Introduction: Deluxe Camp Chuck Box - Glamping Style

About: Life 2.95 achieved! Former teacher and college instructor currently enjoying my workshop, outdoor cooking, traveling and camping, woodworking, rebuilding small vintage campers, steampunk crafts and mods, and f…

Deluxe Camp Chuck Box - Glamping Style

Here is my most recent winter project, just out of my workshop today. And of course it is camping related. Feel free to comment and send me any ideas you have for a chuck box.

This Instructable will show you (in 12 steps) how to build a deluxe Chuck Box, with a 'glamping style' appeal. This is not a simple, plain old camp box but rather a chest more reminiscent of a vintage picnic hamper. In fact, it is a ultra glamorous version of my previous oversized, heavy weight grub box that was essentially just a big crate with a couple of shelves. This box is a slightly smaller and a bit lighter but seems like there is more space. There are three front doors, a back door and a fold out top surface that doubles the workspace... and there is well thought out storage space for my camp kitchen gear and the camp stove. And it has been 'glamped up' and made very picnic friendly. Perhaps a little too fancy. Nonetheless, I am sure my enjoyment building it will continue with its use in the campsite.

I have included an introduction, suggested materials and tool list, pictures and steps and hints for building a small custom chuck box. Filled with gear, chuck boxes can quickly get quite heavy and I wanted to be able to lift and carry the box easily. Although the overall dimensions are flexible, I chose to build a box that would be smaller and lighter than many of the box plans readily available on the net. Additionally, this new box needed to serve multiple uses; as a day box just for a picnic but large enough for an overnight campout. It could also be used for carrying extra supplies while camping with my teardrop camper. Sometimes I do not have a picnic table and so it is always nice to have extra workspace surface if you need it.

You could make yours bigger or smaller, shelves or no shelves, fold out doors, space for a stove... you decide depending on your needs. I opted for multiple features but on the smaller side. Simply checkout the many images of larger chuck boxes on the web if you are looking to build a full-sized camp kitchen box.

Step 1: Description


A chuck box (also referred to as a grub box or camp kitchen) is an outdoorsman’s piece of kitchen gear that is used to pack cookware, cutlery and utensils, pots and pans and sometimes a camp stove. They are usually constructed from plywood and can act as a surface for food preparation. The box I built borrows ideas from the glamorous picnic hampers of yesteryear and from several pictures of home built chuck boxes found on the internet. Doing a simple google search led to two sites, one was an REI blog and then another interesting design was one outlined at Tom Builds Stuff. I used these two and a few other sources of inspiration to get me started with this project.

My particular box varies slightly in size and weight from many of the others, uses 24 inch dimensional half inch poplar plywood to minimize required cuts, simple butt joints (no complicated joinery) with screws and lots of glue and reinforced corners. The shelves are made from 1/4" ply supported on pine cleats thereby making them movable. The hardware is all readily available (no special orders). Shelf sizing and positions were all pre-determined with specific equipment in mind. Construction decisions were made to accommodate the placement of hinges and fasteners and to reinforce my simple joinery methods. And then I 'glamped' it up with paint, leather, black and brass hardware and a few other special features.

I often have projects sketched out in my mind and maybe roughly on paper, but for the most part I design, modify and measure as I build. Not necessarily recommended by the pros but, it works for me. Consequently for this project I had no specific set of plans before I began. I just built and designed the box based on pictures. The measurements were made as it progressed. My finished chuck box was made mostly from readily available half inch dimensional plywood. It measures (24” Length x 20” Height x 15.5” Deep) and weighs quite a bit with gear. I would have liked it weighing less but my design and hardware choices cost me. A review of other boxes of similar size and made from plywood average 40 pounds.

Step 2: Collect the Tools and Materials


  • 3 quarter sized sheets of poplar or birch plywood, good both sides (24” X 48”, 1/2” thick or ~ 11mm thick”)
  • 2 sheets of 1/4” birch plywood (24” X 24”)
  • several 3 foot lengths of 1/4” X 3/4” pine to cut and use as cleats

Hardware and Other Supplies

  • 1 1/4” and 1” # 6 wood screws
  • 1/2" and 3/4” pan head wood screws for the hardware
  • Good quality carpenters glue ( I used both Lepages and Gorilla Exterior)
  • Exterior Acrylic Paint (Top coat) semi gloss
  • Latex Primer (Basecoat, with a colour match to top coat)
  • Copper enamel spray paint (opt)
  • Exterior water based acrylic polyurethane
  • Chest or cabinet hardware: 6 outside decorative corner brackets, 4 brass spring clasps, 2 chest handles, 4 - 24” piano hinges, 2 cabinet pulls, one small brass barrel bolt, 4 small screw eyes, approx. 30" of small chain


  • Table saw
  • Mitre saw
  • Scroll Saw
  • Drill and bits
  • Sand paper
  • small hand plane or block sander
  • Pin Nailer and 1” and ½” pins (optional but extremely handy)
  • Misc. clamps
  • Fine Hand saw
  • #1 Robertson and a Small Philips screw driver
  • Carpenters square
  • A third hand (opt. But helps for building the front cupboard doors)

Step 3: Cut List

Cut List

The three 1/2" plywood sheets were cut at the store into 15” widths, producing 9 pieces measuring 24” X 15”. From these nine pieces the cut list was then prepared as described. Two 1/4" sheets will also be required for the selves and door fronts. See the list and diagrams below.

