Introduction: No-waste Plywood Trunk With Lid Storage and Walnut Trim
Welcome to the instructables for this no-waste, single plywood sheet trunk. It can be built in one weekend, stands at about 3 feet length by 2 feet width by 2 feet height, and should be extremely durable.
My girlfriend needed a trunk for her horse tack, and while a sturdy wooden one usually goes for about $1000, this cost me about $120 dollars from the hardware store, some walnut scraps from my bass and guitar projects, and about 15 hours of work.
The idea for this chest was to make it as big as possible using a single piece of 4*8 ft plywood without any wasted material.
Let's dive in!
1 full sheet of 3/4 inch birch plywood
Any scrap lumber for trim and skirt (I used walnut)
1 3/4 wood screws
4 hinges and one lock
Screw eyes (10) and elastic rope for the lid storage
For the drawer and tote
A 2 feet section of 1 inch dowel,
1/2 sheet of 1/2 inch plywood, for tote and drawer
Table saw and/or hand held circular saw
A drill with usual bits and drivers
A marking knife
Sandpaper 80, 120, 220 Block plane
A chop saw is nice, but not necessary
A mallet and chisel, for hinge mortises.
A router is nice, but not necessary
Step 1: Cut the Plywood
As we are trying to maximize the use of plywood, instead of giving absolute measurements I will be giving relative ones.
First, let's cut the plywood sheet in half length-wise. I did this by laying it flat on the ground, propped up levelled on some lumber so my saw would not dig in the dirt. I used a hand held circular saw with a piece of 2*6 plastic lumber clamped as a guide. Because we want these two pieces to be exactly the same, please make sure to mark the middle of the sheet exactly and to cut with the kerf of the saw dead in the middle on that line. I know, this is unusual but here this is what we want!
Each of the two halves obtained will yield a top (or a bottom), a front (or a back) and a side for the trunk.
Then, I stacked the two boards on top of each other to cut them at the same time and cut a square section of each. These will be our sides.
Third and last cut
Next, we are splitting the rest of the stock in two unequal parts. Because of how the trunk will be built, we need the top and bottom to be a little longer than the front and back, by exactly two thicknesses of the material you are using. This is better marked than measured: draw the center line of each half, then stack your two side pieces on one side of this line and mark your cut line. Again, cut with the kerf smack in the middle of this line, this way you will end up with the two pieces exactly at the dimensions you need.
And that's all the cutting we needed !
Step 2: Assemble the Box
The box is very readily assembled, and the lid will be cut out later.
Using a marking gauge or a compass, mark half a thickness of your board on the side where it will be screwed, as per the picture above. Then, evenly pre-drill and countersink screw holes every 3-5 inches along that line. Importantly, make sure that there is no screw in the way of cutting your lid out! It is good at this point to use a marking gage to mark and then label your lid line. The sides are then glued with wood glue and screwed in place, no clamping of the joints required thanks to the screws. Repeat for the top and bottom, screwing it all around the edge
With a square, make sure everything is as close to 90° as possible when you assemble, use some clamps if needed to align, it should retain the correct angle as the glue cures over the next 24 hours.
Step 3: You Are Not Perfect. Trim the Excess
I know, I know, I said no waste. But I guess I was not infinitely precise in my measuring, because I had about 1/16th inch excess on two sides. I trimmed this using a hand saw (you could use a router with a flush bit, provided it is deep enough) and finished flushing it with a block plane.
Step 4: Prepare the Trim
I ran some walnut long thin scraps in the table saw to resaw them at about 3/8th inch thick and used this as stock for the trim.
All the trim joints are mitered, so I first established a 45° chamfer along the length of the stock using the table saw, then cut one end at 45° on the chop saw. The pictures in the next step should make it clear how the trim is assembled, and all of these instructions will make sense!
Instead of measuring, the trim is laid out exactly where it will be laid and the exact correct length is scribed with a knife on the inside.Fine adjustments are made on a shooting board with the block plane.
Step 5: Nailing and Glueing the Walnut Trim
All the edges and the spot where the lid will be cut are reinforced and embellished using trim. Each piece was laid out, nailed and glued in place. Again, make sure that no nails are in the way of cutting the lid out! I redrew my lid line on the trim.
