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How to make a wooden caddy

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White rustic wooden caddy

This how to make a wooden caddy tutorial is the kind you can keep simple or make it more complex by adding dividers inside. I made this wooden caddy a 9″ x 21″, but you can adjust the measurements to suit your needs. Of course, it doesn’t have to be for dishes. Use it for whatever your heart desires!

I’m Lisa from The Old Tree Cottage. Whether it’s decor made from wood, or something else, I’ve always loved to create. I wouldn’t call my style fine woodworking, but I will call it creative!

My style is perfectly imperfect, meaning regardless of what I’m building, I want you to think it has a history because it looks old and worn. If you’re new to woodworking, you’ll find this approach very forgiving because everything doesn’t have to be perfect. To clarify, in my world of making decor, imperfect is perfect!

Part of the magic of making something look like a vintage find is how it’s finished, so in this DIY wooden caddy tutorial, I’ll share how I do it. Of course, if you already have your style, I encourage you to finish it in a way you love. In other words, you do you!

DIY Wooden Caddy Supplies

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase through a link.

I like this brad nailer powered by a compressor to assemble the tray. You can get this type of brad nailer that doesn’t need a compressor.

Wood

  • 2- 1x6s 11″ long for end pieces
  • 1- 1×6 21″ long for the bottom
  • 2- 1x4s 19 1/2″ long for sides
  • 2- 1x4s 4″ long for inside grid
  • 2- 1x4s 3″ long for inside grid
  • 4- 1x4s 7″ long for feet (optional)
  • 1- 1″ diameter wooden dowl or an old spindle 19 1/2″ long

Let’s get started!

Download and print the pattern for the ends.

1. Cut your wood

You’ll need a chop saw and a jigsaw.

  1. Ends: Download and print the pattern. Tip: if you don’t have an 11×14 piece of printer paper, tape two regular-sized computer papers together end to end so you can print it. Cut out the pattern and trace it onto a 1×6 board, then cut it out with a jig saw.
  2. Bottom: Cut 1×6 board 21″ long
  3. Sides: Cut 1×4 19 1/2″ long
  4. Inside grid (optional): Using a 1×4, cut 2- 4″ & 2- 3″
  5. Handle: Cut spindle or 1″ dowel 19 1/2″ long

2. Assemble the bottom board onto the two ends

Tip: Too much glue causes the boards to slip around when you’re trying to hold them in place to nail them. Always wipe off any excess glue once you’ve attached your board.

  1. Add a bead of glue along the bottom edge of the first end piece of the box.
  2. Using 1 1/4″ brad nails, attach the bottom board to the end piece.
  3. Repeat for the opposite end.

3. Add the side pieces to the wooden caddy

  1. Take the first side piece and add glue on both ends and the bottom. 
  2. Place it between the ends, ensuring it sits flat on the box’s base.
  3. Use the 1 1/4″ brad nail to attach the sides to the end piece.
  4. If you opted to add the dividers, mark the center line on the outside end pieces.

TIP: If the wooden caddy doesn’t sit flat, try this; while the glue is still wet, gently pry up the bottom outside board on the corner that isn’t sitting flat. The objective is to separate the end from the bottom board just enough until it sits flat. Fill in the gap with wood filler and sand once it’s dry.

4. Add the dividers (optional)

  1. The 4″ long 1×4 (that you cut at the start) will be the top of the T shape for the grid.
  2. Mark 2″ (center) of the 4″ board to easily attach the brad nails accurately. See the photo above on the left.
  3. Flip the board to the other side and mark it at 1 5/8″ from the end. Make a second mark at 1 5/8″ further down, then draw a line connecting the marks.
  4. Add glue on the edge of the 3″ long 1×4.
  5. Place glued end along the line making sure you have 1 5/8″ left on the side. For clarification, check out the photo above on the right.
  6. Carefully hold the board, then add two 1 1/4″ brad nails to secure.
  7. Repeat for the second grid.

5. Add the Handle

  1. Before gluing the ends of the handle, position it where you’d like it to sit. I have mine sitting 1/4″ from the top in the photo above.
  2. Remove the handle and add glue to both ends.
  3. Place the handle back at the marks you made.
  4. Hold the handle in place and tack one 1 1/4″ brad nail off to the side but still hitting the handle allowing room to drill a pilot hole for the nail.
  5. On the outside of the end piece, mark where the centre of the handle is to drill a pilot hole for the nail.
  6. Using a 1/8″ drill bit, drill a pilot hole, making sure it goes a little way into the handle because it helps to ensure the handle doesn’t crack.
  7. Hammer in the roofing nail. I like to use a roofing nail for this part because it gives it a more vintage feel with its large nail head.
  8. Now is a good time to fill all the nail holes with wood filler.

