The awesome soda crate shelving cart I built for my dad this Father’s Day

My father loves to collect vintage wooden soda crates. These used to be used to deliver soda bottles to grocery stores, and many were lost either due to rot or because they were replaced with plastic crates and tossed. They feature beautiful vintage logos and artwork and serve as advertising pieces. Today they are highly collectable, and make for some fantastic up-cycled storage.

I wanted to build my dad a set of shelves that he could use to display his crates as well as use them functionally as storage. As usual, I jumped to my favorite computer aided design program, OnShape, to start sketching up the perfect soda crate shelving cart. First however I needed to know what I was going to make the shelves out of.

My dad had found another design online where the builder had welded a cart together that he really liked, and it had an awesome industrial look. I am not a welder, but I loved working in the machine shop in college. One of my favorite things to build with is 80/20, which is pretty much a heavy-duty erector set for adults. We used it to hold up heavy vacuum chambers and other equipment, but 80-20 also has a lightweight series called Quick Frame which features 1″ by 1″ aluminum extrusions and is far cheaper than its industrial counterpart. These square extrusions can be stuck together using a variety of plastic connectors, and there are extrusions with flanges perfect for holding up the crates. Even better they offer cheap machining services which means that I could literally design a complete shelf on my computer and have them cut each piece to size and ship it to me – I would just need to assemble it!

Also working in my favor was that the crates are roughly standardized- roughly each one is 4″ tall, 18.5″ deep, and 12″ wide. This let me assemble a repeating pattern of aluminum bars with flanges on the sides to support the crates, and design for having six inches for each shelf, giving 2″ of additional storage above the crate. I also added caster wheels to the bottom so that the shelves could be mobile, adding to the industrial look. To finish the shelves off, I added a wooden shelf on top to store the odd-sized crates in my dad’s collection. The final design ended up looking like this:

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 9.16.37 PM
A roughly dimensioned drawing of the shelves.

OnShape let me render this design using RealityServer, which gave this gorgeous render of what the eventual shelves would look like:


Sure enough, on assembly this is exactly how the shelves looked! And there is plenty of room for my dad to collect more. Happy Father’s Day!

For those interested, here is the final list of materials in case you wish to order a similar shelf from 80/20, and here is a link to the OnShape design so you can view and edit it yourself!

  • 16 12″ aluminum tubes, SKU #9000
  • 36 6″ aluminum tubes, SKU #9000
  • 6 3″ aluminum tubes, SKU #9000
  • 14 18.75″ aluminum tubes with a flange on one side, SKU #9005
  • 6 18.75″ aluminum tubes with a flange on both sides, SKU #9015
  • 20 gray plastic tee-connectors, SKU #9130
  • 6 gray plastic five-way junction connectors, SKU #9180
  • 4 gray plastic three-way corner connectors, SKU #9150
  • 12 gray plastic four-way corner connectors, SKU #9170
  • 6 gray plastic caster wheel receptacles, SKU #9113
  • 6 threaded stem swivel casters, 3/8-16×1.5″, SKU #2299


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