Turn Crates Into Bookshelves


Turn Crates into Bookshelves

The Hunt


What to do with the old crates? I didn’t know, but I bought them anyway.

I was at a flea market a couple of months ago (you can read about it here), and was kind of in the mood to build something. Actually, I was itching to build something. I’d been too idle, and I really don’t like that. I wanted to repurpose something. I found some wood crates with company logos on them, and snatched them up pretty quickly. I did not know what I was going to do with them (so what else is new?) but I wanted them.

The Research

I brought them home and started looking on the Internet for ideas. Plenty of ideas, but nothing really screamed make me. A lot of them were wild ideas, some were traditional, some were just plain boring.

  • A coffee table? No where to put it.
  • A medicine cabinet? My mentor it would probably be too heavy for the wall (even though others were doing it).
  • Storage in the mudroom? What mudroom?
  • The base for a bench seat? Again, no where to put it.
  • Just plain old boxes for storage? How boring is that, even if they are painted.

The Decision

What about a dedicated bookshelf for my blog materials? A crate turned bookshelf? I showed you here how to make a real bookshelf. But I had run out of shelf space. Again. I needed more space for books. Okay, maybe you are saying quit buying books. No way! I had found a perfect spot for a tiny bookshelf, right next to my blogging desk. It was the perfect size for the crates. Now to find out how to make the crates into a bookshelf that would survive.

I took off for the Internet again. I found lots of pictures of bookshelves. Some small, some massive. But nothing had instructions on how they created it. I always say, I can’t make anything without instructions, but I can do just about anything if I have the directions for it. At one time, I had drafted an idea of how to turn a dresser into a mini bar, so I dove through all my paperwork, found the plans and punted.

Burning Question

Crates into bookcase

See the gorgeous logos I didn’t want to cover up with paint or stain?

Other than putting the crates together, the other burning question I had was whether I should stain, paint, or leave the wood alone, aka au natural. All the pictures I saw were painted crates. I wanted to be able to see the company logos, because I thought they were kind of cool looking. I had a fruit one, a wine one, an encyclopedia one and a food one. They were from different places in the country from what I was able to tell on three of them. What about staining them? I didn’t know if that would end up covering up the logos or not, especially if I ended up using a darker shade to make things blend correctly. So I stuck with the retro, mismatched, clean look.

What about the inside, you say? In all honestly, I am not sure if the paint/stain would damage the book edges. Or if the books moving around as they get taken out and put back in would scratch or wear the finish. Some pictures had the inside painted, some not. Again, I went with the au natural look.

So, without further adieu, here are the instructions, and a download version with all the specific details will be available shortly under resources.


Where do I get these crates?

  1. Home improvement stores and craft stores sell plain jane crates. the standard size is 12 x 18.
  2. Wine shops and grocery stores usually have them. ask them if they ever get rid of them and can sell them to you.
  3. Flea Markets will probably get you what you need, but they will more than likely different sizes.
  4. The Internet actually has them. You can find just about anything on the Internet!

Wherever you get them, don’t spend more than about $17 for each (rough average for vintage unless you find custom looks, which can be a heck of a lot more expensive. I’ve checked them out.)



Cleaning will take about an hour to spritz and dry. Assembly should take no more than an 1 1/2 hours. If you choose to stain or paint, it will take one day for that to complete and dry.


  • 4 crates (more than that high stacked and you should attach them to the wall. There goes the portability).
  • 1 quart paint or stain of choice (if you want to decorate) and don’t forget the primer if you are painting
  • 12 (3 inch) mending plates (make sure they come with 1/2 inch screws)
  • 150 grit sandpaper
  • 1-1/2 inch paint brush and rags (if you will color)
  • Screwdriver (preferably electric) with the drill bit for the pilot holes and the phillips screw bit for the screws


If you bought the crates new, you should just have to run some sandpaper over them to get rid of the loose splinters. Yeah, I admit, I got a splinter cleaning mine up, But if you bought the crates used, you will want to brush them out, rinse, and dry them out before using the sandpaper.

Paint or stain if desired. Prime, and paint twice, letting them dry for about 2 hours between the coats. If you stain, you will need two or more coats, depending on the color you want. Your stain can will tell you if you need to wipe off the stain or let it saturate. Again, about 2 hours between coats.

If your crates are all the same size, the assembly will be a piece of cake. But I have four different sizes, and had to revamp my original assembly plan, when I realized it was not going to work, any way shape or form.

Stack 2 crates lengthwise. Make sure they are flush.

Place a mending plate vertically over the joining, about 3 inches from the edge, and mark the holes with a pencil. Repeat this step on the other edge and in the center.

Taking the drill bit, drill the pilot holes where the pencil marks are. You don’t need to go all the way through the wood, just enough of a “dent” to get the screw started.

Using the Phillips screw bit, attached the mending plates.

Place another crate on top, and repeat the steps two more times.

To stabilize the front, place a mending plate lengthwise, along the front edge in the center of the crate. Attach, putting the screws drilling through the bottom of the top crate, and the top of the next crate down. Do this 2 more times.

Crates into bookshelves

Here is what it looks like as a finished product


If you don’t need bookshelves but like the idea:

  • Bathroom storage, especially in bigger bathrooms or when you have just a pedestal sink.
  • Display cases for knick knacks
  • Big toy storage
  • Shoes

I am in the process of doing a template of the instructions. They will be live soon!

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