Camping Chuck Box





Introduction: Camping Chuck Box

I wanted a Chuck Box, and I looked up designs online, and I found a bunch of really cool ideas. So I designed all the best parts of what I needed, which was lots of counter space. I liked the idea to have a top that opened for extra room and cabinets that swing out to hold those flaps up. But I still wanted the front to open as well.

Some of the ideas I copied are from, Rhonda Cobb's Cookbox on Pintrest, and, as well as a video from Lance's Woodshop & Adventure. Thanks to you all.

Step 1: - Design

The best idea that I can tell you is to take all of your camping equipment and stack it up on a table. Start measuring everything and come up with dimensions for you own. However, I will warn you this box is not for youth and it weighs a ton!! (80 LBs. to be exact)

Costs: I tried to build this as cheap as possible, shopping at Habitat for Humanity restores, and gathering some things at garage sales, but here is a list of the materials I used and the costs:

Sheet and a half of 3/4 inch Plywood (Free shipping crate)

Half a sheet of 3/8 inch Plywood for the inner shelves (scrap in the garage)

Box of #8 3/4 inch Screws $4.50

A few Drywall Screws (total of 12) for the handles (Had)

2 Heavy Duty Recessed Handles (found at garage sale) $2.00

New Circular Saw Blade $15.00

Metal chain for the front supports (found at Habitat for Humanity) $2.00

Hinges 4 12 inch and 1 30 inch $28.00

Carabiners for the chain 4 of them $6.00

Dowel Rods, you need about 6 pieces 15 &1/4 length - 2 Rods $4.00

Paper Towel Holder - Wal-Mart $2.97

Step 2: - Build the Main Box

Cut out the bottom the back and the sides. If you are using my measurements, please note that I intended to make 3/4 inch cutouts in each of these pieces so that they fit together like a zipper, see pictures. I also recommend that you label each piece (where it won't be seen) so that you can keep track as you go. For these 4 main pieces I used about 4 inches or so as the cut outs. This is almost a dovetail but way larger. I used the cutout from the L shaped sides as the side of the cabinets. Which we will build in step 4, so don't throw these away. Don't glue these together yet.

Step 3: - Build the Inner Shelves

This step you need to measure and re-measure you items. Putting them in and getting them out as well. I made a mid piece and a shelf that goes on it and then a high shelf. All are fitted together to the mid piece with a routered groove cut into the back and sides.. I also wanted stronger corners and sides so I cut my shelves so that they did not cut into the corners of the back and sides. Still do not glue these together yet, but clamp them up to check fit. I also cut the top and placed it on just to see how it looks. You will also want to make sure that the cabinets do not hit anything inside and have plenty of room to swing. Once you get all the inside the way you want it, I would cut the top. It is the same as the bottom, but measure just to make sure. And remember it should hang over the cut out for the cabinets.

Step 4: - Build the Cabinets

Use the cutouts from the sides as the inner side of each cabinet. You can make each side the same if you want, but I wanted to have room for larger items as well as smaller stuff. I switched sides from my drawing to the finished product for weight (I want a paper towel holder in the top of the right). I made the two sides 3/4 in plywood and the bottom, the top and the back all out of 3/8 inch plywood. I routered a groove for the top back and bottom on each side. For the cabinet with a middle shelf I also cut a groove for it. Once these were cut I glued them together. Then made sure they still fit inside the main box and under the top. I used 2 Dowel Rods instead of more Plywood for the fronts to each shelf. I thought it might be easier to clean this way and it saved on weight. I routered a grove for each dowel, and glued them in as I made them. I made each one go in halfway through each side.

Step 5: - Handles

Before you glue the sides to the bottom and back, I would router out what you need to put in the handles. And remember that the cabinets will swing around and rest against the side to support the top flaps, so it may be important to use handles that are flush mounted or use cut out holes. I also found that the pathetic screws that come with the piano hinges are useless and way too small. I used #8 3/4 inch screws for the piano hinge and drywall screws (very course) 1 & 1/4 inch screws for the handles, because the other screws didn't have a large enough head. I also glued them in. If you use longer than the plywood sides you will need to file off the tips that stick into the box, I found that holding a hacksaw blade made a very close cut and then finished them off with a Dremel tool.

Step 6: - Router

You may want to router all the edges that need a 1/4 inch round over, but make sure you know where your piano hinges are going. I used 4 12 inch piano hinges on the cabinets and the two flaps at the top, and 1 30 inch for the front flap to open.

I routered almost every side of the main box as well as the cabinets, except where I was planning to put the hinges.

Step 7: Glue the Main Box

If you are happy with all the shelves and inside of your box it is time to glue it all together. I used pipe clamps and long 36 inch clamps. Once that is set up, then glue in the shelves. Check the cabinets to make sure they still fit.

Step 8: - Flaps and Front

Now that you have the main box glued, and you know how tall the box is, I would cut the two flaps for the top. I made mine exactly the width of the top cut in to half, and I do not recommend that!! Take off a 1/4 of an inch so you have more room and they shut without hitting each other. Then measure from the top of the box to 3/4 of an inch from the bottom (the hinge will be flat while the front is open, it will be 90 degrees when the front is closed). I also used a can of Spiced Thai Tea to make the corners round, but you might want whatever size corners you like. I cut round corners on the top flaps and the front flap.

When putting on the top flap hinges, I placed a metal ruler in between the boards and it gave the correct space. I also recommend predrilling holes for the screws.

Step 9: Supports and Clasps

I used Carabiners and holes to hold the chain that supports the front flap, because I needed something that did not stick up because the top flaps would hit it and did not hang down or the cabinet would swing into it. Also the front flap closed flush with the cabinets and they slid right under where I needed the chain to be secured to. They were the best choice.

