DIY PLYWOOD STORAGE BINS WITH A MID-CENTURY MODERN LOOK

If you’ve ever struggled finding the exact right sized storage bin or box, take a look at how Handy Hubby and I made these DIY plywood storage bins with a mid-century modern look.

The bedside tables in our bedroom were welded at the same time my Grandfather made the headboard I designed.  We had some leftover materials and he just whipped them up!  We had glass shelves custom cut, but overall the whole project was really inexpensive.  I loved the airy look of the shelves, but I hated the messy look of piles of books and magazines that accumulated, so I bought two vinyl mock croc storage bins way back in 2007.  I’ve never loved the look of the bins, but they fit really well – and they solved our storage problem!

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Over time, those inexpensive storage boxes started to disintegrate so I wanted to make something a little bit more solid.  Wandering around my local lumber yard – looking for supplies for the more complicated slatted storage bin idea I had – I stumbled across a really thin sheet of walnut plywood and fell in love!  Because the plywood was so thin, Handy Hubby and I were able to make really sizable DIY plywood storage bins that are still lightweight – perfect for our glass tables.

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Here’s how we made these DIY plywood storage bins – and what you’ll need to pick up if you want to build your own!

Supplies:

  • One 4 x 8 sheet of 3/16″ walnut plywood
  • Walnut edge banding
  • Square stock
  • Wood glue
  • Old iron
  • Clamps
  • Table saw
  • Four handles
  • Tried & True Danish Oil
  • Lint-free rag

Steps for Making DIY Plywood Storage Bins:

First we determined the size of DIY plywood storage bins we wanted.  I wanted something really tall to show off that beautiful grain.  I actually went a little nutty with the height (they’re MASSIVE), but they still work well and look so beautiful.  The finished size is 17″ L x 145/8″ D x 15 7/16″ H, which is in perfect proportion with the tables.  With our measurements determined, we cut the plywood to size on a table saw.

For each box, we cut seven pieces.  Of course, these boxes can be made any size but here are the sizes of the pieces we cut (which are in pairs):

  • Two 17″ by 15 1/6″ pieces for the front and back
  • Two 14 1/4″ x 15 1/16″ pieces for the sides
  • Two 17″ by 16 5/8″ pieces for the top (we laminated them together for a thicker look)
  • One 14 1/4″ by 16 5/8″ for the bottom
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The plywood is really thin and I didn’t want any nail holes from the outside, so we got a little creative with the construction. We cut 7/8″ square stock wood and created a “frame” to join the side panels together from the inside using wood glue.

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Using wood glue and clamps, we butt joined the panels to the frame.

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When clamping on a good surface, it’s a good idea to use something like wood shims between the clamps and the surface to protect that pretty grain!

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At this point, if you have a cat, you will likely turn around to get a tool and when you turn back your cat will be sitting expectantly in your half finished box. (If it fits, I sits).

Kitty in a box

After we had affixed some of the panels to the frame, we determined which edges would be exposed and adhered the walnut edge banding to any exposed edges.  If we had chosen thicker plywood, we could have done a tidy mitered corner but with such thin plywood, a mitered corner was beyond our capabilities!  We were really worried about tear out with the thin veneer – which we did have some minor issues with, because the walnut veneer was so thin.

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Edge banding these days is so simple because most come pre-glued, so it’s just a matter of ironing it on – so keep that old iron or pick up a working one from the thrifts.

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With the edge banding glued, we used a sharp flush plane to carefully trim the excess. For thicker plywood projects, we’ve used a double edge trimmer which also works well.

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The photo below illustrates how straightforward the simple construction – it’s basically just a wood frame, with the plywood panels glued to it. This is a great way to avoid any nails from the outside and the wood frame also helps add strength to the very thin plywood we chose, making this box lightweight but sturdy.

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The finished box has a simple lift off lid made of two pieces of edge banded walnut plywood laminated together, with two pieces of square stock glued inside to keep it from sliding around. A hinged lid would have required a much shorter box to have room for the lid to swing, but it would be a simple step to add.

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Once the DIY plywood storage boxes were completed, they looked really chalky and pale:

Unfinished walnut is so pale

I used Tried & True brand Danish Oil to bring out the warmth, but I needed puppy approval first (the smell lures ’em!):

Curious Komondor

For this Danish Oil, I applied multiple, thin coats with a lint-free cloth. I let each coat dry for five minutes, then I wiped away any excess with a clean, dry cloth. Eight hours later I “burnished” the boxes with another clean, lint-free cloth to really bring out the shine – basically, I just buffed the surface.

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The last step was adding hardware.  I wanted something brushed silver, oversized and modern, so it didn’t look like a kitchen drawer pull.  I found these long squared off pulls at Lee Valley – they’re 10 5/8″ long!

Long brushed silver hardware

Because the plywood is so thin, we glued on some thicker squares of scrap wood inside the box so we could easily affix the hardware:

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Long silver handle

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After eight years of living with those vinyl bins (two of which were spent trying to repair peeling vinyl), it feels so good to have something new!  These DIY plywood storage bins are simple and do the trick, but they have such a great mid-century feel.  I didn’t intend to make them quite so tall, but we wanted to maximize how much grain we could show off.

This DIY plywood box tutorial was created for Hello Yellow.

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