Treasure Chest with Lock

by SeanCF, published

Treasure Chest with Lock by SeanCF Feb 10, 2012


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Build something your child will treasure for a lifetime, a treasure chest! Our son absolutely loves all things treasure, so I decided to create a small treasure chest for him. He absolutely loves the result, keeping his most valuable treasure safe inside. Then of course our other son wanted one desperately too, so I improved the cut and made another. And then the wife wanted one for her desk at work, and then one as a present for her sister… So I thought I might share the design.

For 3mm MDF.

File optimised to share all cut lines and minimise material needed.

Genuine curved wood slat lid.

Working lock.

2 unique keys provided.

Guaranteed to attract treasure of all kinds.


In general the box is very easy to assemble. I only offer suggestions here to try to help others get the most out of the experience.

It has been designed for 3mm MDF. Joints have been designed to be push-fit, so be a little careful about assembling prematurely (especially the box bottom), as it may be hard to get apart again. I place a small amount of glue in, before using a rubber mallet to gently tap everything firmly home.

For the hinge pins I’ve used bullet head nails. They measure 20 x 1.25mm, which I just cut down to the needed length. They go from the outside (chest bottom, which has a smaller hole) to the inside (chest lid) of the hinges. The upper hinge arms can be a little tricky to assemble into the lid. I place the slats in the lid, then place the first peg of the hinge arm into the top hole and stretch the hinge arm down as I push the other two pegs into their respective slots. For the lock catch, which is inside of the lid at the front, you should assemble it in place as you put the slats in.

If you want to stain the chest, do that before assembly. If you haven’t stained MDF before, look at each side carefully. You often find one side has larger/more visible particles which look better stained. So you want that side up. I stained in one colour, then airbrushed a redder stain around all joints and edges to give the chest a more antique, rusted feel. I’ve also stained the face plate of the lock black. After assembly I then use clear water-based estapol which has been thinned down to finish the box.

To assemble the lock, first glue the facia piece onto the front. Make sure you do not use too much glue, such that it pushes into the hole where the face plate sits, as the plate must spin around freely. A toothpick can be used to run around the inner corner to make sure it is free of glue. Next glue the alignment pins into the facia and box case. Allow to dry for a few minutes while you glue other parts of the chest together. Then remember to place the little round face plate in, and stack the rest of the plates on. See separate instructions for order. Test that the key works freely, and then glue the last cover plate (with the little hole) on. Do not glue the in-between layers, as they need to have a little slack in them to ensure smooth movement of the tumblers. Lastly, you can use some graphite lock lubricant to make the lock movement very smooth.

I cut the keys in acrylic, as MDF is a little soft for such fine work. MDF works, but it doesn’t take that well to torsion when so finely cut. Great for a spare key though. The design has spare keys in it.

On mine I engrave the name of the person on the front, but for the blank template I just put “Treasure” there as a placeholder. The font I used is Rapscallion.

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Awesome! Really dig the lock and choice of two keys.
The keys are a bit fragile, though.

I created the box using 3mm MDF (medium-density fibreboard). In case you haven't used MDF before: It is kind of like fine sawdust bonded tightly together. It's very popular and also extremely cheap, our hardware store sells a 600 x 900mm sheet for AU$2.30. I cut these in four 30 x 45cm panels to fit in my laser cutter. Just one of these 30 x 45cm (~12 x 17 inches I guess that would be) panels is enough to make this treasure chest. Hope that helps. Oh, I have heard some call MDF only by the brandname "Craftwood". The brand our hardware stocks is actually called "CustomWood". You could of course make the box out of anything you wish, perhaps plywood or acrylic. You might need to scale the design with the material though.

I was wondering if anyone could tell me what size of material I need to get to make one of these? I've never worked with a laser cutter before. Thank you!

Hi, I tried to load this wonderful project into inkscape, as I don't have Corel Draw. But those cdr Drawings appear too small in Inkscape (at least there is a difference in size between cdr drawings and a pdf import). I verified this by measuring the cutouts, that should be at least 3mm to fit the 3mm mdf, right? Does anybody have tips on how to use inkscape for this or can you upload some sort of universal file format, that I can still open and modify in inkscape?