All the trim is about 1 1/4 inch wide, the band around the lid line is about 3 inches wide. I stopped the trim square 5 inches above the bottom of the chest to make space for the skirt, as shown in the next step.
Step 6: Nailing the Skirt
Now, a thick (1inch) skirt of hard wood is wrapped around the base of the trunk to protect from bumps, moving furniture, etc. It is simply mitred around the corners and glued and nailed in place.
I used pipe clamps to hold the skirt in place while I was marking the exact length of each piece (see pictures above).
Step 7: The Stressful Step: Cutting the Lid Open!
Now that all the hard work is done, you should have a great looking cube. Now seems like a great time to cut it open and yield a box! Two people makes this step less stressful, with one holding the lid so it doesn't fall.
Using a handheld circular saw with a sliding guide, the lid is cut out in the middle of the seam. I highly suggest to go at it slowly, maybe in several passes for each side.
I cut my lid about 5 inches deep, to be able to store some stuff in it behind elastic bungee cord. Depending on your usage for this chest, you could make it thinner or thicker.
Once this is done, you can expect easy sailing to the finished product though!
Not pictured: my girlfriend fits in the box. So, there's that.
Step 8: Hinges Get Stitches. Uh, Mortises
Using dividers, clamps, hinges and an awl, I laid out the hinges and mortised them using a mallet and chisel. This could also be done with a router and a flat bit, here is a great explanatory video.
The hinge holes were then pre-drilled and the hinges installed in the lid and body of the chest.
Step 9: Tray and Tote Sliders
Depending on what the chest will be used for, you could leave the inside as is (bulky things storage unit, blanket chest, small coffin...) or divide it into further compartments.
Because we wanted to be able to organize the inside a little bit better, we added a sliding tray/tilland a little wooden tote, both as wide as the inside of the chest. I added some hardwood runners for these, level and at the same height, as measured with a bubble level and a combination square resting on the lip of the chest.
Step 10: Sliding Tray
Using the same screw and glue joint as for the chest and some 1/2 inch plywood, I made a simple tray about 1/16th inch less wide as the inside of the box. Again, this is not measured as much as it is laid out by holding your stock where it will sit and marking the ideal dimensions. In this case, what feels right is probably right!
Step 11: Wooden Tote
Using the rest of my half-sheet of 1/2 inch ply, I made a little wooden tote to hold bottles etc.
First, the bottom is laid out and cut. Then, I made the sides and drilled some 1 inch holes to accommodate a 1 inch dowel as a handle. I rounded the sides on a belt sander to stream line the look a little bit, which could be done using a coping saw. Finally, everything was glued and assembled.
Step 12: Latch
I made a simple lid latch to stop it from opening much more than 90°, using a scrap piece of leather from a broken horse bridle. It is anchored on the lid and box with screw reinforced at the anchor point by adding small hardwood squares.
Step 13: Lid Storage
To store some things in the lid, I evenly spaced some screw eyes and stretched some bungee rope in there. The ends are knotted and slightly melted with a lighter so the rope would not fray.
Step 14: Finishing Touches
The trim was rounded over using a block plane, which exposed some less than perfect miter fits. These were filled with a homemade wood paste, made by mixing wood glue and walnut dust harvested from the bag of a palm sander.
The paste was cured for a couple of hours and then the trim was sanded with 80, 120 then 220 grit.
All sharp edges (inside the lid lip, skirt miters for instance) are slightly chamferedor rounded over using either a block plane or sandpaper.
The plywood surfaces should not need too much attention, but can be sanded by hand using 220 grit. Be careful if using a power sander! Hardware store plywood nowadays only has an extremely thin layer of hardwood veneer and it is really easy to sand right through this and make it irreparably ugly by exposing the underlayers.
I then screwed in the handles on each side, and the latch in the front.
Step 15: Finishing
The inside of the chest is left unfinished.
I finished the outside using a brush on clear satin polyurethane, you can use your finish of choice but do make sure that it does not make the plywood bubble or anything bad by first trying it on the bottom of the chest, where no one can see it!
Step 16: All Done
If everything went according to plan, you should now be left with a beautiful, extremely durable chest.
This one will live in a barn for the foreseeable future, holding some horse tack and supplies.
Thanks for reading, and until next time!
Runner Up in the