How to Build a Wood Chest

Learn how to build a wood chest, so your firewood will always be nearby.

| January/February 1985

If you heat or cook with wood, you're probably well aware of how handy an easy-to-use and ample wood chest can be. Without one, wood burning often becomes a messy and tedious chore. Now, you may already have some ideas about what the perfect wood chest design is, but how about letting me fill you in on the details of the wood caddy I built? It takes up relatively little space, holds the wood handy to the fire and controls the spread of chips, bark and dust. With the following guidelines for how to build a wood chest, you can vary the size, shape and style of my model to suit your fancy, and you'll be assured of ending up with a handsome and durable piece of furniture.

Build a Wood Chest: Materials and Preparation

This handcrafted wood chest is made from No. 3 pine boards, available from any lumberyard. I recommend that you use wide boards — 1-by-12s if possible — for the front, back, bottom and two end panels; 1-by-2s work well as trim, battens and cleats; and rounded-over 1-by-3 stock can serve for the caps atop the front and back panels. These are convenient sizes to work with, but the design is flexible enough that you can really use just about any lumber you happen to have on hand. (See the diagrams in the image gallery for additional help.)

The first step is to plan the size and shape of the box to suit the amount of wood you burn and the length of billet that your stove or fireplace accepts. Once you've settled on the basic dimensions, take a few minutes to lay out your lumber on the floor, so you can arrange for cuts that eliminate bad knots and make attractive patterns from the heart-and sapwood.

End panels are cut to a length determined by the height of the box, but you might work in some curves on the tops and bottoms of the boards to add a bit of flair to the design. I used paint buckets and inverted bowls as templates to draw the curves and then cut them on a band saw (a saber saw would work as well). If you need a box that's more than 11 ¼ inches from front to back (the actual width of a 1-by-12), you'll have to use cleats to hold a pair of boards together. One cleat toward the top and one at the height where the bottom will rest are sufficient.

The front panel consists of as many vertical, side-by-side boards as are necessary to achieve the desired box length. And, of course, the front panel height will be determined by the height and design of your end panels. Cut these boards to the proper length, and lay them out on the floor, so you can figure out the lengths of the trim pieces, the battens and the cleat that the bottom will rest on.

Because the front panel butts against the end panels, the horizontal trim strips must be cut 1 ½ inches longer than the width of the front panel to allow them to overlap the end panels. The vertical trim and battens fit between the horizontal trim strips, but you may want to leave a gap of an inch or two between the bottom trim piece and the floor. You may have noticed from the photo that I beveled (to about 15 degrees) all my trim strips. This complicates assembly a bit, but I think it makes the box more attractive.

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