Introduction: Giraffe Shaped Mailbox

About: I got into wood working a few years back and have also been dabbling with electronics since about forever. The combination of both I find very fascinating and so I am always trying to come up with projects tha…

Do you sometimes want to tell your mailman where to stick those bills?

Yeah, me too.

And with this project your mailman might even enjoy doing it, just as ours does.



P.S. Kudos to my wife, who bears my frequent nerd attacks with a smile on her face. She is an excellent artist and supported this build with her paint brush magic. Check her stuff out on her website, her facebook site, or her etsy site.

P.P.S.S. I'll be entering this instructable into the Epilog contest. What I'd do with such an awesome tool. Well, I'd grab my tinker buddies, the infamous "Faraday Cage Fighters", and try to make some PCBs, flexible PCBs, and 3D sculptures. For now, just in my head, but maybe... if you'd vote for me... and anyway I need a new T-shirt too. ;)

Step 1: Planning the Design

Bureaurocratic Framework:

I started out with checking the rules for mail boxes. They are well documented by the US postal service mailbox guideline website. Essentially 41-45" from the bottom and 6-8" from the curb. I made sure we were working within that framework as I didn't want to rebuild because somebody complains.

Idea & Design:

The idea of making an animal mailbox was pretty apparent to us. But there are not many animals that have very long legs. A giraffe came very quickly to mind and I developed the idea further using the following procedure:

  1. Google some giraffe pictures.
  2. Draft up an idea and then refine it and add some detail to it until you have something you like.

I made a reality check of the initial idea by creating a 3D model.

  1. Measure a standard mailbox and draw it in an AutoCAD program.
  2. Add a base board to support the mailbox. Considering that it needed to provide a strong connection to the legs I doubled its thickness in the build.
  3. Add legs of the US postal service required length.
  4. Determine the leg length to neck length ratio using the Giraffe pictures => pretty much 1:1.
  5. Add the neck.
  6. Review the form of the head and add head, ossicones (the horn that are not horns) and (if you have the patience) ears.
  7. Put it all together in an assembly view, compare to pictures and edit as desired. In this step I changed the hind legs to be assembled from two pieces.
  8. Review it and refine it as desired.
  9. Make a material and parts list, collect the stuff and get started.

Step 2: Materials

I decided to use pressure treated wood as building material. This material is already weather resistant and it should last longer than untreated wood. I didn't really calculate the exact amount I needed, but I may have been able to save a few bucks by punching the numbers into a calculator. In any case since I had all the wood screws and paint, I beat the $50 price tag of an ugly standard mailbox post comfortably. You can source all of these materials at a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowes.

  • 2x pressure treated boards 2" x 10" x 12' for ~$15/piece
  • many #8 x 2 1/2" standard wood screws with a countersunk head
  • a few extra long #8 x 4 1/2" standard wood screws with a countersunk head
  • ~10x #8 x 1 1/4" wood screws with an extra large pan head for fastening the mail box to wood
  • 4x long masonry screws 3/8" x 8"
  • 1/2" Dowel pin, 16" long
  • 2x small wood dowel pins
  • wood glue
  • some marine silicone
  • orangish exterior paint
  • brownish / reddish exterior paint
  • black exterior paint
  • 1x 60 lbs [27 kg] bag of concrete, ~$3


  • I am listing nominal wood dimensions. The actual dimensions are smaller. This is pretty confusing, but you can read up on it here or google it.
  • There is plenty of information out there on screws. You can look at all the different types that are out there on this site.
  • The pressure treated wood was soaking wet from the pressure treatment procedure when I bought it. It was very heavy and actually dripping liquid while I was cutting it. It was difficult to lift and machine such a large heavy board. If the board is soaking wet, you may want to wait 3 weeks and let it dry in your garage before you start the build.
  • The pressure treated wood needs to be dry before you can paint it.

Step 3: Tools

You can find the list of tools used in this project below. To my own surprise I ended up using quite a large amount of power tools. However, with a little bit of skill, you could build it entirely with hand tools.

  • table saw
  • miter gauges
  • jig saw
  • band sander
  • scroll saw
  • router table
  • router bit for round edges 1/4"
  • router bit straight 1" diameter & length
  • dust separator
  • drill press
  • hand drill
  • vice
  • drill bit set
  • Forstner drill set
  • spiral grout or paint mixer
  • paint brushes
  • wood working clamps
  • sand paper or sanding sponge
  • file and/or rasp
  • A-frame ladder
  • level
  • hammer
  • screw driver
  • knife

Step 4: Note About Cutting the Wet Pressure Treated Wood

The boards that I bought were soaking wet due to their pressure treatment. They were really heavy and required two people for handling when cutting with the table saw. When possible I pre-cut the boards with a jig saw and then made them square and cut them to length by running them through the table saw. This method allowed me to cut the smaller pieces by myself.

