Jan 31, 2018

DIY: How to Build a Wooden Storage Crate

As is true for other people, our home office is a bit of an afterthought. It's the place where things get dumped when you don't know what else to do with them. And there's always a stack of papers to be filed. This past weekend I decided to clean our office up and turn it into a space we'd like to spend time in. So far I've painted the walls and we've built new shelves in the closet, but I'm not ready to show it off yet. I have to at least put the door and base trim back on!

One thing the room was lacking was some shelving or other visible storage space. You know, for items you want out of the way, but that you still want to access easily. I did consider building more of the plumbing pipe open shelving that we have in the dining room, but I also felt like I wanted to do something a little different this time. I settled on wall-mounted crates.

Wooden crates are fantastic for storage - whether it be toys, magazines, or vegetables. With handles, they are easy to carry, and they look so much better than cardboard boxes. And they make fun shelves! There are so many styles and so many different ways to display them.

But first I needed to build the crates.We have a huge number of 1x2" boards in our lumber stash. When the roofers installed our metal roof they used them as a framework to lay down the steel sheets, and they gave us all of the extras when they were finished. The wood has been piled up in the basement ever since, just waiting for a project.

how to build wooden crates

The first step was to cut down the boards. We decided on crates that were 12" x 24" and 4 boards high (about 8.75"). Some crates out there have solid ends but we went with slats all the way around.

For one crate you will need:

16 - 1x2x24" boards (8 for the sides, 8 for the bottom)
8 -  1x2x12" boards (for the ends)
4 -  1x1x8.75" boards (for the corner supports)
1.25" staples (or brad nails, or screws)
Sisal rope for handles

Cut down your 1x2s to 24" and 12" as needed.  Keep a couple of your end cuts to use as spacers. Cut down a 1x2" board to 8.75" in length and then cut the board in half lengthwise to get two 1x1" pieces. Do this again with another board for the other two corners.

slats for wooden crates

The next thing we did was build a right-angled jig to hold the pieces in place while they were being stapled together. If you remember the bench I built from scrap wood last year, it made the perfect surface to build on. The bench was just a fun project to see what I could do and it was made from old framing 2x4s, so I wasn't worried about ruining it. The jig was made of two scrap boards nailed into the top of the bench at right angles to each other. Using the jig ensures that your crate sides stay square and true.

homemade jig to keep 90 degree angle

The pieces are laid out against the jig as follows:

Place the first 24" board flat against the bottom of the jig and tight into the corner. The distance between slats is the thickness of a 1x2" board, so when putting the second board down, sandwich a spare slat or an end cut flipped up on its long edge between them, to keep the correct spacing. Repeat with the next two boards. Don't push the spacers tight against the end as you need to leave room for the end slats and corner support.

Place one of the end cuts up on its long edge as a spacer at the end, tight to the jig side, on top of the slats. Lay a corner support against this end cut, again on top of the slats, and staple it downwards into the side slats.

how to build a wooden crate - spacing layout

how to build a wooden crate

Once the four slats are attached to the corner support, turn it all around and repeat the process on the other end to attach the second support. Then repeat from the start to build the other long side.

To attach the ends (this will be easier with an assistant):

Staple the lowest end slat into place at a right angle to the sides, keeping it lined up with the lowest side slat. You will staple from the side slat through the end of the end slat. The corner supports will act as a guide to where the end slat should sit. Make sure to also staple the end slats to the corner supports. Repeat this process with the first end slat for the other side so that you form a box. Now work back and forth adding the slats, keeping them lined up with the side slats.

how to build a wooden crate

how to build a wooden crate
how to build a wooden crate

Once the four sides are attached to each other, flip the crate upside down and lay out the bottom slats. We just eyeballed the spacing for these. In fact, the first crate had only 7 slats on the bottom, but when we were working on the second one we tried 8 and both realized immediately that the tighter spacing looked better. Staple along the ends as well as all along the edges of the two outer slats.

how to build a wooden crate
how to build a wooden crate

You now have a crate!

To make it more authentic, you might want to add rope handles. Stand the crate up on one end and determine how far apart you want the holes for the handle to be. To keep this spacing uniform on both ends - and on all crates if there is more than one - make a template for the holes with a scrap board or end cut. Center the template on the uppermost end slat and while holding it in place, drill through the holes and through the wood below. Make a handle by feeding the sisal rope through the holes and tie off each end with a knot.

how to build a wooden crate - rope handles
how to build a wooden crate - rope handles

And that's it. Once the first crate was done the next one took no time at all. We could bang these out all day. Or until we ran out of wood.

We also had some spare 1x3" boards left over from building the kitchen island, so we made two crates from those as well. The process was the same, except that there are only 3 slats on each side instead of 4, and 5 slats on the bottom instead of 8. The same 1x1" corner supports were still used, but this time they only needed to be 8.5" long.

how to build a wooden crate

I'm waiting for the paint in the office to cure before I mount these to the wall. And I haven't decided yet if I'll stain or paint them first. Stay tuned to see how I finish them.

how to build a wooden crate
how to build a wooden crate
how to build a wooden crate
how to build a wooden crate

Jan 20, 2018

The Easiest Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

I've been trying out a lot of new recipes lately - shortbread, butter tarts, even dog cookies - and I'm really enjoying it. I've never been much of a baker, but now each week when Saturday rolls around I'm thinking, "What can I make today?"

