Introduction: Call Box

About: Married father of 5 (4 boys and 1 girl). A Captain in the Fire Department with over 25 years of service. Grew up turning wrenches at my fathers garage. That turned into a love of building things with my hands.

The other day while I was at the firehouse one of the firefighters came to me and said the phone we have in the bay was not working. Curious as to why, and knowing how expensive these phones are, when I looked at the phone I could see it was in pretty rough shape. Looks like the moisture and humidity of Florida had gotten to it, if not even more by simple hanging on the wall near all the fire apparatus. That's what I came up with the idea of making a call box. A wooden box that would protect the new phone from damage.

Quick History Lesson...

Before the age of telephones in every house and street corner there used to be these "call boxes" on every major street intersection. This is how you summoned the fire department to your location in the event of an emergency. Think of them like the fire alarm we still use in buildings today. This alarm however was to a general area and not a specific address. Once the fire department arrived, you were to direct them to the emergency.

The "Box" alarm became a part of firefighting lexicon that is even still used today. We still call a box alarm for a structure fire. It is used as a description of the amount of units sent to a fire. A box alarm is typically three fire engines, one ladder truck, one ambulance, a battalion chief and a safety officer. Size and number of apparatus differ from department to department but that is typical.

Step 1: Making the Box.

I toyed with the idea of simply finding one of these old call boxes that was in really bad shape and just restoring it and putting the phone inside. But after I started playing around with the broken phone and measuring out the wood I realized I probably wouldn't have fit anyway. So, I started to make the box. I used mostly scrap but I did have to buy one piece of 1x10 pine for the sides and top.

Step 2: Box Build Continue...

I set my table saw at 36° to cut the wood for the top part. Everything else was right around 90°. I used biscuits to join the wood planking together for added strength. Glued and clamped it all together.

Step 3: The Door.

As you can see from the picture in the beginning of this instructible. The original call box had a curved door. I wanted to replicate this in my own box. I've never done anything like this before, so it was kind of difficult for me. What ultimately ended up working was I had to make my own compass. Which you can see in the photos. This really helped me get to door opening cut correctly.

Step 4: Detailing..

The rough box complete...

Originally when I had the idea to build this I had no intention of putting the strobe light on top. Original call boxes had a small red light on top that would flash when you activated the alarm. During the build they found a small reflector in a drawer. It hit me with some inspiration so I turned it into a representation of the strobe on top of a call box. It doesn't actually light up, but cool nonetheless.

Step 5: The Pull Box.

On an original call box there was a lever you would pull when you wanted to activate the alarm. I was going to build some elaborate representation of the pull box in my original design. During this build however, we were given a old hotel set for demolition to do some company level training on. As I was walking around the hotel I noticed that the pull boxes at this hotel kind of looked like the center pull lever on a call box. They even said "PULL FOR FIRE" like the old box alarms. So I salvaged one, fashioned a handle and painted it to look like the one in the original picture.

Step 6: Lettering.

I wanted the letters to stand out of the box like they did on the original. This probably would've been a lot simpler with decals but I thought this would look better. I bought the letters at a craft store. I masked, painted and glued the letters in place. (Eagle too) I tacked the letters down with a brad nailer at the end just for added measure. I filled the holes and lightly sanded. I covered over with model paint. The door is held shut with a small magnet. I put a little number plate under the pull box to signify that this is box number 61. That is to say, "Box 61". Our firehouse number.

Step 7: Mounted and Done.

Here's a few pictures of it at the firehouse. Never mind the photo with my hand holding the phone. I just wanted to show where it was sitting on the wall but I forgot to take the picture before I took the phone down. I got quite a few compliments from guys. They all said it looks good. Hopefully it helps keep the phone from getting damaged. I believe they are a few hundred dollars to replace. Either way, as usual, I really enjoyed making this and it didn't matter how long it took me. This is something they can hang in the firehouse for years if not forever, leaving a little bit of my own creativity behind when I retire.