How to Build a Storage Chest

How to Build a Storage Chest

Whether family heirloom, bench seating, or organizational unit, a storage chest is an incredibly multi-purpose piece of furniture. By hand-crafting your own, you're making a useful and timeless object to pass down to future generations. Rather than plywood sheets, this chest uses 1-by boards to make elegant walls (use the wood of your choice—pine or oak will work well). Your finished chest will be 3 feet by 2 feet, but after previewing these instructions, you could easily adjust the size as you see fit.


• Measuring tape

• Pencil

• Miter saw or handsaw

• Table saw or circular saw

• Bar clamps (at least three)

• Hammer

• Electric sander

• Drill

• Countersink bit

• Safety goggles


• Nine 6-foot 1 × 4 boards

• Seven 39-inch 1 × 4 boards (buy larger and cut to size)

• 36" × 24" piece of ½" plywood

• Fifty 1¾" wood screws

• Two hinges

• Polyurethane or tung oil (for finish)

1 Put on your safety goggles and use a miter or handsaw to cut five of the 6 foot 1 × 4 boards in half to create ten 36-inch 1 × 4 strips for the front and back. Measure, mark, and cut the remaining 6-foot 1 × 4 boards into even thirds to create ten 21½-inch 1 × 4 strips for the sides. Cut seven 39-inch 1 × 4 strips for the lid.

How to Build a Storage Chest

2 If the plywood is not already sized, use a table saw or circular saw to cut the ½" plywood into a 36" × 24" floor.

How to Build a Storage Chest

3 On a flat surface, line up five 36" 1 × 4 boards—these will be the front of the chest. Make sure the boards lie flush to each other and are perfectly flat against the work surface. Apply wood glue between the boards and use three bar clamps to hold them securely together. Place a flat piece of scrap wood over the boards and use a hammer to bang any uneven seams until the face of your newly joined boards is completely smooth. Use a damp rag to wipe away any excess wood glue and allow 4 to 6 hours to dry. Repeat this step for the five 36" 1 × 4 boards that will be the back, the five 21½" 1 × 4 boards for both sides, and the seven 39" 1 × 4 strips for the lid of your chest. Once the glue is dry, remove the clamps and sand the newly made boards with an electric sander until they are smooth and the seams disappear.

How to Build a Storage Chest

How to Build a Storage Chest

4 Measure, mark, and use a jigsaw to cut a notch 6" long and 1" deep in the top-center of your front panel. This will be the handhold under the lid seen in most storage chests.

How to Build a Storage Chest

5 Assemble the walls and base of the chest. You will be screwing through the front and back of the boards. Countersink 4 evenly spaced holes through the vertical edges of the front and back boards. Then use 1¾" wood screws to attach the front and back walls to the sides of the chest. Use wood screws or tack nails to attach the base of the chest, screwing or nailing up from the bottom.

6 Use a table saw or circular saw to bevel the undersides of the front and sides of the lid to 45-degree angles. Set your saw blade to cut at a 45-degree angle and then run your lid across the blade so that it takes off a triangular strip from the undersides of these three edges. Screw hinges onto the (untouched) back underside of the lid and mount the lid to the back interior of the chest. Sand and finish as desired, with polyurethane or oil finish.

How to Build a Storage Chest


Jigsaws are commonly thought of as curve-cutting machines, but in reality, they're a versatile tool that you can use for a variety of cuts, both straight and curved. Typically used for finishing work, jigsaws can be either corded or cordless, and they come as handsaws or the table-mounted variety. The saw is made to fit different blades—teeth matter, depending on the density of your wood (the teeth face the front of the saw), as do length and width, so make sure you're choosing the right blade for the material you're using.

Typically, you'll need to use a clamped straightedge guide to make straight cuts. To cut a circle (as in How to Build a Birdhouse), you should first drill a ⅜" pilot hole at one edge of the circle to drop the blade in the hole. Circle-cutting jigs will help you make a perfect circle, if you need a little artificial guidance.

When cutting, be steady with your hands, start the blade before touching the wood so it can get going, and don't pivot the blade too quickly, at the risk of chipping the wood. And remember: Practice makes perfect!