How to Make a Small Sheet Metal Lock Box

Written by tammy bronson
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How to Make a Small Sheet Metal Lock Box
Example of a handicap latch on a wicker box. (Latch And Box image by Curtis J. Alexander from

Sheet metal is flat, thin and used in metalwork simply because it is pliable. The thickness of sheet metal is, on an average, between 0.001 inches to 0.250 inches. Any sheet metal thinner than these dimensions is considered foil or leaf; pieces of sheet metal thicker than 0.250 is called a plate. The gauge of sheet metal refers to the thickness of the sheet; the higher the gauge the thinner the piece of sheet metal. You can purchase sheet metal in a coiled strip or in flat pieces. For this project a flat piece of sheet metal .0230 gauge is required.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Flat piece of sheet metal 0.230 gauge
  • Tin snips
  • Safety goggles
  • Work gloves
  • Black permanent marker
  • Drafting paper
  • Painter tape
  • Yardstick
  • Rubber mallet

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  1. 1

    Select a piece of sheet metal that is 0.230 gauge at the local hardware store. Make sure that the piece is not warped and that it is large enough to draw a pattern on it with these dimensions: 143-by-102-by-60 mm, 186-by-132-by-70 mm and 230-by170-by-80 mm. Purchase the sheet metal and go home and draw out your design.

  2. 2

    Draw out the design of the sheet metal lockbox planning the dimensions so that it has six sides. Make sure that the opposite sides of the box are the same size in terms of height, length and width. Use painter tape to adhere the drawing onto the piece of sheet metal. Take a black permanent marker and trace the design pattern out onto the flat piece of sheet metal. Draw the lines with a yardstick making sure the lines are straight.

  3. 3

    Take tin snips and cut the pattern of the lockbox out. You can remove the pattern and follow the black marker lines on the sheet. Make sure you wear canvas or leather work gloves as well as safety goggles. Tiny particles of tin can break off while cutting and penetrate the eye or skin causing severe abrasions. The thinner the sheet metal the easier it is to cut with tin snips.

  4. 4

    Drill a hole in the pattern on top lip of the box. You will insert a lock in this hole. Then drill another hole on the side that the top of the box will connect to as the box locks. The top of the box will be a ½ inch longer than the other 5 sides of the box. This ½ inch will need tapping with a rubber mallet just like the sides of the box to form a sharp edge.

  5. 5

    Tap out the design of the box with a rubber mallet. You can take the cut sheet metal and lay it on the edge of a table or workbench so that the side needing bending is sticking out from the edge. Use your hand first to bend the metal down forming a side of the box. Then take the rubber mallet and gently tap a sharp corner into the sheet metal at the edge of the table or workbench. The metal will already be folded over so gentle taps are required to crease the metal into a sharp bend forming the sides and bottom of the lockbox. Repeat this procedure on the other three sides. One side will be longer than the others. This portion of the pattern is both side and top of the lockbox. Tap out the top of the lockbox the same way you did the sides.

  6. 6

    Insert the handicap latch into the drilled hole. This type of lock is like that on the inside of a handicapped bathroom stall. The latch is a bar attached to the top of the box that slides into the lock on the side of the box. Mounting this lock requires some precision since it is no bigger than an inch in length; attaching the lock with a brass bolt and nut no bigger than ¼ inch requires finger dexterity. Tighten the bolt and nut with your fingers and then use a screwdriver and small crescent wrench to tighten it completely.

Tips and warnings

  • Tin snips are safer to use than a welder for this project.
  • When working with metal always wear protective clothing including gloves and safety goggles. Tin is minuscule in size and floats through the area easily undetected until it lands in your skin or in your eye. Be careful.

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