Rustic Shipping Crate Coffee Table

[this vintage, rustic coffee table is available now in my shop!]

I found this fabulous box awhile back and knew it would make a great coffee table but it had no top. Building a top is time consuming and at the time I didn’t have the tools, so I just held onto it.


Walter M Lowney was a chocolate company in Boston, MA from the late 1800s to early 1900s.

By Magicpiano - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Original Lowney Chocolate Factory

But then I saw an idea online that would allow me to create this coffee table without building a lid!

But first, the box needed some work. It was a little dingy and I wanted to brighten it up a little, but still preserve all the writing.

I chose Minwax Golden Pecan to stain the box and it really brightened up the whole piece without obstructing the writing I wanted to preserve. (This technique works great in all kinds of upcycling projects with dingy wood!)

The inside of this box was also pretty dull, so I decided to paint it in a distressed black. This is simple to achieve on rough wood as the first pass of paint does not fully cover it. That is usually enough to achieve this look, although you may run your brush over certain areas again to get it just the way you like it.


Next, as I always do with my projects, I use a clear lacquer as a protective, shiny finish. You can find clear lacquer in your local home improvement store in the stain aisle. Be sure to use a respirator and protective eyewear in a well ventilated area!

I prefer to use industrial style legs like hairpin legs or steel wheels for my furniture pieces. I buy most of my handcrafted hairpin legs from Odaat Customs on Etsy.  You can find a small selection of hairpin legs at your local craft store, but generally there are only 2 sizes and you’re lucky if there even 4 legs on the rack. They are also made of cheap aluminum. On Etsy, you can choose leg length by the inch, rebar thickness and even style and angle.

In most cases, you want at least a .75″ screw to attach on the bottom of the box. I also use washers with my screws. Longer screws are always better, which I was able to achieve on my outer edges where the box had an extra layer of wood. In some cases, the wood is just too thin to screw up into the box and then there’s the option of using machine screws and screw them through the floor of the table and out the bottom, secured with bolts.


So here’s the unique part – since I am not building a top for this coffee table, I simply turned the piece on its SIDE (word side up) which created a perfect side opening and storage space for the piece! This can’t always work since the bottom of your piece is now exposed; sometimes the bottom of these vintage pieces are not in good shape. In my case, it was in good shape and even had some writing on it! Also, the words are only on one long side, so I don’t have to feel bad about hiding the other side by making it the underside of the table.

The results are amazing! This incredible unique, rustic coffee table is available now in my shop! (freight shipping is available; message me for a quote)

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