15 Minute Crate Build for under $5!

maple stained exterior wooden crate

As I continue work my way through all the scrap material I’ve accumulated the season, I’ve decided to try out some small fun DIY projects. My wife wanted two crates in time for Autumn that we could put outside and decorate the front steps with, so here we are.


  • Mitre Saw
  • Drill & Driver Set
  • Brad Nailer


  • 1″x3″ wood scraps
  • 1″x2″ wood scraps
  • 2″x2″ wood scraps
  • Exterior Wood Glue
  • (Optional) Wood Stain
  • (Optional) Exterior Wood


wood scraps
Cut your base & lengths
  1. Cut your base and long side 1″x3″‘s down to size. For me, I wanted to have 3 planks on each face of the crate, as well as 4 for the base. That gives me a total of 10 length cuts (3 left, 4 bottom and 3 right). I cut mine all down to 16″.
measuring rails with spacers
Space out your work piece
  1. Determine your spacing between planks and cut your base beams. I used a 1/2″ spare rail as a spacer between each plank. This gave me a total base width of 11″. You can use 1″x3″ for this, but I like the slimmer base profile, so I used 1″x2″ cutoffs. These will be hidden on the underside so it’s more structural than it is cosmetic. Cut your two base rails to 11″.
crate side walls tutorial
Attach the rails to solidify your structure
  1. Attach both base rails. As always, spread some wood glue across all your contact points, and brad nail the boards in place. Keep square here and try not to have any overhang over the base as this will cause the walls to protrude.
depth gauge
Measure the depth of your base
  1. Measure the height of your base frame. This should be approximately 1″ since you are stacking two 1/2″ boards together, but best double check in case you have some minor variances here due to shrinkage.
crate tutorial
Leave that depth at the end of your pillars
  1. Again using your spacers, join 3 long boards to create the side of your crate. I used 2″x2″ for the rails this time since we will be attaching it from two sides. You’ll notice I used the same 1″ thickness of the base as the starting point for the rails. You’ll see why in a minute. Simply measure and cut the 2″x2″ to size factoring in this spacing. Glue and brad nail, same process as the base. Again, careful not to protrude over the ends of the slats.
crate tutorial
Pretty much done!

6. 2 walls and a base. Hopefully this picture is more clear. You should now have 2 side walls and a base. The side walls will stand on the base flush with the extra spacing you left in step 5.

crate tutorial
All pieces should fall in place

7. Measure your 2 width walls and cut to size. With the two long sides standing straight on the base, measure your width cuts and attach each one by lining it up with the corresponding plank on the established long walls. Apply glue and brad nail in place.

crate tutorial

8. (Optional) You can add some additional exterior screws to anchor the arms in place. This isn’t necessary if you provided enough glue, but given the fact I needed to use this about 10 minutes after I built it, I didn’t trust the glue to fully cure before loading it up with items inside.

Stain and Top Coat

stained crate tutorial

Again, totally optional, but my wife is in love with this oil based walnut stain. We’ve been using it for a lot of our DIY projects lately. I applied 2 coats of this stain. Also, since my wife wanted to use this indoor/outdoor, I ended up putting on a water based exterior polyurethane. I waited until the oil fully cured before applying 4 coats of this since the original wood was not pressure treated for outdoor use.

You can see we really wanted the rustic look and weren’t chasing clean lines. You can really modernize this piece by using better milled wood, spending more time sanding, and lastly staining it with a more opaque finish. Then again, if you did that it wouldn’t be a 15 minutes, $5 build! Not bad.

If you are looking for more weekend projects, hit up our weekend project category for more ideas. Hope you enjoyed this project!

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