For a while now, I have been toying around with the idea of dumping the back seats, and building some type of box to contain all of my trail gear. My first idea was raise up the seat brackets a few inches and build a slide out under the seat box. But the idea of bolting my rear seats to a sheet of plywood kind of takes away from the structural integrity and safety of the rear seats. I didnt want to cause any one riding in the back seats to go for a ride in the case of an accident or a rollover, so I ditched that idea. Besides, the whole back seat driver thing is not for me.
I decided that I wanted a few things for my box; I wanted it to slide in and out, I wanted it to have some neat compartments, I wanted it to lock, and I wanted to be able to remove it for any time I needed to. This project took about a week, between work and the rest of my busy life, but was fairly simple. My Dad is a woodworker, so for this project, I asked him for some help... needless to say he jumped all over it. Before I could even think about a design, he already had his own plans drawn up.
The supplies needed:
Your choice of any 8x4 sheet of plywood (you may need a little more if you measure once and try to cut twice... trust me)
Box of wood screws
Assortment of hinges, latches, and/or locks (all at your preference)
Heavy duty cabinet sliders
We started out by removing the back seats of the TJ. This step is fairly self explanatory. Take this time to clean out any mud or dirt that was under your carpets. I had alot.
We then proceeded to remove the T-55 bolt holding down the seat belts to the tub. We also removed the seat brackets, be sure to save the bolts as you will be re-using them.
Next came all the measurements we needed to take. How long, how tall, how wide. This part is up to you, you can make it as big as you want. We then cut out a template piece of plywood that we would be using to mount the sliders onto the box. Picture a cabinet drawer and how it slides out. Thats the idea, but instead of the slides being on the sides, we mounted ours to the bottom. We had to notch out a section so it would fit properly inside without any interference. We then used the bolts that held in the seat brackets to bolt the sheet into the tub.
Below is a shot of the notch we cut out.
And former seat bracket bolts in action. We had to countersink the wood so the bolts could thread in deep enough for a secure fit.
A few more measurements were taken for peace of mind and then it was off to the basement for some long sessions in the woodworking shop.
Be sure to plan out what pieces you will be cutting so you dont have to make run down to Home Depot for extra plywood. Trust me... Measure twice, cut once!
We cut out the bottom piece with our table saw and used a Dato blade to cut out all the grooves for the different compartments. As well as around the edge so we would have a nice flush fit with the sides.
Next, we measured and cut out the four sides to the box and again used the Dato blades to make more grooves.
Then we cut out all the different compartments we wanted and test fit them all. They fit up nice and snug. Those Dato blades make a huge difference in the looks of the box. My idea was to just cut and glue and screw, but seeing as my Dad is a woodworker, that wasn't going to cut it.
This is a Dato blade in case your wondering. Depending on how thick of a groove you want, its a few different blades turning to cut about a 1/2 inch groove. Pretty cool idea IMO.
Now its time for gluing it all up. Dont skimp on the wood glue. Wood glue is extremely strong and once its fully dried, it bonds with the wood and creates essentially one piece of wood between two. If you try to break it apart from the glued section, it will only break above where it was glued. Pretty strong stuff. Once its dried you can throw in a few wood screws here and there.
While you wait for the glue to dry, go get some dinner and relax for a bit.
Next we cut out the top piece there. What we did, was take some fairly accurate measurements of the length of the box and cut out our last scrap of plywood to fit on top. Then we used a router with a ball bit to go around the edges to even it all up nice a flush so there was no hanging over the edges. We attached our hinges, handles and locks with some screws and the box portion was finished!
Below is a shot of the inside of the box. The outside compartment have blocks of wood that slide in and out when needed while the middle is permanent. We had some extra scrap laying around.
Next step is to mount the drawer sliders onto the box and then mount the sliders into the tub on your template piece of wood. We ended up needing to cut our original template in half because the middle would bow up under the weight of the box.
And lastly, fill your box up with gear and enjoy driving without and back seat drivers.
I plan on covering up the top with some indoor/outdoor matching carpet one of these days but for now its fine. you can color it or paint it or even deck it out with stickers.
After wheeling with the box, I had expected it to rattle around a good bit, but so far I have been rattle free! It really comes in handy to have all your gear with you. All in I would say the project took around 2 full days of working on it and netted around $100.00 bucks only because we bought very nice plywood and had to run back for another sheet of it after we cut off too much. But it was a great father son project and I came away with a few good woodworking skills! Happy wheelin!