No-waste Plywood Trunk With Lid Storage and Walnut Trim

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Introduction: No-waste Plywood Trunk With Lid Storage and Walnut Trim

About: Mostly, I work wood but I also have studied chemistry

Hey everyone!

Welcome to the instructables for this no-waste, single plywood sheet trunk. It can be built in one weekend, stands at about 3 feet length by 2 feet width by 2 feet height, and should be extremely durable.

My girlfriend needed a trunk for her horse tack, and while a sturdy wooden one usually goes for about $1000, this cost me about $120 dollars from the hardware store, some walnut scraps from my bass and guitar projects, and about 15 hours of work.

The idea for this chest was to make it as big as possible using a single piece of 4*8 ft plywood without any wasted material.

Let's dive in!

Supplies

Materials
1 full sheet of 3/4 inch birch plywood

Any scrap lumber for trim and skirt (I used walnut)

Wood glue

1 3/4 wood screws

4 hinges and one lock

Screw eyes (10) and elastic rope for the lid storage

For the drawer and tote

A 2 feet section of 1 inch dowel,

1/2 sheet of 1/2 inch plywood, for tote and drawer

Tools

Table saw and/or hand held circular saw

A drill with usual bits and drivers

An awl

A marking knife

Sandpaper 80, 120, 220 Block plane

A chop saw is nice, but not necessary

A mallet and chisel, for hinge mortises.

A router is nice, but not necessary

Step 1: Cut the Plywood

As we are trying to maximize the use of plywood, instead of giving absolute measurements I will be giving relative ones.


First cut

First, let's cut the plywood sheet in half length-wise. I did this by laying it flat on the ground, propped up levelled on some lumber so my saw would not dig in the dirt. I used a hand held circular saw with a piece of 2*6 plastic lumber clamped as a guide. Because we want these two pieces to be exactly the same, please make sure to mark the middle of the sheet exactly and to cut with the kerf of the saw dead in the middle on that line. I know, this is unusual but here this is what we want!

Each of the two halves obtained will yield a top (or a bottom), a front (or a back) and a side for the trunk.

Second cut

Then, I stacked the two boards on top of each other to cut them at the same time and cut a square section of each. These will be our sides.

Third and last cut

Next, we are splitting the rest of the stock in two unequal parts. Because of how the trunk will be built, we need the top and bottom to be a little longer than the front and back, by exactly two thicknesses of the material you are using. This is better marked than measured: draw the center line of each half, then stack your two side pieces on one side of this line and mark your cut line. Again, cut with the kerf smack in the middle of this line, this way you will end up with the two pieces exactly at the dimensions you need.

And that's all the cutting we needed !

Step 2: Assemble the Box

The box is very readily assembled, and the lid will be cut out later.

Using a marking gauge or a compass, mark half a thickness of your board on the side where it will be screwed, as per the picture above. Then, evenly pre-drill and countersink screw holes every 3-5 inches along that line. Importantly, make sure that there is no screw in the way of cutting your lid out! It is good at this point to use a marking gage to mark and then label your lid line. The sides are then glued with wood glue and screwed in place, no clamping of the joints required thanks to the screws. Repeat for the top and bottom, screwing it all around the edge

With a square, make sure everything is as close to 90° as possible when you assemble, use some clamps if needed to align, it should retain the correct angle as the glue cures over the next 24 hours.

Step 3: You Are Not Perfect. Trim the Excess

I know, I know, I said no waste. But I guess I was not infinitely precise in my measuring, because I had about 1/16th inch excess on two sides. I trimmed this using a hand saw (you could use a router with a flush bit, provided it is deep enough) and finished flushing it with a block plane.

Step 4: Prepare the Trim

I ran some walnut long thin scraps in the table saw to resaw them at about 3/8th inch thick and used this as stock for the trim.

All the trim joints are mitered, so I first established a 45° chamfer along the length of the stock using the table saw, then cut one end at 45° on the chop saw. The pictures in the next step should make it clear how the trim is assembled, and all of these instructions will make sense!

Instead of measuring, the trim is laid out exactly where it will be laid and the exact correct length is scribed with a knife on the inside.Fine adjustments are made on a shooting board with the block plane.

Step 5: Nailing and Glueing the Walnut Trim

All the edges and the spot where the lid will be cut are reinforced and embellished using trim. Each piece was laid out, nailed and glued in place. Again, make sure that no nails are in the way of cutting the lid out! I redrew my lid line on the trim.

All the trim is about 1 1/4 inch wide, the band around the lid line is about 3 inches wide. I stopped the trim square 5 inches above the bottom of the chest to make space for the skirt, as shown in the next step.

