Introduction: Wild Animal Cage Toy Box

My Granddaughter's room is being remodeled from a baby's room to a little girl's room and I have been asked to make a toy box for her. It will primarily be used to store her collection of stuffed animals. One of her favorite places is the zoo so I decided to make it look like an old time animal cage that you would have see at the circus or traveling menagerie. You know, the kind of cage you would see on the docks in the old Africa jungle movies or something sitting on the dock at the Disneyland Jungle Cruise. It is big enough to hold many toys and maybe even a child or two. On top is a hinged lid and in the front there is also a door that slides up and down. All materials can be found at your local home center.

Step 1: Prepare Wood

To build the frame of the box you will need 14 ft of 2x6 lumber. I used redwood but any clear wood will do. From this wood you will get; four short rails, four styles, four side spacers, and one bottom door piece. Cut and plane to the correct thickness and width while leaving them a bit long (1/2") in length. The dimensions of all these pieces can be found on page 1 of the attached plans



Search through the piles of lumber and take the two best looking pieces. If you do not have access to a planer than you can modify this design to be built with 2x3s, 2x2s, 1x2s, and some 2x6s for the lid.

Step 2: Acquire Hardware

To assemble the frame of the box you will need; 16 1/4"- 5" lag screws, 16 1/4"- 3" lag bolts, and 32 1/4" cut washers. I recommend SPAX lag bolts as they can truly be installed without drilling pilot holes.

5 Inch Lag Screw

3 Inch Lag Screw

All this hardware comes with zinc plating. If you strip off the zinc you have a really cool cold steel finish. It makes the bolts look old. Soak the screws and washers in white vinegar for two to four hours until the zinc dissolves. Wash with water after done and thoroughly dry them. Give then a good rubbing with some cooking (canola) oil. Before using this hardware, buff it a bit with some steel wool.

Step 3: Acquire Cage Bars

The bars are cut from 1/2" steel electrical conduit.


You will need 6 pieces 19-3/4" long and 4 pieces 20" long. All can be cut from two 10ft pieces.

They will also need the zinc plating stripped. The plating is a bit tougher so I recommend you use muriatic (pool) acid. There will be a lot of foam and bubbling as the zinc dissolves. After that there will be slow bubbling as the acid attacks the steel. Let this go this way for awhile because it will give the steel a pitted, old look. Wipe off any zinc sludge, wash with water, thoroughly dry them, and give them rubbing with oil. Before installing these bar, buff them with some steel wool.

The soaking container is just a capped piece of 4" plastic pipe. I keep this around when every I need to soak something tall and skinny. A capped 3" plastic pipe will also hold 10 pieces and use less than half the fluid.

Step 4: Cut and Drill Styles

Final cut all four styles so they are each 22-3/4" long. Each will require eight 1/4" holes. Mark and drill them. Hole locations can be found on page two of the plans.

Step 5: Cut and Drill Long Rails

Final cut all four long rails so they are each 30" long. The back two rails are complete. The front rails need to be marked and drilled. Hole locations, and countersink depths can be found on page three of the plans.

Step 6: Cut and Drill Bottom Door Piece

Final cut this piece to be 18" long. It needs to be marked and drilled. Hole locations, and countersink depths can be found on page four of the plans. The holes, one in from the end, will have 3/4" countersinks drilled on both sides before a 1/4" hole is drilled through. I recommend that you start with a 1/16" pilot hole so the countersinks align.

Step 7: Cut Short Rails

Final cut the four short rails each to 15-1/2" long. No holes to be drilled.

Step 8: Assemble Back Frame

To assemble the back frame you will need two back long rails, two styles, eight washers and eight 5" lag screws. Join the styles to the rails with each corner getting two screw and two washers. A little glue in the joint won't hurt.

Step 9: Assemble Front Frame

Start by joining two styles, one on each side, to the bottom front rail. Note that a screw on each side actually goes through the bar countersink. Back off that screw until it no longer does.

