As an apartment dweller with no shop space and a limited number of tools, I devised a method for building a six-board chest that required minimal tools using pre-cut craft plywood. (It may be cheaper to cut one's own lumber, but not if you have to invest in more tools to do it.) I actually ended up having to build this box twice when the original was stolen out of my truck earlier this year. While I am not grateful to the thieves, I will say that what I learned making the first box resulted in a better second box.
If you can't find pre-cut plywood in your local craft store, Midwest Products' website lists where to buy their items.
A recent trip to my local Home Depot for something else revealed that they are now also carrying "hobby boards" in a variety of sizes that might do for designing your own box.
Four 12" x 24" x 1/4" sheets for the bottom, sides and lid. (Midwest # 5316)
Two 12" x 12" x 1/4" sheets for the sides. (Midwest # 5315)
Six 1/4" x 1/4" x 24" basswood strips. (Midwest #4066).
Two 1/2" x 48" square dowels from the hardware store.
Wood glue. I like Titebond III. This box has no nails or screws in it except the handle hardware and it has held together beautifully.
Wood stain or decorative paints of your choice.
Handle hardware of your choice (optional).
A small hand saw.
A drill if you want to add handles.
At least two small C-clamps and two small pony clamps. More will make the gluing go faster, but this is the minimum.
Sand paper, sanding block, or sander.
Cut the following from the 1/2" square dowels: two 23 1/2" pieces and six 11 1/2" pieces.
The square dowels are the box "skeleton to hold all your corners together. Take a 12" x 24" board for your box bottom. Glue and clamp a square dowel to the bottom board's long edges, leaving 1/4" at each end - this is where the box sides need to go - use one of the 12"x12" sheets to help you line up where the dowels need to end for the side piece to go in flush.
After the glue has had time to set, do the second long side.
Then clamp and glue each long side board into place as shown in the photo. Clamp and glue the 11 1/2" dowel pieces along the short sides (bottom and sides), leaving 1/4" margin so the box sides can be glued in flush afterward.
But doesn't this result in the long sides being shorter than the short sides once they're in place? This is what the 1/4" square dowels are for. You will need two 24" long pieces to edge the tops of the long sides and two more 24" long pieces for the lid edges. The photo at left shows a 1/4" dowel glued and clamped along the top edge of one side board.
I recalled that trying to decorate the end boards of my box last time last time made me nuts. For the new box I decorated them first. In the photo below, I'd also temporarily mounted the handles to make sure they fit where I wanted them. You can see that the end board sits flush with the bottom and side edges. I also clamped and glued a small piece of 1/4" dowel to the inside of each side board to drill the handle hardware through for additional stability. NOTE: if you decorate your boards before clamping and gluing, make sure they are completely dry before assembly and put a bit of folded paper towel between the painted surface and the clamp to prevent your paint from being marked up by the clamp.
As mentioned above, your lid piece will also need 1/4" dowel pieces glued to each edge. You can add hinge hardware if you prefer. I opted for a lift-off lid and glued additional 1/4" dowel pieces inside the lid's long edges to prevent it from sliding off the box.
My finished box doubles as a Japanese game table for sugoroku (backgammon) and a place to store tea things and serving dishes. Yours can be anything you want it to be.
Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Joseph