In each of the following steps that focuses on preparing one or several giraffe body parts will be a drying step. Wood might distort when drying and I was hesitant to line up parts and drill pilot holes into the wet wood. Using wood glue on wet wood is not such a good idea either. So I cut the parts to increase the surface to volume ratio and thus reduce drying time as much as possible. Then I let them dry for about three very frustratingly slow weeks, checking their weight in frequent intervals. A few legs actually distorted at the spots where large knots were present. I used that deformation to give the impression the giraffe is moving one of the hind legs.

Note that I organized this instructable by body parts and not by time. It's best to work each step to the drying part, then wait it out and then continue where you left of.

Step 5: The Head

Shape the Outline of the Head

  • Rough cut two boards to slightly oversized 11" x 6" using a jigsaw.
  • Trim the two boards to size with the table saw.
  • Draw a line from 3" off the edge of the long side (3" & 8") to the middle of the short side (3" & 3")
  • Carefully cut the triangle off just outside the line (making the triangle smaller).
  • Repeat with the other board.
  • Let the boards dry. (Yes, here it comes. That will take up to 3 weeks, but is as necessary as annoying. Again, the boards dry faster when they are smaller so cutting them to size first helps to accelerate the drying process.)
  • Once dry, round off the outside of the head using the router table and the 1/4" round bit.
  • Align the boards again and then clamp them together. Do NOT use glue.
  • Drill pilot holes for the #8 wood screws without penetrating the width of both boards. Avoid getting close to any of the edges and avoid the 3" area where the neck needs to go.
  • Countersink the holes on the side you drilled.
  • Take the clamps off.
  • Put the wood screws into the drilling side until they just so penetrate the first board.
  • Align the boards with the penetrating wood screws.
  • Clamp them up again and make sure everything is well aligned.
  • Drive the screws in all the way.
  • The sides of the boards will not be perfectly aligned to each other. Use the belt sander to fix that on all five sides that have a seam.

Refine the Shape

  • Take a look at a picture of a Giraffe. The head has a round jaw line at the underside and a shaped head between nose and eyes. These steps will shape the head a little bit more realistically.
  • At the sides of the head draw lines for the jaw line and the nose line. You can see in the pictures where I drew the lines.
  • Carefully sand the underside of the jaw using the round drum part of the belt sander. Take your time and keep it symmetric across the entire width until you are satisfied.
  • Repeat this procedure with the edge of the nose line. I found this line much more difficult than the jaw. The 80 grid sand paper of the belt sander took a lot of material away. Move very cautiously. When you get close, use a file, rasp, and sand paper instead.

Prepare the Neck / Head Joint

  • Take the screws out of the head and take the head apart.
  • Carefully set the height of the straight router bit to 0.5".
  • Test it with a spare piece of wood.
  • Start routing the inside section of the head where the neck needs to connect. You'll create some sort of a really big finger joint. You'll have the cutout in the head and the finger at the end of the neck. The cutout for the head should be exactly as deep as the neck is wide, i.e. 3".
  • Use a spare piece of wood to test the adjustments of the last run. Use the same spare piece behind the head piece when routing the last runs so that the wood does not rip out.
  • When done, sand the inside surface of the cutout so that it is flat and will provide a good gluing surface for the finger at the end of the neck.
  • Put the screws back into the first board until they just protrude.
  • Spread wood glue on the second board.
  • Align the boards, clamp them tight, then screw them together.
  • Remove access wood glue with a wet cloth.
  • Let everything dry overnight with or without clamps.

Step 6: The Legs

The legs were actually a little bit more complicated than I thought, because I wanted to round of the edges to make them a little bit more realistic. However, at the glue and connection points the edges needed to stay untouched for looks and maximum surface contact. Obviously that requires some thinking before using the router, specifically for the hind legs. Take a look at the drawing. Green edges are routed. Orange edges are not routed over the specified length. The drawing shows hidden edges as dashed lines.

Front Legs:

  • Out of the pressure treated board cut 2x 1.5" x 1.5" x 41"
  • Round off one entire edge of each front leg as shown in the drawing for the left front leg.
  • At the other three edges of each leg, start the rounding 6.5" from the top.

