i should be mopping the floor: DIY Vintage Soda Crate Tutorial

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

DIY Vintage Soda Crate Tutorial

I love all things vintage, chippy and full of history. 
So, when a big mistake turned into my very own collection of DIY Vintage Soda Crates, I wasn't even a little bit sad.

I've always loved a good vintage soda crate. But, they can run up to fifty bucks each these days...that's a bit too spendy for the number of them I really want. After a BIG accident in our entry way, I found a way to make my own. And now, I can't quit making these things. Puttin' 'em errrr-where.

Check out the tutorial on how simple they are to create>>>

They turned out a bit better than I expected. And just to cover myself FTC-wise, those are actually root beer bottles. I'm not peddling booze. Not today anyway. Just kidding. Sort of.

Back to the day my entire neighborhood heard me yell some choice words. Remember when I painted my front door kelly green here? It turned out super Kristi-ish. But, on that fateful last coat of paint, my big patootie turned too fast to knock a 3/4 full gallon of paint off of the top of the step stool. Holy guacamole. What a ridiculous mess. This photo above is actually well into the clean up process. I'm pretty sure the entire inside of my shop vac is green {probably not the proper way to clean a paint spill...but, desperate times...}. 

My adorable little stack of wooden wine boxes were splattered with paint. And destined for the trash...

I ended up setting them in the garage for a few months so I could figure out what in the heehaw to do with them. They were almost toast when we did that big garage clean out in March, but I hid them under the bed so nobody could trash them. I'm not really a hoarder. Maybe just on the road to becoming one...

I ended up using the paint-splattered boxes for these vintage soda crates. It sort of just came to me when I saw some cute ones at World Market...I realized I could duplicate and put my own spin on them.

While I do have a plethora of wine boxes on hand {my brother is a wine distributor and collects them for me...his job has a laundry list of benefits...hiccup}, you can easily purchase these or even get them for free at your local booze box...errr, liquor store. The ones in my city usually have stacks of them for sale. They go for anywhere from $3-$12 depending on their size. In a city we used to live in, one of the liquor stores gave them away for free. Sometimes, they'd stack them up by their dumpster. These are easy-peasy to come by. 

You could always grab a plain wooden crate at a craft store if you'd prefer.

Be sure to remove the lid if your wine box has one. I'm using my lids to make some vintage signs for my house.

I tried two different methods of removing or concealing the lettering and this is the one that worked best for me. The lettering on most wine boxes is actually branded into the wood, so it actually creates an indentation into the surface. It makes it hard to just slap some paint on it and go from there. I first tried just sanding it off with 60 grit sandpaper, but that was kind of a ridiculous amount of sanding. 

Using joint compound or spackle was really easy. I just covered the wording with it and then let it dry. Then I sanded it smooth so it was even with the wood surface. 

As you can see from the above, I left the funky little stamp on some of the corners...it just looked kind of cool so I left it. To give these a layered paint look, I used my chippy method that you can find here. I plan to do another tutorial on this method using the milk paint that I used on the last layer of these boxes. It made it really fun!

The important thing to remember is to use chalk paint as your base coat...it will have more "sticking" power and won't get as easily sanded off as the layers on top of it will. I did each box differently. Some had red interiors as a middle paint coat, some black. They were all different. Just layer on paint coats until you get the desired number of coats you want. The more coats of paint...the more vintage it looks. I even used spray paint on some of it. No rhyme, no reason.

If you are more comfortable following a specific method or recipe, be sure to check out that tutorial I mentioned on layered paint for a vintage look here

Before my last layer of paint, which was Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint in Eulalie Sky, I used a puck of beeswax to go over the corners and edges. It prevents the paint from sticking too much. If you can't find these, a taper candle can have a similar effect. I also used the milk paint without a bonding agent...I knew I would be sanding and roughing it up, so the less "stick", the better. 

The milk paint always reacts differently and this time I got a fun, crackly, rough finish. I was really happy with this look.

I did a good rough-up sanding before painting my lettering on. You can go as heavy or light as you prefer. The heavier the sanding, the more old and funky it will look. I'm an old and funky kind of girl myself.

Again, sand before putting lettering on. If you wait to just sand after the lettering is on, your lettering will be removed too much to be readable. We'll sand again, but get that initial sanding in before lettering. After that initial sanding, wipe your piece {preferably with a tack cloth} to remove the excess dust.

I used my Silhouette to create a vinyl stencil of my lettering. If you don't have a Silhouette or Cricut, there are still lots of other options. Look for stenciling letters at craft stores. OR, try this lettering tutorial for the exact same effect...it just requires you to print from your printer. Find that here.