Next place the six 19-3/4" bars into the hole in the bottom rail. Also install the door bottom on the bars.

Check to see the top rail will fit in place when bars are in. You may have the file some of the bars shorter.

With the top rail in place check that the door bottom smoothly moves up and down. If it doesn't, widen the proper holes until it does.

Finally attach the top rail to the styles with and washers and 5" lag screws. On the top, a screw on each side will bore through the conduit bars. (These are great screws!) Retighten the previously backed off screws through the conduit bars.

Step 10: Connect Front and Back Frames With Short Rails

Assembling each side requires two short rails. Each end of each short rail is joined with two washers and two 3" lag screws. Install all four rails.

Step 11: Attach Side Spacers

each side, cut to fit the two spacers. Glue and nail them into place.

Step 12: Add Cleats for Floor

The cleats are strips of wood, glued and nailed to the inside bottom of the lower frame. They give a ledge to mount the floor. They can be made of any scrap laying around as the won't be seen. (1x2s, 2x2's, I used some scrap pine to make some 1" square stock.) Just take the measurements and them cut to size. It does not need to be that good of a fit as you can see in the photo.

Step 13: Sand and Oil

Give the frame a sanding with 120 grit sandpaper and then give it an oil finish. I used Howard Feed-N-Wax.


It is made from orange oil, bees wax, and carnauba wax. It is very reasonably priced and can always be applied later to spruce up the toy box. Besides the orange tint really makes the redwood pop. Makes the wood look more African or South American.

Although Feed-N-Wax is made from some natural ingredients, however it has a solvent in it that is not food grade. Feed-N-Wax would need to be mixed sanitary mix tanks and it is not. However, once dry it is extremely safe and is safe for teething children and I have no problem with it being used on something I make for my Granddaughter. If you are really worried then use Howards Butcher Block Conditioner. It is food grade and is the finish I use for projects my four year olds make at the day care where I volunteer. (They call it baby boogers.) When a parent questions me about the safety of the finish I squirt a bit of it in my month. That pretty much relieves their anxieties.

Step 14: Cut, Finish, and Install Floor

I asked myself are the chances my Granddaughter will stand inside the box and I concluded that not only will she do it but also will jump up and down. So I made the floor from 1/2" Baltic plywood. Just measure the space and cut to size. I wanted it to look like planks of wood so after cutting the plywood to size, I set the blade on the tablesaw at 45 degrees and set the blade set so it just barely scored the wood. The exposed surface was sanded with 120 grit sandpaper and given a couple of coats of shellac. You never want to use an oil finish on the inside of a closed box. The oil will turn rancid and smell bad. Shellac is the recognized finish for the insides of closed furniture.

Apply glue to the cleats, place the plywood, and nail into place.

Step 15: Install Side Panels

For the sides I am using 5/16" thick pine tongue and grove paneling.

Tongue and Groove Pine.

The panel has a smooth side and a rough side. It is mounted with the smooth side on the inside of the box. The rough side will be on the outside giving the box even more of a shipping crate feel.

On each side install the paneling from the lower corner at the front of the box. (If their are any gaps while installing they will be at the back corner where they will be covered when the paneling in the back is installed. Measure, cut, and fit the boards in place. Then take them out and sand the inside surface and give that same side a couple of coat of shellac. Apply glue in the frame and nail the paneling into place.

With a little thought a lot of scrap in the cutting can be avoided if you think ahead. For instance if you cut the first four pieces from both sides of two pieces of the paneling, the first half of the last four cuts are already made for you.

Step 16: Install Back Panel

This is pretty much the same as installing the back panels. Again cut, measure, and fit pieces. Sand and shellac the good side then glue and nail into place.

Step 17: Attach Molding to Inside Edges

This wasn't a step I initially planned and you can skip it if you wish, but I wasn't happy with how the panels fit so I covered the edges up with some 3/8" square molding. Just cut to fit and nailed into place. Although I didn't plan to do this, I like the effect. The molding was made from some scrap redwood I had around

Step 18: Attach Glides to Bottom of Box

Turn the box upside down and each corner mark where the guides will go. They are 7/8" away from each side. Drill a pilot hole as to not split the frame.


