains.

2014-10-01 18.08.11 2014-10-01 20.02.33

Step 5: Drilling. This is where things start to get tricky. If you choose to screw it all together with wood screws, you can skip this step. We went with nuts/bolts because we wanted to option of disassembling it once we moved.

Once you’ve laid out your crates the way you want them, I suggest numbering them so you know where they will fit. Because the crates are all a little different, the holes you drill will matter later on when you assemble the entire thing.

2014-10-04 10.32.21

Drill holes for each place you will be placing a nut and bolt. Also be sure to use the right size drill bit so that the bolts will fit through the holes properly.

2014-10-04 10.34.42

Step 6: Install the casters.

2014-10-04 12.45.19

This step is pretty straightforward. You can also use washers if your screws heads aren’t large enough.

2014-10-04 12.44.412014-10-04 13.02.09

Step 7: Assembly. After you have all of your holes drilled, begin connecting everything together with your nuts/bolts/washers. I used 2 bolts to connect the crates to each other and 1 bolt to connect each crate to the plywood.

2014-10-04 14.54.39

Step 8 (optional): Make a shelf for the hole in the center of the table. You can either leave the space empty or make a shelf for it. If you Google “crate coffee table” you will find a ton of interesting examples of what people have done with the space. Some use it for hidden storage and others use it as a flower pot. The possibilities are endless. We decided to make a little removable shelf so we could display something in the middle like wine corks or flowers.

If you decide to make a shelf, the process is relatively simple. Just install the L-brackets on the insides of the crates and then cut a piece of plywood to fit. We had an extra piece of plywood lying so that made it easy.

2014-10-04 12.08.332014-10-04 14.54.032014-10-04 15.02.122014-10-04 15.09.09

I also drilled a few holes in the shelf so we could attach some handles to easily remove it and use the underneath space for hidden storage.

2014-10-04 15.57.002014-10-04 16.01.03

Just remember to stain it as well!

2014-10-05 14.41.24 2014-10-05 14.41.05

And there you have it…your very own crate coffee table!

2014-10-06 20.44.462014-12-06 15.55.00

This project did take a little longer than expected because of the staining and drying time but in the end, it was well worth the effort. It looks great in the new apartment and doubles as extra storage space for books, movies and games. And best of all, we saved some money and now have an awesome new conversation piece!

The table below shows the rough price breakdown. If you have some of the materials lying around, you can save even more money.

Wooden Crates4$11.97$47.88
Cast Iron Casters4$5.48$21.92
L-Brackets1 pack$1.97$1.97
Bolts/nuts1 pack$4.99$4.99
Washers1 pack$2.99$2.99
Wood Stain/polyurethane1 pack$9.99$9.99


Feel free to leave a comment if you have questions!

2 Responses

    • Alex Su

      Thanks! It was definitely a lot more work than I had anticipated but i’m happy with how it turned out. Let me know if y’all decide to build one too and I can pass on some additional pointers.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.