Saturday, 17 August 2013

DIY Vintage Crates

I have been wanting some vintage looking crates that I could use for photography props.  I looked and looked everywhere online, and I couldn't find anything that was in my price range ($10-$20).  I am a cheapskate, so I HATE spending money.  I wasn't willing to fork over $40 for a crate, just because it said "Coca-Cola" on the side.  So lame!  So, what was a girl like me to do?  Create my own!

I found these really cute and simple crates at a couple of local craft stores.  Thanks to coupons, I was able to get them for screaming deals!  The smaller one I got at Michael's with my 40% off coupon for $4.59 (after coupon).  The larger one I got at Joanne's with a 50% off coupon for $6.54 (after coupon).  That's just over $11 for two wooden crates!!  Saaweeeett!!  Good news for a frugal girl like me.

Now to the problem of staining them.  I was afraid that if I used real wood stain that the finish would not look as vintage as I wanted.  Plus I didn't want to buy a large can of it, if I was only going to be using it to stain two small crates (I am such a cheap-o).  I had heard of people using coffee grounds to stain wood, so I thought I would give that a try...

Here are the ingredients for the do-it-yourself-homemade-all natural-wood-stain:  vinegar, coffee grounds, and steel wool.  Surprised?  I sure was.  Honestly, I was a little skeptical going into this, but thought in my head "coffee is dark, so I guess I could see why that might work."  You should have seen the look on the hubs face when I told him what I was doing.  Priceless!  He thought I was crazy.

Two of the ingredients were easy to come by in my house: vinegar and steel wool.  But for a non-coffee drinker like myself, where was I going to get some coffee grounds?  Well, what's the first place you think of when you think of a good ol' cup a joe?  Yup.  Starbucks!!!  So away I went.  I think that the ladies behind the counter thought that I was crazy when I asked them for their used coffee grounds.  A few years ago I would have been so embarrassed, but now I just think its funny.  Think what you want, people!  (Maybe I am slightly crazy...)

 I mixed up about a quarter cup of coffee grounds, an apple cider/regular vinegar combination, and the steel wool pad (cut in half) in a regular sized mason jar.  After about 10 hours of letting it rest, my patience ran out and I decided it was time to stain (leaving it overnight might have been better...)

 Here is what the crate looked like after only one coat of the stain.  The crate on the left is the original wood, and the one on the right has the stain.  I was a little worried at this point.  How many coats was I going to need to put on in order for it to be as dark as I wanted?

Here is the same crate after a second coat.  Not tons darker, but getting there.  After this, I decided to stop and just see if they got any darker as they dried.  

 Here's a helpful hint: you can use the steel wool as a paintbrush, and just rub the stain on with that.  It worked great!  Unfortunately, I don't think my brain was properly attached, and I didn't wear cloves.  If you ever decide to stain wood this way, I have a couple words of advice:  WEAR GLOVES!!  My hands were stained like this for days.

I let the crates sit outside overnight to dry, and the next morning, to my surprise the crates had darkened up considerably!  I had to do a little patch work over some spots that I missed the first time around, but in the end they turned out beautifully!!  Don't you think? 

 It helps that there is the cutest toddler in the world playing Vanna White for me :)

The grand total for this project (drum role please...):  $11.13!!!!  Awesome!
Who knew that coffee, vinegar, and steel wool could create these beauties!  I am so excited to use them! 


  1. Wow! The crates look incredible. I would not have known if you hadn't told us. Awesome job!

  2. Great tutorial. Thanks for sharing with us

  3. Silly question - but can you smell the coffee / vinegar on the crates? I want to use this method on a shelf for the living room :) Thanks for the tutorial, they look great!

    Estelle x

    1. Estelle,

      The smell does linger around for a little bit, but it eventually goes away. I would say to let the shelf air out outside for a few days just to insure that the smell is gone.

      Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

  4. I love them and have actually considered getting or making some crates myself. My husband home brews beer and I thought crates would look a lot nicer to hold the bottles than beat up cardboard boxes.

    I will have to remember to look for coupons before I attack this project.

    1. Eska,

      Michael's and Hobby Lobby usually have 40% off coupons on their websites. I think Joanne's might as well. All you have to do is go on there and print them off. Or if you have a smart phone they have digital coupons too!

    2. I am still deciding if I should buy or make them. I have an idea that looks fabulous in my mind but I wondering if I should take the extra steps to try it. Like clothes, it may just look good on the hanger.

  5. Tried this... made the stain last week, and let it overnight. The stain barely showed up on the pine wood, so I let it sit another day, hoping it'd get darker. Tonight, I tried it again. It was darker, but still looked like it would need two coats. So I applied the first coat, and let it dry. When I went to apply the 2nd coat, what I found was DEVASTATING. :( My crate turned BLUE. Like neon highlighter blue. Not sure how I'm going to fix it. Thinking the $13 crate will end up in the trash and I'll be buying a new one and storebought stain. :(

    1. I am so sorry that that happened! How incredibly frustrating!

      I wish that I had a definitive answer for you as to why the crates turned blue, but I only have conjecture. The only possible thing that I can think of is that maybe you used the steel wool that had the detergent on them (ie: SOS pads). If you used the regular steel wool, then I have no idea what could have happened.

      Again, I am so sorry!

  6. I can't believe you only spent $11! What a hero, and the finished product is fabulous.


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