DIY Beautiful (& Free!) Vintage Wood Crates from Pallets

I can never have enough wood crates, especially those vintage farm and orchard wooden crates. However, it is not easy to find the right sizes and perfect designs, and sometimes you may want 100 of them! 🙂

Problem solved: now we can easily make free wood crates inspired by vintage crates. They are perfect for organizing, decorating, or sharing as gifts!

BONUS: I also made some collage sheets of old stamps, images and phrases used on these vintage inspired pallet wood crates which you can download at the end of this tutorial!

Make vintage orchard farm inspired pallet wood crate for almost free. Tutorial on transfer images to wood, plus recipe for home made furniture wax. - A Piece Of Rainbow

Instead of settling for cheap wood crates, or spending years trying to find the perfect vintage crates, why not make your own free wooden crates from discarded pallets, and add beautiful designs to them using an easy image transfer method?

* Some resources in article are affiliate links. Full disclosure here .

This detailed DIY vintage-inspired wood crates tutorial has 3 parts:

Part 1: How to make your own wood crates from pallet wood.

Part 2: How to transfer image to wood easily using only wax paper, water and inkjet printer. I will share some fabulous failures so you can get a more consistent result with this technique.

Part 3: How to make home-made non-toxic furniture wax / natural wood finish for your wooden crates.

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Now let’s start with building some wood crates using pallet wood.

Materials and tools to make wood crates from pallets:

Here is a great guide all about finding pallets and lots of tips on working with them.

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I think wooden pallets are like Cinderella, they are beautiful no matter in a dumpster, or being transformed into thousand dollar furniture. The natural variations of the wood, the stamps & nail holes, the little and big imperfections, are all gorgeous. Your pallet crates will have these rustic characters that cheap wood crates won’t have!

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If you plan to make a lot of things with pallets, then our favorite method is with this tool – a Duckbill Deck Wrecker, which makes it 20 times quicker and easier to break apart pallets .  This tool lifts those boards easily, and you can take out the nails with a hammer.

Related article:  All about pallets! Where to find pallets and lots of tips on working with them.

 All about pallets! Where to find pallets and lots of tips on working with them.

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The most important thing when selecting a pallet is to look for the HT stamp, which means it’s heat treated instead of chemically treated. ( Some of the helpful resources are affiliate links. Full disclosure here. )

For this project, one easy way is to cut the 1×4 or 1×6 boards from the rails using a circular saw or jig saw . First cut down the edge of each pallet as close to the end rails as possible to maximize the length of each plank. Then remove the center nails of the pallet using a hammer and a pry bar.

Step 1: Start with the basic structures of wood crates

Wooden crates have three basic parts, see diagram below: bottom, ends (in blue), and sides. There are variations in which the ends are the same length as the bottom, and the sides and ends cover the bottom edges.

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Step 2: Measure and cut wood

Determine the length you want on the wooden crates, and mark the bottom and 2 side pieces(yellow) at the same length. Next, use these pieces to determine the end pieces(blue). Sand each piece with either a sanding pad, or a electric sander.

Size and cut the wood pieces for each crate – see diagram below.

Depending on the size of the crate you want, you will need 2 or 3 boards for the bottom.

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We used a Makita Multitool to trim and sand smaller irregular edges of the pallet wood.

Step 3: Assemble the wood crates

After all the pieces are cut and sanded, nail or glue the 4 side together first, then nail or glue the bottom to the sides. You can also use pocket hole screws to attach the pieces. We chose nails because of the rustic look we want. If you do use nails, a little pre-drilling helps to prevent cracks.

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Don’t these free wood crates already look better than cheap wooden crates?

Now we are ready to add our personal designs to our pallet wood crates!

Go to Part 2:  easy and fun image transfer to wood tutorial.

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and Part 3: How to make 2-Ingredient DIY All Natural Wood Finish & Clear Furniture Wax

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This wax is non toxic, and so nice to work with. It’s actually a great hand lotion! You can see from the photos that the color of the wood and images become richer and deeper once you apply the wax.

make pallet wood crates & image transfer to wood | a piece of rainbow

Here are the collage sheets of stamps, images and phrases used to create these pallet wood crates. DOWNLOAD here.

Happy crafting!

155 Comments

  1. When I go to the page where you say I’ll be able to download the free images (like the crate images), there is no button to download anything. What am I missing? I did install the program you recommend to allow it. Please help

  2. Очень Вам благодарна! Давно искала домашний способ обработки древесины. Спасибо!!!

  3. Hi there. Sometimes I’m a bit dense but, um, howdo you get the bottom of the box to stay together? Do the short sides hold them in place?