Hind Legs:

  • Out of the pressure treated board cut 4x 1.5" x 1.5" x 23.5"
  • Identify two of the parts as upper legs and two as lower legs.
  • For the two upper legs decide which one is for the right and the left leg, which part is up and which side points forward.
  • For the remaining lower legs decide which one is for the right and the left leg, which part is up and which side points forward.
  • Refer to the drawings for the left upper and lower hind leg to identify the regions that you need to round off with the router or that you need to spare to spare.
  • Router them.
  • Align the upper and lower leg with each other. Create an overlap over an 6" section. Note that the connecting area has no rounded edges.
  • Clamp them together, drill pilot holes, countersink the holes, and then glue it and screw it all together.
  • Repeat with the right leg, just mirrored, of course.

All Legs:

  • Measure out the core diameter of the 3/8" x 8" screws.
  • Measure the length of the threaded part as well.
  • Select a drill that matches the core diameter
  • Drill a hole of the depth of the thread into the "sole" of the leg with a hand drill.
  • Screw the 3/8" x 8" screws into the holes.

Note that the pictures show shorter bolts than I actually used. I realized at the end that I had to use longer bolts to get enough clearance from the concrete.

Step 7: The Main Body Support

The main body support is very dependent on the size of the mail box you are using. Since 2001 mail boxes have a fairly loose norm for their size according to a chronology published by the US postal service.

Currently the size regulations for a US mail box are:

  • Length: approximately 18 9/16" to 22 13/16"
  • Width: 6 ¼ to 11"
  • Height: 6 to 15"

To build the main body:

  • Carefully measure the inside dimensions of the underside of your mailbox as exactly as possible. Ignore any discrete protruding local spots for now. Let's call this Width x Length, i.e. W x L. In my case this was 18.5" x 6 1/8"
  • When you open the mailbox you'll see that the mailbox door swings underneath the body of the mailbox. Measure that length and add 1/4" to it. Let's call this length U. In my case this was 1.5"
  • Subtract U from L to get the corrected length Lc. In my case Lc ended up to be 17"
  • With the table saw cut two rectangles of wood with the dimensions Lc x W.
  • Decide which side of the two boards you want to be the "belly side".
  • Round over the "belly side" with the 1/4" round over bit using the router table.
  • Align the boards again and then clamp them together.
  • Drill pilot holes for the #8 wood screws without penetrating the width of both boards. Avoid the corners of the board. That is were the legs need to go.
  • Countersink the holes on the side you drilled.
  • Take the clamps off.
  • Put the wood screws into the drilling side until they just so penetrate the first board.
  • Spread wood glue on the second board.
  • Align the boards with the penetrating wood screws.
  • Clamp them up again and make sure everything is well aligned.
  • Drive the screws in all the way.
  • Let the glue dry for 24 hours with or without removing the clamps.
  • The sides of the boards may not be perfectly aligned to each other. Use the belt sander to fix that on all four sides that have a seam.
  • Adjust the table saw fence to exactly cut away 1.5" to the OUTSIDE of the saw blade. In my case my blade is 1/8" thick so I needed to adjust it to 1 3/8" to the fence. I was cutting exactly 1.5" away from the wood.
  • Make a test cut and check the dimension. Readjust if needed.
  • Now cut away the four corners of the board.

Step 8: Assembling Legs, Body, and Mailbox

We need to do a few things to assemble the legs with the main support and add the mail box.

  • Setup the legs in the correct orientation, align them with the top and clamp them on.
  • Drill a total of 4x holes, all 2 1/2" deep (length of the screw) and counter sink them.
  • Screw it all together.
  • Locate all areas at the underside of the mailbox that are protruding. See comments in the pictures for reference.
  • Mark the locations on the wood
  • Router grooves out of the wood so the mailbox can slip over the wood and sit on the body support.
  • Sliding the mailbox in place, mark the bottom of the mailbox at the side opposing the mail box door.
  • Remove the screws that may be in the section above the line.
  • Router just enough wood material away from the upper part above the line so that the mail box is entirely flush with the box. This will allow the neck to be flush when screwed on later onto that side.
  • Remove the remaining screws that hold the first leg.
  • Put glue at the connection point of the leg to main body support.
  • Put the screws in so that they just penetrate the leg.
  • Clamp it and then screw it together.
  • Repeat with the other legs.
  • Let the whole thing dry overnight.
  • Place the mail box on top of the leg/main body support assembly.
  • Make sure it is flush at the neck side and sits all the way down on the support board.
  • Drill pilot holes through the existing holes in the metal side of the mail box into the main body support.
  • Fasten the mail box on the main support board using the pan head screws

Step 9: The Neck

In this step we'll work on the neck and head.