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

This week I tried my hand at cinnamon rolls. I think my inspiration was a cooking competition show, and even though they take a bit of time I knew I wanted to give it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised with how great they turned out - take that, Cinnabon! - and wanted to share them with you. Well, I'm sharing the recipe because the rolls didn't stick around very long at all.


3/4 cup warm milk
2 1/4 teaspoons active yeast (or 1/4-ounce packaged yeast)
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened

4 oz cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Add the warm milk to a bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. The yeast should begin to foam in a minute or two. If it doesn't it could mean that either the milk was too hot, too cold, or the yeast is past its use-by date.

Once the yeast begins to foam, add in the sugar, egg, egg yolk, and butter. Mix until it's well combined. Stir in flour and salt until a dough begins to form.

If working by hand, knead the dough on a lightly-floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes. If using an electric mixer, knead on medium speed for about 8 minutes, checking it every 3 minutes or so.

Transfer the dough ball to a well-oiled bowl, then cover it with plastic wrap and a warm towel. Allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1½ hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Once dough has risen, transfer it to a well-floured surface and roll it out into a large rectangle. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick. Spread the softened butter over the dough like you're buttering bread, leaving a 1/2 inch margin along the far edge.

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle the mixture over the buttered dough. Tightly roll the dough up, sealing the edge with a bit of water. Place the roll seam-side down on your work surface and cut it into 1 inch slices.

Take a 9x13 inch baking pan and either grease it or line it with parchment paper. Place the cinnamon rolls in the pan making sure they are touching each other. (If there is space between them they will expand outwards when they rise; if they are touching they will expand upwards. Completely your preference.) Cover the pan with plastic wrap and a warm towel and let the rolls rise again for 30 minutes.

Before second rising:
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

After second rising:
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and towel and bake the cinnamon rolls for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. Allow them to cool before frosting.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

To make the frosting:

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Spread evenly over the cinnamon rolls. Don't worry about putting on too much!

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Jan 10, 2018

DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

I have been waiting anxiously to share this project with you but couldn't until after Christmas as it was a gift for my sister. She is part of a dog rescue group and I knew it would be perfect for her.

DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

We started with four 1x10x4ft pine shelf boards, and cut them down to 37" each. I wanted the sign to be square and 10" boards are actually only 9-1/4" wide, so four together are 37" total.

The boards would only be glued together (Oh, to have a biscuit joiner!), so we wanted to reinforce the sign to add strength. Tom clamped the 4 boards together and cut two channels down the back of the sign, crossing each of the boards. He then cut two pieces of scrap wood to the same size and length of the channels.

DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art
DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

Once the boards were glued and clamped together again, he glued and stapled the strips of wood into the channels. A couple of the shelf boards had a bit of a bow to them so they didn't line up perfectly.
While the glue was still wet we clamped them tightly together at the ends and they dried flat and level.

DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

I gave the glue a couple of days to really dry, then sanded the entire front and edges of the sign, first with 60 grit sandpaper, then with 150 grit paper to finish. A few knots also had to be touched up with wood filler and sanded once dry.

I stained the entire sign with Minwax's Jacobean brown, then brushed over it with watered-down white paint, to give a weathered look. I considered waxing the wood afterwards, but I was afraid that the paint for the letters wouldn't stick. Waxing also removes some of the whitewash - it was exactly the shade I wanted so I wasn't going to mess with it.

DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

I use a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine to cut my stencils these days.  I used to cut them freehand, but it is slooooow. Here are a few projects I've done with stencils - fold-down patio bar, cottage sign, Christmas song sign, and personalized dog bowls.

Because of the size of the sign, I had to cut the words out in small sections. The font on all of the words except "Love" is Lucida Handwriting. Love is written in Times New Roman (except the paw of course.) Excuse the different vinyl colours - I ended up using all of the vinyl I had on hand.

DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

Once I got to the point where I was ready to lay down the stencil I started to get stressed about keeping the words lined up. Tom came up with a great trick: We have a small level with a laser at one end. He clamped the level to the rafter above my work area (I was working in the basement) so that the laser pointed down towards the floor. The laser beam can be either a point or a line, so he switched it to "line" and it made a perfectly straight line across my sign. I could then move the sign around as I worked, always having a reference line for the words.

DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

The letters are painted in Benjamin Moore's Edgecomb Gray (i.e. my bedroom wall colour). The secret to sharp edges on your letters is to do multiple thin coats, brushing away from the stencil edge as much as you can. Once you have a few layers down, you should have a pretty good seal around the edges and you can brush all in one direction to keep a uniform look.
DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art
DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

After peeling off the stencil I did some touch ups with a razor scraper and a tiny artist's brush.

The final step was to add a French cleat to the back for hanging. A French cleat is a wonderful way to hang items. It's made up of two horizontal pieces - one attached to the back of the item to be hung and one mounted directly to the wall. The two pieces hook into each other and keep the mounted item extremely secure. The cleat can be made from just about anything - pine, plywood, or metal. We bought a metal cleat - it also came with all of the necessary screws and a mini level.

DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

French cleat

And so, the finished product! I'm really happy with this. I kind of want to keep it for myself.

DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

DIY Dog Rescue Wall Art

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