The Free Things Box





Introduction: The Free Things Box

About: Tinkerer from childhood on. After my retirement, together with my wife, fully committed to creative production. I prefer simple solutions for non-existing problems.
In this project I show you how to make a strong, vandalism- and weatherproof but elegant designed Free Things Box. I made a building plan with all sizes, an instruction video and photo's to explain the different steps. It can be made in a day. Depending on the costs of materials, the Free Things Box is made for about 50 dollar. 

                                                                          The Movie                  


The Free Things Box is a freebie box in the front yard of the house for recycling small, still useful objects. Many people have a lot of stuff that's still in good order and don't' want to throw it away. The Free Things Box (FTB) is a raised box on 4 legs that contains small gifts for people living in the same street or neighborhood. You can arrange with residents of the street that they can also put freebies in the box. This idea is not new. In the US the 'give away' culture is more common than in Europe. There are Little Free Libraries (book vitrines in front of the house) and the Free Liberty Box. More people become aware to keep things out of the trash and from the landfill. Repair Café's are also participating in this change of mindset, to give things a longer life.
The front side of the Free Things Box has a window for a quick look. The opening of the box is at the top side. A sloping lid can be closed at night time to avoid unwanted guests. Because the FTB is near the house you can keep an eye on it. The system is easy, first come first served with no selection who gets things.
There are 3 rules:
- Only open during daytime
- Take only things you can use
- Take 1 thing at a time.


Step 1: The Building Plan

The bottom, the 2 sides and the backside are cut out of a 1.2 mm or 0.5 inch thick multiplex board. The size of that board is 61 cm by 122 cm or 2 foot by 4 foot. With measurements in the building plan can draw it on the board. Cut the parts out and sand the end face. In the video you saw that the bottom is 0.5 cm or 0.2 inch higher than the sides. This creates a drip edge for the rain. The construction of the bottom, sides and back is easy. Only 2 things; use construction glue and put small nails in to keep the parts in place before pre-drilling and screwing in.

Step 2: The Legs

The legs are made of impregnated wood. The cross section is 6.5 cm by 4.5 cm or 1.77 inch by 2.55 inch. The front legs are 120 cm or 47.2 inch, the back legs 150 cm or 59 inch.  Attaching the legs to the box is a precise job. Use a level and clamps. Between the box and the legs I used selfmade round spacers from 16 mm or 0.62 inch thick and 3 cm or 1.2 inch diameter. Spacers give the impression that  the box is floating between the legs. This is just an esthetic choice.

Step 3: The Lid, the Hinge, the Top and the Window

For the front, the lid, and the sign I used beech wood. The beech shelf is 16 mm or 0.63 inch thick, 30 cm or 1 foot wide and 4 foot long. The lid is with a piano hinge connected to the sign part above. The front part has a window. To make the square hole of 14 cm or 5.5 inch wide and 18 cm or 7 inch high you have to drill first the corners, after you can use a jig saw. On the inside a plexiglass piece of 5 mm or 0.2 inch thick is mounted with aluminium strips. The top part (sign) has a frame that connects this to the box.

Step 4: The Information Sign

To protect the sign for rain a small roof is made on top. For the information sign I used a foto color print in format A4. Content and lay-out is to everybody's taste. On top of the sign, plexiglass in an aluminium frame. This gives the possebility to change the sign. It is important to know quickly what the box is about  and how it works. I have to do some experiments with that. Finally a cross is nailed under the legs. This to avoid that the Free Things Box can to easily be pulled from the ground.  

Step 5: The Free Things Box in the Front Yard

When the box is ready, the moment has come to entrust it to the ground and the elements. First we have to dig a hole of 40 cm or 15 inch deep. It's important to level more times by filling the hole with soil. Now the moment is there to fill the box with things. After a short walk through the house, searching in cabinets and saying goodby, the first objects found a new destination. It's good to have a variety on things in the box. That can be tools, electronics, books, toys, clothes, etc. Kids are not shy to open the box, so surprise them.

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21 Discussions

Great idea! :)
Wonder if Goodwill would let me put one up in front of their store. Might boost foot traffic and intrest for them, and I shop there a lot.

This is so wonderful--thank you for such great instructions and a wonderful idea!

I am surprised, but the private island where I live is going to let me build one of these to set up at what I refer to as "garbage land". One is not allowed to have garage sales here so a lot of great stuff is thrown out. Having your box set up at garbage land will save so many things and make a lot of people happy not to have to throw them out, not to mention the new homes these items will find. Thank you so much for doing this 'ible.

Great idea...more power to ya. Keep up the good work. And keep the faith.

This is a great idea expansion of the " little free library" idea that has become popular lately… Nice work and A wonderful addition to any neighborhood in the world...

Great idea! Can't wait to give it a go!

This is great idea and it has given me some good ideas. I am a bad pack rat.. always sure someone will need this little knick-knack if I get rid of it. This would allow me to have those things out for others to have (if needed), get it out of the way, and maybe get others to start offering the same. WAAAY to many here want to sell every little thing for more than what they paid for it years ago. Kind of sad to see sometimes. Sorry I ramble. Great job, thanks for the plans/idea, and you got my vote!

Hum... That just gave me an idea. I was trying to give a few items away but they speak spanish while I speak english. It's indoors at an Adult Health Center. All I need is a sign in spanish! A nicely decorated card board box will do do indoors. We can all just put things in & out of it! Thank you for the idea!

We have something kind of like this in my neighborhood, but instead of free things, it's free books. You are supposed to take a book from the box, and leave a book from your own collection. It's really cool.

I think someone would take the box and say they thought the rules applied to the box

Very good initiative, congratulations. I think that in my city that box lasts one or two days, but who could said it surely...

This would not work in the UK. I think it would invite more gypsy's than you could cope with

You rock! I'm a huge Freecycler, but this is awesome! I rather have neighbors p/u than strangers, not that I've had prob's.
I'm going to make one to show at next meeting, hopefully I'll get perm to install. It's pleasing to the eye, sure to catch everyone's attn... I believe it'll be successful. Thanks for sharing!

I like it. In my neighborhood, likely I would only get deposits of trash. Still... it could catch on.

1 reply

Environmentally, the Netherlands is one of the cleanest countries. In the neighborhoods and also with the treatment of waste. Today only 3 percent of all waste is dumped on the landfill. The rest is Incinerated for the generation of electricity or digested/composted. Separated waste everywhere. What bothers me is that many useful things, in good order, disappear in the trash containers without selection. A small shop on the waste station can save ( and repair) those things and sell them for a small price. This creates useful jobs for many people.

If the Free Things Box will be successful, time will tell. In a week time the initial content of the box has changed. It's Fun to see neighbors also putting stuff in and taking out. I observe already a certain flow of things through the box. Best of all is that the initiative is supported by the neighborhood.

I was not familiar with the concept, but I like the idea - just looking around my workshop I see many items that would fit the description. I will have to think about it, not having many neighbours engaged in crafting and tinkering.

Besides, you can vandalise anything if you set your mind to it, so there is no point in going overboard there. The box looks sturdy enough, though.

I am pretty sure I could vandalize it. That said, beautiful work. Movie was epic! Concept is very altruistic.