Gunbox plans

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Gunbox plans

Post by rlabbe on Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:21 pm

This is a plan for a simple wooden gunbox. The dimensions were chosen to work for me and my equipment - it shouldn't be hard for you to alter any dimension to make the box taller, shorter, thicker, thinner. Among my guns include a IZH-46, which is pretty long and tall, and my scope is big, so that dictated my dimensions. For the record, the box is so tall that when the lid is open I do not have to raise the scope at all for it to be at eye height - I am 5'8". Most people at my range have boxes that seem to be an inch or two shorter, and I might opt for that myself the next time if I ever get a smaller scope. However, I carry some bulky items in the bottom tray of my box, including a trauma kit, so perhaps I'll always need this size.

All construction is done with 1/2" and 1/4" baltic plywood. Baltic plywood is very high quality. It has no plugs or voids, which is pretty important for case work. I would not use ply from the home improvement store. It is important to note that it is not really 1/4" and 1/2" in size - it is sized in mm and is somewhat thinner than the stated dimensions. It is critical to understand this when you try to do things like fit the drawers - if you calculate that the drawer needs to be 19" wide because the box is 20" and the sides are 1" thick in total, well, you will be making a second drawer when your first one doesn't fit. So, make the box, then fit the drawer to the measured size.

I'll start with a few photos of the box, as perhaps a few things will not be entirely clear from my sketch up files.

First, the box opened:


It's a simple design. A rectangular box, made of 1/2" ply, with fingers to hold the guns constructed out of 3 strips of 1/4" baltic birch, 2 short, 1 tall, glued together. Here is a close up of one of the fingers:


The 1/4" birch makes for fingers just flexible but strong enough to hold the guns securely. However, if you put several of these fingers side by side they end up being stacked too close together to fit your guns in, so I made extras of the short pieces, and use them in between the fingers as spacers. The small drilled hole accepts the bolt (as seen in the first photo); the larger holes are a probably silly attempt to reduce weight a bit.


Here is a close up of the drawer with 2 guns in it. Yes, that 1911 is cocked and locked. My bullseye gun is at the smith, so I took my carry gun from my holster and put it in the box to snap the photo, and elected to not fool with lowering the hammer or unloading/reloading the weapon. Also note that is a commander slide, so it is a bit shorter than your typical wadgun. The gun in back is a S&W 41 with a millet 30mm sight.




As you can see, I only have enough fingers in there for 2 guns at the moment, but the length of the bolt will easily accommodate 3-4 guns. When you make this, make extra fingers and spacers to allow for future needs.


The next post will cover box construction.


Last edited by rlabbe on Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:29 pm; edited 3 times in total

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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by rlabbe on Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:33 pm

Okay, let's start with the Sketch Up output:



As stated, the box was made with 1/2" Baltic birch plywood. A feature of this ply is that the grain is alternated between plies, which allows for butt joint gluing. However, this is still not an extremely strong joint, so every joint is reinforced with biscuit joinery. You could also use dowels so long as you are careful to set the depth correctly, but dowels do not allow for any mistakes in positioning your holes, whereas biscuit joints are very forgiving.

A "serious" woodworker might want to do box joints or dovetails for the box - have at it. I wanted to shoot, not cut dovetails into ply.

To increase the strength further, I ensured that the bottom and top of the box were both encapsulated within the sides, so that the biscuits form a tenon that mechanically holds the box together even without the strength of the glue (i.e. the biscuits are parallel to the surface of the Earth). You could build it the other way, with the sides resting on the bottom and the top, but then the biscuits would be vertical and you would not have this mechanical advantage. Either way is equally easy to construct, so I recommend the strong choice.

It is not shown in the drawing, but note that the leading edge of the top must be cut at an angle to match the angle of the sides. What angle? 7.38234... Eh, no. Just cut the sides out first, put the side on your table saw beside the blade, and tilt the blade to match the angle of the sides. It'll be a perfect match, no measuring or calculating required.

As noted earlier, the ply is not really 1/2" and 1/4" thick. Never calculate dimensions based on these thicknesses. I actually do very little measuring while building. I don't recall my cut sequence, but let's pretend I cut the back first. That obviously needs to be measured. But after that, I would use the back to mark how tall to cut the sides, rather than measure the sides. This way I am assured that everything fits together even if I mis-measured the back, or one of the sides. If I have to take thickness of stock into account, I'd use a few cutoffs to exactly mark the thickness, rather than try to use a ruler. If I have to adjust my table saw fence or a stop block, I use an existing piece to position the saw exactly, and ignore the ruler. Not only does this save you from mistakes, it is usually a lot faster than using a ruler. If your projects end up with a lot of gaps, and wood forced into position, consider putting your tape measure away.

