Pirate's Treasure Trunk

Beginner Projects
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Build a Pirate’s Treasure Trunk, using scrap lumber and some decorations

For this build, I wanted to try out the concept of using something unconventional as the hinge for a lift-top box. As I was drawing this look, the idea of adding more hardware and making it look like a pirate’s treasure chest just sort of evolved. For this build instead of a regular hinge, I used a 3/8” x 2” flat angle bracket, painted and attached with screws so the bottom screw acts as a pivot for opening the box. I’ve been told that the hinge style is kind of “steam punk” (I had to Google that term to find out what it meant) ;) Of course, you could also use regular flat hinges instead (no larger than 1 ½” x 3 ½”).

(Update 9/15/13: Made 2nd trunk, with the larger angle and substituted 1 1/4" Kreg screws for what came with it. This made the hinge sturdier, so I'm recommending to use the 1/2" x 2 1/2" angle and the longer screws if this box will get regular use.)

I had loads of fun thinking up the decorations for this build!

The build was super simple, made from scrap wood, and took under an hour to build and sand. I cut down larger pieces of scrap wood to standard 1x4 and 1x6 sizes to use for this build. I used a miter saw, finish nailer and palm sander (but you could also do this build entirely with hand tools).

The finishing time will depend on the finish you choose, and whether you choose to use hardware decorations or paint them on. I didn't fill the nail holes on this one, since I wanted it to have that weathered look, like it had washed up on shore from a sunken pirate ship..

The hardware is ½” x 1” angle brackets and a ½” x 2” mending plate, and for the “keyhole” I used a piece of foam shelf liner cut to shape with a utility knife, and spray painted.

If you don’t want to use hardware, you can “fake out” the entire pirate decoration look with paint, and the templates are included in the plan for painting all of these on. Or, if you prefer mod-podge, there are pictures included you can cut out and add the decorations that way.

The .pdf of the full plan including the templates and pictures is attached just below the General Instructions section.

The hardware items weren’t called what I expected, so it took a few searches on the Lowe’s web site. These are the links to the hardware for this build:

Zinc flat angle brace ($2.38/ pkg of 4) :


OR these larger ones if the box will get regular use: ($2.60/ pkg of 4):


Corner Bracket ½” x 1” ($2.06/ pkg of 4) :


Mending Brace ½” x 2” ($1.92/ pkg of 4) :


Furniture nails ($1.30/ pkg of 25) :


I hope you build this trunk and do a brag post. This was a lot of fun!



Shopping List

Shopping list: (Check your scrap wood – you’d need 23” of 1x4 and 15” of 1x6, or cut larger pieces of scrap down to the “will be” sizes in the cut list)

1 pc 1x4 at 2 feet long
1 pc 1x6 at 2 feet long
1 ¼” finish nails
Glue (wood glue, plus super glue if using optional decorative hardware)
Finishing materials for desired finish


3/8” x 2” zinc flat braces (2)- ($2.38/ pkg of 4)

OR you could use the larger one:
1/2” x 2 ½” zinc flat corner braces (2) $2.60/ pkg of 4

Optional decorative hardware:

½” x 1” corner bracket (4) -- $2.06/ pkg of 4

2” mending brace (1) – $1.92/ pkg of 4

½” furniture nails – $1.30/ pkg of 25

Common Materials
1 1/4 inch finish nails
120 grit sandpaper
Cut List

1x4 – 2 pc @ 7 ¼” (front/back – will be 7 ¼” x 3 ½”)
1x4 – 2 pc @ 4” (sides – will be 3 ½” x 4”)
1x6 – 2 pc @ 7 ¼” (top & bottom – will be 5 ½” x 7 ¼”)

Cutting Instructions

All of these pieces can be cut to size from larger pieces of scrap wood, to the “will be” measurements.

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Miter Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
General Instructions

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!


Step 1

Step 1. Attach front and back to sides as shown in the diagram. Keep top/bottom and outside edges flush. Use glue and 1 ¼” finish nails.

Step 2

Step 2. Attach bottom to box, keeping outside edges flush. Use glue and 1 ¼” finish nails.

Step 3

Step 3: Finishing: At this point finish the box and top.

Fill nail holes if desired. Use matching or stainable filler if staining. After filler dries, sand until smooth, remove all sanding residue, and apply desired finish.

On this build I used a gray paint wash, then walnut glaze.

Step 4

Step 4: Attaching Hinges: Attach flat angle braces to top and box as shown in the diagram. To make attaching easier, mark on box and top where the screws will go, and drill small “starter holes” to make driving in the screws easier. There should be screws in the top 2 holes, and only one screw in the bottom hole to act as a pivot, as shown in view with top opened. (Stop just short of driving the bottom screw in all the way tight, to allow for the brace to pivot on it.)

Substitution: regular flat hinges (no more than 1 ½” x 3 ½”) can be used instead, attached to the back of the box and lid

Step 5

Step 6

Painting on the Decorations: To trace the templates on: Print, cut out templates on dotted lines, and tape in place on the box. Trace around the edges of the design with a ballpoint pen, applying pressure to make a dent in the wood. Remove the template and use a small (artist type) paint brush to fill in the indented lines and inside the lines.

Step 7

Decorations for Decoupage, you can cut these out and apply with mod podge.

Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth.

It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.
Finish Used
The finish used is a gray paint wash, walnut glaze and poly topcoat. The finish for the decorative hardware is Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint, and the nails are their original color. The decorative hardware is attached first with some super glue, followed up with the furniture nails (which also received some super glue on the nail tip) to keep everything firmly in place. Once everything was in place the whole thing received a final top coat of mod podge satin.



Sun, 09/15/2013 - 14:52

Thank you for your kind comments! I am sure your build will be awesome, can't wait to see it! I just posted the pic of the 2nd one built today, and updated the plan with the recommendation for the larger angles. These are so fun to build! :0)