Nesting Plyoboxes, Part One: Stock

This example is for building 20, 16 and 12 inch boxes (1 each). You should be able to get all the parts for these out of a single 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood. I previously needed an extra 14.5 x 14.5 piece for the top of the 12″ box but I’ve got a way around that now (see description below Diagram 1).
Wood selection
I’ve used both 3/4″ oak and birch. I like to finish my boxes with polyurethane and the oak is better for this. If you’re going to paint the boxes, use the birch, which usually costs about 20% less per sheet. I don’t recommend using MDF or particle board. MDF is heavier than hell and particle board isn’t as strong or durable as the other types of wood mentioned above. Both MDF and particle board are susceptible to water damage.
First Cuts
Once you’ve decided on your material, sift through the stack at your local lumber yard or big box hardware store and find the least beat-to-death sheet you can.
Then, do yourself a favor and ask the store
representative to rip the board into 3 long strips with the heights (20″, 16″ and 12″) of your future boxes (see Diagram 1). Most big box hardware shops will make 2 cuts for free and it makes handing the stock much easier, even for CrossFitters.

Diagram 1

In the past, I’ve gotten the tops for the 20″ and 16″ boxes from what’s left of each box’s respective strip. That would leave me scrounging around for a top for the 12″ box.
I haven’t had the chance to try this, but it occurred to me that if you’re willing to pay the extra money (usually about $2) for the store to make a 3rd cut, you could get the top for the 12″ box from the same sheet. Have the store crosscut 17″ to 18″* from one end of the sheet before doing the horizontal rips. This should give you all the stock you need for three tops and twelve sides. See Diagrams 2 and 3.
Note: thanks to Joe Agliozzo for pointing out the original 16″-18″ did not work.

Diagram 2
Diagram 3

Next week: Cutting the Sides
I intend to treat these ‘how-to’ posts as a living document. So if you have any questions, suggestions or improvements leave a comment or shoot me an email and we’ll modify things as needed.

6 thoughts on “Nesting Plyoboxes, Part One: Stock”

  1. Thanks for starting this! I hate to be pushy, but I want to build these NOW 🙂 …

    Can you give the top and bottom bevel? I think I can figure the rest out after this excellent cutting plan you posted today..


  2. Thanks Joe V!

    So if when following your instructions to rip the 4×8 down, you did the lenthwise rips at 10 degrees, you would be good to go right? Then just cut the sides at 90 (or 0) and it should go together as in your pictures, correct?

    One more question, what is the tool/device used to cut the holes that allow for the screws to go in from the inside – that’s slick looking, I want to get one, is it just a drill attachment?

    Thanks again, hope I am not short cutting your guide, but maybe this will help you with how us “lay people” think about woodworking!

  3. Awesome stuff. This is my #1 summer project now.

    Would there be enough wood to make a 20″ and 30″ on one horizontal cut? That’s really closer to my needs.

    I realize that the cuts would be more like 19″ and 29″ but I assume the angle might have to change from 10 degrees, right?

    Thanks for the plans and looking forward to the rest of it.

  4. Hey Cassi,
    well you could do 19″ and 29″ but you’re going to lose a bit of height on the final height of each box.

    It’s not horribly precise but the 3/4″ top tends to offset the angled side and get you pretty close to the measured height of the sides pieces.

    So you could do it but you might lose a little in the process.

    Also depending on what you chose for an angle for the 30″(29″) box you’re going to need more stock for the top of that box. I know on the 24″ boxes I make the 10 degree angle
    makes the sides so wide I have to get an extra piece to make the top.

    I’ve never done a 30″ box but if you use a 10 degree angle and 16″ top you’ll most likely end up with a 30″ base. That’s one big box.

    If I where you I’d cut up an old refrigerator box and mock up that size first.

    Personally I plan to build a ‘booster box’ to add a few extra inches to my 24″ box. Of course I have to finish this ‘how-to’ first, ha-ha.

  5. you need to change the initial rip instructions I think. I did as you instructed and had 16 inches ripped off the end before making the two long cuts. However, I now realize that the top of the 20 box is supposed to be 16.25, leaving me .25 short. There is no other piece of scrap to make this out of that I can see. Probably 17-18 would have been good instead of 16-18.