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  • Writer's pictureRob Field

Wine crate chest of drawers

I made this modern yet rustic piece very simply and for close to zero material cost. It's all labor, and a labor of love. I kept the boxes natural and wrapped them in reclaimed redwood fencing for a two-tone effect.

1. Get Wine Crates

Right off the top, this may sound easy or hard. With some perseverance, it's really not that hard. If you want super easy, you can just buy them, but that takes some of the fun out of it for me. If there are any specialty wine shops in your area, chances are they have crates they just throw away. What a shame! They're not in the business of crates, they just want to sell the wine. These places will often just give them to you. Free. Nice!

The trick comes when you want to put multiple boxes together like for this project. You need boxes that are the same width at least, and these boxes come in an astonishing variety of sizes. All similiar certainly, but definitely not always the same. This means that you need to be collecting boxes for awhile before you get suitable matches.

Ideally you think ahead a little bit about how high you want your piece to be, because the height of your wine crates will determine this to a large degree. You can adjust a little with the spacing between shelves and with how high you want it to sit off the floor.

Usually crates are dinged up, covered with shipping stickers, dirty, and sometimes damaged. I picked out some relatively clean ones from our stockpile and gave them a light sanding, going heavy on the corners and edges. You certainly don't want anyone getting splinters and you want to minimize the drag on the drawer and the frame.

2. Get Wood

Again, this really is not as hard as you might think. People fix and replace their fences all the time, and all that old wood is gold to me. It has a wonderful texture that you don't get with any other factory-produced lumber. This absolutely has a tradeoff. You get wood that is uneven, split, warped... just all around harder to work with. Another way to go is with pallets. This is definitely a different color of wood, and can be a good choice, particularly if you wanted a more uniform overall color. But I usually go with the redwood as I love the richness of it.

3. Assemble

I am not a master craftsman. I hope to be someday, but I have some basic woodworking tools and skills, which is enough to build this. I started way back in college building scenery for the theatre, which was a great general foundation for wood working. I don't even have much space to work in -- just one quarter of the garage. Three-quarters if we don't park the EV in there, but that's where the charger is, so I don't have a long-term large space. It's nice, but you don't need it.

Just as an aside, my all time favorite woodworking tool is the clamp. Clamps are awesome. I would suggest buying a few more, just so you have more awesomeness around you.

So you have these ugly redwood fence boards. They're gray, maybe moldy, maybe dirty. At first I thought I'd just sand that away. Nope. Sanding at this first stage doesn't help that much. I got a simple hand planar and shave off the top layer of old fence. It you go pretty shallow, you can still keep a lot of the interesting character of the aged wood. You can immediately see how gorgeous the wood still is, and once you finish it, it gets even better. So after you plane, then you sand, and not a lot. If you want a factory look, then you would go get factory wood. But when there is perfectly good free wood to be had, that can be reused, it's painfully obvious to me which way to go. Help save the planet.

There's all the usual ripping to get the widths you want. The table saw is probably my second favorite piece of equipment. I wanted to keep this piece pretty open so that you could see the wine crates from all sides and not just the front. This also uses less wood, but a more fully enclosed structure could also look amazing, just different.

The trick here is the shelves and the top. Your fence boards are probably anywhere from seven to eight inches in width, and that is not going work when your wine crates are thirteen inches or so deep. You just join two boards together more or less. This is where you get to dowels. I love dowels too. Get yourself a little dowel jig, join those boards together with some glue, and then use your awesome clamps. A day later and you have solid shelving that feels like it is one piece of wood. One tip I can offer is that you want to run your boards through the table saw, even if only to trim off a sixteenth of an inch on each side. This gives you crisp edges to attach together and makes for a strong bond.

4. Finish

Look at that texture!

I gave this piece a final light sanding once assembled, then hit it with BriWax. This is a bee/carnuba wax product that gives a nice color and sheen to the piece. The openness of this project meant a lot of time getting wax onto all the surfaces, into the creases and corners and weathering.

5. The Tally

Given that I already had all the basic tools (though I could always use more clamps), this cost me probably less than five dollars to make, and most of that is in the finishing wax. I used some glue, some screws, some dowels, and wore down some sandpaper. It's all about time, effort, and patience.

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