*** NOTE ***

I used 11 mm thick plywood from HD in Canada. All my length and width measurements were made in inches but if you then add in panels measured in millimetres in thickness, this will cause some confusion. After building the basic box, you will need to check your measurements and make some adjustments, as my numbers may be up to an eighth of an inch or more off. No big deal, just a heads up.

Basic Box
(1) 24" x 15" Top

(1) 24" x 15" Bottom

(2) 18-3/4" x 14" Sides (The sides are cut from these two pieces. They are 'L' shaped and the diagram shows the final dimensions)

(2) 12 x 15-1/2" Fold out Tops (12" less a kerf so as not to bind)

(1) 22-1/4" x 5-1/4" Back Bottom

(1) 24" x 14-12/" Fold Down Back

(1) 23-1/2" x 15" Shelf

Interior Shelves

(1) Small Shelf (depends on positioning and equipment)

(2) Large Shelf (depends on positioning and equipment)

Vertical divider 10-1/2 x 14

Stove Door

(1) 4-3/4" x 20" (verify that your stove will fit through the space

Back Door

24 x 14-1/2

Front Doors

(4) 11-3/4 x 3-1/2 Bottoms and tops using 1/4 " ply

(4) 10-1/16" x 2-1/2" Door Sides using 1/2" ply

(2) Door face 14-1/4 x 11-3/4 using 1/4" ply

(1) 14-1/4 x 3/4 pine strip (1/4" thick) to act as stop and cover gap for right door

Other (2) 4” x 5” Bracket Supports

Step 4: Assembly of Basic Box

Assembly of Basic Box

One huge caveat to keep in mind. The more complicated the build the greater the need for every component to be square and fit the space. Although this is an outdoor piece, and rough might be okay, a measurement or hinge attachment that is not quite perfect, can affect the overall alignment of the next piece. So test fit and be prepared to redo a piece or two.

Begin by constructing the basic box: top, bottom, two sides and the bottom shelf using glue and initially just a couple of 1-1/4" screws per butt joint. The two side pieces were cut on my table saw, with the cut coming close to the inside corners and then the cut was finished with a fine hand saw. Pre-drill all holes and countersink if the hole is near the edge of a wood piece. Clamp and ensure that the corners are square. Insert and attach the bottom shelf, glue and screw and recheck for square before clamping. If you are square at this point then additional screws can be placed and the front and back supports can now be attached. See the next figure for how it should now appear with these 5 main pieces.

The pieces for the front stove door, back door and the top fold out shelves can now be cut and prepared. I recommend not attaching them until Step 7 is complete.

Step 5: Build a Third Hand

Build a Third Hand (optional)

Critical to building and hanging the pair of front cupboard doors is making sure that each door is identical. Although this finished box is not expected to be a piece of furniture, the length and width need to be exact and the construction square for the doors to align neatly in the space. The side panels for each door were cut on a mitre saw using the built in stops on the saw to ensure the lengths were the same. To ensure perfect 90 degree corners and simplify the glue up, a simple workbench fixture, a third hand, was constructed. This allows you to pin and glue each board using the fixture to help hold the boards square in the corners. I built this third hand apparatus for another project but you can easily construct one sized specifically for this project. The wood for this tool is not included in the material list.

Step 6: ​Construction of Front Cupboard Doors

Construction of Front Cupboard Doors

The front cupboard doors were constructed from 1/2” and 1/4” plywood. I chose to do this to reduce the weight. Half inch was used for the sides, since one side would be receiving the hinge. Quarter inch ply was used for the face and also for the shelving inside the doors. The door is essentially a box and was built using the ‘third hand’ jig to make it easier to square up the corners. All joints were glued and pinned with 1” brads and the corners were reinforced with glued corner blocks. The cupboard shelves were glued and pinned in place, again with corner blocking and more glue. A piece of pine trim was added to the top edge of each shelf face. Might seem light weight, but these doors are surprisingly strong.

Step 7: Applying the Finish

Applying the Finish

I decided to apply most of the finish before attaching the front and back doors and installing the shelves, dividers, hardware and hinges while all of these components were off. It was a lot easier to use a paint brush to apply a good coat at this point.

There were a few counter sunk holes to be filled. I ignored the ones on the bottom or those that were out of sight. I gave the cut edges a light sanding.

