I used materials we had around the house for this project, and I’m going to show you exactly how I did it. However, before we begin, I want to note that there are MANY other ways to do this project! And as I noted in my first pin board mailbox post, these don’t actually serve their original intended purpose, so I’ll give you tips on how to change them up as well! If you’re not a power tool lover or if you have no interest in plywood or MDF, never fear! You can use the blue foam board for the entire box, and nothing more than a utility knife and E6000 glue to complete the entire project!
Step 1: Measure and trace four squares for the backs of the boxes.
I started with a sheet of leftover plywood, about 4′ by 3′. You will want to use a square (the silver L-shaped tool in the picture) if you have one, because it will be much more difficult to make a square without it. If you don’t have one, you can get away with a ruler or yardstick and a protractor. Remember that the angles in a square each measure 90 degrees.
This plywood makes up the back of the box, so you won’t see it when it’s finished. Plywood isn’t pretty even when painted, but it doesn’t matter! You could also use MDF here, or hardboard (also called craftboard) which is thinner and smooth. Or you could cut these squares out of the blue foam insulation that we’ll use for the front, if you’re constructing them entirely out of foam (and one sheet is large enough for all of the pieces, and then some!).
Decide how large you want your boxes to be, and trace four squares onto your plywood. Mine were 12″x12″. You could make a pattern with cardboard (even a cereal box if it’s large enough) and trace, or measure them all out. If you want more or less boxes, trace more or less squares; you just need one of these per box!
Step 2: Cut out squares
I used a hand-held circular saw for this, but you can use pretty much anything. A table saw would be the easiest, but ours is in storage and wasn’t worth getting out for this small project! If your husband is handy, you could ask him to do this for you. Better yet, have him teach you to use it yourself! I did, it was fun and now I can do more projects without having to wait for him to be able to help me!
Step 3: Measure and cut sides of boxes.
I found two pieces of 3/4″ x 1 3/4″ board in the garage, and used them to cut the sides for each box. If you want to be able to reach your arm all the way inside the box, you should use a board that is wider than 1 3/4″ – I realized that a little late :). This will be the depth of your box, so decide how deep you would like it to be, and then measure and cut two side pieces per box. They need to be the same length as your back square; mine thus measured 12″ each, and I cut 8, making 4 boxes.
Hint: If you don’t have one, buy a speed square. That’s the black triangular tool in the picture. You make a mark on the board as you measure 12″ apart (or however large your squares are), then line up the speed square and draw the line across the board for cutting. This saves you having to mark both sides of the board and then draw the line across. And you do want a line; the more precise your cuts, the more likely your box will actually be square.
Step 4: Glue sides to back of box.
Use wood glue, and glue the sides onto the back of each box as shown. You’ll be screwing or nailing them together later. Gluing them first is going to make your life MUCH easier.
Put a line of glue on each side piece like this:
And stick them on. Be sure to wipe off the excess glue that squeezes out from between the boards:
You may notice at this point that some of your side pieces don’t line up exactly; some might have turned out a tad long. You won’t want to use a circular saw to cut a little piece off, so you have two good options: use a small hand saw, or use sandpaper. If you have 1/8″ or less to get rid of, I would definitely use the sandpaper:
Use a coarse grit, such as 60, for trimming down the board, and finish with a fine grit like 120 to make it really smooth. You’ll want to sand BEFORE gluing, because the glue will need time to dry. If you don’t want to sand now, you could wait until it’s screwed together.
Step 5: Mark, cut, and glue bottoms of boxes.
The above picture shows the boxes with the bottoms added. You’ll be wise to wait on cutting the bottom boards (from the same board used for the sides) until you have the sides glued onto the back board. Then measure and cut the bottoms. I can pretty much guarantee they won’t all measure the same; mine didn’t! You might be perfect though :).
Follow the same steps for measuring, cutting and gluing the bottom that you used for the sides.
Step 6: Screw the boxes together.
I used 1 5/8″ long wood screws to screw my boxes together. You can find these at Wal-Mart or your local hardware store. Be sure to buy wood screws; they have kind of a triangular-shaped head if you look at them from the side, which means they’ll be buried in the wood and the tops will be even with the board. Be sure they have pointy tips, which means they’re self-drilling, and no drill will be necessary to pilot holes for them. A drill IS helpful for putting all these screws in, and I used one (LOVE power tools!), but you could definitely do this with a normal Phillips-head screwdriver (the “x” tip, not the slotted that is just a line). I had to finish mine with a screwdriver.
Screw from the back, and be sure to push down on the board (with your hand directly over the side board into which you are putting the screw) so that you don’t end up with a space between the two boards. If you have a space there, back the screw out and try again, being sure to push the boards together as you put the screw in.
You could also nail the boxes together, but be sure your glue is completely dry first if you go this route, and be careful. Using an air nailer would be best if you prefer nails over screws.
This is the end of part one; check back for part 2 for details on painting and putting on the front of the boxes!