Thursday 11 October 2012

Photography Apple Boxes DIY... Part 1

I have a bee in my bonnet about Apple Boxes, I've wanted some for ages, but I've always made do with saw horses or milk crates, even peli cases. In America a Full size 8" x 12" x 20" Apple Box will cost you $30, that's about £18.50 at todays exchange rate, check out Calumet Photographic website here in the UK and that same box will set you back a glorious £54. It's no wonder then that the internet is littered with photographic and movie equipment sites with tips for building your own.

So that's exactly what I've been planning to do. I've read a good deal about the cutting and assembly of the boxes, I've listed the site I've found most useful below. I used too build skateboard decks and snowboards in my youth, I still build skateboard decks (labour of love) so I've got routers, core cutters, power drills, and enough G-clamps to sink a battleship. I've got everything I need for the job except a large chop saw/saw bench. This wasn't about to hold me back, with my roughly drawn out diagram illustrating just how I needed the 8' x 4' x 3/4" ply wood sheet cut to get 4 full size Apple Boxes, I popped down to the nearest B&Q DIY store and had a very nice chap cut everything to size for me, and they didn't charge me a penny more than the cost of the sheet of plywood, all of  £29.

This is the cutting list/drawing, it includes 8 off 305mm x 508mm (tops & bottom), 8 off 167mm x 508mm  (side pieces) and 12 off 167mm x 269mm (ends and middle pieces), this gave me enough bits from an 8' x 4' sheet, as long as it was cut up in the right order.

So here is the wood, cut to size, ready for construction to begin. This first box was built up without cutting the hand holds, I wanted to check that everything fitted together properly first, so this one hasn't been glued, just screwed together for now.

The drill bit I used for the No.8 size holes with countersink, the drill length can be altered by loosening a grub screw, the holes will be filled later with wooden cores cut using a core cutter.

The piece in the middle of the box gives the the top and bottom sheets extra support, it'll stop them sagging if a very heavy weight is placed in the middle of the completed box. Care was taken to make sure the ends were flush to the side pieces.

The edges will be sanded when the box is finish, I'll use a 1/2" Router with a radius cutter to round the edges first. Below you can see the sketch for where the handle hole will be cut, I'll need to set up a jig to cut these out so that every box has the holes in the same place, again a Router will be used to cut the holes out.

The bottom lid is now screwed to the rest of the frame, it's almost a perfect fit, a little sanding and it'll be stop on.

Here is a view of the top lid, pre-drilled and ready for assembly, 14 No.8 x 1 1/2" screws will attach it to the rest of the box.

Just prior to the top going on I ensured all the sides were level, which they were.

So an almost finished Apple Box, just needs taking apart and the handles cutting, reassembling and glueing, the edges running over with the Router to put a bevel on them, cores put in all the countersunk screw holes, sanding and then a coat or two of varnish to finish. I'll cover all that in Part 2


Anonymous said...

This is a solid breakdown for building apple boxes, but there is 1 other suggestion I would like to make for people.

When building them yourself, consider using a piano hinge on magnets to have an opening, which allows the apple box to be also used as a container when lugging gear to locations.

Did this a long time ago and it has been a great bonus.

Also, if you are skilled with a router, you can 'round' the edges of the box and cut handles to make it more appealing.

Alistair Kerr Photography said...

Thanks, I do round off the edges and rout out handles in part 2 of my blog posts on building the apple boxes. I did think long and hard about building lidded boxes, but to be honest when I do location work I have enough cases and bags to carry kit and a trolley for shifting everything so I went for completely screwed and glued. I have to say these boxes have been fun to make and have been so useful on location and in the studio, I should have made some years ago.