6. Add Feet (optional) to the wooden caddy

I love adding feet to a tray or box because it gives it something extra and is easy to do. Not only that but adding feet is a great way to use a few scraps!

  1. Yes, you’ll be cutting four 7″ lengths of 1×2 for the feet, but wait! Plot twist!
  2. On your chop saw, set the angle to 45 degrees.
  3. Place the 1×2 (tall side up) on the 7″ mark. See the photo above on left for clarity.
  4. Cut your board. Repeat for the other three feet.
  5. Before adding glue to the foot, ensure it’s facing the right position. See the photo above on the right for clarity.
  6. Before you add the feet, decide how they will be positioned. Perhaps you’ll add them flush to the wooden caddy, slightly under or then again, or perhaps sticking out a little as I did in the above photo on the right.
  7. Apply glue to the side of the foot that will attach to the underside of the wooden base. See the middle photo above for clarity.
  8. Using 1″ brad nails, attach the feet and stay close to the outside edges only, or the nails will poke through the bottom of the tray. See the photo below.
This is done before painting. The photo is just to show the placement of the nails.

7. Sand the bare wood before painting

I prefer 100 – 150 grit sandpaper on my orbital sander when sanding. We want this piece to look like it has had some wear, so sand off the corners and make it look like it has some wear.

8. Make a quick stain for the basecoat

homemade stain recipe for wooden caddy
This old wood stain also looks good on its own. Add more or less paint to the mixture to customize it.

Part of the aging process starts with a homemade stain to turn new wood into old-looking wood. I always eyeball this part, but that’s not very helpful. Below are the measurements for a homemade stain to make your wood look old.

Old wood stain: add 2 tsp of black craft paint to 1 c water in an old container and mix well. When dry the wood will look a soft gray/brown.

9. Apply the stain to the wooden caddy

Protect your work area because this part can be messy- at least when I’m doing it!

  1. You may find some spots that won’t take the stain. This is because of glue drying on the wood. The whole thing will soon to be painted, so it’s not something to worry about.
  2. I hesitate to share this tip with you but here goes anyway; If you’re not opposed to putting the wooden caddy in your oven (on the lowest setting), it’s a great way to dry it quickly if you’re in a hurry. Don’t ever crank up the heat because it could cause the wood to warp or crack. A lesson I learned the hard way!

10. Apply stain blocker to prevent bleed-through

This step is important if you’re using white or light-coloured paint because of the chance of the wood bleeding through. Nothing is worse than finishing a project only to find the wood is bleeding through down the road. Apply two coats of a stain blocker, letting it dry between coats in a well-ventilated room or outside. I prefer a clear oil-based one like Zinsser Odorless Spray Primer, which isn’t odourless. It’s just less offensive. At least to me, anyway!

11. Paint, then use a heat gun to add texture

I’ll show you how to do the finish you see in the photo, but you may have a preferred technique to finish your wooden caddy. If so, go for it!

wooden caddy distressed white paint and gray inside with five openings. Two small ones on each end and one bigger one in the middle.
I left the inside with the homemade stain and a wash of watered-down white paint, giving it a barn wood look.
  1. To begin, add a solid layer of paint to the outside, including the handle. If the inside is the same colour, paint that too. If not, add a different colour inside after the outside paint is dry.
  2. Hold the heat gun a few inches away from the wet paint and slowly move it from side to side. Move on to the next area once the paint bubbles.
  3. Note: Holding the heat gun in one place too long may cause the paint to burn. The simplest way to fix it is to paint over it. On the other hand, if the paint won’t bubble, you’ll need to add more paint.

12. Time to hand sand the paint.

I prefer coarse sandpaper to fine grit because I like a scratchy worn look.

  1. When distressing the paint, I hand-sand using 100 – 150 grit. You’ll get a feel for how hard you should press down when sanding; too hard, and you’ll go to bare wood, but it’s not the end of the world. In order to fix it, re-touch it with the homemade stain and/or whitewash.
  2. Add a little extra sanding to the outside edges and top of the corners because you want to give them a bit more of a worn look. And sand a bit on the inside to make it look worn.

13. Clearcoat

  1. I usually finish off with a matte or satin clearcoat in a spray to protect the paint.
  2. Something you may not have considered; you should also age the clear coat! Do this by drying it with a heat gun, similar to when drying the paint. Then take some sandpaper and scuff the surface to make it look worn.
  3. Alternatively, use a favourite protective finish that works for you.

14. Protecting whatever surface the wooden caddy sits on

It’s always a good idea to add some felt or little silicone bumpers to the bottom of the wooden caddy to prevent scratching whatever surface it sits on.

That’s a wrap! Your DIY wooden caddy is done!

You did it! Did you go the extra step and add dividers inside? Let me know what you did in the comments.

If you’re looking for more DIY Projects? If you’re a DIY lover like me, there is always another project!

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