    • hi! baking paper may work if they are slippery enough. you can also use the backing paper for stickers or mailing labels, and print on the side where the stickers were on. 🙂

  4. I love this! Im wondering how I should go about printomg and transferring a bigger image than the normal 8×11… like if I wanted to do a 16×20 family photo on a pallet sign… is this even possible ???? thanks

    • hi andrea, great question! 🙂 it is possible because you can transfer a large image in sections if you plan a bit. i am also exploring some other techniques which might be more suitable to your idea, will link in this post once ready! 🙂

  5. I like your advice on using used pallets to get a rustic look and probably save money. We have a really old home but we like to keep the decor new and fresh. This would make a great centerpiece in our living room.

  6. I love your web site! So many great ideas! However I have searched & searched for the download link for the wood pallet transfers & they are no longer there! I went to the Graphic Fairy website & looked there also?
    Is the download link no longer available? I would appreciate a link.

    • hi marie! sorry there was a glitch and now it is all fixed. download links can be found at the very end! if you have trouble, just reply here and i will get it to you! =)

  7. Hi, Thanks for the great instructions.
    I don’t really understand how to stick the wax paper to the regular paper.
    You make it with a clear transparent tape or paper tape? and doesn’t it melt in the printer?
    Which kind of printer you use? Ink or laser?
    Thank’s a lot

    • hi Taruya, you can use either kind of tape, and tape only the top edge. it does not stick to printer. i used ink printer, some said laser works too 🙂

  8. Love these! Want to make one for my sister-in-law for her birthday. I know I can download the collage of images you used, but where did you find yours so I can customize my own? Thanks! Great Job. Beautiful website have done many of your tutorials already.

  9. Awesome! Great tips that I would have never guessed to look out for. Am in Kenya and am doing a bit of research before I begin my debut project, a pallet bed. Thanks a lot.

  10. I think it was a “user” problem, so must apologize for sad earlier post…but I NOW have access & successfully download the images…..So excited!

    Thank you!!

  11. I had problems printing without it smudging. But I moved the graphic towards the bottom of the page and it printed perfectly. Could just be my printer.
    Thanks

  12. I liked that you showed some fun things you can do with pallets. I like that you showed how to make a little crate. I particularly like the idea to make one of those little fruit crates. That would be a great way for me to organize my fresh fruit.

  13. I fall in love with your blog, all your work are awesome, you are very creative and hey inspired me very much, thanks for all the tutorial !

  14. I have read most of tbe questions and answers and I seem to be the only one who does not understand how you flipped the images so that it is backward when it comes out of the printer. I would appreciate it very much if you could go over it with a little more detail. Thank you.

    • hi noreen, you will need to use a program such as gimp ( free) or photoshop to mirror the image so the letters are transferred the right way. =)

  15. I LOVE this idea!!! I have never used wax, and I was wondering if you could tell me exactly how to apply the wax? Also, after the it melts together, are you supposed to let it cool then before using it? Sorry for such a newbie questio, lol

    Thanks so much for this great turorial!!

  16. Love tjis transfer idea, thanks for sharing, not sure I would put anything edible in them thiugh, as pallets are generally spray treated with chemicals to resist bugs

  17. I totally LOVE some of your Idea’s, especially the pallets as you say you drolled over thinking about and wanting too make thing’s. I’m in that same boat literally. I have one board DIY with pallets and thing’s I want too make. Over the last couple of year’s they have become amazingly So Popular and I love just about EVERYTHING that can be made. I want a Bar with light’s etc. I love your transfer Ideas are so cool,etc. Haven’t seen all your thing’s yet, but loving all I see. THANKS for posting some places to possibly pick some up. I see people now trying to sell them because there so popular now. I’m ready to start on some crates after seeing this post. Again Thanks, Great Job’s done here and You may be interested in checking out my Board of My Mom’s Farmhouse as I’m trying too carry on Her legacy. Happy Diying!!! AntiqueJunkie

  18. Love what you have done! And thanks for sharing!! My question is which side of the wax paper do you use?
    Thanks

  19. Hi! Great ideas. Will this method work to transfer images and printed photos (photocopied???) to porous paper such as Somerset paper?

    Thanks for the great tips!

