DIY: How to Build a Tack Trunk
For our tack box, we’re going to use solid number two pine stock. Number two pine stock is a great choice due to the knots in the wood. This gives each trunk a distinctive rustic look. It’s also a bit cheaper than clear pine. To prevent wood movement, it’s good to use plywood for the top and bottom compartments of the trunk.
For hardware, we recommend a brass marine hasp, a couple of brass plated door pulls and a piano hinge. The piano hinge and the door pulls can be found online, but we recommend hopping in your car and supporting your local hardware store.
To get the dimensions needed for the base and the length, glue up three 1×8 pine boards. Cut lengths that allow you to get a continuous grain pattern on the front and end as well as the back and end. Run all the edges on the joiner for a good bond and apply glue to both edges. Configure the clamps alternating over and under, over and under, so you get even pressure on all the joints.
For a step by step video tutorial, please refer to the video at the top of this page.
Use a stacked dado set to make the dados for the plywood top and bottom. Set the blade depth to 3/8 of an inch and the width to 1/2 inch for both dados.
To attach the front and back to the ends you can use a simple rabbet joint. The rabbet depth is the same as the top and bottom dados of the trunk. The width will be oversized so you can trim it flush later. Between the rabbets and the dados on the top and bottom, this trunk should hold together well.
Now put everything together and make sure your joints are snug. Sometimes the plywood needs a bit more trimming for a good fit. Once everything fits together nice, you can start cutting the decorative channels into the wood.
To cut the channels, we recommend using a ninety degree V groove bit in a plunge router. Set the depth to 1/4 inch and add an edge guide.
Mark lines on each piece of wood that you can match your router’s guide to. The trick here is to keep constant pressure on the edge. It’s easy for the router to skate off the line, so you have to stay focused. The edge guide is fast but it can wander on you.
With the channels routed on all four sides, you can cut the lid from the trunk’s base. The trunk lid width is 3 and 5/8 inches thick. After ripping the lid on the table saw, run all the edges on a joiner.
Next up are the supports for the sliding tray. To mill the tray supports, add biscuit joints to oversized stock, then rip the stock to the final dimensions. Biscuit joints work great here because they’re fast, but you can also use dowels if you prefer.
After the tray supports are cut, you can mill the mortises to set the piano hinge. It’s best to do this step before assembly. That way, if you really mess up an edge here you can just build another section. To provide more surface area to steady the router, I like to gang up three boards. Then I have a nice thick edge to run the router across.
Once the hinge mortise is finished, you can start sanding and staining the inside edges. Start with 120 grit on the sander, then move up to 150 grit. I like to do the final sanding by hand before dusting off the surface for staining. At this stage I’ll also sand and stain the plywood top and bottom compartments.
Once the trunk is sanded and dusted off, it’s ready for staining. Cherry stain or red mahogany are popular options for a trunk like this.
Once the stain has dried, you can assemble the trunk base and lid. This is the trickiest part of the project. Be sure to do a dry run of the glue up, just to make sure everything goes together smoothly.
I use up to twelve pipe clamps to secure the base and four clamps for the lid. This part is a race to get the trunk squared up with all those clamps before the glue sets. A quick measure of the diagonal will assure that the base and the lid are square.
While the glue is drying on the base and lid, it’s a good time to build the accessory tray. The tray has a lot of the same characteristics as the trunk. It’s built with dados for the bottom and rabbets for the front and back. I use 1/4 inch plywood for the tray bottom and the same pine stock as the trunk for the sides and the ends. I’ll also use the same sanding, staining and glue up steps for the tray.
Once the glue has dried over night, clean up the excess material with your router. Use a flush trim bit and set it to a depth that hits the extra stock on each end of the base and lid. If you have more than 1/16 of an inch of material to trim off, I recommend making a couple of shallow passes with the router. It’s also a good idea to move the router slowly and clamp a sacrificial piece of stock to each end, so you don’t get a tear out.
Before sanding the outer faces of the trunk, I like to mark and drill my hardware pilot holes. For the handles, I’ll mark a center point on the ends and eyeball a placement. For the hasp, I drill one pilot hole and install a screw. Once the top of the hasp is secure, I mark and drill the other holes. I’ll do the same for the hasp bottom. When I try this any other way, I just end up with a crooked hasp.
For a top coat of stain I apply four coats of urethane. I use Helmsman Spar urethane thinned with a little bit of mineral spirits. This urethane works well indoors and outdoors, so it’s a good choice for this kind of trunk. The mineral spirits make the urethane much easier to brush on.
That covers the major steps of this trunk build. With proper care, your handmade tack box should give you a lifetime of enjoyment.