Introduction: The "In Case of Emergency..." Display Box

About: I build drums, make costumes, work on house projects/repairs, dabble in Genealogy, eat tacos, and work a real job for money.

Emergencies are instantaneous, situationally infinite, and we all need to be prepared!

In Case of Fire ... fire extinquisher, ingredients for smores .. sometimes a badass axe
In Case of Zombies ... firearms, amm0 ... could also be a badass axe
In Case of Hunger ... pizza rolls ... maybe a donut
In Case of Attractively Challenged Dates ... beer
In Case of Stress ... beer
In Case of Thirst ... also beer

Pick your poison ... I'm not here to pass judgement.

All I know is, these cases are convenient. Nay! They are necessary ... lives could be saved!!

I've seen various methods of construction for these boxes. Hinges, slide out glass/acrylic panel, removable back panel, a front panel held on with dowels, etc.

However, my chosen design has the front attach like the lid of a box ... so that the lip hides the point of separation. I also wanted it to look a bit worn in regard to paint degradation.

Step 1: Cutting the Sides

First things first ... box sides. I'm always looking for more efficient and accurate ways of doing things, so I tired a different approach. If I were concerned with continuous grain, I'd be using a sled with stop blocks to cut the miters, which would add up to 8 miter cuts in total. What if I cut the miters on a panel and then cut the sides from that panel? That would mean just cutting 2 miters ... and they are automatically all the same length. Not an original idea, but I'd never tried it.

The box sides were made from a scrap piece of 1/2" plywood. I wanted the internal space to be 9" x 9", so with 1/2" material and mitered corners ... the outside dimension is 10" x 10". I wanted a depth of 5 3/4", so with 1/8" blade kerfs, I need the panel to be at least 23 3/8" long.

Cutting The Box Sides
1. Cut a miter on one of the long sides.
2. Set the fence to 10" and cut the opposite site miter.

At this point it dawned on me why this probably isn't the best order of operations. In order to cut the sides, the orientation changes and the work piece is now wider than it is long, which is not a safe cut - it's a recipe for kickback.

3. Cut the length in half to make it safe for the table saw (I used the miter saw for this, but a large crosscut sled would work nicely).
4. Set the fence to 5 3/4"" and rip the four side pieces.

All in all ... it still took less time as was fewer miter cuts.

Step 2: Cutting the Groove and Rabbet

For the back panel, I used 3/16" hardboard, which was cut to 9 1/2" x 9 1/2". The panel will be set into a groove, so I set the blade height at 1/4". Since I wanted to have a recessed and non-visible french cleat, I set the fence to 1/2" and made a pass on each of the four sides. The fence was then adjusted to 9/16" and a second pass made.

For the front, I used 1/4" acrylic, also cut to 9 1/2" x 9 1/2". I had this on hand from when I bought a bunch of offcuts/scrap from my local big box store. Since this will be held in place by a face frame of sorts and I wanted it at the front of the box, I cut a rabbet instead of a groove. I set the fence around 5 5/8", made a pass on each panel, nudged the fence towards the blade and made another pass ... then repeated this until the acrylic sat flush with the plywood edge.

Step 3: Glue Up

I'm getting pretty good at gluing up boxes, which really isn't saying much. There are a few things I've been doing, which is really working out well.

1. Clamp a straight edge to my table/bench and use it to ensure all my sides are in the same plane.
2. With the exterior faces are up, connect the miter joints with packing tape. You could use wide painters or masking tape as well.
Note: Check to make sure all your sides are in the right orientation ... all the grooves on the same side, etc.
3. Flip the entire work piece over so that the interior faces are now up and mask of all the edges next to the miters. Use a razor knife to remove the tape covering the groove. This masking will keep all of the glue squeeze out off of the wood, which is awesome .. trust me. You'll be able to just remove the tape and have clean interior corners. This is extremely useful gluing up closed boxes, when you have no access to wipe up the squeeze out.
4. Spread glue on the miters (I added a drop in the middle of each groove for the panels), add any captive panels (very easy to get excited and forget this step), and wrap the sides around it. It's as easy as a burrito! Add a piece of tape to the last joint and you're golden. If the panels are sized perfectly, they will keep the box square. If they are undersized, you might need to make an adjustment or add a clamp to one diagonal.

Step 4: Miter Spines

As with all of my boxes with miter joints, I added miter splines to strengthen the corners. I use a shop built spline sled modeled after the American Eagle design and a Kreg miter slot stop block, which keeps me from pushing the sled further forward than it needs to go.

Placement wasn't imperative because most of these will be covered by wooden banding or paint. I first set the sled's fence to around 1/2" and made cuts on all of the outside corners ... 8 in total. Then I adjusted the fence so that the next cut fell approximately in the middle of the box and made that cut on each corner ... 4 in total.

Using the drum sander, I reduced some poplar strips to the thickness of the blade kerf, which was 1/8" in my case. From that strip, I cut a handful of triangles, slathered them with glue and inserted them into each corner notch.

Once the glue was dry, I cut most of the excess spline material using the bandsaw.
Note: Cut in from the corner to avoid blowing out/chipping out your spline. (Learned from experience)
I used the Oscillating Belt Sander to remove most of the excess material and then the orbital sander to get them flush with the box.

Step 5: Lid Separation

My preference is to make my boxes and lids as one piece and separate them post glue up and rough sanding. I find that easier and faster than making them separately. Since I'm usually going for continuous grain, this method also makes the most sense. Added bonus is that the parts are always a perfect fit.