    • hi jacqueline, yes it works as long as it is printed on wax or other slippery paper. transferring to other paper should work too, great idea!! 🙂

  20. Olá… Amei suas dicas… Moro no Brasil e preciso fazer alguns caixotes para decorar uma festa . Já fiz todo o processo e quase deu certo… só achei minhas imagens apagadas. Na transferência não ficaram tão fortes como o seu…não deu destaque. Tem mais alguma dica valiosa ? Estou feliz por existirem pessoas como vc dispostas a compartilhar de forma tão clara as técnicas. Beijos e obrigada

  21. Hello! I found your tutorial very exciting and helpful, thanks for sharing! I’m just wondering if ever i use it for coasters or chopping boards & those need to be washed, will the transferred images be safe? Won’t it peel off?
    Hope you can share your experience on this! 🙂

  22. I’ve been looking for wax paper, but haven’t been able to find any…
    I saw the add on this page for “fast dry heat sublimation paper”, is this the right paper to use?
    Thanks

  23. Curious if you’ve tried to put a clear polyurethane finish over the transfers. I’d like to use this method on a school auction project, but it’s a desk and I feel like it needs more than just wax to seal it.

  24. Thanks for this great tutorial! I’ve been transferring images by printing them on normal paper applied to the wood with acrylic medium, but this is WAY better and you don’t have to spend ages rubbing the paper off!!

  25. I am thinking of trying this on an untreated piece of bass wood as a present for someone. Will it work on untreated wood and can I use polycrylic to give it the glossy finish I want?

  26. hola!!! gracias por compartir este hermoso trabajo.Quisiera saber cuál es el papel encerado ¿es el de cocina?

  27. Hi.
    I use this trick using acetate which is easy to wash off and be used again and again and again.
    Just put an A4 size of acetate straight in the printer and then on the wood and lightly press,swill under the tap and re-use.

    Bob Cronin
    Sunny UK

    • Hi Bob,

      I am from Belgium and want to ask you what “acetate” is?I have never heard of it before.

      Greetings,

      • Acetate is a plastic transparency sheet that is designed to go through printers. They are available at any office supply store.

      • Acetate is a clea, thin, plastic type sheet that you can buy in craft stores. You can also get a thicker more rigid type which is used on overhead projectors and can be bought in office supply shops. Hope this helps.

  28. Hi! Thanks for this great tutorial. I have 2 questions. Would it work to do the image transfer on wood stained with your paint staining method l? Or maybe should I stain it afterward? Also, would this homemade wax be appropriate for a kitchen table or would it need something thicker to stand up to cleaning and such? Thanks!

    • hi amanda, the wax works nicely on kitchen tables as a protective polish, the stain might be too dark for the transfer to show, unless the transfer is darker such as black. i would try it on a piece of scrap wood, stain first! =)

  29. Hello! Wow this is fantastic! Your orange crate is perfect! My head is spinning with holiday ideas! Thank you for this awesome post!

  30. Adorei o teu trabalho . Moro no Brasil e gostaria de fazer um trabalho como o teu . Trabalho como voluntária e seria muito útil para mim eu aprender esta técnica . O problema é que não entendo muito bem o inglês . Seria muito complicado para você passar uma explicação , por e- Mail , em português?

    Eu ficaria muito grata .
    Desculpe pela audácia

    Ana Iria

    • good question! =) those that are out of direct sun look like new! one crate was in the sun every morning, so the wood darkened and image seems to fade a little.

  31. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with wax paper and tape! I tried this method WITHOUT tape serveral times but it always ended in a mess with the printer.
    Greetings from Austria!

  32. Wow, one of the most thorough how-to write ups I have seen. I will attempt this in the future and will share it with the more crafty students in my adult education carpentry classes.
    Looks awesome, thank you for your efforts…

  33. I love your project. I just want to recommend not using olive oil. Olive oil is a perishable food product and will spoil and go rancid. I love the idea of making your own finish but stick to mineral oil if you want it to be food safe. or there are many other formulas for wax/oil based finishes. Google Sam Maloof finish recipe for a few good ones.

    • thank you scott for sharing the tips!! i have not experience any problems with olive oil, but will be trying new recipes you mentioned! =)

  34. I just tried it and the first one worked!! 2nd and 3rd trys…not so much but will keep at it.

    Questions:
    Can you do this on painted wood (one coat of flat or eggshell finish)?

    Is it normal for the color to not be vibrant when printing on the was paper? Mine was fairly muted?

    • hi krista! the ink soaks into the wood, so if the painted wood is still porous it should work.
      the ink on wax paper is the same as on paper, but some wood has darker colors, so use images with higher contrast can give better results! =)

  35. Lovely! Can’t wait to try and make something. I’ve been looking for an easy way to transfer images. I do have a question…do you have to transfer the images right away? Or can the images be left to transfer another day if I don’t have time to complete the project?

    • thank you ! 🙂 I think it works better to transfer when the ink is still moist, but I have used sheets printed days ago, and they do work fine !

