Terry Stinson is a veteran woodworker and Forest 2 Home community member. Following his retirement from the United States Coast Guard after 21 years of service, Terry established his woodworking business, Puddle Pirate Projects, in 2020. Terry's artistic vision is shaped by "his service to his country, his passion for serving his community, and his dedication to his family. His work is the fusion of art and function, resulting in beautiful, accessible pieces made to be used and loved. Everything he builds reflects his deeply ingrained, overarching commitment to pride, duty and honor." This can all be seen in the Chief Petty Officer Hat Box that Terry made using Forest 2 Home lumber, specifically Cherry wood and Hard Maple wood. Learn how to make your very own hat box in the workshop through terry's expert instructions:
Building a custom made hat box
Step One: Buy Forest 2 Home premium hardwood lumber
Select quality wood for your hat box. I selected Forest 2 Home’s Cherry wood and Hard Maple wood. Wait patiently for your shipment of wood to arrive. Receive your package of Forest 2 Home premium quality hard woods and get to work.
Layout custom box design
I laid out my pieces to see which had the grain I wanted for different parts of the box. As an example, I selected the pieces of cherry with more figure for the lid as I like some character in my pieces. The pieces I selected for the front and back had more linear grain to not detract from my overall design.
Measure wood pieces
Sketch, measure, sketch some more, and then measure again just in case.
Plane and cut your F2H lumber to project dimensions
Plane the wood to the thickness you want to work. I was working with 4/4 (1” thick) pieces and I wanted ¾ for the sides and back and 2/4 for the lid.
Once my lid pieces were planed to just about ½” thick, I cut the pieces of Cherry and Hard Maple to length. I took some width off the Hard Maple with the table saw. I left my table saw fence at my selected width and took the same amount of width off of the maple piece that was going to be used for the base as well. I wanted my three stripes (cherry/maple/cherry) on the lid to line up with the three stripes (cherry/maple/cherry) of wood I was going to use for the base.
Gluing up your woodworking project
Once the pieces were cut to the length and width I wanted, I used two parallel clamps to glue up the panel that would be come the lid. I used Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue
- Rookie tip: With a strip of masking tape, tape the bar on your parallel clamp where your workpiece will contact the metal and leak glue. The tape will keep your piece from sticking to the clamp and will help keep your clamp free of glue and usable for many, many more uses. Clean any excess glue with a damp rag.
Repeat for the base.
After the glue set (overnight), I removed the base and lid from the clamps. Using my router table and a round over bit, I put a rounded edge on the top side of the lid and the top side of the base.
Sanding your woodworking project
Next, using bench cookies as to not mar my pieces, I set them on a flat surface and started sanding. Using a 5” orbital sander, I began at 60 grit and changed my grit level to 120, 220, and then 320. After I sanded at 320 grit, I wiped both sides and edges of the base and lid with a damp rag. After blow drying the pieces with an air hose, I got back to sanding. I sanded at 400 grit, 600 grit, wetted and dried the surfaces again, and then ended at 800 grit.
Repeat steps for sides of custom wood box
Next, I set my base and lid to the side and identified the pieces of cherry I planned to use for the sides of the box. Once I identified, which pieces I wanted where, I measured, marked, and cut to length with my compound miter saw. When the pieces were the lengths I wanted, I began the sanding process (see step 10).
Using a miter saw for box joints
After sanding, I set up my router table with a 45° miter bit to miter the box joints (I think that’s what you call it, you know, where the edges of the box sides come together). After setting my bit to the correct height/depth, I ran the edges through the bit. I had a little blow out on the end pieces, but with some sanding and strategic placement of which side was up and which side was attached to the base, I was able to hide any blemishes.
Drilling pocket holes
The next step was to measure and mark where I was going to drill pocket holes with my pocket hole jig. I drilled two pocket holes on the front, back, and both side pieces of my box making sure that all of my pocket holes would be on the inside of the box when it was joined.
Note: If you do not have a router table, 45° miter bit, or pocket hole jig don’t fret. You can always use a basic butt joint to marry the corners. You can also use glue to attach the box to the base or screws or brads from the bottom to make it even more sturdy.
Laser for woodworking projects
Here’s where I cheated: I took the lid, base, and what would be the front of the base to a buddy who is a wiz with a laser cutter. Matt at MKR Creations burned designs on the box face, the lid, and of course burned my Puddle Pirate Projects logo on the bottom of the base (they look awesome). Once back at my shop, with my orbital sander and 800 grit sand paper, I sanded any burn marks from the pieces left over from the laser.
