Introduction: High Quality Plywood Toy Box

If you want to build a toy box to your own dimensions to your own style that with real wood, this might be the project for you.

The toy box is made out of different types of plywood sheets with real wood edge banded to give the look of a more expensive solid wood that comes in with a much cheaper price tag.

In this project I do use a variety of more expensive woodworking power tools, however you can get by and make this with manual tools, it will just take slightly more time. I explain alternatives at each step.

Lets get building!


18mm x 1220mm x 2440mm plywood sheet for the body

18mm x 610mm x 1220mm Hardwood plywood sheet for the lid (I used hardwood as it had a darker coloured veneer pre-applied and I wanted a dark wood lid.

20mm real wood pine veneer (iron on)

50mm real wood sapele veneer (iron on)

A length of MDF skirting board

10mm thick MDF for the decorative letter

UK links

White Primer & Undercoat -
Rustoleum Dove Satin Paint.

Lid sanding sealer -

Lid finish -

Soft close hinge set -

Screw cups -

Table saw -

Orbital Sander -

Pocket hole jig -

35mm Hinge cutting bit -

Step 1: Cut the Wood

The dimensions I used are shown in the attached images and detailed below. You can adjust these to suit your requirements.

I had these all pre-cut at my local hardware store where I bought the wood. They offer a free cutting service for your first 15 cuts. This helps if you do not have the tools or space to cut at home, and also means you can transport the material home easily if you don't have space to put a large sheet of plywood!

If you wish to cut yourself at home, you can use

- a hand held held electric circular saw (with a track for best results)

- a table saw (but may need to be cut into smaller sections before you start.. pushing a large sheet of plywood through a table saw isn't always possible)

- a hand saw.. if you are a pro at cutting by hand. I am not!

Body Dimensions - 1000mm(w) x 500mm(d) x 600mm(h)

Requires the following out of your large sheet of plywood

- 2no. 1000mm x 600mm (front and back panels)

- 2no. 464mm x 600mm (left and right sides)

- 1no. 464mm x 964mm (base)

The 2 side panels are 500mm minus 2x the width of the plywood on the front and back (18mm). See attached image.

Lid Dimensions - 1040mm x 520mm

Requires the following out of your sheet of hardwood plywood

- 2no. 1040mm x 520mm

These will be laminated together on a later step. The extra dimensions will give an overhang of 20mm on the front and sides, but not at the back. This overhang can be adjusted to suit your requirements.

Skirting dimensions

These dimensions will vary depending if you plan to use 45degree miter joint or a 90 degree butt joint on the corners. I went with a 45 degree miter cut by using my electric miter saw, but you can easily get the same finish if cutting by hand and using a miter block.

A 90 degree butt joint would also do nicely.

Finger safe gap

It is a good idea to have a 'finger safe' gap. This helps to protect little fingers from getting squashed by the lid if they are holding onto the toy box when the lid is closed. It is not a fool proof feature as fingers still can get trapped in other areas, but it helps.

I wanted the finger safe gap to have the same dimensions as the lid overhand with the same radius.

To do this I used measured in 150mm from each end and drilled a hole with a hole saw. I then connected the holes with a straight cut on the table saw.

If you don't have a table saw this can be done with a handheld electric circular saw, or with a hand saw.

Step 2: Apply Edge Banding to the Edges

I have learnt that you get a much cleaner finish by applying your edge banding on butt jointed edges before you screw everything together. Otherwise you have a nice clean butt joint and then a strip of edge banding stick out.

Prep the edges by sanding them lightly to knock down any rough edges.

Apply the edge banding by first cutting it to length, then using an iron to melt the glue. I like to keep an eye on the underside to make sure the glue is melting before moving on to the next section.

Once applied, trim the excess back by using a knife. You can use proper edge banding tools that give a nice clean cut, but if you don't have one you can use a piece of scrap paper to act as a buffer, and a blade to run along the edge. This will give a very slight overhand that you can knock back with some fine grit sandpaper.

Be careful not to be too aggressive with the sanding on the hard wood veneered plywood as this veneer is paper thin and can easily be sanded away.

Do not apply edge banding to the lid yet. This will come in a later step.

Step 3: Make the Box

Now the real fun starts when it all comes together!

As mentioned previously, I used butt joints, and I used pocket holes to fix the sides in place. I used a pocket hole jig that I clamped in place and drilled 4 holes per joint.

First connect the 4 sides together on a flat surface. Be careful not to put too much strain on the joints when maneuvering the box around. The strength comes from screwing the base in place which stops the sides from flexing.

Before screwing the base in place, first take diagonal measurements, corner to corner, of the sides to ensure the box is square. These diagonal measurements should equal the same if the sides are square.

Once square, drop the base in place. You could use pocket holes again but here I screwed through the sides int he base piece as the skirting board would cover the screw heads.

If you do the same, make sure you drill a pilot hole first, as the plywood can very easily split open when screwing into the side grain.

Next up is to fit the skirting board in place. To keep all screws hidden I screwed this from the inside to give a clean finish.

