The Not-so-brief Case




About: I go to a STEM based school in Northern California and I love doing projects, from building instruments to building a forge.

I recently was looking for a project to make and I thought of something while looking at the "Make A Box" contest. A brief case! But not any old brief case. This is made out of wood, glue, some screws, an old wire coat hanger, a few other small supplies, and is a box that can instantaneously transform from a small file cabinet-box to a "brief case" (although you may get some weird looks walking around the office with this!). Only easily accessible and usable handle-held tools were needed to make this, also, so really anyone could make this.

Step 1: Supplies

These are the tools/supplies needed. They will vary depending on your project because I had a lot of miscellaneous parts I threw together.


  1. 5/16 inch thick wood: enough for two pieces 12" x 13 1/4", two pieces 13 1/4" x 4 3/4", two pieces 12" x 4 3/4"
  2. Wood 1 1/2" x 3/4": four pieces 12" long, two pieces 2 3/4" long
  3. Wood 3/4" thick: to make the handle. I will have a template in step 9 for you to see the design I used.
  4. 4 small hinges
  5. Screws with self-burying heads are Semi-Optional(I had 16 screws not including the hinge fasteners, but it will vary depending on your changes in the design)
  6. Old metal coat hanger
  7. Welding rod (or something to hang files on)
  8. three eye hooks, or latch, to close the lid.


  1. Drill and bits that fit the screws you are using and holes you are drilling.
  2. Jig saw and a scroll saw. A radial arm saw or a table saw, etc. will work fine too in place of the jig saw.
  3. Wood glue
  4. Pliers
  5. Wire cutters.
  6. Many C-clamps and other clips! (see step 5)


  1. Belt sander
  2. Hot glue
  3. Hammer (may be needed)
  4. Felt (for covering up possible screws that could scratch)
  5. Felt (for cleaner inside of box)

Now let's get making!

Step 2: Cutting the Sides of the Box

I used wood 5/16" thick to cut the following pieces:

I cut two of each cardboard template above. I first cut the large side pieces which were two pieces that were 12" x 13 1/4" each using a jig saw. Then I cut the top and bottom pieces which were two pieces that were 13 1/4" x 4 3/4" each. Finally, I cut the two side ‎ pieces 12" x 4 3/4" each. I used a belt sander to remove some really stuck on beige paint from the wood and was unsuccessful to completely remove the paint but instead got the cool look you can see above in the fourth picture. The paint was really stuck on so you might not get the same look if you do this. I also used the belt sander to sand down the roughly cut edges.

Step 3: Cutting the Wood Corner-Attcher Thingies

I couldn't come up with a better name for this step so, "Cutting the Wood Corner-Attcher Thingies" is it. I used some wood from some old wine racks that was 1 1/2" x 3/4". I then cut four pieces that were 12" long and two pieces that were 2 1/2" long. To cut these I also used a jig saw. Again I would not use this kind of saw because it makes a very unstraight cut, that is what you are seeing with the small holes between the pieces of wood. I would just use a radial arm saw for these cuts because it is the easiest.

Step 4: Hinges!

For this step you will need at least 4 small hinges. You are going to want to screw hinges in four places on the two 13 1/4" x 4 3/4" pieces and the 13 1/4" x 12" piece. Look at the picture above to see the layout of the wood pieces. Make sure that the two 13 1/4" x 4 3/4" pieces overlap the 13 1/4" x 12" piece as shown in the picture. I put one end of the hinge in the very edge of the 13 1/4" x 4 3/4" piece and then screwed the other end into the 13 1/4"x 12" piece. I put one hinge on either side and made sure that the pin side of the hinge was facing out. If this was done correctly the sides should just touch and it should open outward with ease.

Step 5: Attaching the Corner-Attacher Thingies and Side Pieces

This is the layout that I attached the larger corner pieces above. I attached the 12" pieces to the 12" sides of the wood with wood glue. Using many, many clamps and clips (look at picture 3), I applied wood glue to the wider side of the wood and then clamped it to the other wood. I did this with all four pieces and then started on the other two pieces. I attached the pieces that were 2 1/2" long using the same method as before. I attached these in the middle of the pieces that measured 12" x 13 1/4" (look at picture 2 above). Glue the wide side down and to the very edge of the wood in the side that measures 4 3/4". Make sure to have 1 1/4" on either side because otherwise the sides won't close right later. I would suggest leaving these clamped down for a few days for it to really set. As you can see in the last picture you will need Ma

Step 6: Attaching the 12" X 4 3/4" Side Pieces

The next step is to attach the 12" x 4 3/4" pieces to the sides. Use wood glue to attached these pieces to the sides, but make sure not to glue these pieces to the areas that open up, because then they won't open! Just glue these pieces on the only available spots and glue it to the corner-attacher pieces. Clamp it down well to make sure that it will stick really well.

Step 7: My Impatience: Screwing It Together!

I really wanted to get something up on the "Make a Box" contest, so I didn't wait for the glue to set because I am impatient. I would NOT suggest this approach because the glue doesn't set very well and it doesn't look as professional and just nice overall, but I will still show you how I did it. I screwed one screw into each area that was not attached to a hinged piece. If you did screw it into a hinged piece it won't open correctly. You will want to screw the 12" x 4 3/4" side pieces in at the bottom where the small corner-attacher pieces are and then at the top of the box on both sides. I then put screws in the bottom up through the same corner pieces as before. In the bottom, I also put screws up through the ends of the longer corner pieces. The final screws were in the largest side pieces. I put two on either side of each one into the corner pieces just to hold them in place. This is an entirely optional step because I was just being impatient but it would be much better to just wait for the glue to set.

