Written by Will Browar
May 10, 2023
We wanted to get a storage chest for our back yard because our kids were spending more time with friends out there and we wanted to make it easier for them to access their toys. Along with the better playing-outside weather, we were doing more grilling and I was looking for a place to store grates, charcoal, and other grill-related tools.
At first I planned on getting a separate storage cabinet for the grilling stuff, but we found a storage chest that was big enough to house everything. The tricky part was keeping everything organized and separating the toys from the fire-related tools in one big, empty box.
This project was a quick one and it helped clean out some of the leftover wood I had laying around. It also let me try out something new on the 3D printer.
The basic idea was to cut the interior of the box in half, based on the size of some of the grilling components. Our grill was a 22-inch kettle grill, so the widest we'd need to go is around 22 inches. The grill we have has a grate with a 12-inch hole that is meant for accessories, like a cast iron plate or wok. It also came with a warming shelf that we used on occasion. We also had some cleaning tongs and matches that needed a place to stay.
On the toy side of things, we have various balls, bats, and catching devices. My kids’ reach is still pretty short, so we wanted to elevate all of the toys so they could easily reach in and grab what they need.
I put together a rough plan for everything so I knew what sizes I was working with, but along the way I changed things up based on where we wound up putting the chest.
As far as materials go, I had a bunch of leftover plywood and pine 2x4s, so my plan was to whip them all together using some glue and some brad nails, then use some oil or paint to seal them.
I had plywood ripped at about 2 feet wide, which was perfect for the height of the chest. I left the height as-is and worked out the measurements along the length to cut it down into the lengths I needed it to be for each piece.
I used some foam packing pieces as a base and a couple of clamps and a long piece of scrap wood as a guide to cut the pieces with the hand saw.
By the time I was done I had cut all of the walls with the hand saw and used the miter saw to cut the smaller pieces down to the right size.
I planned on attaching them all together using glue and nails and I didn't go through the trouble to plan out any fancy joinery as the pieces should be plenty supported for their use. I did cut the smallest divider a little wider and then I use a router to cut a channel into its connecting pieces. While maybe unnecessary, it offers a little more support in the middle.
I went ahead and nailed these pieces together.
Next up I measured out the length and width of what would be the floor of the raised up portion of the grilling side. I cut that down with the hand saw and miter saw and put it aside.
At this point I tested the fit inside the chest and everything was looking good.
I wanted to add a little support to the raised floor, so I made a frame with a 2x4 and nailed that into the floor piece.
With that all set, I nailed the floor into place. Although not shown in this picture, I also added one small 2x4 piece in the corner for a little extra support.
I flipped the piece over and used a rounding bit along the tops of all of the dividing pieces to smooth them down a bit.
Making a Toy Table
Once I had the final size of the grilling side set, I used the remaining room inside the chest to create a platform for the toys.
I cut a leftover sheathing panel down the the right width and length to cover the toy side, then I used some 2x4s to create four legs and then some supports.
I used some 1-2-3 blocks and clamps to hold them up while I nailed the supports into place.
From there I thought about how to get the table in and out and went over to the drill press—which still had the 1½ inch hole saw bit in it from my birdhouse project—and cut a whole on one side of the middle of the table.
I used the same rounding bit on the router to smooth out the hole so it no longer had any sharp edges.
Just like everything in this project so far where I was using scraps and leftovers I also chose to finish everything with some leftover spray paint. I had a couple of cans of red and black paint, but the black had primer built in so I decided to go that route.
A couple of coats later, I let the pieces dry and then I placed them into the storage chest.
In the grill side of the chest I wanted to hang a couple of tools, so I needed some sort of hook in the portion that was the full height of the chest. I decided to design and print the hooks with my 3D printer.
I used Fusion360 to create a model that would wrap around the top of the plywood edges with a hook protruding out one side.
The fit came out great and the hook seemed strong enough for the things I would hang off of it.
I also wanted to test out some debossed lettering with my 3D printer, so I made an SVG label, imported it into Fusion360, and cut it into the base of the hook. I figured that if the icon was printed on the 3D printer’s plate it would come out clearer.
There was one part that got a little messed up in the print, but I figured that this was good enough to proceed with, so I made labels for some of the different sections and I printed those out using PLA.
It took a few tries to get the print right and I wound up settling with a couple of pieces that had some errors on them.
The thing I learned here was not to fill up the printing plate with too many pieces. Also, I will still need some more practice printing out text and next time I might consider printing it on a different side or rotating the print 90˚ so the text isn't printed on the plate.
If I were making a storage chest from scratch I might consider taking more time to focus on stability and finish, but I'm happy with the amount of effort I put towards making this work.
Eventually I plan on taking the platform out of the toy section and I left a little extra room on the grilling side for future accessories. For now this simple project will help keep things tidy for both play time and grilling time. 🍔