Wood 2x4 Project Enclosure

Photography by Ben Light

If you’re anything like me, then you have a lot of scrap wood lying around the shop and a bunch of electronic components on the workbench. Why not put them together? The following steps will show you how to create affordable, custom project enclosures out of common, inexpensive 2×4’s.

You will be primarily using the bandsaw, the drill press, and a few specialty drill bits. This technique produces interesting looking devices that have a very handmade feel. Perfect woodworking skills are not required, in fact, a little roughness gives the object more character.

I really like how the enclosures turned out, the analog components and the 2×4 look great together. Whenever someone comes into my office, they almost always pick one of them up and fiddle with the knobs and switches.

I will definitely be making more of these. Next time I might route out the enclosure instead of using the drill press. Or even CNC the inside so components can fit with precision.

Before you start construction on the enclosure, it’s a good idea to have a completed electronics project that is ready to be enclosed. This way you know what will be going into it and how long to make it.

Never use power tools if you are not sure how they operate, and always wear the proper protective gear.

Let’s get started.

Steps

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Step #1: Gather Materials

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Hollow Out a 2×4 for Your Next Project Enclosure

Grab a piece of scrap 2×4. Make sure to avoid pressure treated lumber, you don’t need anything fancy. It should be free of holes and defects. Knots can look interesting, but can complicate the build.

Step #2: Rough Layout

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Sketch out a rough layout of the intended circuit board and inner dimensions. Make marks for screw placement.

Step #3: Select Components

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Hollow Out a 2×4 for Your Next Project Enclosure
  • Select components that will fit inside of the enclosure, nothing too tall. For example, the toggle switch will fit, the arcade button will not.
  • I recommend using panel mount components for everything that is going to be attached to the front.

Step #4: Cut to Length

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Hollow Out a 2×4 for Your Next Project Enclosure
  • Always wear the proper safety equipment when working with tools, especially goggles.
  • You can use a hand saw or a power saw to cut the 2x4 to length. The cut can be a little rough, some tear out here and there adds character.
  • I used a miter saw and cut to roughly 4.5” in length.

Step #5: Drill and Countersink Screw Holes

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Use a countersink bit to drill 4 screw holes in the corners of the piece of wood. This can be done with a hand drill or a drill press. Make sure you do not drill all of the way through the 2×4.

Step #6: Add the Screws

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  • Select screws that are not too long for your 2×4, I used four 1” drywall screws.
  • Screw them in place, there should be a bit of resistance when screwing them in for the first time. Then remove the screws.
  • Important: Unscrew and remove the screws before moving on to the next step.

Step #7: Cut off the Back

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Make sure the 4 screws have been removed. Using a bandsaw with the fence installed, cut about 3/8″ off of the back of the 2×4 (the back is the side with the screw holes). Don’t worry if the cut is not that straight.

Step #8: Core Out the Enclosure

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  • Using a 1” diameter forstner bit, drill the four corners leaving roughly 1/4″ of material at the bottom (be careful not to drill through the bottom, set the depth of your drill press to avoid this).
  • Secure the wood in a vice on the drill press, and core out the remaining material using the 1.5” diameter forstner bit. Again, leaving about 1/4″ of material at the bottom.
  • If you need the space you can use a chisel to carve out the corners.

Step #9: Drill Holes for Components

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Hollow Out a 2×4 for Your Next Project Enclosure

Determine where you want to place components (switches, dials, etc.) and drill the proper sized holes on the front of the enclosure (the side without screw holes).

Step #10: Sand and Finish

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  • Screw the enclosure together and sand. You can sand by hand or with a power sander. I took my enclosure to 400 grit.
  • You can paint or stain the enclosure, but I feel the point is to really show off its “2×4-ness”. So I applied tung oil and furniture paste wax. Follow manufacturer's application instructions.

Step #11: Install Electronics

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When everything is dry, attach all components and install any circuitry.

Ben Light

Ben Light

Ben Light is a New York based maker, designer, and Cash Cab contestant. Ben's work has appeared in the Museum of Arts and Design, the MoMA Design Store, and on the shelves at Crate & Barrel. He earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University and a Masters from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).

Ben may love his lathe, just a little too much.


  • Scott Tuttle

    reminds me of a bandsaw box, which would be easier to make I’d think.

  • Andy III

    Coooool! Love it.

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  • allangee

    If you pre-thread the holes with the screws before the cut, it won’t account for the kerf — unless the holes on the cover plate don’t have any threads on them.

    • michaelseanhansen

      I think you drill the holes first for the sake of alignment, then cut the plate, then thread the holes after.

    • alrui

      Youre using wood screws so there are no “threads” in the common sense. Just run the screws in when youre all done and you’ll be just fine:-)

  • alrui

    Those make much nicer enclosures and are far more environmentally friendly then a cheap plastic box!

  • pcf11x

    I have drilled out blocks of wood like this in the past to make boxes with and sometimes the wood warps really badly. I am not sure why it happens, I just know it has happened to me. Mostly it works just fine though. So it is obviously something to do with particular pieces of wood. Maybe some wood I’ve used is just too wet, and the heat of drilling it warped it, or the wood was under a lot of internal tension? I don’t know.

    All I’m saying is I have seen this go horribly wrong. Although when it works it is nice. Nice enough that I have done it a number of times. Enough times to have seen it fail miserably on occasion. Hogging the middle of wood out is just pretty intense on a little piece of wood.

    When I’ve done this I’ve done it on my milling machine so that might have been a factor? It has more power than most drill presses. I do tend to use it that way too. It does seem to occur more the faster I drill the wood out. Like the wood just can’t handle the rapid change?

  • Ozcan Meras
  • splud

    I’m prone to cutting the front and back from the “box”, and then hogging out the centre (which can be done easily with a single drill hole through a corner, then use a jigsaw, scrollsaw, or coping saw (non power tool) to remove the entire centre mass. Glue the front back on and run the rest of the project just as you present in your article.

    Starting with a clean bandsaw blade will result in less burn on the wood.