Step 8: My Impatience 2: Scratch Proofing the Screw Heads

This also an optional step but I would definitely recommend this if you are using screws. I took some felt and a little hot glue to scratch proof the screw heads. After cutting felt the size of the screw head, I hot glued it to the screws on the bottom of the box where it will be resting on the ground, table, etc.

Step 9: The Handle

For the box's handle, I used wood 3/4" thick and I used a scroll saw to cut it to the right shape. First I drew the handle template and traced it onto the wood. Then I set the saw to around 1200 and cut it to the right shape. Using a handheld belt sander I smoothed down the edges that were rough and that I could see the lines. During the process of this the handle actually broke in half. This probably won't happen to you but it happened to me because there was a knot in the wood and it just broke in half while I was holding it. If you see masking tape around it in any pictures it is for this reason.

Step 10: The Handle 2: Attaching It

To attach the handle all I needed was a drill, some wire cutter, and an old metal coat hanger. I drilled a hole on either end of the handle to put the hanger through, the holes going parralel to the handle longways. I put the hanger wire through and bent it down, leaving about 3 inches on either side. I cut it off using the wire cutters. I then drilled holes in the top of the box for the hanger to go through as centered as I could (look at the pictures to see the exact position). I but the hanger ends through and then cut them off so there was only about 1/2 of an inch hanging out. I bent it in and made sure that there was enough to move the handle all the way over. If you get nothing more from this than making a handle, than cool because this is a great way to make a handle that looks and works great.

Step 11: The Hasp/Latch for Closing and Locking It

I got a small latch called a "fixed safety hasp" that was 1 3/4" in length. I attached the small end of the hinge to the top of the box with the hinge pin facing out. This is put on the side that closes and doesn't have hinges. The other long end of the hinged latch goes over the side of the box. I lined up the loop that the latch goes over and I used a needle to make pilot hole because it was moving around when I screwed it in. I then screwed it in and it was all good! I also got a small lock from ACE hardware and put it on the latch. Now the box can be carried without opening and is protected by a lock.

Step 12: The File Rails

This is the method I used to make the rails that the files sat on. I drilled holes in the wide sides of the 12” corner pieces. The holes were about ⅜” deep into the wood and about five eighths of an inch from the outside of the piece. They were also about three eighths of an inch from the top of the piece. I did this on both corner pieces on the solid side of the box. On the other hinged side of the box I made the same holes, and one right above them so there is a slot. Since there is a slot, the rails that I put files on can fit into the holes on one side and into the slots on the other side so when it is closed they fall into position. If there were holes on the other side, it wouldn't work correctly because they would get stuck. I used ⅛” stainless steel welding rod to make the file rails. I cut the welding rod 3 ⅜” long using a large sheet metal cutter. Since most people probably don't have this easily accessible, you could probably use a pair of bolt cutters. This stainless steel rod is very hard to cut because it is stainless steel, so normal wire cutters might not work unless you can get a really strong cut or if they are just really strong cutters. Bolt cutters would work very well but I was being lazy and didn't want to find a pair.

Step 13: Conclusion: Why, What I Would Do Next Time, My Struggles, and Voting

The reason I made this is because I have always been really inspired by Instructable projects and I wanted to do one myself. I saw the "Make a Box" contest and my mind was suddenly filled with ideas, like a box that opened in a cool, interesting way, or a storage box, but rather than doing those I decided upon a box that could serve two utilitarian purposes at once and looked cool and nice. This box serves the purpose of being a file cabinet-box and also a general purpose box that can be latched and locked so that it can be protected and carried easily. I also wanted to contribute to so other people can do fun and interesting projects. Next time I would not use the jig saw that I used this time because it didn't make the cuts as straight as I would like them to be, which was a sort of disappointment because there were some holes and it didn't come together as nicely as I would like it to. I hope that next time I have more time because then I won't have to screw it together, I could just leave the glue to dry and it would look nicer. Just a small little thing is that I would have liked the latch to be silver like the hinges or for it all to be gold so it just matches a little better. The sheet metal cutter also left rough cuts on the welding rod used for the file rails, so that was slightly irritating, but it doesn't make that much of a difference because it is hidden. Besides these small things, the box really turned out well after all and works just as I would hope it to. I had a slight difficulty near the end of making this only because I broke my wrist, so it was a little difficult to use some tools and take pictures for this Instructable. I also had a difficult time using the saw that I used because it was a little tricky to make straight cuts, and in the end they weren't even all that straight. I worked really hard on this project and crammed making it into a few days so I could get it done by April 4th for the "Make a Box" contest deadline, so please vote for this project if you liked it. Also I am entering the "Hands Only Tools" contest, if you want to vote for me on that too. Thank you for reading this Instructable and I hope you are inspired to make it or something similar to it!



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    9 Discussions


    2 years ago

    that looks so cool


    3 years ago

    I love that it can open two ways! Nice job!

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    I want to stress that I love this project and am voting for it. It also illustrates another point-that it takes the same amount of work to do a professional looking job as a 'crappy' job - it simply takes more experience, planning and patience. I am sure that you will go as far as you want in the crafted projects as you pay attention to detail- even though you rushed a bit. I hope there are collaborative spaces where you can inspire others to try their own projects. A suggestion on the handle is to utilize reclaimed suitcase or purse handles but I appreciate the old timey way of bending the wires. I have an old house that has some wires and pipes fixed to studs in this manner. BTW how old are you?

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    "My Impatience: Screwing it together"

    Really? I love screwing screws in

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Very nice job and hard work! For those reasons I'm voting for you!