Stackable Shop Storage Boxes





Introduction: Stackable Shop Storage Boxes

About: Patrick Waters is an award-winning educator who brings the Maker Movement to new audiences. He founded The STEAMworks, a makerspace for individuals with neurological differences at The Monarch Institute in ...

This week, I built a 8 box set of stackable makerspace boxes. This design can be accomplished using three power tools (router, miter saw and jigsaw) and the design can be adjusted to fit your space and needs.

The dimensions given work for boxes made with 3/4″ plywood. If you use thicker or thinner plywood for the sides, your dimensions will change. Double check your measurements before cutting.

Step 1: Materials & Tools


  • 4” x 48” strip of 3/4” thick plywood. This can be substituted with 1” x 4” or 1” x 6” common pine from the lumberyard or big box store. The width of the plywood strip determines the height of each individual box. 3” to 6” works well.
  • 11 1/2” x 11 1/2” square section of 1/4” thick plywood. Again, use whatever plywood is thin and cheap in your area.
  • Nails or screws.
  • Wood glue


  • Suggested Hand-Held Power Tools: Circular saw, jig saw, miter saw, router.
  • Suggested Bench-Top Tools: Table saw, scroll saw, miter saw, router.
  • Combo square
  • Compass
  • Measuring Tape
  • Flush-cut saw
  • Hammer or Screwdriver with appropriate bit.

Step 2: Milling & Dimensioning

If necessary, use a table saw or circular saw and guide to break down your plywood into 4”-wide strips and 11 1/2”-wide x 11 1/2” tall squares. If neither of these tools are available, big box stores will often trim plywood to appropriate size using a panel saw. You can also look to join your local makerspace.

Using a powered miter saw or hand saw and miter box, cut the 4”-wide strip to length. Crosscut 2 sides at 12 1/4”. Crosscut the front and rear at 10 3/4”.

Step 3: Layout of the Handle Cutout

Use a compass and combo square to lay out an appropriate looking curve to become the handle.

Use a scroll saw, coping saw or jig saw to cut out the handle.

Step 4: Joinery

Using a hand-held router & guide or a router table, plow a 3/8”-tall x 3/8”-wide rabbet into each side of the box. Then, adjust the fence or guide to cut a 3/8”-tall x 5/8”-wide rabbet.

Flip the piece over and plow the rabbet. The side view should resemble a Z or that really annoying Tetris piece that makes me lose all the time. Check the picture for clarification.

Step 5: Assembly

  1. Using hammers and nails, nail guns and brads, or a drill and screws, fasten one side to the front and rear. Check out my Bread Box to see how to clamp the box safely.
  2. Orient the boards so the small rabbet of each side faces outside the box and lines up. The larger rabbet should face the inside of the assembly and match also.
  3. Fasten the remaining side to the front and rear, forming a square.
  4. Trim the protruding ends of the small rabbet so the box will stack.
  5. Nail the bottom to the assembly.

Step 6: Sand and Finish

Sand and finish as desired.



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    33 Discussions

    Thanks, tatmike for your sharp eyes. The instructable has been fixed!

    These look nice but are they all that practical? I'm thinking it would be tiring to lift 3 wooden boxes to get items from the bottom -- making the front opening larger to reach in and out of might be much easier. Or, as the other writer posted, make them slide in and out of a larger cabinet?

    2 replies

    I think they would be practical for the use I would be looking for. I'm thinking of building some large sized ones to fit approx. 60+ DVD sized cased in each one. We travel to a lot of events selling video games etc and having this style box that could neatly stack on top of each other in the car would work really well. We currently use plastic storage boxes which due to the shape can sometimes slide and move a little. These would be much more secure.

    I think they are practical -- it's in the nature of stackable boxes that you have to unstack them to access them. Tell it to ADDIS and other plastic box manufacturers that do the same :) Same problem with storage in cardboard boxes, but they can also collapse under the weight.