Gluing up wood box
I joined the sides the box on a flat, level surface by gluing the mitered edges (again with Titebond). I clamped the pieces together with a strap or band clamp. I also clamped the top and bottom of each corner with miter spring clamps. I continually checked that the box remained square (obsessively) with my speed square during this whole process. Again, I left the project to set up overnight.
The next day, I carefully removed the miter clamps and the strap clamp. I checked for squareness again because why not?
Joining woodworking project to wood base
I then positioned the joined box sides on my base. I made sure the box was equidistant from the base edges (front to back and side to side). When sure, I marked the position of the box on the base (on the inside of the box to hide any pencil marks).
Next, I used a bead of Titebond Quick and Thick along the middle of the entire bottom of the box before placing on the base. Once the box sides were placed on the base (glue side down), I used my pocket hole screws to secure the box to the base using a star pattern as I sank the screws.
Add handles to your wooden boxes
Adding handles if you choose: While the glue on the base was setting up, placed a strip of masking tape (4-6”) on the center of either side of my box (best guess anyways). I did the same on the inside of the side of each box. I was hoping the tape would help from marring the wood with pencil marks and would help prevent blowout when drilled. I then found true center on both sides of my box by measuring. I used a rigid metal ruler and 12” combination square to find center. I then drew a line from left to right on the masking tape marking a middle horizontal line across my tape. From the center point, I measured 1.5” right on the line, made a mark, and then I did the same to the left from the center line (on both sides of the box). Before drilling the holes for my handles, I held the handle to the lines and marks to make sure everything would marry up when drilled. When satisfied, I drilled with the appropriate size bit for my handles (this can vary). Once drilled, I removed the tape from the box and fit the handles onto the box with the appropriate bolts. I then removed the handles so I could apply finish to the box.
How to finish your custom woodworking box
You can use whatever type of wood finish you like, but I wanted to show off the beautiful grain on the Forest 2 Home hardwoods. I applied Walrus Oil’s Furniture Finish, Furniture Butter, and Furniture wax over the course of three days. Be sure to follow the manufacturers application and safety instructions.
Adding hardware to your woodworking project
Next, I mounted a piano hinge on the back side of the box. I marked where the hinge would sit and then I slowly chiseled the area out where the hinge would sit and ultimately inlay. Once satisfied, I sanded the inlayed area with my Dremel. I then identified where the hinge would attach to the lid and marked where the holes would be (for the lid and the back side piece). I then carefully screwed the piano hinge to the lid, opened the hinge, and set it into place in the carved out section. I screwed the bottom hinge into place.
Next, I attached the handles on either side of the box.
Lastly, I applied rubber feet that attached to the bottom of the base with screws. Again, I used my 12” combination square to make sure the feet were evenly spaced at each of the four corners.
About this woodworking project
As written by Terry Stinson.
The Chief Petty Officer’s Hat Box: “The trade mark of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer, “The Anchor,” was inherited from the Revenue Cutter Service. The fouled anchor with a shield superimposed to its shank (the emblem of the Officers of the Revenue Cutter Service) is still worn on the shoulder boards of Coast Guard Flag Officers.
The anchor is the identifying authority of the Chief Petty Officer and is emblematic of a Chief. It represents stability and security. It reminds Chiefs of their responsibility to keep those they serve safe from harm’s way.
The historical significance of the shield dates back to the Revenue Cutter Service, when the U. S. Congress added the shield to the ensign in 1799 to distinguish cutters from other naval vessels. The 13 stars and 13 stripes on the shield represent the 13 original colonies.
The chain, symbolic of flexibility and strength, reminds Chiefs that the chain of life is forged day-by-day, link-by-link. The chain also represents the reliance of one CPO on another to get a job completed, and stresses that every Chief should endeavor not to be the weak link in the chain.
The chain fouled around the anchor represents the “Sailor’s disgrace,” and reminds Chiefs there may be times when circumstances are beyond their control in the performance of duty, yet a Chief must complete the task.
A white combination hat, known as “The Hat,” with an anchor above the brim became the rite of passage for all First Class Petty Officers promoted to Chief. When they left behind their “Cracker Jacks” and “Dixie Cups” and donned a new uniform, “The Hat” became the trademark of the Coast Guard Chief.” This was taken from the Chief Petty Officers Association website.
The Chief’s hatbox is to protect and display the Chief’s hat and what it stands for.
To find more of Terry's work, search @puddlepirateprojects on Instagram and Tik Tok and Puddle Pirate Projects on YouTube. Terry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org!
If you are a veteran or are actively serving in the U.S. military, join the Forest 2 Home Military and Veterans program. Want to share your own #BuiltWithF2H project? Send us an email at email@example.com or use hashtag #BuiltWithF2H on project photos on social media! Happy Woodworking!