Introduction: The Paint Caddy

Welcome to the Paint Caddy!

If you paint a lot of models or miniatures, you've probably found yourself digging through tupperware containers of little paint bottles. I've designed and built this neat little tray to store my paints, but also to give me an attractive case that's not just for carrying my paints around, but showing them off! This instructable will cover how to build the Paint Caddy

Tools Required

  • Laser cutter (seriously, join a maker space!)
  • Rivet gun and 3/8" rivets (but you could get away with nuts and bolts)
  • Large slot screwdriver to install handle hardware
  • Smaller screwdriver to install the latches
  • Xacto knife (if your laser tends to struggle with 1/4 ply)


  • 1/4" baltic birch for box and middle shelf
  • 1/8" baltic birch for drawer at the bottom
  • 1/4" acrylic for the lid
  • Piano hinge
  • Extruded double ball catches from Lee Valley
  • Handle hardware from Lee Valley
  • Leather strap for handle
  • Rubber feet

Step 1: Cutting the Box

Here, we laser cut the parts. All DXF files are in millimeters. Of course they may need a bit of cleanup with the Xacto knife, and generally a test fit is recommended before glue up.

The Main Box

The main box is cut out of 6.4 mm (1/4") wood material. I use baltic birch, but MDF would work just as well.

The Middle Shelf

I cut this part out of 6.4mm baltic as well. I considered doing it out of acrylic, but in the end, opted for the look of wood.

The Drawer

In keeping with my theme of thinner drawers, I cut the drawer out of 3mm baltic birtch. There's no reason you couldn't use 6.4mm ply again, but I really like the thin wood for drawers.

The Cover

This was done out of 6.4mm acrylic. It comes in two pieces, which will be put together with the hinge. I really like the look of having a transparent lid. Although I'm sure you could do something really cool with a nice pattern on wood too.

Step 2: Assembling the Box

The assembly is pretty straight forward, but it's important to get order right. Also, the top shelf assembly requires a bit of finesse.

First, lay out all the pieces. We will put the top shelf assembly together first. This assembly looks a bit like a stair case with an edge on the top of it. A few of these pieces are interchangeable. It's never a bad idea to do a dry fit to ensure that everything will line up. Start with the horizontal piece that comes out of the back. Put a dab of glue on tabs and some on the inside edge between the tabs. Basically, any surface that that will come in contact with the front edge. Don't glue the tabs that will attach to the back piece yet. With this done, attach the front vertical piece by lining up the tabs and tapping it in with a mallet or a piece of wood. The tabs should be in all the way to ensure a good joint. Be sure to wipe off any excess glue. Now do the same for the next horizontal piece. With each piece you add, it gets a bit tougher to find an edge to tap on. Don't worry too much if the piece warps a bit during this process. It will get straightened once the sides go on. Repeat until the shelf is complete.

Now apply glue to the tabs of the shelf and attach to the back.

Glue the tabs on the bottom and attach. Note that it won't really stay in place by itself, but that's ok. Just try to keep it in place as best as you can.

Now we're ready to attach one of the sides. Flip the box on it's side, and apply glue to all the tabs facing up. Then take the side and put it in place, so all the tabs fit into the slots. You'll likely have to play with it a bit. For me, I had to adjust the shelf so the tabs lined up. Also, glue and attach the lower flat shelf and bottom at this point. Tap the side to ensure that all the tabs are in completely.

Once the first side is done, flip the box over and do the second side.

If you see any gaps where the tabs are not inserted completely, you might want to put a couple of clamps on it. Or perhaps set some old heavy books on top.

Once all the glue dries, you should have a complete box

Step 3: Building the Second Tier

The middle shelf is a shorter version of the top tier. It has it's own sides, and is removable to allow easy access to the paints. It's cut out of 6.3mm ply just like the rest of the box. Assembly is similar to the previous step where the 'steps' are put together first, then the sides.

Step 4: Building the Drawer

The drawer is cut from 3mm baltic birch. It could be made from 6.3mm as well, but I decided to change it up a bit. Again, it's just a matter of lasercutting the pieces and gluing them together. I find that wood glue doesn't work so well on the thinner plywood, so for this part, I would recommend using gorilla glue.

Step 5: The Cover and Other Final Bits

The cover

Notice I don't use the box joints (tabs) to make this lid. I like the idea of being able to access the top and front without taking the lid completely off. I don't know how practical it is, but I think it's a cool feature. Anyway, the way I did this is by laser cutting two pieces of acrylic, one for the top, and one for the front. I cut a piano hinge to size. Any length should do. It's an aesthetic choice. I decided that rather than using small bolts (my M.O. for most of my other projects), I'd try out this fancy new rivet gun I got, and use some 3/8" aluminum rivets. I did this just to keep the profile low. I lined up the acrylic on the box, then laid out the piano hinge. I marked the piano hinge holes (which I probably could have laser cut), and drilled them. Then I riveted the hinge onto the two pieces of acrylic.

Now we need a way to keep our new lid in place. For the latches, I used these small box latches from Lee Valley - four in total.

The great thing about these latches is that are just as strong if one of the sides is rotated 90 degrees. This concept will let us screw one side of the latch into the side of the box, and the other side into the cover. The screws that come with the latches are a bit too long. That's fine. When they protrude out the other side, we can simple sand down the soft brass and it'll just make a nice dot on the outside of our case. Attaching the latch to the acrylic is a bit more tricky. You definitely must pre-drill the acrylic, otherwise the soft brass screws will simply snap off. I also used a bit of two part 5 minute epoxy in addition to the brass screws to give them a bit more purchase.

The Handle

The handle is simply a strip of leather I had lying around. I also had some really cool brass knobs and corresponding inserts. I drilled a hole in each side and screwed in the inserts with a slot screwdriver. Then I was drilled holes in the end of the leather, and put the knurled brass bolts through. Be sure to make the handle long enough so that it can rotate behind the box. That way it doesn't impede the top lid. At some point I may make another handle that is longer so you can carry it over your shoulder.

The Feet

No magic here. I just picked some feet out of my feet drawer (yes, I have a feet drawer) and stuck them on. If you use screws, make sure to cut off the excess screw so it doesn't interfere with the drawer.

Step 6: Step 6: the Final Product!

Overall, I'm quite happy with the design. It's not very heavy, and the latches work well! I'm not thrilled with the look of the hinge on the lid. Perhaps if I can find a nice sturdy clear plastic hinge, I'll use that next time.

If you build one, please post it in the pics!

Thanks for viewing.

Box Contest 2017

Participated in the
Box Contest 2017