Whether it’s a bedroom, a cozy window seat or (in my case) a basement shop, all of us need place where we can get away. So it makes sense that dogs would like a place of their own too. Though a dog crate might look like a canine jail, when properly used it can be a retreat — a place where your dog will feel safe and secure for short periods of time.
Unfortunately, most dog crates aren’t designed for looks. Wire crates’ cagelike appearance definitely detracts from a room’s décor. That’s why pet owners typically attempt to disguise them with a blanket or some type of cover.
More attractive wooden dog crates are relatively expensive, and many of them share a common design flaw: The hinged door may extend out into the room or fold back against the crate when left open. To avoid this problem, I designed a wooden dog crate that looks like an end table, fits a standard 20-1/2 x 29-1/2-in. crate pan and features a flipper door that retracts inward when you want to leave the crate open.
I built the crate out of solid oak and oak plywood because it is durable and commonly available. You could choose any wood that is available as a veneer on plywood, or you could use MDF and paint the finished piece.
When shopping for materials, measure the thicknesses of the plywood and the solid wood — they must be equal. The solid stock can be slightly thicker than the plywood, but it can’t be thinner — you can plane the solid stock down to match the plywood, but you can’t plane plywood.
Begin by making the side panels and door. Trace the rail radius curves on the three top rails. A string or a wood trammel works well for drawing the 36-in. radii. Cut along the radius lines using a band saw or jigsaw.
The next step is to drill the holes that will hold the dowels. The dowels fit into 1/2-in.-dia. holes that are about 1/2 in. at their deepest point. Mark the dowel positions on each rail, and mark the drill bit’s center position on a fence to accurately position the rails (photo 1).
Next, attach the side bottom rail edging to the sidebottom rails and the top edging to the top with glue and1-1/4-in. brad nails (photo 2). Sand the surfaces flush.
I assembled the sides and door with pocket screws, but you could also use joinery methods such as biscuits or Festool dominoes. Drill the pocket holes in the rails. Then dry-fit the dowels between the rails. Trim any dowels that are too long. Reinsert the dowels in the rail holes, apply glue to the rail edges and clamp the rails and stiles together. Check that the assembly is square; then drive1-1/4-in. fine-thread pocket screws into the stiles (photo 3).
The door can be attached to either side panel. Normally I install hardware such as drawer slides and door hinges after a project is assembled, but in this case I found it easier to attach the flipper door slides to the side panel before assembling the crate.
Though the instructions are a little tricky to follow, the flipper doors are not difficult to install. The front edges of the slides are located 7/8 in. from the front edge of the side panel. Position the bottom edge of the bottom slide flush with the bottom of the side panel. Position the top edge of the top slide 1-1/4 in. from the top edge of the side panel. Fasten the slides to the side panel; then slide the mounting plates forward until they snap in the full forward position.
Attach the follower strip to the mounting plates (photo 4). The strip keeps the plates aligned, preventing the slides from binding as the door opens or closes.
Next, install the hinges in the door. Drill two 35mm-dia. hinge mortises in the back of the left door stile. The centers of both hinge mortises are located 1-1/2 in. up or down from the top or bottom edge of the door and 25-1/2mm (about 1 in.) from the side edge. Fasten the hinges with the supplied screws (photo 5).
You’ll need to remove the hardware to complete the construction and then reinstall it after the finish has cured. Avoid driving screws or drilling pocket holes in the same positions as any of the flipper slide screw holes.
Drill the pocket holes in the back panel and front rail. Attach the sides to the back panel and to the front rail with pocket screws (photo 6).
Drill five pocket holes along the top edges of each of the sides and back panel for attaching the top. Place the top and side assembly upside down and attach the top with glue and pocket screws (photo 7). Place the bottom on the sides and back panel. Drill countersunk pilot holes in the bottom, and attach it to the sides and back panel with 2-in. wood screws.
The feet that support the crate also create a 1/4-in. space below the bottom molding to keep it slightly off of the floor. Attach the foot rails to the bottom with glue and 1-1/4-in. brad nails. Then attach the foot blocks with glue and the same size brad nails.
I made the top and bottom cove moldings using my router table. If you don’t have a router or router table, you could use manufactured moldings. The manufactured moldings will not be exactly the same and will not be as wide as the moldings that I made, so you will need to add a straight piece of stock to create the wide bottom molding.
Attach the moldings to the crate with glue and 1-1/4-in. brad nails (photo 8).
Sand the crate, door and slide partition smooth and apply the finish. I used an oil-base stain and three coats of polyurethane.
After the final coat of finish has cured, remount the flipper door slides, hinges and door latch; then attach the door slide partition with screws. All that’s left is to install a 20-1/2 x 29-1/2-in. crate pan and pad and invite your pet to enjoy its new retreat.
Rockler Woodworking and Hardware (1/2-in.-radius cove bit, No. 91518; flipper door slides, No. 30415; inset hinges, No. 90403; hinge cup drilling jig, No. 31077; 35mm drill bit, No. 10117), 800-279-4441