The drawer runs on rails I cut out of ply. The bottom rail is 1/2" ply to provide plenty of width for the drawer to run on. The top rail is 1/4" ply mainly to reduce weight - 1/2" would certainly work. Also, since the drawer sides are 1/4", the rail does not overhang the sides like 1/2" would. The rails are screwed into the side of the box. You could glue them, but screws allow you to change the height of the drawer should you need to in the future, whereas the glue would make it permanent.

I don't like drawers falling out, so I constructed a door stop by gluing together 2 pieces of 1/4" ply (has to be the same thickness as the top rail). This is screwed into the box after the drawer is installed. You can see this best in the first photo. Note that the bottom of the stop is square, so it can not rotate. If you want to be able to remove the drawer, I'd just make the bottom half round so it would rotate in one direction. You'd have to play with the screw tension, I guess, to make this secure but possible to move.

The door is made the same way as the rest of the box - 1/2 ply, biscuit jointed together. It's the 'trickiest' part of the box, as the dimensions are fairly critical, and the small dimensions of the sides make it harder to get everything square and aligned for glue up. But it's not hard, just harder, if that makes sense. Note I put some reinforcing strips on the underside of the door and the box. This allows me to use longer screws for the piano hinge than the 1/2" ply would. It probably wasn't necessary, as the hinge has a lot of screws, but it came with long screws, and it was easier for me to put in the strips rather than scavenge for new, shorter screws.

I did not mark the horizontal width of the drawer on purpose. If you make it exactly the width of the opening it will be endlessly binding on the box. Too narrow, and it will twist sideways in the box and jam against the side. You need to be like Goldilocks when fitting a drawer - not too big, not too small, but just right. I made it just a smidge wider than I thought it would need, then sanded a bit to get it reduced to size. Note that the plies are not thick, and it will look bad if you sand through a ply, if looks matter to you. But I'm talking about taking less than a 1/64" off, total, which is safe. Rounding off the corners in the back will help it glide smoothly. Finally, I rubbed the sides of the drawer and the rails with furniture wax - the result is a drawer that fits well, does not wobble left/right, but glides smoothly.

Note you can only achieve this fit if you are using ply - solid wood expands and contracts with the humidity, and you need a looser fit to accommodate seasonal changes. If you work with solid wood you will know what I mean, and also know to orient the grain of the box and drawer to minimize binding (solid wood expands and contracts along the grain, not perpendicular to it).

I glued everything with an exterior glue - Titebond III. There are other glue choices - if you prefer some other waterproof glue you have my blessing. But Titebond III works. Do not use an ordinary yellow glue - the box will eventually separate if exposed to the weather.



Last edited by rlabbe on Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:44 pm; edited 13 times in total

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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by rlabbe on Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:37 pm

Drawer construction:

The drawer is made of 1/4 baltic birch. The sides are cut with a finger joint and glued together, then the bottom is just glued to the sides. One of the advantages of baltic birch is that the grain alternates, so you can butt glue like this and still get reasonably strong bonds. The drawer is not designed to come out fully, so there is not a lot of stress on this drawer. If I was expecting a lot of stress, or wasn't confident about creating finger joints in thin ply, I would use a different technique. Probably 1/2 ply, and then joined the same way as the box. But really, this drawer does not receive much stress, and my simple construction is very lightweight and plenty strong enough to hold a couple of guns, magazines, and a screwdriver.



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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by rlabbe on Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:46 pm

Finger construction:

I mostly covered this in my first post. Fingers are glued together of 2 short, 1 tall rectangular pieces of 1/4" ply. Yes, you could use a bandsaw or table saw to cut out fingers from solid stock, but what a pain. Gluing pieces together is much simpler.

I haven't found a need to put felt or something on the fingers to improve grip. The grip is fine, and I have had no finish wear on my guns. Your mileage may vary.

The first finger is glued to the back of the track I created in the box. It has a hole drilled through it, just like the others, which accepts a 6" bolt I bought at the hardware store. I forget if I expoxied the bolt to that finger, but I probably did. Certainly the box would still work if you skipped the glue.

The rest of the fingers just slide in. I use single short pieces to add spacing between fingers. This is pretty important if you have guns with ergonomic grips, as the fingers do not allow for much gun separation. Just mix and math spacers and fingers to match your guns.

The final piece is just a knob that screws onto the bolt and secures the fingers tightly together. A few turns is enough to release or snug down the guns.

The track is just made out of more 1/4" ply, glued to the drawer. It may not sound strong, but recall that the first finger is glued to the back of the drawer, and to the tracks. It's more than strong enough for 10lbs of gun or so.


