Design & Make

Wooden Crates

by Sebastian Kaufmann November 30, 2009
ReadWooden Crates


You see vintage wooden crates everywhere at flea markets. Many vendors don’t sell them, but use them to carry their wares from the car to the booth, and back to the car. They don’t consider a crate as a nostalgic thing, imbued with some hidden beauty. It’s just a convenient way to schlep things around. From these people you can get the best deals on crates. Although, sometimes, they don’t want to give them up because they know it’s hard to find another box that sturdy.

Vintage wooden crate

I think you still see so many wooden crates today because once they were used for everything. Every product imaginable (as long as it fit inside) was packed and transported in a wooden crate. The difference between a crate and a box is that latter gets usually destroyed (or taken apart) when removing  the product. A crate can be re-used as is.

Soda bottle wooden crates.

Together with woven baskets, vases and amphoras, wooden crates are believed to be the oldest form of packaging. Corrugated cardboard boxes were only invented in the 1870s, and plastic crates weren’t used before the late 1940s. When companies started switching from wood to plastic, a lot of wooden crates probably ended up in a fireplace. I wonder how many old and broken plastic crates ended up with a romantic evening in the fire

Antique wooden crate.

I’m always surprised by the weight of wooden crates. When I hold my empty Golden Glow crate, and imagine the additional weight of twenty four bottles made out of thick soda-lime glass, plus the beer, I can’t help but think what a wimp I am. Were people so much tougher sixty years ago?

Many crates have metals bands wrapped around the edges to make them more durable.

WWII ammunition crate from Dupont/Remington Express.

I’m not a fan of war memorabilia (I grew up in Germany), but I couldn’t resist those box joints (somewhat similar to dovetails). Today, you will have a hard time finding this kind of dedication on an expensive piece of furniture.

Wooden crate with dovetails.

The paint has been completely washed off, but the outlines of the letters are still readable. The ink must have been applied under substantial pressure.

Crate for 7-Up Bottling Co., Los Angeles.

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