The old Milk Crate has been a reliable, strong, and cheap solution for years but has a few issues. Mainly they have a bunch of openings all over them, and small items can slip through and never be found again. Here is where Canadian Producer/Director Ken Nemetchek steps in with a clever way to convert a simple Milk Crate into a padded case.
Ken’s father was a saddle maker, and when he wanted to make some sandbags, his father taught him how to sew. After accomplishing the sandbag, Ken started sewing all sorts of cases over the years.
Once the word got out, people started asking for custom cases for speakers that need soft cases to protect them between gigs or dolly tracks to protect them when shipped, and lots of smaller cases for all kinds of things, from light fixtures to grip, audio gear, monitors and camera stuff.
Ken needed a case for his LED ribbon lighting (strips, extensions, ballasts, etc.) and decided to make something that fits into a milk crate. That was the first one. The custom Milk Crate was born.
Ken sent me a Sort-It Cases Bigger CameraKit to try out, and my first impression was he built a solid product with good quality fabrics and stitching. The Bigger CameraKit comes with four dividers and a pocket lid. This is their top-end case.
Included in the Bigger CameraKit
The Bigger CameraKit retails for $195 for the nonpadded dividers and $215 for the padded version.
The kit includes three 11″ dividers, one 4 1/2″ divider, and a 10″ x 15 1/2″ lid with a clear inside pocket. The pocket is pretty tight, so filters, scrim, or other flat objects fit perfectly. Extra dividers of various sizes are available to customize the fit for your needs. They range from $18 to $38 each with an option of padded or nonpadded.
Bring Your Own Milk Crate
Sort-It Cases are heavy-duty fabric-covered stiff inserts that fit snug in a milk crate that you supply. This approach saves you a lot of money on shipping since the crates are relatively inexpensive to buy locally or on Amazon. Ken recommended these 11″ x 19″ Juggernaut Storage 24 Quart 3 Pack that retail for $32.19, and they fit the inserts perfectly.
Buying crates in different colors will help keep things organized as well. Hardware stores are another excellent place to find crates, and you should be able to track down distributors near where you live that offer color options. Another benefit of Sort-It Cases is that you can stack them.
Assembling The Sort-It Cases
The kit comes with simple-to-follow instructions to assemble. It’s a good start, and then you can make it work for you. A good trick is to use a sheet of paper between the hook and loop to get the divider in place, then slide the paper away to fasten. Hook and loop can be annoying to work with since it’s always trying to attach, making it tough to line up just right.
With four sections, you can configure the Sort-it case in many ways to fit the gear you want to store.
The outside fabric is waterproof. The bottom layer is over 6″ high so that you could set it in a puddle, and you’d probably keep everything dry. The seams are not water-tight but can be sealed with some silicone if you work in wet areas frequently.
I like that the kit includes a lid that attaches with hook and loop to the base. The lid also has a hook and loop section to keep it closed. This protects the contents from falling out if it tips over. The lid has a clear pocket for slim objects like gels or filters. It’s pretty tight, so nothing thick will fit.
Once fully assembled, you have a simple well-protected case for lights, cameras, or whatever you need in a case. The CameraKit sits just below the top of the crate to allow them to be stacked. This is very helpful as smooth cases tend to slide off carts during transporting to the location.
I like the Sort-It Cases CameraKit. It’s easy to put together and will protect whatever you put inside the case. Milk Crates are built like a tank. The only negative is they can be somewhat limiting as the size is dependent on the milk crate. You also don’t have a strap, so you carry the Sort-It Cases by the openings on the side. Another is the price is a bit high compared to other hard shell cases.
These cases will come in handy for lights that don’t have bags or a kit that uses bags so small and impractical to get the product back into them. It’s nice to pop open the lid and see everything. You can stuff a lot in them. If you are like me and have a lot of extra dividers from bags you have, those can easily be used to create small pockets inside the kit as long as the hook and loop line up.
One downside is the versatility of the dividers. It comes with three 11″ dividers and one 4 1/2″ divider. You can purchase extra of various sizes for a custom fit.
One thing to consider is whether the stackable milk crate design will work better for gear storage than a hard Pelican or soft-sided bag. We have a ton of options available. I think the design lends itself to field production that doesn’t require flying to the location, as the cases are not designed for that. However, you could take several kits with you and find milk crates at the location. They stack in the grip truck nicely and are quick to open and close. The build is excellent and will last a long time.
Ken let me know he is working on a few designs, but they are not ready yet. He clearly has the entrepreneurial bug!
Pricing and Options
Since the first release, they have added several different configurations and options. The kits come in two size milk crates.
The Smaller milk crates are 1′ x 1′ (12″ length x 12″ width x 10 1/2″ height – inside dimensions).
The Larger milk crates are 1 1/2′ x 1′ (18″ length x 12″ width x 10 1/2″ height – inside dimensions).
The BaseCase is $100 or $105 and comes with one divider, and the Bigger BaseCase is $135 or $145 and comes with two dividers. The price difference is if you want padded or nonpadded dividers.
Additional dividers range from $13 to $38 each, depending on size and, again, if they’re padded.
Below are all the options available.
- BaseCase includes one 11″ divider $100-$105
- Bigger BaseCase includes two 11” dividers $135 – $145
- SwitchCase includes one 11” divider $115 – $129
- Bigger SwitchCase includes two 11″ dividers $150 – $165
- CameraKit includes one 11″ divider and one 4 1/2″ divider $149 – $150
- Bigger CameraKit includes three 11″ dividers and one 4 1/2″ divider $195 – $215
- Amaran 100/200 includes three dividers – $80
- Double Amaran 100/200 includes four dividers – $95
You can save 15% on orders with the discount code NEWSSHOOTER15 for a limited time.
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