Step 6: Nailing the Skirt

Now, a thick (1inch) skirt of hard wood is wrapped around the base of the trunk to protect from bumps, moving furniture, etc. It is simply mitred around the corners and glued and nailed in place.

I used pipe clamps to hold the skirt in place while I was marking the exact length of each piece (see pictures above).

Step 7: The Stressful Step: Cutting the Lid Open!

Now that all the hard work is done, you should have a great looking cube. Now seems like a great time to cut it open and yield a box! Two people makes this step less stressful, with one holding the lid so it doesn't fall.

Using a handheld circular saw with a sliding guide, the lid is cut out in the middle of the seam. I highly suggest to go at it slowly, maybe in several passes for each side.

I cut my lid about 5 inches deep, to be able to store some stuff in it behind elastic bungee cord. Depending on your usage for this chest, you could make it thinner or thicker.

Once this is done, you can expect easy sailing to the finished product though!

Not pictured: my girlfriend fits in the box. So, there's that.

Step 8: Hinges Get Stitches. Uh, Mortises

Using dividers, clamps, hinges and an awl, I laid out the hinges and mortised them using a mallet and chisel. This could also be done with a router and a flat bit, here is a great explanatory video.

The hinge holes were then pre-drilled and the hinges installed in the lid and body of the chest.

Step 9: Tray and Tote Sliders

Depending on what the chest will be used for, you could leave the inside as is (bulky things storage unit, blanket chest, small coffin...) or divide it into further compartments.

Because we wanted to be able to organize the inside a little bit better, we added a sliding tray/tilland a little wooden tote, both as wide as the inside of the chest. I added some hardwood runners for these, level and at the same height, as measured with a bubble level and a combination square resting on the lip of the chest.

Step 10: Sliding Tray

Using the same screw and glue joint as for the chest and some 1/2 inch plywood, I made a simple tray about 1/16th inch less wide as the inside of the box. Again, this is not measured as much as it is laid out by holding your stock where it will sit and marking the ideal dimensions. In this case, what feels right is probably right!

Step 11: Wooden Tote

Using the rest of my half-sheet of 1/2 inch ply, I made a little wooden tote to hold bottles etc.

First, the bottom is laid out and cut. Then, I made the sides and drilled some 1 inch holes to accommodate a 1 inch dowel as a handle. I rounded the sides on a belt sander to stream line the look a little bit, which could be done using a coping saw. Finally, everything was glued and assembled.

Step 12: Latch

I made a simple lid latch to stop it from opening much more than 90°, using a scrap piece of leather from a broken horse bridle. It is anchored on the lid and box with screw reinforced at the anchor point by adding small hardwood squares.

Step 13: Lid Storage

To store some things in the lid, I evenly spaced some screw eyes and stretched some bungee rope in there. The ends are knotted and slightly melted with a lighter so the rope would not fray.

Step 14: Finishing Touches

The trim was rounded over using a block plane, which exposed some less than perfect miter fits. These were filled with a homemade wood paste, made by mixing wood glue and walnut dust harvested from the bag of a palm sander.

The paste was cured for a couple of hours and then the trim was sanded with 80, 120 then 220 grit.

All sharp edges (inside the lid lip, skirt miters for instance) are slightly chamferedor rounded over using either a block plane or sandpaper.

The plywood surfaces should not need too much attention, but can be sanded by hand using 220 grit. Be careful if using a power sander! Hardware store plywood nowadays only has an extremely thin layer of hardwood veneer and it is really easy to sand right through this and make it irreparably ugly by exposing the underlayers.

I then screwed in the handles on each side, and the latch in the front.

Step 15: Finishing

The inside of the chest is left unfinished.
I finished the outside using a brush on clear satin polyurethane, you can use your finish of choice but do make sure that it does not make the plywood bubble or anything bad by first trying it on the bottom of the chest, where no one can see it!

Step 16: All Done

If everything went according to plan, you should now be left with a beautiful, extremely durable chest.

This one will live in a barn for the foreseeable future, holding some horse tack and supplies.

Thanks for reading, and until next time!

Deluges

Plywood Challenge

Runner Up in the
Plywood Challenge

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    24 Comments

    0
    jeanniel1
    jeanniel1

    11 months ago

    Great work! I'd add wheels to the base to make it easy to move. Ones with brakes, too.

    0
    MoparDude
    MoparDude

    11 months ago

    Hoorahhh. A man that thinks & works like me. You tutorial was very well done. I enjoyed it very much.

