I am not a cratengineer. So I am certain that the way you build crates is better than mine.
My method is the result of a few things:
- Observing how hundreds of shipments of books, machines and furniture have been damaged during my last three decades in publishing and furniture making (I have not experienced any damage with my crates, by the way).
- Asking my trucking company what I should do to ensure my shipments aren’t damaged.
- Using as little material as possible to add as little weight and cubic footage as possible.
- Setting a goal of building a crate in less than one hour.
- Spending $40 to $50 on materials on average.
My crates are made primarily from 5mm-thick sheets of underlayment, which I can buy for $13 to $16 a sheet. All the interior bracing is made from 1-1/4” x 1-1/4” pine strips that I rip down from 2x4s. And the skids are 4x4s, which I usually salvage from dumpsters in our neighborhood. The crates are assembled with No. 8 x 1-1/4” self-tapping construction screws. No pilot holes are necessary with these screws. The interior cardboard and bubble wrap are usually salvaged from dunnage that we receive here.
I’m going to do this in a lazy photo-essay style. Here we go.
- Measure the piece with care. I don’t skimp on time with this step. Take careful measurements of the depth, width and height of the piece. Then add 2-1/2” to all those measurements to create the size of the “shell” of your crate.
- Create a cutting list. Again, you’ll get to the automatic, bang-that-crap out in a moment. Take care. I make a cutting list and even a quick plywood optimization sheet so I don’t get turned around when cutting down the plywood. After this, I cut the parts to size. Then I take the 2x4s (I used two in this case) and rip them into 1-1/4” x 1-1/4” bracing strips.
- Cut the bracing strips to length and screw them to the top and the bottom of your crate. Don’t measure. Put a strip up against the plywood, mark it and cut it. I use a bench hook and carcase saw. A chop saw is not faster here.
- Cut the skids to length and screw the bottom to the skids. Use lots of screws. Don’t skip the skids. A flat-bottomed crate is much more likely to get fatally forked by a forklift. Skids don’t add much expense, but they add a lot of insurance.
- Once I get the base made, I do a quick check to ensure my measurements are correct. I do these “reality checks” with every project – sometimes several times a day – in order to avoid errors. It helps.
- Install one of the side pieces. Here you can see how I use the top piece to prop up a side piece as I screw it in place.
- Then I start adding more interior bracing strips. Here you can see how I use spring clamps to holds the bracing strips in place while they are screwed down.
- Keep working around the base, adding side pieces until you have this sort of enclosure. The top and front should be open so you can add the bracing that immobilizes the object.
- Wrap the project in cardboard and bubble wrap where you plan to brace the project to the crate. I usually use three braces: One to restrain it from moving up, and two to restrain it from moving front to back. I haven’t found it necessary (so far) to worry about things moving left and right. The three braces keep things locked down.
- The interior bracing is 1” x 1” pine. Place it against the cardboard and bubble wrap and press the brace in place. Trace its position on the wall of the crate. Shift the position of the brace and drill some pilot holes through the traced silhouette. Now put the brace in place and screw it down. Don’t get aggressive – you are screwing into end grain so it’s easy to split the brace.
- This is what it looks like before I screw the the top and front in place. Don’t forget to include contact information on the inside of the crate in case the label gets ripped off your crate.
- If I have any of my one-hour time limit left, I spray paint the Lost Art Press logo on the crate. Just for fun.
I hope this was helpful to someone out there.
— Christopher Schwarz