Chuck Box

We go camping a couple times per year and every time it comes to making meals I get a little frustrated when I have to look in multiple places for things I need.  Hunting around in Rubbermaid containers for spoons, spatulas, spices and paper plates – while food is on a hot camp stove – just isn’t fun.

So a few weeks ago I decided to try and remedy this.

Enter the Chuck Box.

Using plans from REI’s How to Build Your Own Camp Kitchen Chuck Box  as a base, I was able to build our very own kitchen.

Make no mistake, it’s heavy.  Made with a full sheet of 1/2″ maple plywood, it should weigh roughly 48 pounds empty.  Loaded, well… like I said, it’s heavy.

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Customized to a length of 36″, this box is wide enough to accommodate our long Coleman camp stove, with its propane tank attached.  When the propane isn’t attached and the box is closed, there’s room on the top for our dish washing tubs, extra gas tanks, towels, and other random items.

Deviating from the REI plans, the top shelf panel is custom for our stove – with cutouts for the latch as well as burner dials.

I also chose to add an actual lid stay instead of a tent pole to keep the lid open.  I was wary of wind gusts blowing the lid down onto a burning stove.

I believe the only other change was the addition of supports underneath the top shelf.  These not only support the shelves but also offer more bulk material for the handles to attach to.  The last thing I wanted with something this heavy was for the handles to rip off!

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The fold-out front is a perfect table top for meal preparation and holding our cups of coffee while waiting for breakfast.  The shelf has plenty of room for a couple utensil/silverware trays and other odds-and-ends.

The fold-out front is held tightly in place by the lid latches as well as a pair of heavy duty magnets.  In hindsight, one would have sufficed.

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I originally had plans to stain the entire box a green to go with the color of the Coleman stove, but quickly learned that maple just doesn’t take stain well.  So I punted and used 4 coats of water based Helmsman Spar Urethane.  This won’t be left outside in pouring rain, but it should handle condensation, the occasional rain shower, and the inevitable spills.

Overall I’m very happy with how it turned out.  If I were to make it again, I’d forgo making it fit the propane tank and just allow for a hose to exit the box and attach to a propane tank nearby.  I’d also consider using 1/4″ plywood for some parts of the shelving, again just to shave off some weight.

Its first weekend outdoors went well and it proved to be even more useful than I had hoped for.  Having everything within arms reach was invaluable.

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Here’s to many years of camping!

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9 thoughts on “Chuck Box

  1. I have a quick question regarding your box. I made mine this weekend, but need to assemble the hinges (after staining, etc) However, the piano hinges I’ve found are either too larger or too small for the 36″ width. (actually, my width is the same as the REI build) Anyway, did you end up buying 2 piano hinges for the “lid” or did you just install 1?

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  2. The lid uses one long hinge, and the front panel uses two small ones spaced maybe 6-8 inches apart. I think the top one was a 30″ hinge, purchased from Lowes.

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  3. Very nice! I’m considering building one. Wondering where I could use 1/4 inch ply to save some weight, but don’t want it too flimsy either. Sides, bottom and stove platform probably should be 1/2 inch. Maybe make shelves, top and front 1/4″? Maybe the back too?

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    1. First of all, thanks!

      I’ve been thinking about modifications for weight since I completed it.

      Here’s how I would change it:
      Top shelf the stove sits on – I’d leave 1/2″ for overall structure
      Bottom shelf with dividers – 1/4″ should be fine
      Front shelf faces – 1/4″
      Lid – 1/4″
      Front/fold-down work area – 1/4″
      Sides – keep 1/2″ for for overall structure and handle support
      Back – keep 1/2″ for overall structure

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  4. Impressive work! I have the same stove as you and plan on following yours exactly. If you have any other advice or ‘things you would have done differently’ I’m all ears. There are times I lay the top of my burner flat so I can accommodate more than one large skillet. Thoughts on making the top fold all the way down so it lies flat against the back?

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    1. Thanks brianwbruce!

      Things I would change or do differently – I would cut back on the overall width to make it less unwieldy to carry. I’m 6’2″ with pretty long arms, and it’s a struggle. That would help the weight, too.

      I picked up a pair of super cheap plastic sawhorses from Menards and use them as a stand for the box when we’re camping. It really frees up picnic table space yet keeps it at a good height.

      About making the lid fold all the way back/down, I think the most difficult part will be the hinges. You could probably do it with the piano hinge mounted on the back rather than top/inside, but I’d hate to expose the relatively flimsy hinge to getting banged around. I’m sure there are other hinges that would work for that modification, I just have a hard time picturing hinges in general so I can’t point to any that would be a drop-in replacement.

      I can appreciate the desire to get the lid out of the way, the extra cooking space would be great. Also, when it’s fully open it can really block OR catch the wind, for good or bad.

      I have recently mounted a battery powered LED light on the inside of the lid, which is very handy for access in the dark.

      I wrap a small tarp over it at night (tucked under so it doesn’t blow away) to keep any moisture or rain away.

      Before you attach the handles, try to play around with their placement a bit. I centered mine front-to-back, which helps with weight distribution, but a little closer to the front would be ideal for carrying.

      Drop by with some pictures when yours is done!

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