Antique Post Office Box Door Bank

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About: Be limited only by your imagination.

Intro: Antique Post Office Box Door Bank

  • In this Instructable, I used a Post Office door manufactured in 1960 to make a bank.
  • The project used reclaimed wood for the body of the bank.
  • You can choose any wood you would like for the project.
  • Depending on the wood you use, this project can be made for about 25 dollars.
  • It turned out to be easier than I expected to figure out the combination of the lock and I will describe the method in the Instructable. So, if you see doors that don't have combinations, don't be hesitant to buy them.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

  • Tools
    • Table saw to cut the sides and back to specifications.
    • Table saw sled (Can use a miter gauge) when tilting the saw blade to cut sides at a 45-degree angle.
    • Drill
      • 1/16th inch bit for pilot holes
      • 1/8 bit for the starter hole for the coin slot
    • Screwdriver
      • to fasten the door to the frame. A screwdriver with a right angle helps because it is a tight fit.
    • Ruler and speed square for measuring and laying out dimensions on the wood
    • Jigsaw with a thin blade to cut the coin slot
    • Sandpaper to smooth the coin slot
  • Materials
    • Post Office door - I got mine on eBay for $19.33 including postage. The prices vary on how old and rare they are.
    • Wood - I used salvaged wood because of the distressed look but any wood that is 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick will do. The dimensions of this build are
      • (2) 5" X 4" X 3/4" for the top and bottom
      • (2) 6 1/2 " X 4" X 3/4" for the sides
    • Masonite for the back 3 1/2" by 5 1/4" X 1/8"
    • Cork, rubber or felt feet
    • 4 screws less than 1/2" long to fasten the door
    • Locktite II glue
    • Painter's tape (blue tape) to hold the side pieces together when glued

Step 2: Figure Out the Combination of the Door

Locks like this have three tumblers. The order of rotation is:

  • counterclockwise
  • turn clockwise to the first number and continue to turn less than one rotation
  • counterclockwise less than one rotation.

To determine the combination

  1. Turn the dial counter-clockwise one full rotation
  2. Keep the door verticle
  3. Wait until the cylinder closest to the front of the door has a wedge in it where the lever will move into.
  4. Write that letter down.
  5. Turn the dial clockwise past the letter and continue to turn until the middle cylinder has a wedge lining up where the lever will move. Note the letter (it might be between two letters, so note that)
  6. Turn the dial counter-clockwise until all three cylinders line up. Note the letter or letters.
  7. You should now be able to turn the knob in the front of the door to open the mechanism.
  8. Close the door and turn the dial one full counter-clockwise rotation. If the combination works, then you are finished with this step.

Step 3: Cut the Sides of the Bank

  1. First, cut the sides to the needed width (4 inches in my case)
  2. Second, cut the pieces to the desired length and add 1/2 inch. You want to be able to cut to the exact dimension when you cut this on an angle.
  3. Unplug your saw and tilt the blade to 45-degrees. Measure this with a speed square. Plug the saw back in.
  4. Using either a miter gauge or a table sled, cut the pieces on a 45-degree angle. I think a table sled helps here because it provides more surface to stabilize the piece. Continue to cut closer and closer until you exactly hit your mark. You want to be precise here or the case won't line up.
  5. Do this for all four pieces of the bank body.
  6. Unplug the saw and return the blade to 90-degrees. Measure the angle with a speed square.
  7. Raise the blade 1/8 inch above the table sled.
  8. Mark a line 1/8 inch from the rear of each piece (on the inside).
  9. Starting on that line cut a slot for the masonite. You will need to cut 1 1/2 blade widths for a 1/8 inch slot.

Step 4: Insert the Rear Board and Glue It Together

  • Begin by cutting the masonite to 3 1/2 by 5 1/4 inches. That will fit snugly in the back of the bank.
  • Put glue into the slots for the masonite and on all 8 mating surfaces (45-degree cuts).
  • Put them all together and use blue painter's tape to keep the bank body together while the glue sets.
  • I always glue on top of waxed paper so that it doesn't stick to the surface.
  • You can also use clamps but it can be frustrating to tension them just right so that it doesn't wedge out a side. I've found that tape provides adequate pressure for this. Once set the glue is stronger than the wood itself. If you want to reinforce the joint you could add splines but that probably isn't necessary.

Step 5: Cut a Slot for Coins in the Top of the Bank

  • Mark the middle of the top (2 1/2 inches) and halfway back (2 inches)
  • Draw a line going 3/4 inch to both sides.
  • Drill a 1/8-inch hole using the drill.
  • Using a jigsaw, cut the slot out between the two holes
  • Use sandpaper or an emery board or a thin file to smooth the slot.

Step 6: Fasten the Door and Attach the Cork Feet

  • Drill 1/6 inch pilot holes using the drill.
  • fasten the door to the sides using a driver. You can see that I used a right-angled driver to make it easier.
  • Vacuum and use a microfiber cloth to clean out any sawdust.
  • Use window cleaner to clean the window.
  • Attach feet on the bottom to avoid scratching your furniture.
  • Depending on the wood you use, you could at this point use oil or polyurethane or even paint to finish the project. I chose to keep the wood natural because I thought it showed it's character and age.

I hope that you enjoy this build and I welcome your comments and questions and will especially enjoy seeing your versions of this build!

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    12 Discussions

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    Bob Galgano

    Question 4 days ago on Step 4

    Why not attach the door to the appropriate side panels before assembly and assemble with glue and fine brads from a pneumatic brad nailer, hidden in the grooves?

    Offset screwdrivers drive me crazy.

    1 more answer
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    GrunambulaxBob Galgano

    Answer 3 days ago

    This might well work. My concern is that the miter joints are so finicky. They can easily be misaligned. But I think this method might be well worth the try

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    astrong0

    4 days ago

    My local post office has doors EXACTLY like these. Weird.

    1 reply
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    Grunambulaxcharlessenf-gm

    Reply 8 days ago

    Thank you and I hope that you can use the method. I've seen a couple of different doors. Some have two dials. My guess though is that they all share the similarity of having a slot that a bolt goes thru when set to the right combination. I assumed that this would be hidden and I'd have to remove a cover of the mechanism to see it but when you think about it, because the only way you can see it is to have the door open, there was no need to make the combination hidden. Good luck with yours.

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    sbroomheadsr

    8 days ago

    For the12 of my first 18 years, I took mail out of a box protected by a door like this. One day I found a PO box door bank and bought it because I am not a woodworker. Then 10 years ago, I became an owner of just a PO box door. After reading you write-up, excellent, by the way, I am going to have to try my hand at some woodworking. Your choice of finish for the wood looks very nice and compliments the brass of the door. Great job all around.

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    Grunambulaxsbroomheadsr

    Reply 8 days ago

    I'm happy to hear this. Keep in mind that the 45 degree miter joints can be a bit of a challenge. I'd give that a go but you can also build a really fine looking bank with just edge to edge (butt) joints. The back can either be set the way I did and that's pretty easy if you have a table saw or you can just glue the masonite to the back. There are lots of options and no wrong ways. I hope you will let me know of your progress.

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    rayp1511

    8 days ago

    That's a unique project, well done and well documented. I like it!

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    Kink Jarfold

    10 days ago on Step 6

    You've made an heirloom. Wonderful job. Please date it and sign it somewhere. This'll be around for years to come. KJ

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    1 reply
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    GrunambulaxKink Jarfold

    Reply 10 days ago

    That’s about the nicest comment I’ve gotten. Thanks so much