Are you tired of dealing with clutter and longing for an affordable organizing solution? If you have some free time and a bit of a crafty inclination, I recommend taking on this straightforward and space-saving crate project using pallets.
Building a wooden crate from pallets can be a rewarding DIY project, but it’s important to proceed with caution to avoid any potential injuries. As an expert in this field, I’ve condensed a simple and comprehensive tutorial to guide you through the process safely and efficiently.
How to Build a Wooden Crate From Pallets
Pallet woods are fool-proof, nice DIY material that are versatile and full of character. One of its plus sides is it is almost always free (if you opt to use repurposed wood boards) and within the vicinity.
Meanwhile, crates may be used as additional storage for a variety of things big or small. By embarking on this project, you need not settle your wood crate expectations to that of cheap, commercialized ones found in your local store.
I want to stress the importance of prioritizing your safety during this project. That’s why I recommend wearing work gloves to prevent splinters or any potential hand injuries.
As with any DIY endeavor, the first step is to wear comfortable clothing that lets you quickly move around and work. Additionally, I strongly advise using work goggles to protect your eyes while working on this project.
Now that you have yourself prepped and ready to go, step 2 is to prepare the materials and tools that you would need to start your DIY crate from pallets:
Materials and Tools
Pallet woods are almost always readily available. You may choose to use pieces of reclaimed pallet wood for that vintage and rustic look, or purchase a pressure-treated pallet material in your nearest hardware or woodworking store. You can start by figuring the purpose of your wooden crate. Is it for aesthetics (center piece, planter) or for additional storage?
When choosing pieces of pallet woods, one of my tips is to look for the HT  stamp, which means heat treated. Pallet woods that are heat treated are preferred to those that are chemical treated. To be on the safe side, the majority of pallet boards are HT pallets but it is always nice to check.
Next, check the pallet wood if there are holes or stains that could affect your work. When using old or repurposed wood, it is best to be a bit wary of its impurities as some chemicals might be harmful for use and might cause the wood to rot or disintegrate in the long run.
- Pallet wood (2-3 standard size boards, depending on your preference)
- Ruler, carpenter square, meter stick or any measuring device
- Wood Planer
- Miter saw / Circular saw / Hand saw with guide (depending on your preference)
- Hammer/Nail Gun and/or Drill/jig (such as Kreg K4 and Kreg K5)
- Wood glue
- Screws or Brad Nails (10-15 nail pieces)
- Sanding paper
- Varnish (optional)
- Acrylic Paint or any wood compatible Paint (optional)
Step 3 is to assess which parts you would follow exactly, and which you must modify depending on your preference.
Trim Pallet to Your Preferred Dimensions
I highly recommend considering the finish of the pallet wood and assessing whether its make and thickness align with your intended crate design. This step is crucial to ensure your project turns out as expected.
Once you have decided which pallet woods to use, the next step to do is figure out your preferred size and plan how you would like it to look.
Depending on the size of your preferred wooden crate, 2-3 standard size (48” x 40”, 42” x 42”) pallet boards would suffice on your little project. You can trim it to desired size using your preferred saw.
The boards should be even in thickness and smooth across the edges. Use a planer to refine the boards’ texture if necessary.
Cut and Make a Base
Wooden crates have three usual parts: bottom, ends, and sides.
There are variations in which the ends are the same length as the bottom, and the sides and ends cover the bottom edges.
Using a carpenter square or ruler, plan your desired base size and cut the boards accordingly. You may use a pencil to mark the edges before you cut, and sand off the wood for a better finish. Each parallel side must be even. If you are creating crates with even sides, note that each side has the same length so it would not have off edges.
Always make sure that you are working on a level surface be it a table or a floor. This could greatly affect your output.
Having a level and sturdy base would be the determining factor in your crate’s frame and bottom durability.
First, layout the pallet boards. Select the particular pieces that you feel would fit together better. You may ought to cut or split some parts using a jigsaw, bandsaw or any kind of saw you are comfortable with if need be.
Assemble and Screw Pieces Together
Some people use glue while others use screws or nails to attach the sides to the base. If you love to make sure what you are crafting is really durable, you could ought to use both.
Attach the sides of the frame to the base one side at a time. You may use glue, or drill and screws. To increase the crate’s durability, you may also use long wood strips for the inner corners so the inside of the crate will be free of sharp corners.
The long strips are done by squaring strips of wood using a bandsaw. Tilt the bandsaw table to 45 degrees and run the strips through again. If you prefer it, you may also purchase three-sided long strips in hardwares or woodshops.
Use a clamp to hold the sides together, then use any industrial grade glue that is amenable to wood for the strips on each end. Use a brad nail gun for the sides once the glue is slightly set to increase its durability.
If you do not have a nail gun, you can opt to use a handy hammer and a couple of pin nails or brad nails. 1-2” brad nails should suffice depending on the size of your work.
You may also drill holes and place screws and/or safety nails after.
The frame should be stable and symmetrical. Check to see if everything is even using your ruler. Leave it overnight for the glue to fully set.
Sand, Paint, or Stain Pallet Crate (Optional)
This step will help you personalize your project to a whole new level.
Pallet wood in general is versatile and would pretty much be amenable to a wide variety of paints. But before you stain or color the crate, it is important to sand it for a better outcome.
When it comes to sanding, you would want to start with at least an 80 grit sandpaper. You might even go until 120 or 220 grit to ensure its smoothness. Sanding not only includes the side but also the corners. This process is important to secure that your crafted crate is smooth and free of splinters. It would also help the wood shine better during painting.
Once satisfied with the feel of the surface, paint the sides and bottom evenly. It is best to apply a primer or base paint for a perfect finish. You may use a neutral color such as white as base color. You may skip this step if you would rather preserve the rustic, vintage look the wood gives off naturally.
Wait for it to dry before adding more color and/or design.
Add Preferred Design
Congratulations! You have basically learned how to build a wooden crate from pallets. Now it is time to apply design and make it a piece you’d really love!
For this step, you can use a variety of materials that you love and design according to your preference.
Some ideas include using more colors, glitters, decals, and even image transferring using wax paper and an inkjet printer to stain. Browse on more tips and crates available online for your reference. Try mixing and matching and see which works. Also, you can try recycling wooden pallets at home to save money.
Once you’re satisfied with your work, it’s time to apply a coat of varnish and allow it to dry thoroughly. To complete the project, I recommend attaching ropes to the crate to serve as handles, which will make it easy to hang on your wall. Alternatively, you can place the crate on a post, a center table, or a shelf.
These crates are versatile and perfect for organizing a variety of small items that tend to clutter your room or workspace.
(Looking for more projects? Check this guide on creating beautiful wooden blinds!)
I hope this tutorial has fulfilled your expectations on how to build a wooden crate from pallets. Finishing a DIY project is always a fulfillment on its own—not only will you be equipped with an awesome new skill, but it will also yield a wooden crate or crates that you would absolutely love.
Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.
Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.