DIY Walnut Storage Boxes

The bedside tables in my master bedroom were welded at the same time my Grandfather made the headboard I designed.  They are a simple design – made with leftovers! – and while I love the glass shelves, they offer no storage.  I had bought mock croc boxes that fit the tables but weren’t anything special.

Over time, those poor boxes started to disintegrate and I decided that I wanted to make something a little bit more solid.  Wandering around my local lumber yard – looking for supplies for a complicated slatted storage bin idea I had – I stumbled across a really thin sheet of walnut plywood and fell in love!

Because the plywood was so thin, Handy Hubby and I were able to make really sizable boxes that are still lightweight – perfect for our glass tables.  Here’s how!

Supplies:

  • One 4 x 8 sheet of 3/16″ walnut plywood
  • Walnut edge banding
  • Square stock
  • Wood glue
  • Old iron
  • Clamps
  • Table saw
  • Four handles
  • Danish Oil
  • Lint-free rag

Steps:

First we determined the size of box we wanted.  I wanted something really tall to show off that beautiful grain.  I actually went a little nutty with the height, but they still work perfectly and look so beautiful.  The finished size is 17″ L x 14
5/8″ D x 15 7/16″ H, which is in perfect proportion with the tables.

With our measurements determined, we cut the plywood to size on a table saw.

For each box, we cut seven pieces.  The pieces were cut in pairs, so there are two 17″ by 15 1/6″ pieces for the front and back, two 14 1/4″ x 15 1/16″ pieces for the sides, two 17″ by 16 5/8″ pieces for the top (we laminated them together for a thicker look), and a 14 1/4″ by 16 5/8″ for the bottom.  Of course, these boxes can be made any size!

The plywood is really thin and I didn’t want any nail holes from the outside, so we got a little creative with the construction.  We cut 7/8″ square stock and created a “frame” to join the side panels together from the inside using wood glue.

Using wood glue and clamps, we butt joined the panels to the frame.

When clamping on a good surface, it’s a good idea to use something like wood shims between the clamps and the surface to protect that pretty grain!

At this point, if you have a cat, you will likely turn around to get a tool and when you turn back your cat will be sitting expectantly in your half finished box.

After we had affixed some of the panels to the frame, we determined which edges would be exposed and adhered the walnut edge banding to any exposed edges.  If we had chosen thicker plywood, we could have done a tidy mitered corner but with such thin plywood, a mitered corner was beyond our capabilities! We were really worried about tear out with the thin veneer – which we did have some issues with as it was because the walnut veneer was so thin.

Edge banding these days is so simple because most come pre-glued, so it’s just a matter of ironing it on!

With the edge banding glued, we used a sharp flush plane to carefully trim the excess.  For thicker plywood projects, we’ve used a double edge trimmer which also works well.

This photo illustrates how straightforward the construction it – basically just a wood frame, with the plywood panels glued to it.  This is a great way to avoid any nails from the outside and the wood frame also helps add strength to the very thin plywood we chose, making this box lightweight but sturdy.

The finished box has a simple lift off lid made of two pieces of edge banded walnut plywood laminated together, with two pieces of square stock glued inside to keep it from sliding around.  A hinged lid would have required a much shorter box to have room for the lid to swing, but it would be a simple step to add.

Once we were done building the storage boxes, it was time to bring out that gorgeous grain!  On its own, walnut is surprisingly chalky and pale:

I have used Tried and True Danish Oil for many projects and I highly recommend it, although you can find many brands of Danish Oil in home improvement stores – even my local lumber yard carries it.  Double check that the brand you purchase is food safe, and then you can also use it to oil cutting boards and wood salad bowls to keep them looking new – I like when products are versatile!

Always default to the manufacturer’s instructions for applying any kind of finish because they can really vary.  For this Danish Oil, I applied multiple, thin coats with a lint-free cloth.  I let each coat dry for five minutes, then I wiped away any excess with a clean, dry cloth.  Eight hours later I “burnished” the boxes with another clean, lint-free cloth to really bring out the shine – basically, I just buffed the surface.

At the risk of sounding like an infomercial for Danish Oil, just look at the difference only one coat makes:

If you didn’t have a kitty trying to stake its claim on your bin during the making, you might end up with a curious pup lured by the smell of Danish Oil during the finishing…

The last step was adding hardware.  I wanted something brushed silver, because I am the last person on the planet to favor brushed silver over brushed gold in my home.  I also wanted something oversize and modern, so it didn’t look like a kitchen drawer pull.  I found these at Lee Valley – they’re 10 5/8″ long!

I just love the scale!

Because the plywood is so thin, we glued on some thicker squares of scrap wood inside the box so we could easily affix the hardware:

And there you have it, beautiful walnut storage bins with a mid-century feel.  They’re perfect for our beside tables and I’m really excited to make more so I can have organized closets that rival Martha Stewart’s…

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