Some time ago I machined a Settlers of Catan set from billet aluminum. The project turned out better than I had hoped. There was a problem though, I had nowhere to store it. As the project was reaching a close, Adam Savage posted a One Day Build video. His video was an in depth tutorial on how to build a box. This 'ible outlines my first journey into box building. Having been through the process, I plan on making custom boxes for all my container needing projects.
Step 1: What You Need
This build doesn't require a lot of special tools. If you have a wood shop or know someone who does, you should be covered.
- Quality plywood
- Textured paper
- Spray adhesive - Super 77
- Spray and acrylic paint
- Full sheet labels
- Small box hardware
- Table Saw
- Pull Saw
- Brad nailer
- Sanding block and various grits
- Xacto knife
- Blow Torch
- Laser printer
Step 2: Make a Lose Plan
When box building it is important to remember that what you are storing is in relation to what you are putting it in. There is an opportunity for aesthetic continuity if you get your ratios right. More than relying on a ruler, use your eye and design sense. For the settlers project I was storing a lot of small pieces and needed to make sure they all fit. Using a CAD program is a little overboard, for simpler applications you should steer clear and go by feel. One aspect of the box I felt strongly about is that is should not have any handles. People holding this box have to use both hands and treat it like an artifact.
Step 3: Make a Box
Finish your coffee then make your box. Build the whole box, not its parts. Instead of building the top, bottom and others, build a single box and cut out your parts later. By building a single box, you have the option to make curved cuts and complex openings which would be too difficult to build as separate parts. For this project I wanted to have two openings on top that met in the middle.
Your box does not need fancy wood joints, but if you are so inclined go right ahead. Using a table saw, cut out all the panels for your box. I used butt joints, glue and some tacks from the pneumatic brad nailer to hold the thing together. The construction is durable enough for a box, we are not building furniture here.
Using the sanding block, sand down any edges that are not flush and lightly break all your edges.
Step 4: Cut It Up
This is where it gets fun. I cut the box into two parts, top and bottom, then the top in half again making three parts. If you remember the box in the plan rendering had a single lid, feel free to improvise and go with what feels right.
To cut the top from the bottom I ran each side on the table saw without cutting all the way through. Then used the pull saw to finish the job. Cutting the top in half was done all with the pull saw.
Step 5: Coat the Exterior
The next few steps use spray adhesive, it gets messy if you aren't careful.
Start by laying your textured paper face down on the bench. Then place the portion of the box to be covered on top of it. Trace around your part giving yourself at least half an inch of extra material. The extra material will be used to wrap around the edges of the piece. In the corners you will need to use the Xacto blade to cut notch out any overlap.
Once your pieces are cut, it is time to attach them. Lightly coat the paper and the side of the box to be coated with the spray adhesive. Again lay the paper down first and place the box on top of it. Using a plastic rib or rubber roller tool, go over the whole piece of paper making sure you have good contact all over.
If you have creases, they are really hard to get out. If you have air bubbles, you can poke a hole with an Xacto and press the air out.
Continue cutting and spraying until the exterior of your box is coated.
Step 6: Coat the Interior
This time instead of using textured paper, you will be using felt. I chose black felt so it did not draw attention from what was in the box. This is an opportunity to use color and have fun, don't be boring like me.
The felt should be cut to exact sizes, there is no need for overlap.
Step 7: Add and Coat Sections
Once you have your interior coated with felt, you should build out any sections you need. I used more plywood for my sections. Once everything was fit, I stained the wood because I couldn't bring myself to do any more spraying and sticking.
Step 8: Distress the Hardware
Distressing the hardware is a very cool way to add age to your project. You can use acids, fire, paint, sandpaper or all the above. I used a blow torch on most of the box hardware as well as the screws. By distressing everything you are making sure there are no new shiny parts. The brass bits on the hinges and box cornered turned out looking really cool.
Step 9: Distress the Exterior
With your distressed hardware in place and box all together, it is time to distress the exterior. I used watered down white, yellow, blown and black paint.
Starting with brighter colors in random spots, let them flow into the texture of the paper. After a few seconds, use a paper towel to wipe up the excess, leaving the color in the cracks.
After the bright colors, it is time to add age and should be applied in the same manner. You can think of the dark colors as dirt and should be used in places that might collect dirt over time. I applied the darker colors around the corners and around the latches.
You can keep going using any technique you feel adds age without being too obvious.
Step 10: Style Points
The final touch for this project is the stickers, do not overlook this step. You can go with stickers you already have or make your own in which case you will need a laser printer (or a trip to FedEx). Using your computer make some project appropriate stickers. It is important to use a laser printer so you can distress and paint the stickers.
Once attached a light sanding around the edges helps show age.
My favorite sticker is one that goes over a seam, use the Xacto to cut it so it the rip is in the right place.
You can coat the stickers in lacquer, further distress them or leave them bare.
Enjoy and show off your new creation.
Third Prize in the
Box Contest 2017
Alex in NZ made it!