Friday, June 10, 2011

Storage Crates for Preserving Jars

A few years ago my wife started putting some serious effort into maintaining an organic garden and preserving many of the vegetables we harvest from there. Every year our biggest challenge is keeping the local groundhogs and rabbits from using this garden as a personal buffet.

While there is no shortage of fresh vegetables to be enjoyed during the summer months, we've come to realize that it's also good to preserve some of the bounty that we don't eat for the wintertime.

This has resulted in the accumulation of many boxes of preserving jars in recent years, and as I soon discovered these things become quite heavy and cumbersome once the jars are filled with preserves. To properly store and organize these boxes I ended up designing and making some simple plywood stacking crates.

About a week ago my wife posted pictures of these crates at a site called, and given the positive feedback these things received I've decided to create a blog post to explain in detail how they are made.

The drawing above shows in detail the cutlist of materials, plus how to assemble these boxes. The example shown was designed to hold a case of 12 x 1 litre (approximately 1 quart) jars. I would urge anyone who is thinking of making these for themselves to BUY THEIR CASES OF JARS FIRST, before making the crates - the reason being that there are no consistent sizes of jars and/or cardboard boxes for holding the jars, even from the same manufacturer. That said, the sizes provided should be adjusted to the ACTUAL ones you get.

To make crates for other jar sizes please adjust this drawing accordingly.

In this instance (for the case of 12 x 1 litre jars) the exterior dimensions of the cardboard box is 15-3/4" long by 11-5/8" wide by 7-1/8" high. On the length I added 1-5/8" to the interior size to allow for 1/8" of clearance plus 2 thicknesses of 3/4" styrofoam at each end. (The styrofoam inserts will be explained later). On the interior width an allowance of 1/8" for clearance was made, while on the height I allowed a full 1" of clearance to allow for clearance of Skid Rails (that lock the crates to one another when they're stacked), plus allow for the cardboard lids to be folded closed without putting any pressure onto the tops of the sealed jars in the process.

The crates are constructed out of 3/8" thick standard Fir or Spruce plywood sheeting, which is available at almost any building supply store.

Please note that there are no consistent thicknesses to plywood sheeting either, so the cutlist provided (which is based on the assumption of 3/8" material thicknesses) may need to be adjusted for compensate for thickness variations in the actual material you use.

The cutlist is shown in the upper right corner of the attached drawing. Because of how thin the plywood material is it is not practical to try screwing these crates together. I used a wood glue called Titebond 3 to glue the ends to the sides, with fine brad nails (staples can also be used) to hold the pieces together while the glue sets up.

The bottom was then attached using glue and brad nails, and the corners were then braced with Vertical Cleats that were glued and brad nailed over the butt joints as shown. After the boxes were assembled a pair of Skid Rails were attached to the underside of the bottoms to allow the crates to nest securely on top of one another. The Skid Rails should be carefully sized and positioned so that the crates can get stacked evenly on top of each other, without binding.

Before assembling the ends to the sides I machined a pair of cutouts into the ends that would function as handles. For fun I used an inverted pyramid shape cut out with a router. At each end of the cardboard box (between the box and the plywood end of the crate) I inserted a 3/4" thick piece of styrofoam with a "V" shaped cutout to allow clearance for fingers when reaching in and out.

Hopefully this information is helpful to anyone wishing to make these for themselves.

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