The idea for this DIY pie box came about at a friend’s wedding. During the ceremony, a story was shared about when the bride and groom were first dating. She was in need of a pie box, so he decided to take it upon himself to make her one out of wood—even though he’d never worked with wood before. Despite his lack of experience, he built one to the exact dimensions of her specific pie dish, and apparently did a wonderful job—they did get married, after all.
A wooden pie box is one of those things you never think about needing until you have to transport a hot pie to your aunt’s house for Thanksgiving and you cobble together a nightmare of something (cookie sheets, towels) and pull it off only to forget about it until the next year. This Thanksgiving pie box means you don’t have to think about everything that could go wrong with transporting a pie, and who doesn’t love a permanent solution? It also looks nice—you could host for the holidays and still use the pie box.
This is a solid level two project, which means we’re using tools such as a circular saw to do some more advanced techniques, like routing. Like most of our projects, this pie box can be made easier with a few simple adjustments.
Step 1: Route Wood
For this project, I’m using Douglas fir. I went with it for a simple reason: it’s the only lumber we carry at Dunn Lumber that comes in a half inch thickness, and I wanted something lightweight. Plus, it’s really pretty wood.
We’re going to start today with routing our wood. Routing is simply cutting a channel into the wood to fit another piece of wood into it. In this case, we’re creating a channel at the bottom of the sides of the box for the base to fit into. Routing provides more support than just gluing it into place will. I don’t want the really nice pie dish I got for my wedding falling through the box and shattering (or losing a freshly made pumpkin pie, for that matter), and I doubt you do, either! If you don't have a circular saw, or if routing is just out of your comfort zone, I did test out the glue I used for this project and found that it held up very well—I definitely would consider it as an alternative.
First, clamp down your half-by-four to a sawhorse. Clamp a thicker piece of wood 4 1/2" away from the far edge of the half-by-four. Make sure you’re using a very straight board—it’ll act as a guide for the circular saw.
Adjust the blade depth on your circular saw until it’s as shallow as possible and experiment until you hit the desired depth—you’re going for about a 1/8" channel. Once you’ve reached the desired depth, cut along the length of the half-by-four with the "foot" of the saw pressed up against the thicker guide board. Move the guide board away from the half-by-four 1/8" and recut. Repeat this a few times, until you have a routed cut wide enough for the plywood to fit into.
This process is similar to the process we used for the outdoor chess piece here. Except this time, we're not leaving any ridges of wood in between the cuts because the channel we're routing is so narrow.
Step 2: Cut Pie Box Sides
Next we’re going to cut the channeled piece into four pieces—these will become the sides of the box. You can use a miter saw or a circular saw to make these cuts, or, if you feel more comfortable, you can use a handsaw. At this point, it’s important to decide if you want to have mitered corners or straight cuts—it’s completely up to you (and your skill level). We opted for mitered corners, so we cut the half-by-four into four 11 3/8" (this measurement is for the shorter side) pieces with the circular saw set to 45°.
Next, cut your plywood base with a circular saw into a 10 9/16" square. Adjust as needed to fit within the four sides.
Step 3: Sand Pie Box Wood
Sand with a fine-medium sanding sponge of 150-grit and above. We usually encourage you to pay attention to your cut ends where splinters are prevalent, but make sure you pay special attention to the mill-cut edges on these pieces (Doug fir is a very splinter-prone wood).
Step 4: Glue Pie Box Pieces Together
Next, glue your half-by sides around the plywood square. We used hot glue sticks otherwise used for putting down hardwood flooring (I picked mine up at Dunn Lumber). They’re not your typical craft glue sticks—they have a much stronger bond and are a little more costly. They're usually paired with an industrial hot glue gun, but we've found they work great in our $20 craft store glue gun! This is one of my all-time favorite DIY hacks because there’s practically zero dry time (which means I don’t have to be patient with my project) and it’s super strong. If you are a patient person or prefer something a little more traditional, you can use a regular wood glue or a fast drying all-purpose glue.
If you want to add nails for extra support, feel free—just pre-drill to prevent splitting.
Once you glue two of the sides together, slide in the plywood base so it fits snug in the channel you routed earlier. Then, glue on the remaining two sides.
Step 5: Cut Pie Box Lid Materials
Next, measure the inside dimensions of the box and cut a square of plywood 1/16” smaller—the finished piece should be about 10 3/8". I like to cut the lid at this stage versus cutting it at the beginning, because I want the lid fit as snug as possible. This way, the edges of the lid are lined up nicely with the bottom of the box and the final piece looks more finished.
Next, cut lattice strips into seven 11 3/8" long pieces or however wide your box is. Make sure everything lines up nicely.
Step 6: Sand
Sand your plywood and lattice strips with a sanding sponge.
Step 7: Glue Lattice Onto Pie Box Lid
Now it’s time to glue the lattice strips onto the plywood lid—this will create a lip so the lid doesn’t slide off. What I’ve found works best is turning the box upside down, and using the base of the box as a guide and stand for the lid. This way everything is easily lined up, and you don't have to bother with any math!
Step 8: Apply Finish to Pie Box
You can stain your pie box, paint your pie box, or leave it natural, but make sure you add a finish that will protect your carrier from pie mishaps and fruit juice! Just follow the instructions on the can. If you’re going from construction to finishing, I’d recommend running a tack cloth down all the edges to remove the fine sawdust.
Step 9: Add Handles to Pie Box
Finally we’re adding handles. I grabbed my handles at Dunn Lumber. I specifically wanted handles like you see here, but you can pick some that suit your style. Use a combination square or a ruler to determine where to position the handles so they’re centered. Mark holes for screw holes with a pencil, then start driving a screw with a screwdriver. Next, remove the screw and snip off the end with a pair of cutting pliers so it doesn’t push all the way through and scratch you while you’re going for the pie. Keep an eye on the inside of the box as you drive the screw in—it may still break through as you tighten it, which we want to avoid. Repeat with remaining screws and handle.
That’s it! This is one of those great projects where you feel accomplished 10 minutes in. It’s short and sweet and requires little patience, save for the finish. Plus, you find more uses for this lovely pie box after you make it—you could give it to someone as a housewarming gift, bring a dip to a Super Bowl party, or use it some other creative way. For now, I’m excited to see it on a lovely Thanksgiving table. Next up? A cake box, of course.