Saturday, January 23, 2016

RG's workshop: Record crate

I have an old wooden crate that is the perfect size for holding records, but unfortunately with garage sales and whatnot, one crate is no longer enough to hold my record, ahem, "collection".

It occurred to me last year that I could make my crate own out of the LADE boards that come from bed slats, and which are so useful for many projects, including the 90-minute glove rack and the long things holder I briefly mentioned in my last post. I took photos during the process and I'm finally getting around to posting about it.

It starts with isolating the wooden slats from the cloth straps that are stapled into them to keep them together while in use as a bed. First I separate the cloth from the slat by grabbing it with needle-nose pliers and rotating them.

Sometimes the staple comes out with the cloth, otherwise it just sort of bulges. This usually gives enough room to clamp some locking pliers onto the staple and rotate the pliers to remove the staple nice and cleanly:

Here's the schematic I drew for myself after figuring out how to get the various pieces I needed from 26" long Lade boards in order to get a crate that is roughly the same dimensions as my antique one, i.e. 17.5" by 9" and tall enough to hold 12" records.

I marked the boards for the 9" slats that go on the ends of the crate. The longer component is for the side and bottom slats, and they're screwed on the outside so they can vary slightly, but the 9" ones are screwed on their ends so need to be a consistent length. (You can also see the first draft of my figuring out)

Here I'm cutting the pieces with a mini handheld circular saw I bought. This is the only power tool I've bought (I inherited my drill and not counting the Dremel or heat gun) and though I'm more comfortable using hand tools since that's what I used growing up, being able to cut a board in two seconds with very little effort is very useful.

Cutting the boards lengthwise is even harder with a hand saw (and I've done it before for the side pieces on my laptop box). Since the circular saw has a plate that would bump into any clamps I tried to use on the lengthwise cut, I screwed the board onto a longer, sacrificial board from underneath and clamped that one down.

The lengthwise-cut pieces form the corner bits that hold everything together. Here I've tied (using the straps pulled off of the Lade boards) the end pieces to the corner bits to mock them up and see how well things will fit together.

Another reason I needed to mock it up was to see how I wanted to arrange the slats. In my diagram I had a hole cut out of the end boards, but I realized that I could just omit the second-highest board and the top board naturally becomes a handle.

Here I'm lining up the screws in the corner bit to match up with the end pieces (I'm too impatient to bother with glue and still wasn't sure how or if everything might come together). The screw heads will be covered over later by the long side slats. I had already screwed the other end together, and because it's used wood that is slightly warped, I needed to clamp two boards onto this end to make them straight for inserting. In retrospect, the screws for the lowest end slat should have been higher up in order to allow more room for the ones that will be screwed in from the bottom for the bottom slats.

Edit: After posting this blog entry, I discovered a photo of a second crate I had started to build which I had forgotten. I pre-drilled this set of holes in the pieces before making the linear cut to assemble the corner bits. Unfortunately, I didn't think to have the holes for the bottom piece a bit higher. You can see how the pieces are screwed to a longer board that I can clamp down during the long cut (I had removed the top piece for this photo to show how they were both attached). After going back to verify that I hadn't finished a second one, I found the piece still there, waiting to be sliced in half. I might actually dismantle it again and pre-drill the diagonal holes for the long side pieces too before cutting it.

Here are the first two bottom slats being affixed to the assembled ends. The alignment was a bit off, but nothing a little forcing can't fix. I offset the screws that attach to the corner bits so as not to conflict with the screws I'd just inserted, before I realized that I'd also need to drill holes through where these screws go for the side slats! I don't remember exactly how I addressed this (and I'm not going to empty it out now and turn it upside down), but it's not the end of the world.

Here's the side view, after attaching all the bottom boards. The slat at the bottom of the picture is the top slat and I installed it first to make the ends square. It's screwed from the inside to keep the outside clean. You can see how I've pre-drilled the holes for the remaining side slats on the opposite side. These screws on the inside are exposed (albeit only if you're looking in the box) so I used brass coloured screws.

The next time I assemble one of these crates, I would not only drill the holes in the corner bits before assembling the crate, but I would drill the holes for the long side slats at an angle so it's easier to screw them on.

Due to a miscalculation, I hadn't cut quite enough slats for the long sides, and by the time I finished I didn't want to bother cutting any more. Three is enough to hold the crate together and the contents in. One pair of screws is visible on the corner bits, but I don't particularly care. I also ended up with two extra 9" pieces, which were useful to have around for a future project.

I had intended, but forgot, to have the uppermost long side slats be raised by the width of a board, so that when these crates are stacked the bottom slats of the upper one are nestled into the side slats of the one below. I can do that for the next one to go under this one. It doesn't really make a difference for stacking my antique crate on top of this one.

Lade boards come in different widths and lengths, so if you're not trying to match the dimensions of a preexisting crate, you can play around with the sizes. You can see here that there's lots of room in all three dimensions to play around. Since the end pieces and the long bottom/side pieces are cut from the same board, you can make the box a bit narrower in one dimension to be wider in the other.

This is important for ensuring that the narrow dimension is a multiple of the width of the slats, so there are no gaps in the bottom. I hadn't factored that into my measurements and ended up having to put a thin board in the bottom because I had some gaps, which are a hazard when you're using the crate to carry narrow objects like record sleeves!

Nevertheless, I'm really happy with how this turned out. I could paint it, but this suits me fine since the boards have already been treated by our fine friends at IKEA (a store which I hope never to have the misfortune to visit in person as long as I can still find their products secondhand at the curb).

- RG>

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