1. Pick a side to be first and make your cut.
2. Make the second cut on the opposing side.
3. Use some stock the same thickness of your blade kerf to temporarily fill these cuts. Leftover stock from the spines is perfect.
4. Make the third cut.
5. Use some more kerf stock to eliminate any flex in the box.
6. Carefully make your last cut.

Step 6: Spray Paint Stencil

The easiest way to add lettering to the acrylic would've been with a vinyl transfer, but that takes time and money since I'd have to hire it out. The cheap way is to print out the lettering on some card stock and then cut them out with a razor knife in order to make a stencil. It took some time and was annoying, but it was free and still faster than placing an order.

Once I was happy with the alignment, I added a piece of tape on one edge to hold that position. This made it possible to flip the template back so I could lightly coat it with spray adhesive, which is what I used to hold the stencil tight against the acrylic in an attempt to avoid paint bleed. Once the stencils were in place, I masked off any exposed acrylic and sprayed 3 light coats of white spray paint.
Note: I painted the lettering on the inside to reduce the risk of it getting scratched off in the future.

Once the paint was dry, I removed the stencils and glued it into it's frame using two part epoxy.

Step 7: Edge Banding

To give the box more visual heft and also create the lip of the lid/front, I used poplar strips as a type of banding. I started with ripping 3/16" strips from a 3/4" board, which I then ripped down to a width of 1/2" ... so it would cover the plywood edge, but not overlap the acrylic into the viewing area. However, 3/4" wasn't wide enough for the banding wrapping around the sides ... it didn't cover the miter splines and wasn't enough of a lip for the lid/front to grab onto the box.

I decided on 1 1/2" wide strips for the side banding .. now I had to cut it. I started by ripping some 3/4" poplar into 1 1/2" widths. Since trying to run a 3/4" wide x 1 1/2" tall board through a table saw with the fence at 3/16" is a TERRIBLE idea, I did not do that. Instead I set the fence so that the blade was roughly in the middle of the board and used push sticks to make the cut ... then I ran all of the pieces through the drum sander until they were an even 1/8" thick.
Note: Another option would be to make this rip cut with a longer board .. cut half of the length, stop the saw, flip the board around and cut the other half of the length.
Another Note: The Grripper was too unstable to use for this cut.
Yet Another Note: The riving knife helped greatly with this cut

To cut the miters on the face frame parts, I used a small parts, 45 degree, crosscut sled on the table saw. I started by cutting the miter on one side of each strip, Then, using my fence and a chunk of wood as a stop block, I cut the other side close to finish length on one strip and then snuck up on the cut until I had my desired fit. With the setting dialed in, I could easily cut the other three pieces. I cut the miters on the side banding using the same method, but the pieces laid flat on the sled, as opposed to on edge.

For assembly, I started with the face frame. I spread glue on the plywood edges, aligned the pieces, and tacked them in place with a few pin nails. For the back banding, I spread glue on the strips and tacked them in place with pin nails - packing tape was used as corner clamps. The front was a little different since i only want glue on the lid/front and the miter joints. To keep glue off of the box front and sides, I covered all those surfaces with packing tape. The banding then got attached to the lid/front with glue and pin nails. To hold all of the corners tight and ensure a proper fit, I slid the front/lid onto the box and then ran tape around all four sides of the banding. Simple solution, but very effective.

Step 8: The Paint Job

I wanted the box to be red, but I wanted it to look aged .. scratched and paint worn to reveal the "metal" underneath. This took several paint applications, but I used rattle can spray paint, so it went rather quickly.
Note: Prior to painting, I patched all of the pin nail holes with wood filler, which was sanded flush and smooth once dry.

1. Light coat of shellac/sanding sealer to promote even coverage.
2. Black base coat.
3. Gray coat.
4. Metallic coat - I had Aluminum.
5. Red top coat.

I was able to get all the paint on in one day and then let it dry for a few days while I was busy with other projects.

Step 9: Distressing

In regard to distressing, I just wanted the paint to look worn. You could add dents with a hammer, stab it with an awl ... even drop it on the ground if that's what trips your trigger.

I just used sand paper to add scratches and remove paint to different depths until I was happy with the look. Boxes usually show the most wear on corners and edges, but I also added wear to the flat sides for visual interest.

For the final finish, I used acrylic spray lacquer. It dries insanely quick, so I was able to get 3 light coats on in under 30 minutes, which I then let cure overnight.

Step 10: Reveal and Clean Up

With all the finishing done, it was finally time to remove the masking on the acrylic. The spray adhesive prevented a lot of possible paint bleed, but it wasn't 100% fool proof. I tired to remove it with glass cleaner, but that was a bust. Acetone took care of it no problem, but it'll take any paint it with which it comes in contact. Unfortunately, the acetone also left a bit of a haze on the acrylic, but you really can't see it unless you get really close.

Step 11: Glamour Shots

Add a cleat to the wall, hang the box, and fill it with your emergency provision(s) of choice. I put glue bear in mine ... at least for now.

If you want/need a bigger box, just scale up the dimensions.

Box Sides: 10" x 5 3/4" x 1/2"
Front Frame Strips: Length cut to fit x 1/2" x 1/8"
Side Banding Strips: Length cut to fit x 1 1/2" x 1/8"
Hardboard Panel: 9 1/2" x 9 1/2" x 3/16"
Acrylic Panel: 9 1/2" x 9 1/2" x 1/4"

Paint Colors: Black, Gray, Metallic, Red

Step 12: The Build Video

Box Contest 2017

Runner Up in the
Box Contest 2017