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How to Build a Storage Chest

Join oak lumber with wood dowels to create a modern take on Shaker-style storage

Tired of those plastic bins peeking out from underneath the bed? Scrap them and make yourself a storage chest that will last for generations. Constructed of solid oak using a type of box joint, this chest is as sturdy as it is good-looking. Follow along as senior technical editor Mark Powers and colleague Douglas Adams show you how to craft an attractive piece of furniture with clean, quiet lines that also happens to provide loads of useful storage space.

See all the Hammer It Out projects.

Dowels: 2X walnut Miller dowels; Miller Dowel Company
Stain: Jacobean; Minwax


Steps // How to Build a Storage Chest
1 ×

Overview for How to Build a Storage Chest

 
Step One // How to Build a Storage Chest

Overview for How to Build a Storage Chest

overview for how to build a storage chest
Illustration by Doug Adams

Day-to-day timeline
SATURDAY Cut the lumber and build the panels (Steps 1-5).
SUNDAY Assemble the box and attach the base and lid (Steps 6–14).

Download the cut list for this project.

CUT LIST
1x4 box front- and back-panel long pieces: six @ 36 inches

1x4 box front- and back-panel short pieces: four @ 34½ inches

1x4 side-panel long pieces: four @ 20 inches

1x4 side-panel short pieces: six @ 18½ inches

1x6 lid pieces: four @ 40 inches. After being glued and clamped, bevel-cut the sides and front edge to 38 by 21½ inches

1x6 skirtboard base pieces: two @ 37⅝ inches (from long point to long point)

1x6 skirtboard base pieces: two @ 21⅝ (from long point to long point)

½-inch oak-plywood floor: one @ 36 by 20 inches

1x1 cleats: two @ 29 inches ripped from scrap 1x6

1x1 cleats: two @ 13 inches ripped from scrap 1x6

1x nailing blocks: four @ 1¼ by 1¼ inches square
 

 
2 ×

Cut the Boards

 
Step Two // How to Build a Storage Chest

Cut the Boards

cutting the 1x4 boards with a miter saw
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Using a miter saw, cut the front, back, end, and lid boards to length according to the cut list.

 
3 ×

Lay Out the Side Panels and Lid

 
Step Three // How to Build a Storage Chest

Lay Out the Side Panels and Lid

laying out 1x4 boards for the sides and lid of a storage chest
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Cover your work surface to protect it from glue. For each of the box's four sides, lay out five boards apiece, alternating long and short as follows: long boards at the top and bottom for the front and back, short boards at the top and bottom for the ends. Stand a scrap of 1x4 on end to block out the correct spacing at either end of the short pieces, as shown.

 
4 ×

Glue and Clamp the Boards

 
Step Four // How to Build a Storage Chest

Glue and Clamp the Boards

assembling the side of a storage chest
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Apply wood glue to the edges where the boards meet, using your 1x4 spacer to realign them as you go. Partially tighten two bar clamps on each assembly, and wipe away excess glue with a wet rag. Use a scrap block and a hammer to level uneven seams, as shown, before further tightening the clamps. Add a third bar clamp on the opposite side of each assembly to prevent it from cupping. Build the lid the same way, using four 1x6s flush at the ends. Remove the clamps after one hour, and allow the glue to cure overnight.

 
5 ×

Sand the Sides and Lid

 
Step Five // How to Build a Storage Chest

Sand the Sides and Lid

sanding the side of a storage chest with a belt sander
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Once the glue has completely cured, lay the panels on a flat work surface. Using a belt sander and 80-grit paper, sand both sides of each panel until the seams disappear. Then use a random-orbit sander to sand both sides, stepping up from 180-grit to 220-grit, until both sides are smooth.

 
6 ×

Cut the Handle Notch

 
Step Six // How to Build a Storage Chest

Cut the Handle Notch

measuring and marking the notch for the storage chest handle
Photo by Ryan Benyi

To make it easy to lift the lid, make a notch at the top of the box's front panel. Use a combination square to mark a centered cutout 6 inches long, 1 inch tall, and angled at 45 degrees on each end, as shown. Cut the lines with a jigsaw, then hand-sand the cut edges smooth with 220-grit paper.

