Introduction: How to Build a Wannigan Style Chuck Box

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…

This Instructable will show you how to build a wannigan. It includes an introduction, suggested materials, pictures and step-by-step instructions for building a small custom grub box (also called a wannigan). Although the overall dimensions are flexible, I chose to construct a box that would specifically fit the space under the galley counter in my teardrop trailer . Wanting to compliment the steampunk theme that I had incorporated into the trailer, I gave the box a 'steamer trunk' look. Additionally, the box needed to serve as a day box or picnic basket for carrying essential supplies from the car to a picnic site. You could make yours bigger. Simply checkout the many images of larger chuck boxes on the web if you are looking to build a full-sized camp kitchen box. Here is a more traditional, but deluxe version of a regular chuck box I built and posted on Instructables. A Deluxe Camp Chuck Box.



A wannigan (wanigan) is an outdoorsman’s piece of gear that is used to pack fragile equipment and cooking utensils, often constructed to be used as a grub box on canoe trips. It is nothing more than a wooden box, customized to be any size or shape that is needed. They often include a strap, tumpline or handle for carrying the box.

My finished box dimensions (17.5” L x 12” W x 14” H)

Step 1: Collect the Materials


  • 1 small package pine wainscoting - 32" lengths (1 X 4, ¼” )
  • 4’ of 1 X 12, ¾” pine
  • ¼” oak trim
  • 12” X 18” thin veneer plywood ( I used a piece of salvaged wall panel)


  • 1” common nails (not finishing)
  • Tacks or small brass brads
  • Good quality carpenters glue ( I used Gorilla Exterior/Interior)
  • A leather strap (or an old belt or strap from a suitcase)
  • Small brass grommets
  • Two one foot lengths of leather, 1/4" wide or a long boot lace
  • Stain
  • Spar varnish
  • Chest or cabinet corner brackets (I often make mine from pieces of copper sheeting or aluminum flat stock)


  • Table saw
  • Tack Hammer
  • Pin nailer (opt)
  • Metal snips

Step 2: Cut the Wood

1. Begin by cutting the 2 end pieces, 12 X 12. Cut a ¼” rabbet in the end pieces to receive the wainscot front and rear panels.

2. Cut eight 16” lengths of wainscot pine to length. ( you'll get 2 from one piece in the package) Trim the groove from the 2 bottom pieces and the tongue from the 2 top pieces.

3. Cut a piece of thin veneer ply, 17.5” X 12” for the base and a 2nd piece with the same dimensions from ¾” pine for the top lid.

Step 3: Assemble the Basic Box

Assemble the box using glue and pin nails to hold the pieces in place. Clamp if necessary. Then use black common nails to fully secure the panels and the base to the end pieces. Pre-drill each panel before nailing so as to avoid splitting the thin panels.

Construct the lid in the same fashion, using a solid piece of pine for the top.

Step 4: Paint or Stain the Box & Prep the Oak Battens

I stained the box and lid before adding any of the trim using a slightly diluted dark grey oil-based stain. (Use mineral spirits for the dilution.) The oak trim pieces were all cut to length before receiving 2 coats of spar varnish.

Step 5: Add the Trim and Decorative Pieces

The oak trim is attached using glue, pin nails and decorative tacks. The raised head tacks are sold as upholstery tacks. Pre-drill the oak to make attaching the tacks easier.

The 8 corner brackets were cut from copper sheet, 1 3/8” X 4”, and bent before receiving a coat of spray lacquer. This will slow the oxidation of the copper and keep it bright. They were attached using ½” brass nails.

Step 6: Attach the Carrying Strap

I used an old belt, cut to length to make a carrying handle. The buckle end was cut off, brass grommets added and then secured using a leather lace. The holes for the grommets were made using a ¼” hollow punch. The two buckles were from an old gym bag.

The last 3 pictures are of a similar style of box that I just recently finished. Similar construction that is. It will replace the tongue box that is currently on my steampunked teardrop trailer. It is an aluminum cladded plywood box trimmed out with lots of oak and compliments the design of the teardrop. Approx. 30 x 14 x 14.

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