Do It Yourself: How To Build A Cedar Hope Chest

You can learn to build your own cedar hope chest as a gift for a teen girl or for winter storage.

Sturdy and useful, cedar chests are cherished for their beauty and charm. Originally dating back centuries, improvements have been made on the basic design, including upholstering the lid and attaching brass hardware. Cedar is known to deter moths and some other pests, making it perfect for storing blankets or winter clothes. Cedar trunks are also popular for teen girls who use them to store personals until their wedding day. Hope chests can be cedar on the inside only, or can be completely made from cedar. The outside of the box can also be made with pine, oak or maple. You will need to lay down a blanket or other cloth to keep from scratching the wood during assembly.

Tools You'll Need:



Countersink bit


2" x 3/4" and 2" x 1-1/2" Jigs cut from plywood or cardboard


Matches or Lighter


Sandpaper and electric sander, if available

Materials For Project:

30" hinge

12" piece of steel chain

(58) ¼" hardwood plugs

3' of heavy nylon rope for handles

Beeswax polish for non-toxic finish 1-½"

1" wood screws

3/4" brass wood screws

(2) 3/4" steel screws

Pre-Cut Wood Pieces:

Bottom: 3 pieces of 1" x 6" cedar decking, 28-1/2" long (be sure the decking is the standard dimensions of 1" x 5-1/2" so the chest bottom will be accurate)

Sides: 4 pieces of 1" x 8", 16-1/2" long

Front and Back: 4 pieces of 1" x 8", 30" long

Corner Posts: 4 pieces 2" x 2", 13-1/2" long

Lid: 2 pieces 1" x 10", 31" long

Lid Strapping: 2 pieces 1" x 2", 14" long

Lay the bottom boards out on a flat surface and measure across the width of the three boards to check that they add up to 16-1/2". Affix the sides to the corner posts, leaving enough space for the bottom boards. Build one of the end pieces by laying (2) 16-1/2" one by eight boards on top of two of the corner posts. Make a jig to help place the screws evenly. Use a counter sink bit to allow the head of the screw to set deep enough for a wood plug. Use the jig to locate the position of the screw for drilling. Drill the hole, setting the depth to allow for the wooden plug. Attach the sides, front and back to the corner post with screws. This will work out best if you attach the sides first, then the front and back. Using a countersink bit, drill holes for the screws. Bore a 3/8" hole so the screw will sink deeply into the opening. Count on a jig to help you space the screws evenly. Make a different jig for the front so that the screws will be inserted into the corner posts. Attach the hinge to the box. The overhang on the lid should align with the front and sides. Drill and countersink the long facing boards, affixing them to the corner posts at each end. Use the large jig to space the screws precisely in the corner post. The basic box is now completed.

Slide the box over the bottom boards and attach them to the box, using six, pre-drilled, countersunk screws on each end of the trunk, about 1/2" up from the bottom. Make a jig to hold the lid while you attach the hinge. Use the jig to assist in holding up the lid while attaching the hinge. To build the lid, lay out the two 1" x 10" boards and clamp them together. Lay the 1" x 2" pieces across the two larger boards and center them. Sink (4) 1" screws in each piece of lid strapping. Set the lid aside, then drill (2) 1/2" holes in each end of the trunk for holding the rope handles. Tie knots on the inside of the chest to secure the handles. Use the lighter or matches on the tied ends to keep them from fraying or coming untied. Attach the 30" hinge to the box along the back edge. Next, use a jig to support the lid while attaching the hinge. Use wooden plugs to cover the screw heads. Screw one end of the steel chain to the inside of the trunk, the other end to the lid. Sand and finish the chest on the outside with the beeswax polish.

The chest can also be painted, stained, varnished or left natural. How much you want to embellish the chest is up to you. You can add hardware to the front of the chest, build short legs for the trunk or even make a bench seat atop the lid.

© High Speed Ventures 2011