    For front openings -- if the opening is too big, stuff falls out. If you angle the opening, you've re-invented the stackable storage bin e.g.e LinBins which allow access. And made the woodwork a bit harder.

    If you want them to slide out, they are no longer stackable, it's called a set of drawers.

    Depends what you're looking for, really :)

    If the front and back pieces are 11.5 and the bottoms are 11.5 sq how does the bottom overlap the the side pieces?

    3 replies

    The base is 11.5" sq. Two front/backs are 11.5" and two sides are 12.25" -- you are correct that something is off with the maths here, as the sides (0.75" thick) would lead to a 11.5" by 10.75" internal to the drawer the way they are overlapped.

    That means the base would only overlap in the lower rebate on two sides (the 10.75" dimension, by 3/8" each side) and "miss" the other two, falling short.

    The picture clearly shows the intention /actuality to sit on all four rebates.

    Can @woodshopcowboy check the measurements and clarify?

    Definite think twice/measure twice/cut once situation there :)

    Fixed on the instructable. Thanks for the extra pair of eyes on the piece!

    In person, I always teach and advise to measure off the material, not the plans. Sometimes the we make mistakes.

    Ah, that makes sense now. I only noticed this, and came back here, after trying to build a spreadsheet to juggle the box dimensions/number of pieces-per-sheet/size of rebates-vs-thickness/costs for different sized sheet materials and boxes.

    My base-pieces ended up being the same size as one internal dimension of the drawer, as I'd followed a little TOO closely :)

    You may wish to email service(at) and ask them to "remove the cached PDF" for this instructable -- anyone downloading this still gets the old measurements as instructables create the PDF the first time someone downloads it, and cache it.

    You are certainly welcome! Thanks for a great instructable.

    By the way it is a great instructable. The pictures and the instructions are very clear.

    I think I will jigsaw cut two 4inch(10cm) ovals on the sides as hand-holds to make it easy to pick-up.

    Great Instructable, been looking for a good project for my small portable TableSaw (as I don't have a router to cut the top/bottom Z).

    Final part for me will be to put wheels/castors on the bottom. Don't forget to make one or two locking castors,

    Very Nice and sturdy stack-able design, can be easily made into lockable stacking as well, using appropriate latches. Nice instructables.


    1 year ago

    I am a wood shop teacher. I will use this as a Wood 1 project and as a project for students who are ahead of the other students and who need additional projects or can build some as part of the manufacturing aspect of the course.

    1 reply

    Best compliment of the day. Fellow woodshop teachers unite!

    These are a really solid idea, and all these ideas in comments are
    great, too! I was thinking finger joints for the corners, and rabbeting
    in the bottom. Maybe use the same 3/8" setup to cut a 3/8" rabbet along the
    bottom panel edges and then cut a 3/8" groove all around the bottom to lock in the
    bottom panel.

    I also like @DavidH752's idea of runners on the
    sides, or maybe have grooves on the sides that slide onto runners in the
    larger storage cabinet. Then they could slide in & out as individual units
    and stack together outside of the storage unit.

    Just some thoughts...

    These are a must for my workshop. The space is very limited and in dire need of organisation. They look good and are very practical.

    Thanks for sharing.

    My grandfather made similar boxes! The hand holds were simple oval cut
    outs on the front and back. (1" bit, drill two holes at each end, then
    coping saw or jigsaw the straight lines between.) You do have to router
    both sides of the holes to smooth down the edges. He also used old
    coffee can lids, cut in half, as flaps, stapled inside, to cover the
    "inside" of the hand holds. This would stop the items from falling out
    through the hand holds, as well as protect your fingers a bit. (stapled
    only at the bottom edge, with curved edge pointing up.)

    These are very nice and, with the way you have written and photographed them, the instructions look easy to follow. Lifting and shuffling the boxes to access materials would not work for me, but I really like the fact that your basic design allows for different shapes and sizes. Sliding drawers would be more complicated, but is there a way to simplify that adaptation?

    2 replies

    Check out my blog and look up my tool stands. essentially the same box but with the runners.