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How to Make a 5 Gallon Jerry Can Into a Tool Box

Updated February 21, 2017

That rusty, dusty old jerry can just can't hold gasoline and keep it clean anymore. Don't throw it away, though--turn it into a handy tool box to fit on the tailgate of a truck, or anywhere in the garage or the yard. Cut a door out of the top or the side of the can, install a hinge and latch, even some shelves if you like, and then seal up the seam. Breathing new life into old metal is easier than it seems.

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  1. Fill the clean, dry jerry can halfway with water. This provides protection against sparks igniting residual gasoline when cutting into the can.

  2. Locate the can's straight lines and edges. These should appear around the top of the can, before it tapers to the spout; around the bottom of the can, before it rounds off at the bottom; down each edge of the can from top to bottom.

  3. Mark off the lines along which you want to cut the lid, with the grease pen or marker. Make the marks either from top to bottom, parallel to the vertical edges, and halfway around each horizontal parallel at the top and bottom.

  4. Use a circular saw to cut along the straight lines you marked off to remove a section of metal that will become the lid of the toolbox. After cutting is complete, empty the water from the can, and clean and dry it thoroughly again.

  5. Using the grinder wheel or circular saw, cut pieces of angle iron to the interior length of the can, to support shelves, if desired.

  6. Tack- or spot-weld the corners of the angle iron to the inside of the can, by using the welder to heat each corner and then allowing them to cool again, in contact with the can.

  7. Cut sheet metal to the size of the interior of the can, using the circular saw or grinder wheel.

  8. Install the sheet metal as shelves by tack- or spot-welding it to the recently installed angle iron.

  9. Cut another set of angle iron pieces to the length of the opening that you cut for the door, using the grinder or circular saw.

  10. Tack- or spot-weld these pieces around the interior of the can where it is open for the lid, to form a lip that will support the door and the foam seal. Install the angle iron all around the inside of that opening.

  11. Install the piano hinge on one edge of the door piece. Use the sheet metal screws included with the hinge to screw it onto the edge of the door that you want to remain connected to the can at all times.

  12. Screw the door-hinge assembly back onto the can, using the rest of the sheet metal screws.

  13. Install the latch and catch opposite the hinge on the door, using more sheet metal screws.

  14. Finally, glue a strip of foam rubber, such as a garage door sealer, around the inside lip of the door opening, onto the angle iron, to form a water- and dust-tight seal for the can.

  15. Tip

    Consider the purpose and contents of the tool box when deciding whether you want to install shelves. Likewise, consider whether the box will be kept indoors or outdoors when deciding whether to skip the insulating seal around the door.


    Use caution when cutting old gas cans. Even a small amount of oil or gas left in the can will be flammable, so clean out the can before beginning, and do not forget to fill it with water before cutting or grinding. Take extreme caution when welding, and work in an open or well-ventilated area. Also, to avoid rust, shards, sparks, arcs, and sharp edges when cutting or welding metal, wear the appropriate safety equipment, such as heavy work gloves, long sleeves, safety goggles and/or a welding mask.

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Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Marker or grease pen
  • Grinder or circle saw, with 4-inch metal cutting wheel attached.
  • Welder
  • Angle steel
  • Sheet metal
  • Piano hinge
  • Latch with catch
  • Sheet metal screws
  • Screwdriver or power drill
  • Foam rubber
  • Glue
  • Safety equipment: gloves, goggles, long sleeves, closed toe shoes.

About the Author

First published in 2000, Lewis Levenberg writes for journals and blogs across the country. In addition to extensive experience with construction and renovation, he has worked with academic authors on their social media marketing and in retail. His education includes a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.

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