Build a Firewood Storage Box

If you burn a lot of firewood, you need a sturdy, large box to hold it. Here are detailed instructions for building a wooden storage box.

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    The author fastens redwood trim to the woodbox prior to attaching the feet.
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    Details of the woodbox.

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You just can't buy a decent woodbox. Oh, furniture stores sell wood-trugs to match the shiny brass tong-and-shovel sets that frame suburban, recreational fireplaces. And you see tinny, bent-tube wood cribs offered in "country living" mailorder catalogs now and again. These are decidedly meagre log accomodations and only ensure that you will run out of fuel when you least want to. A serious wood burner needs a serious wood box—one large enough to hold several stove-loads of logs and strong enough to withstand arm-fulls of wood being dumped into it.

With heavy, rough-barked, cordwood logs going in and out of it every day, a wood box leads a hard life. If built of fine, furniture wood, sanded smooth, and given a glassy finish, it would dent and scratch and look ratty in no time. Better to use rough wood and leave it unfinished for a rugged look that will improve with mistreatment. Check the Yellow Pages (of outlying rural areas if you still live in town) under Lumber for rough-cut sawmills that sell unplaned boards. If your living room decor would turn its nose up at a wood box made of hairy, saw-scarred oak or hemlock planks, use weathered bamboards, pecky cypress siding, white cedar fence boards, or redwood decking. Save money by looking in building-supply recycling outlets for reclaimed barnboard, old decking, and other experienced wood.

To make, you will need a circular saw with rough-cut and planing blades, an electric power driver, and a small supply of 2" and 1 5/8” #6 drywall screws, plus a 1/8” twist drill bit to make pilot holes. You'll need right angles and a 4' straightedge with a pair of clamps to hold it down on a good-size, flat, work surface. This box is built by screwing together four pre-assembled, frame/planking panels. A roll of duct tape and a $5 hot-resin glue gun will help hold parts together for permanent fastening. For the most elegant job, a countersinking bit for #6 screws, a #6 plug-cutter, and woodworkers' glue will let you hide visible screw-heads. For attaching trim, you'll need finishing nails and woodworkers' glue; to finish them, you'll need an edge-rounding tool or sandpaper and a sanding block.

Lumber needed depends on the size of your woodbox, which in turn depends on the length of cordwood your stove uses, wall space available for the woodbox, and the proportions which best fit your room. Our stove takes 16" wood, and I built my box so the inside would measure roughly 20" in both interior width and depth to give plenty of leeway so that logs wouldn't jam going in or out. We have about a yard of wall space, so I made the box a bit short of 36" wide. Walking in with arms filled with logs, I can just roll the wood off and into the side of the box, or stack side by side if loading from the front.

The list of instructions and materials that follow will let you build a box of almost any size up to 3' wide and 2' in depth; height using common outdoor building-lumber. I used inch-thick, 5½"-wide white cedar left over from building a boat dock for the siding. For framing, I used inch-and-a-half square, native-white oak salvaged from shipping pallets. For edge trim and to plug screw holes, I cut 3/4"-thick, red cedar boards into 2½" strips. Tung oiled, the reddish trim contrasts nicely with the creamy-white siding and the wood gives off an exotic aroma that refreshes itself each time a log bounces off the wood.

To build a 2 x 2 x 3-foot or smaller box with minimal waste, buy four 10'-long boards of any tough wood that is a true 5½" wide and inch thick (according to confusing lumberyard tradition, sold with a nominal thickness of 5/4" and width of 6" and designated as a 5/4 x 6 x 10.) Or you can use three 5/4 x 8 x 10s. Do not buy common "one-inch" wood—soft pine shelving that is actually a too-thin 3/4" through dents easily. For the bottom, I cut a 2 x 3 panel from a sheet of ½" plywood I had on hand. Lacking plywood, it's cheaper and easier to buy another 10' length of 5/4" lumber. For framing, get 30 running feet (four 8'-lengths or three 10-footers) of 1½ square hard pine or an inexpensive hardwood such as birch. (As a last resort, you can ripsaw a 2 x 4 into square stock). For a more finished look, buy 24 running feet of nominal 1 x 3 wood (if you can't find a 1 x 3, split a 1 x 6 in half) to trim the edges, plus 12' of 1 x 4 wood to trim the top. The harder the trim wood, the better.

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