It’s easy to forget how lucky we Washingtonians are when it comes to access to nature. Within just a few hours of Seattle are our three crown jewels—North Cascades, Mount Rainier, and Olympic National Parks—which offer thousands of square miles of hiking and camping access. Not to mention, Washington state is home to more than 120 state parks. All to say, it’s pretty easy to hop in the car and escape into an otherworldly landscape without much planning.
Having a ready-to-go camp kitchen setup is critical to successful last-minute camping—or any kind of camping—which is the idea behind the camp chuck box. This project came to us from our friends at Filson, another centuries-old Seattle-based company. We iterated on their approach to create our own version of the camp chuck box, which has a place for all your kitchen essentials, so you can easily load up your car and camp whenever wilderness calls.
While this project is simple, the details are key: We used a 40-tooth plywood saw blade (also called a fine wood saw blade, depending on the brand). Having more teeth helps ensure a smoother cut, which is necessary when cutting plywood. We also utilize the Kreg jig throughout the project—you can check out our tutorial here.
And with that—grab your tools and materials and get started!
Step 1: Measure and cut plywood
First, cut the top panel (F) according to the cutting diagram (below): Measure 21” from the long end of your plywood square and mark with a pencil. Then, measure 13” in the opposite direction and mark. Use a straight edge to draw a line from the 13” mark to the 21” mark (this is your cutting line).
There are two important precautions to take before cutting:
- Tape the underside of the plywood to prevent splintering. Flip the plywood over and apply masking tape where the cutting lines are on the opposite side.
- Set your straight edge. To figure out where your straight edge should be, you need to account for the distance between the blade and the saw foot. Measure the distance between the edge of the saw foot and the blade; then, use that distance to determine where to clamp down your straight edge board for cutting. For example, the distance between the foot and blade of our saw was 1 ⅜”, so we clamped our straight edge 1 ⅜” away from our cutting line.
Repeat these steps to cut each of the pieces (note quantity; see the cutting guide below):
- (2) Piece A: 13” x 18”
- (3) Piece B: 12 ½” x 20”
- (2) Piece C: 12 ½” x 3 ½”
- (1) Piece D: 2” x 20”
- (1) Piece E: 18” x 20”
- (1) Piece F: 12 ½” x 21”
- (1) Piece G: 4 ½” x 21”
- (1) Piece H: 12 ½” x 21”
- (1) Piece I: 1 ½” x 21”
Note: We recommend using a piece of masking tape to label each piece of plywood according to the cutting guide. Labeling as you go will save you some confusion when you get to assembly and allows you to decide ahead of time which side of the plywood will face outward and be more visible than the opposite side.
Step 2: Mark pocket holes
We'll be fastening pieces A, B, E, and F (the box frame, middle shelf, and doors) with pocket holes and pocket hole screws. You can find the measurements for pocket hole placement on the cutting diagram; however, you can really put the pocket holes anywhere, so long as you keep consistent measurements across all your pieces.
Using a speed square, mark where each of your pocket holes will go according to the diagram. Make your pencil marks a few inches long—this will allow you to use the hole in the Kreg jig to line up the hole to the mark.
Note: We also labeled the front of the A pieces and the bottom, middle, and top B pieces, as the pocket hole placements are slightly different for each.
Step 3: Pre-drill and attach back and side panels
Before drilling any holes, dry-fit the back and side panels to ensure you've marked your holes in the right places.
To dry-fit, lay the back of piece E on the table in front of you; prop up the side pieces (A) on either side of piece E.
When you’re sure your holes are aligned, grab your Kreg jig and line it up to your pocket hole mark using the small window at the top of the jig. Use a clamp to secure the jig in place, then drill with the Kreg jig bit set to a hair under ½". Use 1” pocket hole screws to fasten.
Note: This plywood is commonly called ½”, but it’s actually 15/32” thick—so be careful to not overdrive your holes so the screws don’t poke through the other end. This is why we set the Kreg jig bit to just less than ½" and why we were careful not to overdrive the 1" screws.
Step 4: Pre-drill and attach front bottom face to body
You should now have three of the four sides of the box attached.
Using the same method as above, dry-fit the bottom face (piece I) to the bottom of the open side of the box body. Align pocket holes and drill. Use 1” pocket hole screws to fasten, again being careful not to overdrive through the side.
Step 5: Pre-drill and attach bottom shelf
The bottom shelf (or base of the box) will sit inside of the four sides created by pieces I, E, and both A pieces.
Line up your Kreg jig to your pocket hole marks and drill 1” pocket holes. Use 1” pocket hole screws to fasten.