  • Out of the pressure treated board cut two 1.5" x 2.5" x 44" parts.
  • On each part round off two of the edges that are 2.5" apart. Leave the other 2 edges untouched.
  • Drill pilot holes, counter sink, glue and screw the two parts together with the unrouted edges facing each other.
  • Let the neck dry overnight.
  • Set the straight router bit to a height of 0.75".
  • Take away 0.75" from the 2.5" sides so that a finger of 1" width remains. The finger should have a height of 6", i.e. the height of the giraffe head.
  • Confirm that the tenon fits tightly into the giraffe head. Adjust the width if it is too tight.
  • Glue up the finger, slide the head on. If needed use a soft hammer or a hammer and a wood piece to prevent marks on the wood to position the neck and head properly to each other
  • Drill pilot holes and countersink them into the side of the head.
  • Drive long screws from one side of the head through the neck into the other side of the head (without penetrating the entire head.
  • Let everything dry overnight.

Step 10: Adding Ears & Horns

This step will significantly increase the recognition value of our head.

The Ossicones

  • Find a dowel pin of 1/2" thickness.
  • Cut two pieces of 3 1/4" length.
  • Set up the table router with the 1/4" rounding bit such that it is 1/4" off set from the fence and flush with the table.
  • Start the router up and slide the dowel pin carefully forward until it touches the bearing.
  • Slowly rotate the dowel pin until it is round at the tip.
  • Repeat with the second piece.
  • With a Forstner bit or a brad point bit drill a couple of 1/2" holes about 1" deep into the giraffe head. Prior to drilling ensure there are no conflicts with metal screws.
  • Glue the dowel pins into the head.

The Ear

Look at giraffe pictures and draw an ear of the right size on a piece of pressure treated board.

  • Cut it out with a scroll saw. Take your time and use special saw blades for thick materials.
  • Trace the first cutout to a second piece of board and repeat.
  • Fasten an ear in a vice such that the ear's surface that is going to be connected to the head surface is oriented horizontally in x and y direction.
  • Measure the thickness of the small dowel pin fasteners that you have.
  • Drill orthogonal into the ear with the appropriate diameter.
  • Repeat with the second ear.
  • Mark the location the ear and thus the dowel pin need to go at the side of the head.
  • Drill a hole for each dowel pin / ear .
  • Glue the dowel pins / ears onto the head.
  • Let everything dry overnight.

Step 11: Assembly of Head & Neck to Body

In this section we are fasting the neck to the body and reinforcing the connection with a triangular piece that resembles the widening neck of the giraffe. Note that you'll need 2 people for this step.

Cut the reinforcement triangle

  • Cut a piece of the pressure treated board into a right triangle. The size 8 14" x 6 3/4" for the vertical x horizontal side, respectively, worked well for me. Take a look at the picture comments to see the orientation.
  • If your mailbox has a lip, shave the bottom edge off the triangle a little bit with a router to perfectly match the lip. You want a perfect continuation on the side of the neck to provide maximum support. Note that I used boards on each side of the triangle when routing to prevent router tear out. Other tips on router tear out you can find here.

Prepare the inside reinforcement

  • Cut a 3/4" plywood piece to fit pretty tightly into the inside of the mailbox. I measured the rectangle carefully and then shaved the edges off.
  • Mark at the outside of your mailbox where you like to put 10 screw locations. Don't be stingy here, the neck is long and the head is heavy and both need good sturdy support.
    • Mark the center of the mailbox.
    • Measure two parallel lines each 0.75" from the center line.
    • Mark 10 hole locations.
    • Use a center punch on the 10 hole locations.
  • Drill the 10 holes with a drill of the same diameter than the #8 wood screws.
  • Push the plywood piece into place (person 1)
  • From the outside mark through the holes you just drilled into the mailbox, where the hole locations are on the wood piece (person 2)
  • Take the wood piece out and drill the holes through the wood piece.
  • Counter sink the holes from the other side, i.e. the inside the mailbox side, of the wood piece.
  • Take the wood piece out again.

Prepare the neck

  • Hold the neck/head combination against the body (person 1). Make sure it is flush with the bottom support piece and straight (person 1 & person 2).
  • Mark the neck from the inside through the holes in the mail box (person 2)
  • Drill pilot holes into the neck using a drill with the core diameter of the #8 screws and the drill press.

Prepare the reinforcement triangle

  • Mark up the top of the mail box
    • Draw a center line not longer than the neck support.
    • Draw two lines offset by 1/4" from the center line.
    • Mark three hole locations on the outside lines.
    • Use a center punch on the 3 hole locations.
  • Drill the 3 holes with a drill as wide as the #8 pan head screws.
  • Place the neck support on top of the giraffe.
  • Mark the neck support through the holes.
  • Take the neck support down and drill pilot holes into it.