All of the outside surfaces of the box received a base coat (primer) that was a close colour match for the semi-gloss top coat. I chose a hunter green colour for both. The interior of the box was left natural as were the inside surfaces of the fold out tops. All surfaces, inside and out, received a coat of clear water based acrylic polyurethane.

Step 8: Construction of Interior Shelves

Construction of Interior Shelves

Shelving was kept simple. Essentially a single divider with 2 shelves on one side and a single on the other to accommodate a cutlery tray and a couple of buckets and some small pots and pans. The shelves are supported by a pair of cleats on either side and faced with a thin pine strip front and back. The cleats were attached to the side walls, pinned and glued. If you are unsure about the spacing between the shelves I would suggest using screws but no glue. The pine strips were 1/4” x 3/4” pine and glued and pinned. The shelves could be repositioned by adding another set of cleats. The shelving was given 2 coats of acrylic polyurethane before being installed.

Step 9: Shelf Brackets and Stove Door

Shelf Brackets and Stove Door

The fold out top shelves require some kind of support. There are a few ways to do this but I opted to use two small folding brackets. These brackets were cut from 4” x 5” plywood, drawn using the help of a french curve and then cut out using a scroll saw. They were painted before being attached.

The front stove door was cut from 1/2" plywood, adorned with a wooden applique (just for fun), attached using an eighteen inch length of piano hinge and secured using a single spring clasp. The stove door bumps up against a pair of door stops mounted to each side. The door will need to be bevelled a bit along the top inside edge to allow it to close. A small hand plane did a fine job.

Step 10: Attaching the Hardware

Attaching the Hardware

From the accompanying pictures you can see the positioning of the hardware. Two of the 24” piano hinges were cut into 12” lengths. These four pieces were used for the front doors and folding top shelves. The hinges are easily cut with a hack saw and lightly filed to remove any burrs. The small brackets are hinged so as to fold back out of the way when not in use and positioned to fold backward. The opening for the front door boxes was unfortunately not quite square. It is amazing how an eighth of inch can make this step difficult. To correct the misalignment of the doors I used an old trick, a few upholstery tacks, pushed in to help with the adjustment. One tack forced the left door up when closed while a second tack forced the right door down. In my design the doors will not fold back completely with the brackets deployed but this makes no difference to the support the fold out tops receive. The stove door hinge was trimmed to 18”. The back door hinge was exactly 24" as per the plan. The back door required a couple of small chains and screw eyes to support it in the down position.

Six black corner brackets were screwed in place and the chest handles were attached. The inside of the box sides received a small rectangular piece of half inch inch plywood to accommodate the 1” screws used to attach the handles.

Three brass spring clasps were attached to secure the stove door (1) and the back door (2). A small brass barrel bolt was used to secure the top fold out shelves (1).

Two cotter pins with a short leather lace, were trimmed to 1.5", and used to hold the front doors at approximately a 45 degree angle when open. I found that the doors would swing shut if the box was sitting slightly on an angle or if there was a slight breeze. The pins fixed this issue. I chose to position the doors at this angle as this made for easy viewing and access to gear while standing in front of the box.

Step 11: 'Glamping Up' the Box

Glamping Up the Box

Here are a few trims and additions I made to the chuck box, some inspired from pictures of vintage picnic boxes and others I just came up with and added just for fun. Leather strips can be easily cut from an old belt from a thrift store. The raised tacks are available as upholstery nails at most hardware stores. Here's your chance to be creative.

  • Leather-faced knife holder - left door - holds 2 knives
  • Leather handle added to the cutlery tray
  • Liquor bottle holder / divider in the front door
  • Black bungee strap on the left facing door
  • Tea Kettle Applique added to front of left front door (cut by hand using scroll saw)
  • Leather-faced utility holder with eye hooks for both front doors
  • Decorative bronze coloured chest handles

Step 12: Outfitting the Box

Outfitting the Box

The chuck box will easily accommodate gear for two. Here is my list:

  • 3 plates
  • 2 bowls
  • 2 mugs
  • 2 cups
  • 2 wine glasses
  • cutlery for 3
  • 4 paper plates
  • can opener
  • vegetable peeler
  • paring knife
  • chef knife
  • wooden spoon
  • spatula
  • tongs
  • extendable bbq fork
  • corkscrew
  • small cutting board
  • non-stick frying pan
  • small pot
  • tea kettle
  • pour over coffee maker
  • aluminum foil
  • paper towels
  • salt, pepper & misc spices
  • non stick spray
  • olive oil
  • dish soap
  • dish cloth and towel
  • Camp Stove
  • Propane tank
  • matches
  • flashlight

Here are three other boxes I have built and posted on Instructables that may be of interest.

Viking Sea Chest


Tiered Chinese Picnic Box

Perhaps a cutting board for a Teardrop Camper