Hi, guys! It’s Mandi, from Making Nice in the Midwest. I recently discovered, with great joy, that our visits to the in-laws are really paying off! My daughter, Lucy, loves cleaning up and putting her toys away- and I know that she didn’t learn that from me. I just repurposed Lucy’s toy crates in our bathroom for wall storage, leaving her things in a big pile on the floor. So I had to work quickly to create a new storage solution, for fear of Lucy forgetting her newfound love of organizing. I wanted to create a storage solution small enough for her to manage at this young age, something that wouldn’t be as visually open as a crate, and something that we would still use as she grows older. So I thought using simple crates to create rolling chalkboard toy boxes would be a great storage solution! She can learn the words on the boxes and practice sorting things while she can easily manage to roll the boxes around the room, since they’re on casters. She immediately loved taking the balls out of the crate, and then putting them all back in. When she gets a little older, I know she’ll love drawing pictures and playing games on the sides of the boxes too. I’d say we have a project success!
You can make these chalkboard storage boxes even if you don’t have any children. Use the rolling boxes to store shoes, sports gear, or gardening supplies. Really, the possibilities are endless!
- Wooden crate (I found mine for $5 at a craft store.)
- 1/4″ sheet of plywood cut to fit the sides of the crate (see below for details)
- Wood glue or Liquid Nails
- Duct tape or wood clamps
- 4 small casters
- 4 machine screws for the casters
- Power drill + drill bits to fit the machine screws and rope diameter
- Masking tape + masking paper (newspaper will do)
- Dark spray primer
- Chalkboard spray paint
- (optional: wood filler + sandpaper)
- (optional: wire brads + a hammer)
Planning your plywood pieces: Measure the height of the box, and have the hardware store or lumber yard cut your 1/4″ plywood to this size. You’ll have a long strip of plywood to cut to the height of your box, and now you just need to cut out the pieces sized to the width of each side of the crate. Now take that long strip of lumber and cut out two pieces to the length of the long sides of the crate. Measure the thickness of the plywood you are cutting (not all 1/4″ plywood is actually 1/4″ thick), multiply that by two, and add it to the width of the short sides of the crate. Now, from whatever is left of the long piece of plywood you originally cut, cut two pieces to this dimension. You needed to measure the thickness of the plywood because the shorter end pieces will overlap the edges of the longer pieces plywood that will be glued onto the sides of the crate.
Step One: Squeeze out wavy lines of wood glue or Liquid Nails onto one side of the crate, and then cover with the coordinating piece of plywood. Make sure it’s placed evenly with the top edge of the crate, rather than the bottom, since the top will be more visible. Start with a longer side of the crate first, since the side piece should line up evenly on the side edges. Only work with one side at a time, or you might make a mess. Finish with the short end pieces which should overlap the edges of the long pieces.
Step Two: Use duct tape to hold the pieces in place while the adhesive dries. Wood clamps are preferred for this step, because they really hold pieces together tightly. But duct tape will do fine in a pinch. At this point in the process, I chose to hammer wire brads into the corners of the plywood to keep them from shifting or pulling away while the adhesive dried. This is totally optional. When the adhesive dries, there will probably be gaps where the plywood doesn’t fit the shape of the crate perfectly. You may chose to fill in these gaps with wood glue and then sand it down to a nice finish when the glue has dried.
Step Three: From the inside of the crate where the handle holes are, drill holes to the diameter of the rope you are using for handles. I drilled on hole on each end, and didn’t bother to measure them out precisely. When I was finished, I used some sand paper to smooth out the rough edges around the holes.
Step Four: Tape around the inside top edge of the crate. After precisely placing the masking tape, you can roughly tape masking paper around that area to protect the inside of the crate during the spray painting process. Any kind of paper will do for this step.
Step Five: In a well ventilated area, cover the exposed surface area of the crate (just the sides and top) with two coats of tinted primer, and then two or three coats of chalkboard paint. When the last coat has been painted, you can peel away the masking tape and paper.
Step Six: Cut pieces of rope (I cut mine around 12 inches in length) and cover their ends with masking tape to keep them from fraying and getting stuck in the holes you have drilled. Pull the rope through the holes, remove the masking tape, and then tie the ends into knots to secure the handle from the inside. The knots will nestle nicely in the original handle holes of the crate and shouldn’t be bothered by whatever objects are thrown into the finished crate.
Step Seven: Flip the crate upside-down and place the caster wheels onto the corners, making sure the drill holes are placed where there’s enough wood to drill into and secure the casters. Three out of four secure holes should do just fine.
Step Seven: Drill pilot holes into the places where the screws should go, wipe away the saw dust, and then screw the machine screws into place.
The finished crates look so crisp, they’re just begging to be covered in chalk dust! So that’s exactly what I did. I rubbed chalk on them, wiped off the chalk, and got to work labeling each crate with what should go inside.Who knows? Maybe someday these boxes will hold Lucy’s extensive vinyl collection, or maybe she’ll still be treasuring her favorite dolls from her childhood. Either way, I hope they stick around for a while!
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson