Sunday, July 21, 2013

Crate Seats 2.0

I decided it was time to upgrade my crate seats. My current ones had been in use for 2 school years so the padding was looking sad and the fabric dingy. Never choose a fabric with a white background for classroom use. Lesson Learned. Plus my color scheme has evolved since I made the original crate seats and they no longer worked in my new room. Before I show you the new ones (and some pretty cool improvements) lets reflect on the old seats, shall we?

Here they are, year one:

And pre-kids year two:
Construction - They held up really well. I was able to reuse the boards for my new seats. The crates themselves are still in really good shape and I could re-use them if they were the right color. No cracks or scuffs. I'll use them for storage in my closet or garage instead.
Fabric - Super gross. Never again will I choose a light color fabric, unless I plan to cover it in vinyl.
Ease of Use - This is where I decided to make some "improvements." I didn't like how these seats just sat straight on the floor, making it difficult to slide and move around. Not that I want my kiddos to be moving around much at the listening center, but it always seemed like a struggle to move them out so kids could sit down and put them back where they belonged when cleaning up.
Quantity - I originally made only 4. Which was perfect for the listening center or small group work. But I decided I would like to use them at my reading table as well to save space. No more chair legs poking out all over the place. But I still want them at the listening center too... This is starting to add up...

OK so here is one of the many new seats. They all look the same so there's no need to show you all nine. Yes nine. I'm thinking I may have to make one more to make it an even ten.

Now, I know what you're thinking... Where's this so called "improvement??" Take a closer look:

Rolling casters!

I will give you a picture tutorial, but first let me disclose some important information about adding these casters to your crates:

  1. I thought it would be simple. "Hey Daaaaaadddddyyyyyy. Is there a way to slap some rolling casters on the bottom of my crate seats? That should be easy right?" No. It was not easy. Well, let me rephrase. It was fairly easy for my carpenter daddy, but it was a complicated process
  2. Rolling casters are EXPENSIVE. The cheapest we could find them was in a pack of 4 at Home Depot for $4.97. I decided to only add the casters to the 6 crates at the reading table. The rest will get furniture glider feet like we added to the bottom of my new bookcases.
  3. There's no way to tell if adding casters and getting the crates up off the floor improves or compromises the structural integrity of the crates. I would assume that getting the plastic off the floor would improve durability but there's no way to know until these are put into daily use in the classroom.
  4. The casters improve mobility and add height to the seats but they don't roll very smoothly. I guess that's what happens when you buy the cheapest casters you can find. But seriously, the better casters started at $5 for individual casters, bringing your total up to an additional $20 per seat. Yikes! But all said, I prefer that they aren't gliding super smoothly because it provides enough mobility to help your kiddos move as needed, but doesn't encourage kids to be extra wiggly. My nieces and nephew had a great time rolling around on these testing them out for me.
So if you've weighed the cost/benefit ratio and you still want to try it, here are a few ton of pictures to help you out. My dad did all the technical stuff so I'll do my best to explain. You may have to consult your own handy man/woman/youtube video to help you figure out my ramblings.

The casters cannot be screwed through the plastic alone, so you will have to add some wood blocks to each corner. But, depending on your brand of crate, the bottom will probably be textured. I got my crates from Target. In order to get the blocks to sit flat, my dad made his own jig. Basically, he did a bunch of high school math with protractors and an abacus and made a frame for the corner blocks to sit in so he could get the grooves in the correct places without wasting a ton of wood.

Here he is measuring twice before cutting the blocks.

 Cutting the corner blocks.

Making sure it fits in the jig.

Helpers are a must.

After a few adjustments, the piece fit nicely and was ready to be cut on the table saw.

Measuring the grooves on the bottom of the crate so he knew how deep to make the grooves in the block.

Setting the saw height. He is a perfectionist.

Flip the jig upside down, keeping the block inside the frame, and slide it across the blade to make the cut.

See the groove?