  36. Ananda…this is a serious question here…it’s not just a blog comment. Do you sell these? If so, we need to chat, because these would be amazing in my prop gallery. I can **SO** imagine these in my food photography. If you’re serious about selling them…email me
    xoxo

    p.s. I think it goes without saying that I ADORE these. But, I don’t have time to do them. I would love to have the opportunity to buy your ready-made designs!

    • oh kristi you are so sweet! i am so restless, so i never get to sell anything if i need to remake it more than twice lol! =) i do LOVE wood in food photography, and have no doubt you can bribe a family member to make some in exchange for something delicious! xoxo

  37. Could you give me rough sizes of boxes, know that it really depends on boards but a general size would help. Great project cannot wait to make some….

  38. I’m reading your tutorial on transferring images translated into Italian by Google and the translation is not accurate. One question: the wax paper is the one that is used to make sure that the food does not stick to the bottom and that is also called baking paper? Congratulations for the work you’ve done.

    Although this paper has been translated with Google, speramo is understandable

    saluti, Giancarlo

    • Giancarlo, I think you are talking about parchment paper which is not exactly the same as wax paper…..wax paper actually has wax on it so I don’t think you can heat it in the oven like parchment paper. …..

  39. Me encanta este blog, soy de Argentina y lo acabo de descubrir, felicitaciones por la creatividad y el amor a las cosas hechas con nuestras propias manos. Voy a suscribirme para tener sus noticias en mi correo. Gracias

  40. Thanks for the tip on the HT marking on the pallets. Never knew that! Your easy step by step instructions make me want to run out make one right now!! In fact….I think I will! ❤️

  41. This is an awesome tutorial! Thank you so much! FYI: I used transparencies instead of waxed paper and it never jams. You just have to make sure you specify in the printer settings that you’re using transparencies. Also use it right away so the ink doesn’t have time to bead up if there’s any humidity in the air. Thanks again!

    • thank you so much for sharing the great tip thistlefoot! i will eventually update the post with great tips from readers and yours will be included for sure =)

  42. Merci pour ce super tuto
    Je suis impatiente, nous sommes dimanche et tout est fermé mais demain je me lance
    Bravo pour tout

  43. LOVE, LOVE , LOVE this tutorial, or as one person said, three-in-one tuts! Can’t wait to try this in the summer!
    Thanks so much for taking the time to construct your tutorial..

  44. Thank you so much for the thorough explanation. For sharing with us the failures so we can skip that parts. I’m looking forward to try it!!
    XOXO

  45. Great idea! I can’t wait to try it. I have done some image transfer, but never on wood and never with waxed paper, so this is all new to me. Thank you for the diy ideas.

  46. Love your crates. I’ve got a collection of old crates and have always planned to make some of my own. You’ve inspired me. Not only to go make some crates, but to go find some pallets! LOL Thanks. I found your blog at Funky Junk.

  47. I absolutely love these. I am a big fan of using wood crates for storage, but I love how you transferred the images onto them. They really look like vintage boxes. Ah, LOVE them! I just pinned onto my creative ideas board.
    I, along with five other bloggers, host a link party each week called (The Lovely Ladies link party) if you’d like to come link this and your other lovely ideas & recipes up. You can find it on my blog http://www.justalittlecreativity.com
    I’d be happy to see you there 🙂
    I’m not following your blog so I’ll definitely be back.
    -Molly

  48. Hi Ananda
    Love the post, the crates look so professional. Cant wait to have a go. Can u tell me if there is a speciic side of the wax paper to use or are both sides the same? TFS

  49. From a fellow blogger to another I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite tutorials ever. So beautifully done. Love love love it. Thanks for sharing!!

  50. I found you at Beckie’s RR

    Love your crates, great tutorial on the crates AND the transfer. I’ve never used wax paper yet… someday!

    gail

  51. Amanda!!! This is so exciting!!! I want to try this immediately. Where do you find the HT pallets for free? Any suggestions? BTW, I live in Albuquerque, NM. OOOh, I’m so excited!!! They look BEAUTIFUL!!!

    • Hi tess! Ht pallets are easy to find, check stores that sell building materials, like flooring, stone, tile, or plant nurseries. Have fun ! =)

  52. Hi Ananda: Your blog is amazing and I see that you are taking BYW. I’m not registered for this session, but I’ve taken 3 courses in the past and the information you will get is invaluable. It looks like you’re well on your way already. I agree with Claudia, your photos are gorgeous and your blog is already very polished. Good luck with the course and your blog. I’ll be back!

  53. Hello Ananda! Here I am straight from the BYW forum to your beautiful blog. Love its name and colorful yet delicate header and looking forward to following you for an enriching sharing experience. Take care and enjoy the Easter holiday ahead!

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