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How to Make Rustic Display Boxes with Storage

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

This year our county fair decided to tackle a big project. They decided to update, by update I mean completely gut out, the inside of one of their exhibit barns. When we did this we removed all the old display boxes. Those display boxes had been in this barn for longer than I have been alive. They had so many layers of wood additions to them. Then they were covered with fake grass and burlap which in its day may have been a good idea but by now they were old, dirty, and in disrepair. I felt like despite the condition of the displays that there were some good pieces of wood on them that we could reclaim. In fact, we found that under the plywood on top there was some beautiful shiplap.

I had them drop off one of the displays at my house along with some corrugated metal panels that were from an old roof they were replacing. I was hoping that I could take the display and modify it but I ended up completely pulling it apart and using those pieces to make these rustic display boxes. The good news about that is it makes the design much more replicable. I also decided to add storage and casters on the bottom. This made it so much easier to set up for the fair this year and store items in between fairs.

Finished rustic display boxes.

Rustic Display Boxes

Tools for Making Rustic Display Boxes:

  • Miter saw

  • Table saw

  • Circular saw (turn blade backward for metal) or Jig saw with metal cutting blade or use an angle grinder with a cut-off wheel or metal cutting nippers (Cutting the metal is arguably the hardest part of this project, so find what works best for you.)

  • Nail gun

  • Finishing nail gun (air)

  • Air compressor

  • Clamps

  • Wood glue (for any splitting of reclaimed wood)

  • Sander/60 grit sandpaper

  • Hammer/Prybar

  • Speed square

  • Measuring tape

  • Pencil/Permanent marker

  • Drill with screwdriver attachment

  • Brown finishing wax/Finishing wax brush

  • 2.5” screws

  • 2.5” nails

  • 1.25” finishing nails

  • .5” self-tapping screws for corrugated metal

  • Caster wheels with brakes (optional)

The old display box we began with.

old display

Cut list:

  • a. 2 x 6 boards (8) 32”

  • b. 2 x 4 boards (4) 40” (sanding not necessary)

  • c. 2 x 4 boards (5) 36 3/4” (sanding not necessary)

  • d. ½” plywood (1) 39 5/8 x 39 5/8 (sanding not necessary)

  • e. corrugated metal (6) 31 ¾”

  • f. 1 x 4 boards (4) 29 1/8” (approximate, cut after measurement)

  • g. 1 x 4 boards (4) 32 3/8” (approximate, cut after measurement)

  • h. 7” x 3/4” Ship lap (enough to make 48”, [7] in my case) 48”

  • 39.75×40 bottom of top

  • i. 1 x 4 boards (2) 39 3/4” (approximate, cut after measurement) (sanding not necessary)

  • j. 1 x 4 boards (2) 36 1/2” (approximate, cut after measurement) (sanding not necessary)

  • k. 1 x 4 boards ripped lengthwise (2) 48” (approximate, cut after measurement)

  • l. 1 x 4 boards ripped lengthwise (2) 49.5” (approximate, cut after measurement)

Sand all boards after cutting but before attaching. Lightly round the edges and remove all splinters but leave the character.

Disassemble the old display and remove all nails.

Box Frame Construction

Assemble the corners of your rustic display box.

assemble corners

Connect (a) to (a) along the long edges to make an “L” shape. I used the 2.5-inch nails with the nail gun for building the frame but you could use screws if you wanted. Use another 2×6 to support the other side while nailing it.

Frame your rustic display box.

frame the box

Create a bottom box with (b) on the top and bottom and (c) sandwiched between them at the two ends and in the middle for shelf support. (The picture doesn’t have the middle support since I added the storage idea to the plans later.)

Create a top box with (b) on the top and bottom and (c) sandwiched between them at the two ends.

Use the 4 “L” shapes as the corners.

Connect the bottom box to the base of the corners.

Connect the top box to the top of the corners.

Place (d) over the bottom box and attach. (I used the finishing nails for this)

Box Siding and Trim

Overlap the two sheets of corrugated metal on the sides of the display box.

overlap two sheets

Position corrugated metal on the sides (this will take 1 + 1/2ish sheets) and attach to the top and bottom. Cut the partial sheet to fit your gap and allow the full sheet to overlap a little over the partial one. Be sure only the straight edges are showing and that the weathered side is facing out. Use the ½” screws to hold this on.

Add trim to your rustic display box.

add trim

F and G are the trim pieces to be placed over the top and bottom of the metal. I like these to be really tight so I don’t cut them until after I get to this point and can measure to verify the size. Each side and top and bottom can be different, especially when dealing with reclaimed wood. The 2.5” screws will be long enough to sandwich the metal between the 2 pieces of wood. Clamps are good for holding the top trim pieces while you attach it.

Lid Construction

On a level surface, line up your top planks (h) upside down on your surface. Be careful to have the edges aligned. If you have large clamps, you can use them to hold the planks in place while you do the next step.

I and J will form the inside lip of the box. Measure your opening before you cut. Allow a 1/8-1/4” gap to make it easier to place on the lid but not have too much play if someone bumps it. Be sure these are centered on the lid. The “j”s will be sandwiched between the “i”s. Use 1.25” finishing nails to attach to the planks. This helps hold the planks together so keep that in mind as you decide where to nail.

Trim out the lid of the rustic display storage box.

trim out the lid

Next, Place the ripped trim pieces (j and k) around the edges of the lid. I like to have the freshly cut side facing up so it is facing down when the lid is put on. As you attach this last bit of trim try to be sure the planks are laying flush against your surface to create a more level top. I used the finishing screws to place these on.

Finishing Steps

Place the lid on the box checking for fit. Use a permanent marker to discretely mark the bottom of the lid and box to make it easier to know what way it best fits later. Use the sander to ease any transitions between boards and smooth any corners.

As an optional step, you can attach casters with brakes to the four corners to make it more easily portable.

Add a wax finish to the top of your rustic display boxes.

add wax finish

Using a wax finishing brush, apply the brown finishing wax to all exposed wood surfaces.

Finished rustic display box.

finished rustic display boxes

The display box is complete and ready to be used for any number of things. For our fair, it is for our flower displays. As people came through the barn and saw our display units many expressed their desire to have one at their home. I would love to hear what you use it for. Please feel free to leave comments and pictures below.

For another great project follow this link to learn how to make a portable kitchen island.

Go to our YouTube Channel to see more helpful tutorials

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