DIY Wooden Crate Bookshelf


If you’re kids are anything like mine over at JustMomMatters, they cherish every Happy Meal toy, every Chuck E. Cheese prize, every goody bag party favor, every broken pencil with no eraser, every chewed up Lego, absolutely everything they ever receive or win or make or find, no matter the condition. They’ll keep it all forever. And, if you’re anything like me,  once their rooms hit maximum capacity and the chaos inside is enough to make your skin crawl, you rummage through their stuff while they’re at school, toss out half, and then try to figure out how to organize the remaining chatskis so they don’t realize what they’re missing.

This easy wooden crate bookshelf is the answer to your little  hoarders problem. It’s an attractively sneaky way to store all of your kids most prized possessions, and since they can be stacked a variety of ways these crates can also work as a nightstand, organizational wall cubby system, or backpack/shoe storage spot. Make the project even easier by staining the wood instead of painting it since staining is the fastest way to finish something when you’re working with bare wood. The wipe-on application makes it a cinch for anyone to get impressive results since there’s less potential for the drips and brush marks common to painting.

If you do choose to paint your crates, make sure to brush on a primer first to penetrate the wood. Priming the wood before applying your paint color will save time in having to apply multiple coats of paint to the crates.

What you’ll need:

  • Wooden crates – available at craft or home improvement stores
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Pre-stain wood conditioner
  • Paint brush
  • Stain
  • Finishing wax paste
  • Clean rags
  • Protective gloves
  • Metal mending plates
  • #6 x 5/8” flat head wood screws
  • Power drill
  • Baskets

Smooth out any rough patches or splitting wood using fine 220-grit sandpaper. No need to sand the pine wood crates until they are silky smooth (unless you want to), just enough to even out any snags or ugly spots in the wood. Wipe away the sanding residue with a damp rag.

Wearing your protective gloves, brush on a pre-stain wood conditioner. The pre-stain conditioner penetrates the wood, allowing it to accept the stain more evenly. Let it sit for 5-15 minutes before wiping away any excess conditioner from the wood.


2Wrap a clean cloth around your gloved fingertips and dip it into the wood stain. Wipe the stain on the wood, making sure all corners and crevices are covered. If you have too much in one area, wipe it with a clean rag to remove the excess. Apply more stain to the wood until the desired color is reached. Allow the stain to dry 24 hours.



Scoop out a small amount of paste finishing wax onto a clean rag and apply it to the wood using a circular motion. Cover one side in wax and allow it to sit while you rub the wax on a second side. Once the second side is complete, move back to the first side and, using a clean cloth, repeat the circular motion over the wax until the entire area is buffed. Continue until all sides are rubbed with the wax. When complete, the crate will have a smooth, waxy feel that will harden within 24 hours.



Optional—Spray the metal mending plates and screws with paint. Stick the screws into a piece of cardboard to ensure they stand upright while you spray paint them. Let the paint dry 30 minutes or more.




Stack the crates and attach the mending plates by screwing them to the top and bottom of each crate. Don’t want the permanence of screwing into the wood? Use large binder clips to secure them on the fronts and/or sides of the crates.






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Mary Evett is best known for being a stay-at-home mom of 3 athletic boys and turning thrift shop finds into fashionable DIY projects. She has a degree in advertising from the University of Texas at Austin and spent time in the real world working in advertising and marketing, but she found her niche after becoming a mom and refinishing her first piece of furniture. She writes about her testosterone-driven life on her personal blog JustMomMatters, and is a regular contributor to ModernMom, the Bump, eHow, Examiner, GlobalPost, and SFGate. When she’s not playing the referee or writing, you’ll find her in her garage sanding, painting, cutting, or gluing something together.

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  1. This looks great, and so rustically boyish