Then after a few more measurements, he marked where he needed to drill a hole in the block with this nifty hole-driller thingy.

This is what it should look like if you use the same crates I did.

Add a little glue to keep it in place. It will be screwed on later. The glue just makes the process a little easier.

Perfect fit.

After gluing the bottom on, he cut another square that will go on the inside corner of the crate. This one doesn't need any special cuts or grooves since the inside texture is flat. Here Daddio is drilling pilot holes so he can screw the whole thing together.

Place it in the inside corner above where you glued the first block,


Tada! One corner is almost finished! See. I told you it was complicated.

Now the block on the bottom is secured to the crate and you have something that you can attach your casters to.

Repeat steps 1 through 5,752 on all four corners.

Then add your casters. I asked him how he made sure the screws coming down from the top didn't interfere with the screws coming up from the bottom and he said, "it's just luck." Comforting.

Then add casters to all the wood blocks and you're done. And it only took you a winning lottery ticket and a week of your life to complete.

Even though we are only adding casters to six crates, he will add the wood blocks to all the crates. The ones without casters will get special feet that you attach to the bottom of furniture legs (these are usually in the same place as the casters in Home Depot or Lowes) to help the seats glide on the floor.

Dad said that my mother and I have a knack for asking for projects that seem easy on the surface and end up requiring him to build an ark. (He HAS built an ark before BTW for a summer musical my church put on). Anytime a request starts with "couldn't you just...." he knows its going to be hours in the shop and away from the golf course.

Here's what I worked on while Daddio finished up the casters:
Reminds me of the Princess and the Pea.
Actually, it is more like the leaning tower of Pisa. A curious kitty caused the whole thing to come crashing down at 3 AM.

Don't forget to check out the other Made Its here!


  1. Oh my word! These are awesome but what a process! I likely would have been too impatient to have my fil make those for me. They turned out great! I wish they weren't so expensive! I have vinyl polka dot on mine. Come check out my blog!

  2. Wow! You're Dad is awesome!!! I can't wait to hear how they work for kiddos once school starts! I had to recover my crate seats this summer too because of grubby hands but you definately took it to the next level!! Nice job!

    Laura ~ First Grade Spies

  3. Aren't dads just fabulous? I know my dad has come through time and time again for a "couldn't you just project." In fact, he's working on a "couldn't you just" project right now! :) Great post!

    Mrs. Jones Teaches :o)

  4. You've got a great Dad!! I know my dad would do something like that for me if I asked him. Daddy's girls are the best!! :) I hope the seats will work for you in your classroom this year! I also teach 2nd grade! You can check out my blog at
    Nichole :)

  5. Dads are the best. I am super jealous that your crates can roll! It will definitely be much easier for your kids in the classroom but you weren't kidding when you said it was complicated to put together! These turned out really great, though!

    First Grade Frenzy!

  6. WOW that's some crazy woodwork for casters! I think my hubby would shoot me! My dad probably would have loved the challenge! I need to get my hubby in gear on my seat crates! Yours look great!

  7. Just had to stop and say Hi to a flamingo friend!

    Love your crates!

    Flamingos and Butterflies

  8. Impressive! And I totally cracked up laughing about the cat knocking that stack over at 3 AM. Reminded me of my own clumsy crazy cat. Oh, and I am your newest follower - hi!!
    P.S. Would love for you to come check out my little blog if you are not already following it! :)
    Mrs. Cobb's Kindersprouts

  9. Very impressive! Maybe I’ve missed it because I’m a new follower…but how do you make the cushions?

  10. These look awesome! Just wondering how they held up with the kiddos??

  11. For my crate seats, I used clearance boat vinyl from my local Joann Fabrics. It wipes clean, and I never have to worry about them looking dirty. I would love to have casters, but this is intimidating to someone who doesn’t own many power tools! I recently saw some small caster carts for $8.99 at Harbor Freight. I’m thinking zip ties and caster carts are more my speed! Thanks for sharing!