Last edited by rlabbe on Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:13 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by rlabbe on Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:58 pm

Hardware:

Here is an external shot:




The door is attached by a piano hinge. They come in standard lengths, so you will have to cut it to size with a hacksaw or something.

Note the "extra" holes by the handle. This is either an ingenious way to allow ventilation for the guns, or, I messed up and mounted the handle too close to the door, blocking it from opening fully. I like to think it's a little of both.

I couldn't find a good locking latch, so this is just a garden variety latch on the door. I'll replace it eventually.

The handle was not cheap, because I bought a padded one. It makes it comfortable to carry a heavy box, and is well worth the extra money.

You can't see them, but there are 4 rubber feet screwed into the bottom. I had to add some washers between the feet and screw to avoid driving the screw all the way through the 1/4" ply.

And, that's about it. At some point I'm going to have to seal it with external spar varnish, or external paint, so it can withstand the weather. I have only used it indoors,or outdoors in good weather so far, so I have dragged my feet on this step.

Oh, the scope mount is the Gil Hibard - bought from bullseyepistolgear.

I don't recall the total cost, but between buying premium ply and all the hardware it really doesn't end up being much cheaper than buying a box. If you had to buy any tools to do this project you'd end up way behind. On the other hand, I have a box that exactly fits my requirements, and is sized for my guns.

I have the Sketch Up file that created the image above, but I have no idea how to host it here. I will send it to anyone that PM's me with an email address, should you want it. However, the jpg above should be everything you need.


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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by rlabbe on Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:22 pm

Final thoughts:

I mocked this box up with cardboard duck taped together to determine the final dimensions. I recommend doing the same if you think you want to change the dimensions.

At some point I will probably rebuild this with solid wood. Why? Well, ply is heavy, as it is a combination of wood and a lot of glue. Not everyone will agree with the aesthetics, but my wood of choice for this is Padauk. Paudauk is very tough, strong, easy to machine, dent resistant, but most important, very light. It is also, very, very red (but with a great grain pattern), which will turn some people off. Me, I like the idea of having a box different from everyone else on the line, and I've never saw the point of painting a box black when it is going to be sitting in the sun absorbing heat (perhaps there is a point?)

However, if you don't like the red, don't worry. If you don't coat the box with a UV inhibitor, it will soon turn a dull reddish brown due to light exposure.

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Gun Box

Post by penman53 on Sun Aug 21, 2011 8:49 pm

I built one of the Dick Flaggs gun boxes last year. I think it came out very nice. The idea of using Baltic Birch it a good idea also. I used Red Oak and planed the wood down to 1/2 inch and built it according to the original dimensions. It came out really nice and I also built one for my friend also. We get compliments on our boxes all the time. I much prefer mine to the tinny sheet metal ones I see built now.

What are you going to use to finish your box? Baltic Birch is a really nice material to work with but it does not finish well. One thing you might want to do is laminate some veneer on the outsides. But it may not be very tough.

Good job.

Mark Thomas, Edmond Ok

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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by Rob Kovach on Sun Aug 21, 2011 11:02 pm

Just paste wax it with SC Johnson Wax. It will never take any other finish after that but it will be fairly well protected from the elements. Another plus is that you can always add more wax at any time.

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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by penman53 on Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:40 am

That's a great idea. The wax will darken the wood just a little but it will look good i'm sure.

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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by Rob Kovach on Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:47 am

Shoe Polish is another way to add a little color. Black shoe polish lets the brighter parts of the grain shine through and gives a smokey color to the valleys. It creates a finish that even some long time wood workers ask "How did you do THAT?"

Follow that up with the paste wax. The best part about the Wax, is it never chips, flakes, peels...none of that.

Stay away from Cordovan--it turns out purple.

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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by Scott Carroll on Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:36 am

+1 on the shoe polish as a possible coloring agent. Years ago I carved four replacement elephant ears to a 70+ year old Sri Lank-an, hexagonal, teak table that had elephant head/trunks for the legs. I carved them out of laminated mahogany and then colored them to match the aged teak with a combination of ebony shoe polish and cordovan shoe polish and then paste wax over top. They matched extremely well.

Scott
Vermont

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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by RCC55125 on Fri Sep 02, 2011 4:30 pm

Purchased a similar box kit from Precision Pistol Box in California for $80. I couldn't buy the wood for that. www.precisionpistolbox.com

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Re: Gunbox plans

Post by BE Mike on Fri Sep 02, 2011 7:04 pm

I'm glad to see Precision Pistol Box back. They dropped off the radar quite a while back for a long time and I thought for good.

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