Make a Kid’s Art Storage Box
The perfect level of difficulty for a kid’s birthday party, this is a fun and easy project for most kids to do, and leaves them with an art and drawing storage container.
If you’re planning a birthday party in your shop, the trick is to keep the level of difficulty appropriate for everyone to have success. The parts for this storage box can be machined before the party guests arrive, and you can even do a dry run with your child so they can feel comfortable with the necessary steps.
Keep it Small
The dados in the fronts and backs can be cut with one pass using a dado blade, or by using a standard blade and slightly moving the fence after the first pass is made in all the parts.
How Long Are the Sides?
Brown was aiming for a 6" wide box. By placing the front and back back-to-back, and aligning the 6" mark of his metal rule on the inner shoulder of one of the dados, you can measure the length the sides should be cut.
Create the Tenon
The stub tenon at the ends of all the sides can be cut on the table saw, using the mitre gauge. A few passes with a shoulder plane will give you a perfect fit.
Bring it Together
Assemble the four main parts, clamping them so they’re square before letting everything dry.
Make the parts
Break out two sides, a front, a back and a bottom for each party guest; making a few extra parts is always a good idea. Rip long lengths of material, joint and plane it, then cut the fronts and backs to final width and length. Rip the sides to final width now, as well.
Use your table saw and mitre gauge to cut dados in the inner faces of all the fronts and backs. These dados can be between 1/8″ and 1/4″ wide and should be no more than 1/4″ deep. Cut the sides to finished length, and use your table saw and mitre gauge to create the tenon on both ends of the pieces. The fit should be snug but not tight. Sand the inside faces of the parts.
It’s possible to run a groove near the bottom edge of the sides, front and back that will capture the bottom, but this approach makes it harder to assemble. With the bottoms cut to size, I drilled a few countersunk holes in the bottoms, on all four sides, so the kids could screw the bottoms on after the main box was assembled. Heavily ease the bottom edges of the bottoms, so nobody gets any splinters.
If you feel the kids are skilled enough to help with this task, leave it until the party. Otherwise, it might be safer and quicker to just drill some holes in the upper edge of the back before the party begins. The holes will hold pencils, markers and paint brushes upright for the kids to see and easily grasp. A friction fit will only anger kids, so ensure the holes will easily accept any writing utensils. A brad point bit will go a long way in protecting the back from splitting as it’s drilled into. If you don’t have a brad point bit, just drill slowly. In both cases, using a drill press is the best approach.
The big day
After explaining general shop safety as well as the process of assembling the projects to the kids, it’s time to start. Different ages and skill levels may cause wide variation in how quickly the kids get the hang of how to assemble the boxes.
Start with gluing and assembling the two sides, front and back, all at the same time. If the kids can’t wait for the glue to dry, a screw or nail will help hold the parts together until the glue dries. Glue and screw the bottoms on, and add a few clamps. You can even clamp two boxes bottom-to-bottom, to disperse clamping pressure and make better use of your clamp collection, if it’s on the smaller side.
Finish it off
When dry, sand the outer faces, ensure there are not sharp edges, and that any screws in the bottom won’t damage the surface these boxes are placed on. Drill the pencil holes, if they have not already been drilled.
If you want to take it a step further, painting the exterior of the boxes can be another fun step for the kids, though it will make some woodworking purists shudder.
Adding dividers is one way of increasing the skill level for older kids. Pre-cut dados that accept pieces of solid or 1/4″ plywood, are easy to machine. You could even increase the overall size of the box and add a larger divider with a handle slot down the center of the box, creating a carrying box.
If you really had a keen group of kids who might have parents at home to nurture their skills, building an even larger and higher box – one that could be used to store a beginner’s kit of woodworking tools – is a great idea. A few small tools in a loot bag would really round out the “build it yourself” party. Screwdrivers, a pencil, a tape measure and a 4″ C-clamp would be a fantastic start to what we all hope is a lifelong journey into woodworking and home improvement.
Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.