 
7 ×

Dry-fit the Side Panels

 
Step Seven // How to Build a Storage Chest

Dry-fit the Side Panels

putting the storage chest sides together
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Before you glue the box together, dry-fit the panels at each corner to make sure they'll assemble smoothly. Use 180-grit paper to knock down any tight spots. Once all the joints mesh, brush a thin coat of glue onto the mating surfaces, one corner at a time. Make sure the frame is square, and use bar clamps to cinch it together. With the clamps in place, glue and nail a ½-inch oak-plywood floor to the underside, flush at all edges, using a brad nailer and 1-inch brad nails; the exposed seam will be covered by the skirt.

 
8 ×

Drill Pilot Holes

 
Step Eight // How to Build a Storage Chest

Drill Pilot Holes

drilling pilot holes with the TruFit step bit
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Use a combination square to mark pilot holes on the faces of the longer boards, ⅜ inch from the ends and ½ inch from the top and bottom edges. At each mark, use a ⅛-inch bit to drill through the face and into the end of the adjacent board. Switch to the TruFit step bit and enlarge the pilot holes to accept the Miller dowels. Blow out the sawdust with a compressor or a drinking straw—a vacuum won't cut it.

Tip: Use a square wood scrap to keep the drill bit on target (as shown), and to help keep the pilot hole straight and level.

 
9 ×

Insert the Dowels

 
Step Nine // How to Build a Storage Chest

Insert the Dowels

inserting the glued dowels into the pilot holes
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Apply wood glue to the dowels and insert them into the pilot holes. Use a hammer to tap them fully in place. Install the dowels on the adjacent side of the corner in the same way. Then install the dowels at the other three corners.

 
10 ×

Cut the Dowels Flush

 
Step Ten // How to Build a Storage Chest

Cut the Dowels Flush

cutting the dowels with a flush-cut saw
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Using a small flush-cutting saw, cut the ends of the dowels even with the face of the boards. Using a sanding block, hand-sand the corners of the box, first with 180-grit paper, then with 220 grit, until they're smooth.

 
11 ×

Rip the Bevels

 
Step Eleven // How to Build a Storage Chest

Rip the Bevels

cutting the bevels with a circular saw
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Set the blade of your circular saw to 45 degrees. Clamp a 1x6 skirtboard piece with the long edge hanging off the work surface, and rip a bevel along its entire length. Repeat on the other three pieces for the base. Then use the circular saw (or a sliding compound miter saw if you have one) to miter-cut the ends of these four skirtboards, as shown, to fit around the chest.

Next, take the lid you made back in Step 5 and clamp it overhanging your work surface. Use the circular saw to bevel the edges of the front and sides sloping in toward the chest.

 
12 ×

Notch the Feet

 
Step Twelve // How to Build a Storage Chest

Notch the Feet

notching the feet for the base of a storage chest
Photo by Ryan Benyi

To make the notches in the skirtboards, first draw a parallel line 1½ inches from the bottom (unbeveled) edge. Then, using a combination square, draw 45-degree lines toward the center of the board, 3 inches in from each end, intersecting the parallel line. Use a jigsaw to cut out each notch. Sand the pieces smooth with 220-grit paper.

 
13 ×

Attach the Cleats

 
Step Thirteen // How to Build a Storage Chest

Attach the Cleats

attaching cleats to the base of the storage chest
Photo by Ryan Benyi

On the back of each skirtboard, countersink pilot holes and attach a 1x1 strip along the top of the notch with 1-inch deck screws, as shown. Attach a nailing block flush with the bevel on each end of the shorter skirtboards, in line with the top of the cleats. To form the base, join the mitered corners of the skirtboard pieces, like a picture frame, with wood glue and 1-inch brad nails.

 
14 ×

Slip the Base in Place

 
Step Fourteen // How to Build a Storage Chest

Slip the Base in Place

attaching the base to the bottom of the storage chest
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Drill pilot holes and drive 1½-inch deck screws through the cleats on each side of the base and into the bottom of the chest, as shown.

 
15 ×

Install the Hinges and Lid

 
Step Fifteen // How to Build a Storage Chest

Install the Hinges and Lid

attaching the hinges to the lid of the storage chest
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Screw the torsion hinges to the underside of the lid, flush with its back edge. Set the opposite side of the hinges on the top edge of the back of the box, and screw them in place. Finish the chest with wipe-on stain. Seal it with polyurethane for a hard, durable coating or with tung oil or wax for a soft, hand-rubbed look.

 
 
 

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