Step 6: Pre-drill and attach top and middle shelves
Using your straight edge, mark 4” from the top of the box. Slide the middle shelf into place along the 4” line.
Once you've pre-drilled your holes, tap the center board into place and use 1” pocket hole screws to fasten, being careful to drive slowly to ensure you don’t poke through the other side.
Note: When we got to this step, we realized we had drilled our pocket hole screws too deep because our drill bit collar wasn’t locked into place and had slipped. Luckily, it doesn’t really matter where you drill the pocket holes in this project, so long as you’re consistent. We ended up redrilling our pocket holes on both top and middle pieces, right next to the first holes. If this happens to you, we recommend labeling the right and wrong holes so as not to get confused.
Step 7: Place inside dividers and attach middle shelf
You should have two center divider pieces (C). Where you install them is up to you; we opted to place them 7” in on either side, so our instructions reflect those measurements.
Draw lines 7” in from either side using your straight edge. Flip the piece over and draw the same lines on the bottom side (this line will show you where to drive nails in).
Set the dividers on their sides and place the middle shelf on top, lining it up with the lines you drew. (Dividers should line up on the outside edge of the lines.) Attach the dividers with nails and a hammer; then, fasten with pocket hole screws to the back.
Note: Because these screws are inside the box, it’s easiest to drive them in by putting the screw on the end of the driver before placing it in the hole (versus putting the screw in the hole, then screwing).
Step 8: Pre-drill and attach shelf lip
The shelf lip attaches to the end of the top shelf (B) to keep knick-knacks from rolling around and falling out. The lip should sit on top of the shelf and fasten from the inside via pocket holes.
Line up your Kreg jig with your pocket hole marks and drill, being careful not to overdrive. Attach using 1” pocket hole screws.
Step 9: Pre-drill and attach box lid and door
Pieces G and F make up the box lid, which will open and close to reveal and conceal the top shelf. Pre-drill pocket holes where you marked in step two, then slowly drive pocket hole screws into place. Set the lid on top of the box to make sure it fits before adding hinges.
Hinges are a little tricky—do a dry fit before securing with screws so you're sure you’ve placed them correctly and things will open and close properly. Mount the hinges on the front with the “wings” flat against the wood. Line up the hinge pin with the dividing line between the face and the bottom lip.
Remove the lid and place your hinges. We are using two 1 ½” stainless steel door hinges placed 3” in from either side. Again, placement is at your discretion here. Measure and mark where your hinge holes will be before drilling.
Flip the lid upside down and drive screws into the holes of the “flap” piece. Then, attach the lid to the box. Place it on top with the second side of the hinge on the backside (outside). Use #4 x ⅜” screws to attach.
Next, attach the door (piece E). The hinges here will attach to the bottom of the door to open from the top down. We placed these hinges 3” in on either side to match the hinges on the lid.
Note: The screws that came with the hinges were too long, so we used #4 x ⅜” screws.
Step 10: Attach hardware
We opted for simple handles on either side of the box. Placement for these is important—because the screws are long, you want them to drive through the sides of the top shelf inside the box.
Mark the center line (6 ½”), then mark one inch on either side. Center the hinge between the marks and pre-drill using a 7/64” drill bit; then, drive 1” screws in place.
Flip the box over and repeat to attach the opposite handle.
We tried to find handles that stuck out about 1 ½” so that when the front door is down, the handle acts as a foot and it creates a level prep surface (since the bottom of the door is 1 ½” from the base of the box).
We used a 6 ½" drawer pull with a handle depth of 1-1/4” and centered it on the face of the door near the top.
Mark the handle holes and screw into place.
Note: The screws that came with our handle were too long and drove right through the plywood, so we used a hacksaw to cut the ends off so they wouldn’t poke out.
We used simple draw catches to keep the front door latched shut. To keep consistent with the rest of our hardware, we attached them 3” in on either side of the door.
Use a speed square to measure 3” in on either side. Mark where the holes will be using masking tape; then, pre-drill and attach using the screws included with the catch.
Repeat on the other side for the second catch.
To keep the top lid from falling back too far and stressing the wood, we created a simple solution to support the lid using screws and string.
To do this, place one screw on the top inside panel of the box and one on the inside of the lid panel, then tie a piece of string between. We drove 3/4” screws about ½” in on both the box and lid.
Remove any remaining tape labels and your camp kitchen box is ready to take you into the wilderness with ease. For more DIY camping gear, check out our folding wooden camp stool and folding camping table.