Homemade Storage Boxes & Seats

Written by jane smith
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Homemade Storage Boxes & Seats
Piano hinges make it easy to open and close your storage box or seat. (Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

If you have limited space, storage boxes and seats can keep clutter corralled while serving as both seat and side table as needed, especially if they are not padded and upholstered. Materials range from unfinished plywood and stock lumber to fine hardwoods. Finishes include clear acrylic sealants, paints, stains and shellacs. Use butt, mitre or dovetail joints according to your preference and woodworking expertise.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • 1-inch by 1-inch stock lumber
  • 1/2-inch plywood (4-foot by 8-foot sheets)
  • Table saw with mitre fence
  • Hand saw
  • Coarse through extra-fine sanding belts and blocks
  • Belt sander
  • Assorted wood finishes
  • Paintbrushes, 1 inch to 6 inches wide
  • 4 bar clamps
  • Carpenter's glue
  • Power drill
  • Bit set, including countersink bit
  • Box of 1/8-inch diameter, 1-inch long brass wood screws
  • Piano hinge with manufacturer's hardware
  • Carpenter's pencil
  • Screwdriver

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Measure the available space where you plan to place your storage boxes or seats, especially any entrances or exits. Adjust planned lengths and widths accordingly. For example, if you plan to place your storage box across the end of a 4-foot-wide upstairs hallway, make it 46 inches long so that it will not mar your walls.

  2. 2

    Base the height of your storage box or seat on the measurement between the floor and the underside of the intended user's upper leg at the knee while seated, with feet flat on the floor and the upper and lower leg at near-90-degree angles to each other.

  3. 3

    Cut your plywood and 1-inch stock lumber to the necessary dimensions.

  4. 4

    Subtract 1 inch from the intended user's seated floor-to-back-of-knee measurement and use that number as the height of each front, back and side piece, and as the length of each 1-inch stock lumber corner-support.

  5. 5

    Cut the right and left side pieces to the same width as the top and bottom.

  6. 6

    Cut the back and front pieces 1/2-inch shorter than the length of the top and bottom if you are a novice woodworker and using butt joinery. Cut them to the same length as the top and bottom pieces if you are an experienced woodworker using mitred or dovetailed joints.

  7. 7

    Skip this step if you are going to use butt joinery. Mitre the appropriate edges along the front, back and side pieces to 45-degree angles on your table saw. Cut any dovetail joints by hand for the most attractive results.

  8. 8

    Sand all pieces on all sides, using coarse through extra-fine belts or blocks, in that order. Apply two to three coats of your desired paint, stain or other wood finish to all inside surfaces of each part of the box, allowing the finish to dry between coats.

  9. 9

    Place the front and back pieces between the side pieces with all corners and surfaces flush. Use bar clamps to dry-clamp your assembly while you perform accuracy checks, including measuring the diagonals from left front to right rear and from right front to left rear to ensure that they are the same length, as recommended by master woodworker Ian Kirby in "Gluing and Clamping With Confidence."

  10. 10

    Remove the clamps and apply carpenter's glue to each end of the front and back. Reassemble the front, back and sides and reapply the bar clamps until the glue has dried overnight.

  11. 11

    Skip this step if you use dovetail joinery. Remove clamps and drill 1/16-inch pilot holes every four inches, beginning 1 inch from the top and ending 1 inch from the bottom, through the sides and into the ends of the front and back of the storage box. Countersink all holes.

  12. 12

    Skip this step if you use dovetail joinery. Secure the sides to the rest of the box using 1/8-inch diameter, 1-inch-long wood screws.

  13. 13

    Place the bottom piece, unfinished side up, on top of the box frame with all corners and edges flush. Drill 1/16-inch diameter pilot holes every four inches, through the bottom and into the edges of the box frame, beginning 1 inch from the front left corner, all the way around until you return to the first hole drilled.

  14. 14

    Countersink all holes and secure the bottom to the frame using 1/8-inch diameter, 1-inch-long brass wood screws.

  15. 15

    Turn your storage box right side up. Position the folded piano hinge along the top edge of the back of the storage box. Mark the screw holes using a carpenter's pencil.

  16. 16

    Set the hinge aside while you drill all the pilot holes needed to mount the piano hinge to at the positions indicated, using a bit half the diameter and the full length of the manufacturer-provided fasteners.

  17. 17

    Open the hinge flat and lay it along the edge of the box so that its holes match the pilot holes you just drilled. Secure the hinge using its manufacturer-supplied fasteners.

  18. 18

    Have a helper support the storage box top while you flip the hinge to a 90-degree position. Position the box top so that the spine of the piano hinge fits along the adjoining edges of the top edge of the box frame and the box top, with the hinge sides still open to a 90-degree angle.

  19. 19

    Make a registration line along the hinge, from right to left, on the box top. This will help you reposition the lid and hinge after you drill the holes. Mark all hinge holes.

  20. 20

    Drill the hinge holes to the same depth as the length of manufacturer-supplied fasteners and secure the box top to the storage box, using the correct-diameter bit.

  21. 21

    Smooth the outside and bottom of the box using coarse through extra-fine sanding belts or blocks, in that order, and finish painting, staining or sealing the box as desired.

Tips and warnings

  • If you have never cut dovetails before, master cabinetmaker Franz Klausz advises making several rows of evenly spaced straight cuts in pieces of scrap wood. Cut left-leaning 10- to 15-degree angles in the next few pieces of scrap wood. Finish your practice by cutting consistent right-leaning angles and you will be ready to dovetail.
  • Always wear wraparound eye protection, ear protection and a dust mask when using a saw or sander.

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