Nail in the guide, flip over the box, and your toy box will now sit well on either a carpeted, tiled, or hardwood floor.

Step 19: Lid or No Lid

Congratulations, except for the front door you have finished the construction of the box and now it is time to decide if you want it to have a lid. With a lid there is a surface to sit on and it can serve as a window seat or a work surface for projects. Without out the lid you don't have to worry about fingers getting caught when it closes. You can also build the lid now but install it at a later time. If you do not want a lid then go the skip to Step 24.

Step 20: Acquire Materials for Lid

For the Lid you will need two large (6" or 8") tee hinges and the lag screws to install them.

As with the hardware in Step 2, all these parts need to have their zinc plating removed with white vinegar. Soak four or so hours.

You will need 12 ft of 2 x 6 lumber, cut into four 3ft pieces, to build the lid.

Step 21: Mill Lumber and Glue Up the Lid

Mill the four lid pieces to 1-3/8" x 5". Then glue and clamp together. Clamping Cauls were used to align the boards before the clamps were placed to press the boards together. When the glue dries. plane or sand the piece to 1-5/16" thick.

Step 22: Cut Lid to Size

The lid now needs to be cut to the proper width and the slot added for the top door piece. This slot will be sized so there is a 1/16" gap between the door top and the lid. Cut the width of the lid so it is 16-11/16" wide. Take the leftover piece and from the middle, cut a piece 12" wide. This will become the door top piece. On the front of the lid find the center and mark two lines, each 6-1/16" from the center. Take the left over pieces and place them on those marks. Glue and clamp in place.

After the glue has dried, plane or sand the top to 1-1/4" thickness. Cut the lid 18" wide. and then trim the length to 35". The lid is now the correct size with a slot for the door's top piece. Sand to 120 grit and finish the same as you finished the box frame.

Step 23: Install Hinges

The hinges are placed so the tee attaches to the back of the box and the strap attaches to the bottom of the lid. This is not the way they were intended to be used but it works well in this application.

Place the hinges on the bottom of the lid with the strap centers mounted 7" away from each side. For each hinge drill two pilot holes and bolt them to the lid.

Place the lid back on top of the box. For each hinge, drill four pilot holes and bolt them in place.

Lastly, place a furniture bumper in each of the top front corners of the box.

Step 24: Cut and Drill Top Door Piece

Cut the top door piece to 1-1/4" x 1-1/4" x 12". Clamp in position on the box and mark the position of the four holes with a 3/4" drill bit. The countersink depths can be found on page four of the plans. The holes on the end will have 3/4" countersink drilled on both sides before a 1/4" hole is drilled through. I recommend that you start with a 1/16" pilot hole so the countersinks align. Apply finish.

Assemble the four door bars and fit the top. With the top door piece in place check that the door smoothly moves up and down. If it doesn't, widen the proper holes until it does.

Step 25: Acquire Door Hardware

Along with the four conduit bars previously cut, you will need four 1/4-20 nuts, four 1/4" washers, two 1/4" lock washers and about 4ft of 1/4-20 threaded rod.

Measure the height of the assembled door and cut the rod ¼" shorter.

Soak the hardware and the ends of the threaded rod in vinegar to remove the zinc. Then wash off, dry and oil.

Step 26: Assemble Door

With the bars placed in the door bottom, lift the door 3" or 4" for space to work. On each end, drop a threaded rod into place and at the bottom add a washer, lock washer, and nut. Place the door top onto the bars and, on each side, thread the rods through the holes. Attach with a washer and nut and tighten into place.

Step 27: Instant Fun, Just Add Child

Here is the finished toy box in my Granddaughter's remodeled room. It is set below a window just far enough away from the wall that the lid doesn't fall down.

Wood Contest 2016

Participated in the
Wood Contest 2016