Overview: Materials, tools and time
Not only do these storage boxes look nice, but they're easy to
build—just fasten together four sides and put on the back. This is
one of those rare woodworking projects that combines high style,
low cost and super-simple construction.
Built from standard oak or birch plywood, these 12 x 12-in. boxes will
cost about $35 for eight. If you use standard plywood, you'll have to patch
voids in the edges with wood filler or cover the edges with edge banding
(for more information type “edge banding” in the search box above). To avoid
that extra work, we used Baltic birch plywood, which has better-looking,
void-free edges. Baltic birch costs about $85 for a 3/4-in. x 60-in. x 60-in.
sheet, which will give you five boxes. If your home center doesn't stock
Baltic birch, look for it at a hardwood specialty store (check under “Hardwood
Suppliers” in the yellow pages or search online to find a source). Use standard 1/4-in. plywood for the backs even if you use Baltic birch for the sides.
You can build a dozen or more boxes in a
few hours. Spend Saturday assembling
the boxes and applying the finish, then
hang them or fasten them together on
Sunday. To complete the project, you'll
need a table saw to rip the plywood
sheets and a circular saw to crosscut the
top, back and sides. We'll show you how
to make perfectly straight crosscuts using
a guide. You'll also need a brad nailer to
nail the boxes together.
Elegant or Practical
The boxes work equally well in a formal
setting and a utilitarian room, like the
laundry or garage. They offer an unlimited
number of uses and arrangements.
Step 1: Cut the pieces to size
Get started by ripping the 3/4-in. plywood
sheets into 11-1/4-in.-wide strips
on a table saw. Cut out any dents and
dings along the edges. It's important that
these pieces be exactly the same width so
the boxes will be aligned when they're
stacked together. Also rip the 1/4-in. plywood
sheet into 11-1/2-in.-wide strips.
Crosscut the box tops, bottoms, sides
and back panels to length following Figure
A, below. Make the crosscuts with a circular
saw and a guide (Photo 1).
Figure A: Box Shelf DetailsNote: Figure A and a Materials List are available in pdf format in Additional Information below.
Step 2: Assemble the boxes
Placing adjacent sides in a carpenter's
square ensures crisp 90-degree angles
when you fasten the corners together. Set
the square over wood blocks and clamp it
to your work surface. Set one side and the
top or bottom in the square, apply wood
glue along the edge, and nail the corner
together with 1-1/2-in. brad nails (Photo 2).
Fasten the remaining corners the same
way. Leave the box in the carpenter's
square to keep the corners square, then
add the back panel (Photo 3). The back
panels are 1/2 in. smaller than the overall
box size to leave a 1/4-in. gap along each
edge. This makes the edges less conspicuous
when the boxes are installed.
Step 3: Apply a finish
Once your boxes are fully assembled, it's
time to apply a finish. Sand the boxes
with 120-grit sandpaper to smooth out
any rough spots, then wipe away the dust
with a clean cloth.
If you want to paint the boxes, first
prime them with a latex primer. Foam
rollers work great
for applying smooth
coats of primer and paint. Brush
on the primer in the corners, then roll the
rest. Let the primer dry, lightly sand the
boxes with 120-grit sandpaper, then apply
For our stained shelves, we applied
two coats of stain—Minwax Golden Oak
followed by Minwax Ebony—and two
coats of a water-based polyurethane.
Back to Top
Step 4: Hang the boxes
Once the finish is dry, you can screw the
boxes together or hang them on a wall. Be
sure to hang the boxes with the side pieces
overlapping the top and bottom, as shown
in Figure A. This keeps the corner nails horizontal
and makes the box stronger. Still,
the boxes are not designed to hold a lot of
weight. Countersinking the screw head
and filling the hole with a 3/8-in. screw
hole button hides the fastener. Screw hole
buttons are available at home centers.
To fasten boxes together, first clamp
them so they're perfectly flush. Then drill
a 3/8-in.-diameter, 3/16-in.-deep countersink
hole with a brad point drill bit ($3).
The brad point won't tear or chip the
veneer. Then drill 1/8-in. pilot holes in
the countersink holes using a standard bit.
Drive a 1-in. wood screw into the pilot
hole, countersinking the head. Dab paint
or stain on the screw hole button and plug
the hole (Photo 4).
To hang a box where there's a stud, drill
two 1/8-in. pilot holes. Then spray-paint
the heads of 2-1/2-in. screws and drive
them into the stud at the pilot holes
(there's no alternative to leaving the
heads exposed). If there's not a stud available,
use self-drilling anchors, such as EZ
Ancors. Drill pilot holes through the box
into the wall, remove the box and drive
the anchors into the wall at the marks.
Then fasten the box to the wall using the
screws included with the anchors.