    0
    PaulB504
    PaulB504

    11 months ago on Step 16

    Two thoughts:
    From ROckler, you can get torsion hinges so the lid stays up wherever you open it, preventing it from closing when you want it open.
    Second: And maybe you don't need it, but I would have put a lock on the box. It looks so very nice that it hints that there are nice things inside!
    A clever job and very clever to use one sheet of plywood --
    Might have put a finish on inside just to prevent staining...
    My take, but as they say: "Your mileage may differ."

    NICE JOB!

    0
    deluges
    deluges

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks!
    Never heard of torsion hinges before, thanks for the tip! They look like they could be very useful indeed.
    There is a little latch that could accommodate a padlock, but it's really not a worry where we live. The latch serves mostly as a handle for lifting the lid now
    I really like the inside unfinished, but now that I've heard of "lemon oil" which gives a lovely scent along with a simple mineral oil finish... I might reconsider ;)

    0
    PaulB504
    PaulB504

    Reply 11 months ago

    Just a little more FYI: Rockler woodworking supply has a formula to figure out which torsion hinge you need (usually two, or three depending on the weight of the lid). Once you know the weight of the lid (I used a bathroom scale for rough amount), you can order the right hinge(s) for the weight of the lid. We've used them on hope chests and they hold the lid up where ever you stop opening them with no danger of the lid falling down on hands/head etc. Highly recommend them on big chests like the one you made--just takes 6 screws which come with it to mount. And you are in business... hope you do it! You can see the hinges on this hope chest I made... the staff at ROckler made a guess (cause I didn't know the weight of the lid) and they hit it just right...They work great!!! Have used them several times with good success..Be sure to use all 6 screws to attach the hinges as they are QUITE strong!!!

    IMGP0010.JPG
    0
    ellygibson
    ellygibson

    11 months ago

    This is gorgeous! Well-written instructions too. It's my dream to make something like this one day, although I don't really have a *need* for one. Trunks just look so cool!

    0
    deluges
    deluges

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thank you!

    0
    amariller
    amariller

    11 months ago on Step 16

    Beautifully done! I love projects like this great job!

    0
    deluges
    deluges

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thank you so much!

    0
    nic.bryan.73
    nic.bryan.73

    11 months ago

    Kinda getting a Minecraft Chest feel from it. I like it.

    0
    deluges
    deluges

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks for the kind words :)

    0
    DennisH156
    DennisH156

    11 months ago

    Reminds me of toy box my great-grandfather made for me as a child (minus the walnut trim). Beautiful, excellent work. Thanks for stirring up some great memories.

    0
    deluges
    deluges

    Reply 11 months ago

    I'm really glad you like it!

    0
    Sardinops
    Sardinops

    11 months ago

    Really good. I wouldn't have thought of cutting the lid like that. I would have laboriously made it separately - your way is best.

    0
    deluges
    deluges

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks! I did not invent this technique, it's the old way of making box lids that fit perfectly every time

    0
    dlm
    dlm

    11 months ago

    Very nice project. I love the sliding tray. That is a feature often left out and adds so much utility to a chest like this. A couple of suggestions, though. A sheet of 3/4" baltic birch plywood weighs over 70 lbs. Half-inch ply would be just as stout and save over 20 lbs., but I guess if it is never going to be moved that may not be that important. Another suggestion is to add a lip around the inside of the lid that extends 1/2" or so inside the case to create a dust seal.

    0
    deluges
    deluges

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks! Yes, I agree that in retrospect the 3/4 seems a little overkill.. And it is really heavy. But it allows me to sit on the lid (or dance on it for that matter!) without any worries, if I used 1/2 inch ply I probably would have needed to reinforce it. And in a barn there is always the off chance that it will get kicked by a horse, in which case the hoof could go right through 1/2 inch and might catch the horse's leg in there
    And yeah, I'm not going to move it anywhere more than once a year also.

    I agree with the dust seal suggestion. I would add one to a chest for tools, but this will contain mostly leather and fabric, so dust which brings salt which brings water and rust is not really a problem here

    0
    theo67
    theo67

    11 months ago

    Great project and I intend to make a similar one also. Love your ideas about maximising the cutting of the sheet of ply to minimise the waste. I intend to make a similar one. However just some questions. Why did you not space the hinges at equal intervals? Considering the length is 3 feet, do you need 4 hinges? I am planning to use three spaced at 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 of the length. Any problems with this?

    0
    deluges
    deluges

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks! No reason for the spacing of the hinges, I just liked the way it looked a little offset from the middle but still symmetrical. 3 hinges would be fine as well! Let me know how it turns out

    0
    Alex in NZ
    Alex in NZ

    11 months ago

    I love the "I've got _one_ sheet, what can I make out of it" efficiency of this design. The end result looks awesome and stout enough to survive its intended use. Thank you for sharing your work and good luck in the competition :-)