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Surplus Style Record Crates

posted by Matt Pierce on January 18, 2012

I've been needing some more room for my growing record collection and all the while have been looking for the right sized vintage box. I was hoping for something somewhat military surplus, but never found the right size or condition. If I found something, it was always a one-off and typically poor shape. Here's the plan to make some for yourself, and they're easily replicable when your collection floweth-over.

One crate can be made from a 2'x4' piece of plywood, typically called a project board. If you have the room and the need, you could get 4 crates from a 4'x8', but boards that big don't typically fit in hatchbacks. I used 7/16” plywood, some small trim screws, wood glue, crate hardware and paint for this project.

Because thin plywood isn’t good for making sturdy boxes unless you have fancy joints, we’re going to have to use a table saw to cut some channels with a dado. If you don’t have a dado blade, or just lost your dado throat plate in a recent move, you can cut these with a single blade and just move your fence to cover the channel with a few passes. Because I am using 7/16” ply, you’ll need to make your dados 7/16” in from the end and of course 7/16” wide. Dados are indicated on the cut sheet diagram. Information on cutting a dado is here.

1. Cut all pieces according to the cut list with the table saw. You'll need one with at least a 15inch fence. After pieces are cut, you'll need to cut dados as specified. They're all the same, so save time by cutting in an assembly-line fashion.

2. Next, you’ll need to cut clearance out of the front panel to install the hardware pull. Depending on the type you use, you’ll need a different cut, so I won’t detail it here. You could put handles on the sides, create a lid, make them taller and stacking... any option you might want for your particular use.

3. When all pieces are ready, you can start the glue-up. Clamps are necessary to get a solid joint, and I’ve added some small screws for added heft. Use wood glue spread with your finger on both boards to properly assemble and use a damp cloth to clean up any glue that’s squeezed out during the clamping. Let sit for the recommended amount of dry time. Once the main panels are assembled, you can add the side rails, and the triangle pieces to the underside. Triangle pieces ensure that you get a solid structure and a good area to mount the corner hardware pieces.

4. Final step is to sand to your preference and paint. Since I was going for a rough surplus look, I sanded all sharp edges soft and left some mars and chips in the wood. You can make it soft and smooth as you want, but for my purposes, I spend almost no time sanding. Some flat latex paint brushed on, and I’m done.



Ariele @ brooklyn to west on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Looks great! I bet you’ll have to make another spill-over record box in no time! I’ve been following your incredible and inspiring blog for a little while now and I adore it. Your photographs are wonderful…

William on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

I attempted to make this record crate but had to alter the cut list a bit. I left a 7/16 width space on the lateral side of both dados of the front and back pieces to allow the cross pieces. This meant that the remaining space was too narrow for a 12.5 inch standard record sleeve being that it was 11.25 inches. The width I found sifficient was 14.25 inches opposed to the 13 inches.
Did I do something incorrect?

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

They were just from a local hardware store. Probably available at most big box stores too?

josefek on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Nice! Where’d you get the corners for the crate?

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Thanks Ariele, that means a lot since you have great projects on your blog and a great eye! And yes… good thing these are easily replicable, since I’ll need a another real soon!

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Hey Jared, those are just ordinary rail and brackets, but with 1" Europly shelves, stained white.

Jaredarch on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Great DIY, but the shelves in the photo intrigue me more. Are they normal brackets or are those Elfa with custom tops?

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Hi William, not sure… I’ll have to measure when I’m home and see? When I built mine, I had plenty of room in there for standard records.

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