I was thinking of using the cabinet clasps in the second and third picture, but I did not like how they would hang down when the top flaps are open. So I found that a metal "L" bracket held the front flap closed and is usable as a towel holder when the top flap is open.

Step 10: Finishing Up

Now you just need to paint it or stain it. Next I think I am going to add legs. The bottom of each side panel is where I plan to add them. I was thinking 1 & 1/2 inch pipe. Maybe 30 or 32 inch long legs?? I will add more photos when it grows legs.

Next fill the box, I added a paper towel holder on the top of the right cabinet (Walmart $2.97). My Coleman Stove fits in the bottom, and the two buckets I use as sinks fit in the shelf on the right. Pots and pans are stored in the top shelf, etc.

I am using Saw horses for the legs, for two reasons. 1 Added stability, and 2. Less weight. I decided to wood-burn a Boy Scout logo on the front panel.

Overall - If I had to do it again, I would build two smaller boxes that stacked on top of each other. The shear weight of this when it is full, makes it very hard to carry without help. Or I would make it with 1/2 inch plywood for the outer skin and 1/4 inch plywood for the inner parts to help cut down on the weight (80 LBs!! and that is empty!).

Let me know if you have any questions or want a better explanation on steps. Thanks, Luke

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    24 Discussions

    Do you have any updated photos? What did you end up doing for legs?

    1 reply

    Legs, I am still using a set of plastic saw horses. For 2 reasons: One they don't weigh much so the box is lighter without them. And two it was easy.

    hey I want to make this chuckbox for my troop. I am a scout and my friend are trying to figure out how to cut it and we can't do it without the cut sheet

    Do u have if so could u post it

    1 reply

    If I had to do it over again, I would make two separate boxes because of the weight! Make them so they stack together somehow. But the only cut list is in the pictures above. I made sure I wrote out all the dimensions to each piece, and then took shots up close to show the pencil numbers. Sorry I made it up as I went because I combined 4 different ideas I liked. But I want to see pictures if you make it! Let me know if you have any other questions. Luke

    You did a very nice job of it Luke :thumbsup: :)

    A couple of years ago, I bought an all aluminum cargo hauler (you know, the kind that goes into a 2 inch receiver hitch), with the intention of building a chuck box, perhaps something like the back end of a tear-drop trailer, so that the cover would become a roof in inclement weather.

    Well, I never got around to it, but now that I completed this instructable

    I am tempted to build something like your's and put it on top.

    Thanks for the motivation.

    I am wondering though, now that you have had it for a couple of camping seasons, have you used it enough?

    Is it worth the effort?

    1 reply

    It is very cool! I loved making it, but no I have only used it twice. The shear weight of it loaded makes it usable from the tailgate of the truck. But that worked out great. Most of my camping is with the Cub Scouts and they have a mess hall at the camp, so we do not do much cooking. :(

    Here are some pictures of the only copy I found of the original (that I used to make the 3 stencils from), and a better shot with some detail of the logo.



    Awesome job. I am in the design stage of making our adult chuck box and will use several of your ideas. Can you give a little more detail on how you wood burned the BSA logo in, did you have a stencil and if so where did you find it. Thanks, Jim ASM Troop 4056 Canton, GA

    1 reply


    Sorry I just read your reply. I used a series of stencils, first I printed the logo and cut out the basics, then I printed it out again and cut more of the details and then I used a third to get the stars and stripes. I will try to take some photos.


    Awesome design, I like how much space it saves. Do you have any photos of the box in use or filled with gear? How is the weight? I just made one of my own design and utilized the legs to create a sort of wheel barrel system to move its crazy weight around. It is 36x24x18 inches.


    Was curious if you have any actual drawings and measurements that u could email or just add to your post possibly.

    1 reply

    Sorry, I just saw your question. I used a router! I also set up another board as a straight edge and guide for the router. But you could use a circular saw to get the right depth and width for the slots. But if your making it thinner, be very careful about how deep you go. I might use another small strip under and glue that on, if you making the sides any thinner?? I might, just for weight. Good luck, and I want to see pictures if you build one.

    Actually, you might make multiple slots, and not glue in the make adjustable heights! Just an idea.

    I built one for my wife to use when she goes camping, and I was fortunate enough to have some 3/16 thick Nomex honeycomb material with Kevlar skins as some very high end aircraft use. It went together with stainless steel angles and pull rivets from the outside and is very nice to use, scaled to fit her equipment and looks like it was factory made.
    What we ended up doing for the base is picked up a set of the cheap plastic saw horses they sell at Harbor Freight for very little, and these things hold it at just the right height as well as weigh about a pound and a half each.
    I may put together an instructable on this one in the future if I find time. That ridged honeycomb material is wonderful to work with and the edges just get filled with Bondo and then painted over. Makes it look like it was grown from the outside. And you could probably stand several people on it without any damage.
    I do like your fold out sides and the idea of the caribiners on the chain is interesting.

    2 replies

    I am in the process of drawing up the plans for one or two of these chuck boxes. I like the idea of the saw horses for a base. is there a way to attach a slatted shelf to the bottom of the saw horse so I could store the heavy cast iron Dutch Ovens while in camp? I think they weigh too much to make room for them in the box. I can sew a canvas cover for each one to keep them clean. I also plan to add some battery powered puck lights (LEDs) for better illumination.

    Thanks, I love the idea of making the legs separate out of sawhorses. Good idea!

    I really like this! I found an old army travel desk long years ago, that I used when I first started camping. It was a good idea, but too small, and I had no one who could build me a camping cupboard. Very nice Instructable!!