Step 4: Make the Lid

You could very easily get away with a single sheet of plywood for the lid. This toy box, however, went all out and had a double thickness lid for that extra fancy factor!

laminating the lid

If you are doing the same, apply a generous amount of wood glue to both pieces then sandwich together.

If you have a lot of wood clamps to hand, apply them everywhere! If you don't (like me) you can use a gravity clamp, but carefully sitting your new toy box on top and then piling anything heave inside and on top. You should see glue squeeze out of the sides if you are applying enough pressure. Leave for at least 24 hours to dry.

Cleaning up the edges

Once glued you need to tidy up the edges to prep for edge banding. Unless you are a master of precision the side piece will need to be leveled up.

I did this by running the long edge through my table saw, but couldn't do this on the shorter edge due to the size of the lid, so used my sander instead.

If you don't have a table saw, you can sand all edges by hand.

Cut a radius on the front corners

I wanted a rounded corner on the front 2 corners. To do this I traced around an off cut of pipe and cut it out with a jig saw making sure I left a big enough gap to sand back to the line to get a perfect finish.

Edge banding

Apply edge banding as described in the previous step.

Step 5: Fit the Hardware

Now you have the box constructed the hinges and soft close mechanism needs to be installed.

The selection of the hardware is one of the most time consuming factors of the project. I wanted both parts of the hinge to screw into the side/face grain of the box and lids in order to give the strongest connection. Screwing into the end grain will, over time, split the plywood internal laminations apart.

The hinge I selected to fit this criteria is the same type used on a kitchen cupboard door, a 'concealed cabinet hinge'.

I measured out where they were to be positioned following the manufacturers instructions and drilled the holes using a specific 35mm drill bit.

The soft close 'lid stays' serve 2 purposes. They keep the lid in place when it is open, and also soften the closing. The type I selected were not perfect at closing the lid softly as it was so heavy, however it did take the slam out of it.

Again, these are mounted following the manufacturers instructions.

Step 6: Cutting a Decorative Letter

I used a combination of Google image search of 'decorative letter "H"' and trying different fonts in my word processing software to find the desired style.

Once found, I printed to the size I needed, and then stuck it onto a piece of 10mm MDF.

I cut around the edges using an electric jig saw, but you could also use a band saw, CNC, or just a hand powered jig saw.

Once cut out I sanded all the edges back to the desired shape.

I then cut out the square back plate to mount the letter on.

I then put a chamfer around all edges using a router. This step is optional, but gave a nice finish.

Once this was painted (see the painting step) I mounted the letter on the back board by clamping in place and screwing through the back. Then did the same again by clamping the letter on the toy box and screwing in from the back so that all screws were hidden.

Step 7: Painting and Finishing

Before painting I removed the lid and all the brackets and hinges. Then used a pencil eraser to remove all the pencil marks.


I gave the base a coat of combined white primer and undercoat and applied with a roller for the majority of the body and a brushwhere the roller didnt fit.

Once dry I applied 2 coats of Rustoleum Satin Dove furniture pain to the body. I then applied a masking tape between the body and the skirting board, and then painted the skirting board with a darker grey.


I wanted a dark wood look on the lid so used a combined varnish and stain in satin. To avoid brush strokes I first applied a sanding sealer which prevents the wood from absorbing the stain too quickly. This was applied outside as has some very strong fumes.

Decorative letter

As with the body, both the letter and the backing board got a coat of primer/undercoat and then 2 coats of Dove and Grey to match the body of the toy box.

Step 8: Lining the Inside

This again is an optional step. If you wanted to get away with a less labour intensive option you could simply paint the inside, or glue a lining direct to the inside of the box.

I wanted the inside to look just as good as the outside so went with using a faux leather vinyl sheet applied to panels which were screwed in place. This ensured the edge around the top of the inside of the box was perfect. It also gives to option to remove panels for cleaning, recovering, or to access the screws holding the box together if it ever needed to be disassembled or repaired.

Cutting the internal panels

I used 5mm fibre board for the internal panels and cut these on the table saw ensuring the measurements allowed for the adjacent panels and the thickness of the vinyl. I won't give measurements here as these will vary depending on the thickness of board and vinyl used.

You could also cut these boards using a craft knife and a straight edge. It will cut the board after a few passes. You may need to do this to cut around any hardware.

Lining the internal panels

I cut the vinyl out so there was a generous overhang of material around each panel and then applied a strong spray glue/contact adhesive to both sides. Once tacky I pressed the vinyl on top taking care not to get the glue on the front face. To press out any air bubbles I used a rolled up kitchen towel.

I found it easier to stick the front face down first, then apply glue a 2nd time around for the edges before folding them over.

The bottom

For the bottom of the box I cut a piece of vinyl to size and stuck this directly to the toy box. This was the only face I did this to as there was no benefit of having a removable panel.

Screwing the panels in place

I used upholstery screw cups to give a decorative fixing to the internal panels. These were spaced evenly around each panel before it was screwed into place.

Step 9: Assembly

Last thing to do, if not done so already at this point is to assemble everything back together again, and then fill it with toys!

Step 10:

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