Assemble neck, mailbox and reinforcement

  • Put a generous amount of marine silicone around the holes on top of the mailbox.
  • Fasten the neck reinforcement on top of the mailbox by screwing the pan screws from inside of the mailbox into the neck reinforcement.
  • Wipe off excess silicone that got pressed out from beneath the wood.
  • Hold the neck into place (person 1) and fasten the wood screws with a cordless drill or a Phillips screwdriver (person 2).
  • Use an extra long drill to drill pilot holes to fasten the neck to the base support plate that is sticking out beneath the mail box and to the neck support.
  • Counter sink the holes.
  • Screw extra long screws through neck into base support plate and neck support.

Step 12: Painting

This is about the moment when you think you are done, but you are only 50% there. The build is pretty much finished but the painting needs time, skill, & patience. Remember my wife is the artist in the house, so she did the bulk of this step.

  • Get the orange color out.
  • Paint a base layer of the orange paint.
  • Let it dry.
  • Repeat until you have a nice thick base coat.
  • If you like add your name and house number on the sides of the mailbox, this is the time.
  • Take a look at giraffe pictures and focus on the spots.
  • Get the reddish color out.
  • Paint a set of dots.
  • Let them dry.
  • Paint over them again until you have a nice cover.
  • Repeat until the main dots are all there.
  • Take a look at the pictures again and focus on the head.
  • Paint the small dots.
  • Let them dry.
  • Finish the small dots with a second layer.
  • Draw a face with pencil.
  • Get some black color out.
  • Paint the face.
  • Paint the hooves and the ears and all that.
  • Make it look at least a little bit authentic, i.e let your wife do it.
  • Let it dry.
  • Make sure you take pictures.

Step 13: Installation

Now it feels that you are really done. But you still have about 7% to go or your giraffe would fall over every time somebody wants to shove a bill into its ...

So, anyway. Last step.

  • Find a good spot for the mailbox. Remember the rules of your country/state/county for height and curb distance and follow them.
  • Remove the top layer of stones, soil, grass, or whatever is on top of the area where your mailbox needs to go. Make sure you go deep enough, like 6-8". The screws are supposed to end up deep in the concrete, but the hooves should end above the ground so the water can drip off. This will prevent rotting of the wood.
  • Measure the footprint that your mailbox has, i.e. the width and length of the legs to each other. Measure at the hooves. Distances will likely vary higher up, so measure as low as possible.
  • Add 1.5 or 2 inches to the dimensions. In my case the dimension were 21 1/2" x 10"
  • Build a 6-8" high frame with these dimensions. This frame should comfortably fit around the hooves. Build it with nails not with screws, because you want to be able to take it apart easily again.
  • Cut a piece of weed cloth or trash bag that fits comfortably in the box. This material will keep the concrete from flowing out of the bottom.
  • Place the box in the hole you made for the mailbox base.
  • Add the cloth or plastic bag
  • Use an A-frame ladder, a long piece of wood and a number of clamps to position the giraffe over the box.
  • Use leftover wood pieces, string, clamps, or whatever you have and of course a level to level the giraffe. Be creative with the tie down but make sure a strong wind cannot blow it over.
  • Start mixing the cement. Make a thick mixture and stir it thoroughly with a grout or paint mixer and a drill
  • Carefully fill the cement mixture into the frame. I used the whole cement bag on mine. Fill it up. Distribute it with some piece of wood or cardboard if necessary.
  • Wait for 2 days. This was the worst. I felt like a tiger in a cage.
  • Remove the frame carefully with a hammer and a big screwdriver.
  • Cut off the remaining cloth close to the concrete with a knife.
  • Close up the hole and cover it up again with whatever you had on top in the first place.
  • Go crazy taking pictures and posting it on social media. You deserve to tell the world.

Step 14: Wait for the Mailman and Enjoy

You are done.

Take the camera out and wait to catch the mail man's face when he drives up for the first time.

Watch cars drive by and drivers crank their heads.



P.S. Stay tuned. Next time on this channel: "How to connect an electric dog repelling voltage to the legs of your giraffe mailbox. Bzzz."

P.P.S.S. Or maybe: "Do giraffes fart? How to sound animate your giraffe mailbox."

P.P.P.S.S.S. Did I mention I entered this giraffe into the Epilog contest? If you enoyed this instructable, please vote.

Epilog Contest 8

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Epilog Contest 8