For both of the boxes pictured in this tutorial, I used the font, Bebas Neue. You can download it for free here. It's a nice, clean, tall, all-caps font.

I painted my lettering with chalk paint and then pulled off the negative part of the stencil. My vinyl actually pulled off a bit more paint...I kind of liked it! 

Then it's on to round two of sanding. This is better done by hand or with a sanding block. Doing it by hand will give you a bit more control of the amount of aging you do. And I'm a control fah-reak. I used a rough, 60 grit paper, but since I was doing it by hand, I didn't let it get too crazy. 

This is always my favorite part when I age something...and I use this method a lot. I use stain to go along the edges and really dirty a piece up. It's pretty much fool-proof. The stain will sit in the raw wood that you've sanded down and give it such great character. I did a more extensive video tutorial on this method when I did it on my buffet about a year ago. You can find it here

You basically rub the stain on, and then let it sit a bit. Then rub off the excess or work it around the piece. It's really fun to play with the level of aging you can give to a piece. I concentrated on the raw edges a lot on these boxes. If you think about it, that's where soda crates were handled the most, and where natural aging would occur.

You can see in the above photo that the left box has not been stained and the right one has. Pretty fun effect, huh? 

If you get too carried away with the stain, a little furniture wax {while the stain is still fresh} can be used to pull some of the stain off of the piece. Just take a dab of it on a cloth and work it into the piece. It will pull stain off and make it a little less "dirty". 

I opted to not seal these. I may go back and wax them, but something about letting an aged piece keep on aging with natural wear and tear is really appealing to me. 

So, what do you think? Is this something you'd try? I love that you can customize what each crate says which just adds to the charm.

Here's one of the boxes used on my Iced Coffee Bar from last week. These boxes are perfect for entertaining, decorating, storing {in a fun, attractive way} or whatever! The possibilities are endless.

Neglect your chores like me and don't miss a thing:


  1. These look awesome! Going to ask my liquor store now! Thanks for the great tutorial! Also thinking about using the tops for a sign for the chicken coop! :)

  2. This is soooo awesome, Kristi! I'm too cheap to buy the real vintage ones - and I love that you have just given me a way to make a bazillion of these things.

  3. Stop it! You are just adding to my to-do list! Love them :)

  4. "Um, Ma'am? Are you sure you can be trusted with an open can of MinWax on top of wine crates you are sanding??"
    Haha Kristi this is such a fabulous project!! We had wine crates hung in a gallery style in the game room / bar our old house and I am always so mad we got rid of all but a few when we moved. Good to know we can get more! LOVE how these turned out! Again, you are just so talented, girl!! Pinned. (duh). :)

  5. These crates are fabulous Kristi! Pinned!

  6. Kristi, these crates are amazing! I cannot wait to try this out! Thanks for all of your great tips, You are so talented. Pinned this for sure!

  7. I'm laughing at what Claire said :) I always lay out a big shower curtain & work over that when I have open containers of things that are messy. But I'm one that if it can spill- it will.

    I just adore these - they are totally my style. I have 2 wine crates that I have been debating if I was going to leave them, stain them or distress them. Now that I know how I can get more- I feel more liberated to make a decision with them & then just get more for more projects. Thanks Kristi.

  8. Spilling paint is a big bummer, but GREEN paint must be a serious bummer! :)

    These are adorable! I love 'em! I hope my local liquor store has some crates... I'd love to make some too! Will you link at our party tonight at 6 pm PST? We would love it! Julia

  9. Wow! I love these!
    Great job...pinning for sure!

  10. Love these Kristi! Sounds like I need to hit up Mike for some wine boxes. He works for a local beer/wine/liquor distributor too. And yes, lots and LOTS of perks. ;) We've been wanting to build a bar, and boxes like these would be perfect shelf inserts for bar tools. I just need to ad some dividers! Pinned!

  11. This looks fantastic! I would love it if you joined and contribute your awesome posts at my link party at City of Creative Dreams, starts on Fridays :D Hope to see you there at City of Creative Dreams Link Party.

  12. haha, you made me snort coffee..not funny!! Seriously amazing salvage of your crates!!

  13. So cute! We would love for you to come and link up with us at Your Designs This Time! http://elizabethjoandesigns.com/2014/06/designs-time-no-14/

  14. These look so good! I think this would be a fun way to spruce up a boring gift of beer for any holiday!

  15. How fun! Sounds like a good excuse to stop by the liquor store this week. I'm thinking I might make these for Christmas gifts with last names for the bottling company name. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Hey I actually think I could pull this off! So adorable - and what a nice feature these would make on my front porch this summer!

    Carly @ www.theblossomingbump.com