I've just slapped a 3mm sheet of MDF in my laser cutter and wow! What a beautiful design -- it simply works as is. Hats off to you for a great effort (and sharing).

thank you very much
it is so useful & beautiful

i going to cut now.... Thanks.... can I use 3mm MDF ???

I just posted a "Make" of this design. I'm not sure if my comments I included on that Make will go to SeanCF or not, so I wanted to share my thoughts and appreciation here as well:

I just discovered this gorgeous treasure chest design, and made one for fun. It turned out so well, I made a second one to give to a tween niece.
I used a Minwax Polyshades stain/polyurathane on one side of the wood BEFORE I laser cut it, and got very good results. (The finish is a bit rough in spots, but that's because I didn't do a good enough job of surface prep for the stain.)
For the lock face and hinges, I cut them out of unstained wood and used a "Precious Metals" brand gold leaf paint that I found at hobby lobby. I thought this gave it a nice metalic look and accented the box nicely. I also engraved my niece's name into the front of the box below the lock, and used the same gold leaf paint to color in the engraved lettering.
Lastly, to finish the inside and give it a soft, jewelry box type feel I used some spray adhesive and lined the box with black velvet paper I found in the scrapbook section at Michael's crafts.

Thank you so much for sharing this design! I have no real woodworking experience to speak of, and I feel like even with my lack of skill I was able to make a beautiful box worthy of giving as a gift.

What an excellent Thing you have here. The idea is great, your CDR file is incredibly well done, amazing job you've done.

Bigbird48: The top pieces are cut as slats like a real treasure chest, I don't know why the pictures don't seem to work any more, as they work when I go to "Edit Thing". But in instructions the "Treasure_Chest_Instructions_V1-0.pdf" file shows how the lock goes together and seems to open/download fine.

I downloaded the PDF but theres no lock Instructions just the cut file, 1 page

Try downloading the "Treasure_Chest_Instructions_V1-0.pdf" file. It contains the lock instructions and nothing else. Not sure what else to say.

I'm having a hard time with the lock and the picture won't come up on here, does anyone have pictures or instructions on how the lock goes together. Thanks

I downloaded this but it looks like all the sections in the top part of chest are going to cut out instead of bend and form top.l how does this work?

Thank you for posting these plans.I built one for a Christmas present to hold a gift card.

jpkerr: Sorry for the delayed response, but had to get on here and say your comment made my freakin week. So many, many thanks for the kind word. It has prompted me to try and get on and upload some other projects I've done.

jjshortcut: I just stained the wood as normal, but then after assembly I used a hobbyist airbrush to apply a redder stain to all the joints and edges. Looks antique!

Hi Sean I will look forward to them. Good luck and thanks again

What an awesome box to make. I'm now starting my 3rd box. Made the first one in MDF next one in Mahogany ply. Looks fantastic..
This is what laser cutting is all about great plans the best thing I have made to date .
Well done Sean. And thanks for sharing this with us.

How did you get the MDF to look like that (awesome!)?

Sorry for the delay, now available as a PDF as well. Have fun.

I live in Charleston SC and cant seem to find 3mm mdf anywhere. ive checked home depot and a few lumber yards. Does anyone know where i might find some?

any chance of a dxf file please?

Looks great j45on! So good to see my chest built by someone else. :)

I really need to find some good 3mm ply too. The only stuff I've been able to find locally is rough, and once cut pieces tend to fall out easily.

I made the smaller original one today from 3mm ply ( i had no mdf )

And it works great , a nice snug fit held together with no glue as yet.

Plywood is also a little week for the keys.

Thank you for sharing SeanCF :)

Okay, I think I have it up in X4 and EPS now. Thanks PolygoinPusher, krusty and j45on!

Brilliant design :-D

:-D Please save as x4 version

Thanks for sharing this great design. I am amazed! :)