If you’re missing a statement piece for your living room, build on those crate expectations with this DIY coffee table inspired by the fruit boxes of yore
Bring back memories of the greengrocer’s shelves with this rustic fruit crate-style coffee table. But rather than spending $200 on antique boxes that may be quite rickety, try your hand at making your own and join them together. To keep costs down, we used finger-jointed (FJ) and plain pine stained a darker shade. Just add castors and then she’ll be apples!
Gather your supplies
End slats (32) 67 x 11 x 280mm finger jointed pine
Front/back/base slats (44) 67 x 11 x 600mm finger jointed pine
Cleats (16) 42 x 19 x 300mm pine
Shelf (3) 67 x 11 x 360mm finger jointed pine
Shelf cleats (makes 2) 42 x 19 x 250mm pine
Staggering the nails will help avoid the timber splitting. In the good old days they didn’t really worry about it – the boxes were made for utility, not beauty.
- Step 1: As there are many pieces of timber to cut, in basically only 3 different sizes, it’s easiest to use a drop saw, as it’s very quick and accurate. To cut end slats, clamp a block to saw bench 280mm from face of blade. Stack 4 lengths of end slat timber together and butt against the block. Make cut, then repeat to cut 32 slats. Reset block to 600mm from blade to cut 44 front/back/base slats and then to 300mm to cut 16 cleats.
- Step 2: Use 25mm nails to fix end slats to cleats. Stagger nails 15 and 30mm from ends and predrill with a 1.5mm bit. See Note above.
- Step 3: Glue and nail first end slat to cleats with 1 nail at each end. Stand second nail in holes at each end, check the joint will be square, then drive in second nail. Add other slats for 1 end, spacing them equally along cleats. Repeat to make a second end assembly.
- Step 4: Predrill 8 of the longer slats 20mm in from ends, then glue and nail them to edge of cleats, checking that everything is square.
- Step 5: Add base slats, nailing them to ends of cleats and to the edge of 11mm wide end slats. Nail back slats so they are 6mm in from edge of front and back to create a little quirk, then centre 1 bottom slat in between. It should be 118mm from what will be top of box. Repeat Steps 2-5 to make a total of 4 boxes.
- Step 6: Sand boxes, then paint with 2 coats of Cabot’s Stain & Varnish, allowing to dry and sanding between coats for a smooth finish. Make sure you use long even strokes, so the finish will not be patchy.
- Step 7: Join the 4 boxes, leaving a well in the centre. Screw through back of each crate into side of adjacent crate, ensuring screws are short enough that they do not go all the way through other side. Use a spirit level across top to ensure adjacent boxes are in alignment.
- Step 8: To mount table on 75mm castors, turn table over and drill clearance holes in each corner through slats for 2 screws that will be going into cleat, then fix castors in place with 25mm button head screws. Use 12mm screws to fix to the 11mm thick base slat. Carefully turn table right side up again.
- Step 9: To make shelf for centre well, rip a 250mm length of 42 x 19mm pine in half, then screw on 3 shelf lengths, spacing them equally along cleats. Stain and varnish to match rest of table, then feed shelf assembly into middle of table, or if you wish, omit the shelf altogether.
You’ll also need
Drop saw (optional); 25 x 1.8mm zinc plated soft sheet nails; Cabot’s Stain & Varnish in Satin Walnut; 32mm x 10g screws; 75mm grey rubber castors (4); 12 and 25mm button head screws