Stackable Storage Boxes Workshop Projects

In an attempt to make my workshop more efficient to work in and to keep clean, I’m doing a lot of organizational projects. One of these is this set of storage boxes. Presently, I still have a lot of gear from my old shop in my shed, and would like to move it into this new shop. Of course, I need places to put it. Although most of it will only be used occasionally, I would like it conveniently close at hand. A practical approach would be to make some storage shelves, similar to what I had in my old shop, but space in this new one is at a premium. Also, I don’t want to build in something that I will eventually have to tear out when I move to the shop that is not yet built (assuming I actually build a new shop…).

When I designed my table saw sled, I included a pilaster strip that is normally used for shelving. The reason was to take advantage of the fact that the slots for the shelf clips are exactly 1/2″; apart, for indexing purposes. I had previously used a strip like this to accurately cut the division plate for my advanced box joint jig, and thought it would be a useful addition to the sled.
One of the things the strip will do is to make it possible to cut box joints on the sled. To do this, I constructed a simple jig that straddles the back rail and has a 1/8″; drill bit as an indexing pin that fits into the slots on the strip:

a quick box joint jig for long joints

The jig can then be moved accurately by 1/2″; increments.
The biggest advantages of using this as a box joint jig is capacity: it will handle wide stock and can easily cut multiple pieces. On the down side, it is cumbersome to use and it’s much easier to make a mistake, if you are not paying close attention. It’s also limited to box joints that are a multiple of 1/4″;. Of course, that’s probably not a big drawback for most people, myself included.

Before getting started on the boxes, I made up a cutting diagram for a full sheet of plywood:


The idea was to get four boxes complete from the sheet, with enough left over to make lids for two of them. The size is loosely based on a milk crate, but with an extra two inches of depth.

To break the sheet down into more manageable size pieces, I made the first cuts using the saw board and circular saw:

saw board makes straight cuts using a circular sawbox parts stacked up

Then finished all of the cuts on the table saw. Stacked up are the sixteen sides and the four bottom panels.

The bottom will fit into a groove cut in the sides, and I’ve set up a 1/2″; dado blade in the table saw:

set the dado depthcut a dado in plywood

The dado is set to cut 1/4″; deep and is 1/4″; from the fence.

The next step is to cut handle holes in half the side panels. To do that, I drilled 1-1/4″; holes, 4″; apart:

two holes drill for the handlefinish the handle cut with the jigsaw

Then connected them with the jigsaw to complete the opening. It’s nice to finally have the workbench clean enough to do some work on!

With the handle holes cut, I moved on to the interesting part: cutting the box joints. It took some time to get the dado set up to the right thickness to make a well fitting joint. I could then load up eight of the sides to cut:

sides all clamped together for cutting box joint

The cutting went fairly quickly and I ended up with very well matched joints. The cuts weren’t perfect, since there is some thickness variation with this plywood that caused tear-out on a couple of pieces, but these are not meant to be fine furniture.

plywood sides of boxes cut and stacked up

I used polyurethane construction adhesive in the dados for the bottoms and the box joints. The long open time of this glue makes assembly a lot less stressful:

polyurethane glue on box jointsmany clamps hold boxes while glue sets

It takes little clamping pressure, just enough to pull the joints together. I’m using some of my longer homemade clamps.

After the glue dried overnight, I sanded the boxes smooth(ish) and added the feet. I then put them where they were made to go, right beside my sanding station.
Loading them up:

storage boxes in usefinished plywood storage boxes

Tidy and tough, these boxes will see a lot of use for years to come. As soon as I have the time, I will make four more like this and add those to the stack.

I made a very detailed video of the project:

These may not be as glamorous as a solid wood tool chest with 30 drawers and compartments, but they more than adequately get the job done.