David Parker makes quick work of these lightweight and strong wooden boxes using fast curing epoxy to house fragile items on board
On any boat, particularly smaller craft, the stowage of more delicate objects is always a challenge and for expensive items some sort of protective casing is required.
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Metal cases (when available) are, of course, strong but heavy and prone to rust; and while sealed plastic-type boxes are useful, they have their limitations and there are some objects which deserve a better home to keep them safe and secure.
These plywood boxes are ideal and you can custom make them to fit the required shape exactly. In this project I show how to make them for the oil lamps I keep on board – the mantle on my pressure Tilley lamp is easily damaged if it gets knocked and similarly my standard oil lamp with its glass shade is vulnerable when stacked away.
However these boxes can be adapted to any size or shape to be used for navigation instruments, electrical items or engine spares such as injector pipes or the glass bowls for fuel filters, for example.
A tough plywood box can be readily made out of varying thicknesses of plywood and the heavier the item the thicker the box panels need to be. The main thing I like about this construction method is that it’s ideal for thin plywood only 5mm thick, which means boxes are light as well as strong. This plywood is also readily available as exterior grade material in half and third sheet sizes – sometimes you even see offcuts of it in the remainder bin at timber merchants or DIY stores.
This is a good project for those who are less experienced with woodwork and you can get satisfying results with a modest skill level. The step-by-step design I have outlined here uses no fixings. You can of course use a combination of fixings and/or standard wood adhesive, but to cut and plane edges of thin laminate neatly and then hold it perfectly square while nailing pins can be tricky. The method described here demonstrates the use of fast curing epoxy to get the box shape accurately and is much more straightforward.
The box, once assembled, can then be reinforced if required with epoxy fillets or small, square section batten glued in place.
Step by step illustrated guide to making a basic wood-epoxy box
These boxes are made using three-laminate 5mm plywood: four side panels with two smaller panels for the top and base are required with four narrower strips of trim to hold the lid in place.
Size will depend on what’s required but in this case for a hurricane lamp the large panels measured approximately 11in x 6in (280mm x 150mm) and the smaller panels 6¼in (160mm) square.
The trim was 2in (50mm) wide.
I used the West System Five-Minute adhesive for this project. Prices vary but it costs about £20 online for a 200g pack and a little goes a long way (in fact for this project I only used 10-15ml of the quick drying epoxy for the whole job – the bottles still looked full when I finished!).
If you’ve never tried rapid adhesive before this is a handy way to get familiar with it because it also offers a host of uses for general work, repairs and the fabrication of tricky shapes.
You should always mix equal amounts of the resin and hardener and you can also mix small amounts easily on any clean scrap of hardboard, wood or plastic to hand. A plastic lid is a handy mixing palette and lolly sticks and coffee stirrers make cheap spreaders.
The glue dries clear and is quite thixotropic so does not run off the job to cause a mess.
Originally published in PBO May19