How to Make a Simple Toy Box

Wood Toy Box

Evgeniia Siiankovskaia / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 - 4 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 days
  • Yield: 1 wooden toy box
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $75 to $150

If toys are taking over your house, keep the chaos in check by making a simple DIY toy box. Kids are more apt to store toys when they have a fun place to put them.

With this simple toy box, five boards are joined with hidden dowels to form a box. Then, a sixth board is added for the lid. At 2-1/2 feet long and 1-1/2 feet wide, this wooden toy box is large enough to store a fair number of toys but small enough to tuck out of the way when not needed. Soft-down hinges close the lid slowly, keeping fingers safe.

Before You Begin

Dowel joinery helps you build a simple toy box without visible fasteners. Corresponding holes that face each other are attached with a short dowel that runs halfway into each hole. Glue further strengthens the joint.

Using an inexpensive dowel jig helps you drill perfectly straight, vertical holes. If you are not using a jig, you can drill the holes freehand as carefully as possible. Corresponding holes need to be straight so that the dowels will match up.

Another essential tool: dowel centers. These metal buttons have sharp points that help you mark corresponding holes on adjacent boards.

Safety Considerations

For perfectly straight cuts, use a table saw or radial arm saw. Both types of saws can be dangerous, so follow all safety instructions that come with the saws. When using a table saw be sure to use a push stick to protect your fingers from the saw blade.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Table saw
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • Drill stop collar
  • 8 dowel centers
  • Rubber mallet
  • Wood glue
  • Speed Square
  • Oscillating sander
  • Sandpaper
  • Hammer
  • Dowel jig (recommended)


  • 5/16-inch dowel pins
  • 2 soft-down lid support hinges (strut-style)
  • 3 MDF project panels, 1/2-inch, 2-foot by 4-foot
  • 1 MDF project panel, 1/4-inch, 2-foot by 4-foot
  • 2 one-by-two poplar, 8-foot
  • Finish nails
  • Primer and paint


  1. Cut Wood

    Cut the wood using the chart below:

    Source Cut Size Quantity Location Part #
    1/2-inch MDF project panel #1  30 inches by 18 inches 1 Front panel A
    1/2-inch MDF project panel #1 18 inches by 18 inches 1 Side panel B
    1/2-inch MDF project panel #2 30 inches by 18 inches 1 Back panel C
    1/2-inch MDF project panel #2 18 inches by 18 inches 1 Side panel D
    1/2-inch MDF project panel #3 30 inches by 19 inches 1 Lid E
    1/2-inch MDF project panel #3 28 inches by 1-inch 2 Bottom rail F, G
    1/4-inch MDF project panel 28-1/2 inches by 18 inches 1 Floor H
    One-by-two poplar 18 inches 2 Top frame, left / right sides I, J
    One-by-two poplar 32 inches 2 Top frame, front / back K, L
  2. Drill Holes on Side Panels

    Drill four equally spaced 5/16-inch holes for dowels on opposite edges of a side panel (B), for a total of eight holes on the side panel. Repeat on the other side panel (D).

  3. Create Divots on Front Panel

    Use four of the metal dowel centers to create divots (tiny impressions) on the front panel (A). Insert the dowel centers in the four holes on the edge of the side panel (B). Lay the front panel flat on the work surface. Rest the side panel on top, so it is flush with the edge of the front panel. Tap lightly with the rubber mallet to create divots on the front panel. Repeat on the other side of the front panel.

  4. Drill Dowel Holes on Front and Side Panels

    Drill holes for dowels on each of the divot impressions. Use the stop collar to gauge how deep to drill the holes. If you have no stop collar, use painter's tape. The holes should be as deep as half the length of the dowel pins, plus a little bit more (about 1/16-inch) to ensure that the dowels will not be too long for the holes.

  5. Attach Front Panel to Side Panels

    Add wood glue to the holes, then insert the dowels. Tap lightly with the mallet, if needed. The dowels should be halfway into the holes. Attach the side panels to the front panel.

  6. Attach Back Panel to Side Panels

    Similar to attaching the front and side panels, add the back panel (C) to the side panels.

  7. Attach Bottom Rails

    Screw the bottom rails (F) and (G) into the inside of the box, keeping the bottom of the rails flush with the bottom edge of the box. The floor of the box will rest on top of the rails.

  8. Attach Frame

    A top frame made of one-by-two poplar finishes off the top ledge of the box and makes it easier to paint since MDF edges don't take paint well. Assemble the frame pieces (I), (J), (K), and (L), making sure that the two shorter pieces are between the two longer pieces. Attach the frame to the top edge of the box with wood glue and finish nails.

  9. Prime and Paint Toy Box

    Sand down sharp edges and corners. Before attaching the lid, prime and paint the toy box. With MDF, it's especially necessary to use primer before painting. The four MDF edges on the sides of the box will need additional primer.


    Paint the front with chalkboard paint as a fun place for kids to draw.

  10. Attach Lid

    Attach the lid to the toy box with the soft-down lid support hinges. When purchasing the hinges, make sure to buy strut-style gas-shock hinges and not soft-close Euro-style cabinet hinges.

  11. Set Floor in Place

    Rest the floor (H) on top of the previously install bottom rails. The floor does not need to be secured.