Let's Make: A Traveling Wood Pie Box

Monday, July 16, 2018

So my niece asked me to make a chocolate cream pie, probably my most revered dessert by all within this vicinity.  No, I have not yet shared the recipe over on Flaky Bakers.  Some things are harder to release into the wild than others it seems.

Patience is a virtue.  Yes?

Anyhooo so I'm doing all this extra baking now, right?  And as we know, transporting baked goods is often a challenge.  Car seats are angled, things slide around on floors of cars or the trunk.  Train seats are small and curved or slanted and slippery.  Laps get tired.  It's just not an easy thing.

And no matter what I jury-rig, it's, it's just a wrestling match.

And I never have the perfect container either it seems.  While the one I have for cakes* does do its job, it's huuuge and a bit unruly and sans handles.  Mine is similar to this one,* just not red.

Then of course I try to make it work for other things like pies or tarts or cupcakes or whatever but in the end, things get damaged or the cake container is ugh, too much to manage.

Ah the trials and tribulations of being a baker spreading the baking love about the land.

Tired of these scenarios I thought to assemble a wood pie box.  Now granted, I don't have oodles of fancy tools nor fancy wood nor am I Queen Bee Rockstar Carpenter.  As such, poking around the interwebs turned up bunches of boxes I am currently unable to manufacture.

No worries, it's an opportunity to think outside the box (aw man that is so bad, real bad, I never intended to use that pun either.  I swear I did not go into this post thinking I'll work it around a dopey pun....really)

Phew it stinks in here.

So yeah, a pie box!

Let's make a pie box!

Bam, lookie at that, a pie box!  Suh-weet!  Not perfect but a pie box nonetheless.
Ok, I've never made a pie box before.   What kinds of features am I looking for in a pie box?

See, this is the best part:  making your own pie box means you can custom design it to fit your specific desires.  Hallelujah indeed my friends!!

Ok, so what am I looking for?  Hmmm....Well.  It should be a box duh of course, with a lid.   It needs to be sturdy yet lightweight.  Easy to manage, not unruly, low on the injury-while-carrying scale factor, handles.  Yes, handles!

And I'm delivering this pie tomorrow.  Ok!  Clap clap, let's go!

Part of the design of this box came from what I had available in the ol' rolling storage table cart-majig and part of the design stemmed from my capabilities.  So if you're not a faboo designer and/or carpenter, you can still whip out a handy pie box.  Trust me, I know of what I speak.

I found a piece of 3/8" plywood for the bottom and digging through my stash, came across quarter inch plywood I had used to make those shim covered boxes for the restaurant.  Sweet!

Using an average pie dish* and a plate that I usually put under pies that aren't made in the glass dish, I get my typical diameters and measurements, off to the races am I.

Plus too, the bottom piece of ply was already a close enough dimension in one direction so I went with that and made one cut to make it a square.  If you're interested in this project and I'm being far too vague about dimensions, I'll provide more solid ones at the end.

Now how handy was it that this plywood was this size already, jeez louise, thank you.
My quarter ply was in four inch strips so easy breezey, decision made there.  Yes, clearly, this is a last minute project, huh?

To save myself wood and aggravation, cutting and measuring and recutting and remeasuring and wasting wood and time and effort and getting a headache and spewing forth verbiage like a sailor, I placed the bottom over the quarter ply strip, drew a pencil line and voila, a perfectly measured side piece!  Now don't mix 'em up....

A no-screw-up way to measure things to exact size.
After cutting all four sides it was time to assemble the box and make more decisions on the fly.
Which as we know, normally doesn't pan out for me but the stars aligned this time.

I cut the quarter ply to surround and cover over the bottom piece edges sooooo ok, Gorilla glue* annnnddd what....Ok, how about some nails* and making them a design element as well as serving the purpose of holding the box together.  Great!

One side done, three to go!
To make my life easier, I barely barely pilot drilled super tiny divot holes with a 1/16" drill bit* to start the nail.  Henceforth, no splitting, no cracks, the nails all went in the right places and didn't bend.  Well, sans one bent nail and one I misaligned that came through the bottom but only because I started to rush.

Pilot drilling is your friend.
Not bad.  Not bad at all.

All righty, it's a box!
Next was figuring out the lid, which I had preplanned to set within the box.

Using cutoffs I had from the garden stakes which magically happened to be darn near exact the length I needed.....

.....see too, it was another in a long line of stupidly hot days here in Chicago and the electric company sent an email, "hey, between 1-7 pm are peak hours today, use less electricity and earn credit towards your bill."  How 'bout it.  I'm all for that.  For both.

But obviously that makes it tough to build a box using power tools.  I made it work though, conscious of my box design and construction and scrap usage while conscious of using as little electricity as possible.

.....so I affixed the garden stakes to two opposing sides using Gorilla glue and clamped those buggers down.  Measuring a quarter of an inch down from the top edge that is for the thickness of the lid.

(FYI, just got the follow-up email:  $9.30 credit on our electric bill.  That is awesome.)

A-yup, lid support.
So the lid, which I should have traced the bottom piece onto this piece but I forgot until it was too late, is slightly awry but that's all right, it's close enough.  A small shove and it's in.  No biggie.

Measuring in 1 1/4" on two sides near two corners and with a 3/4" forstner bit* (aka a super fancy pants drill bit and my faves), I drilled out two crisp, clean finger holes.  Don't forget to put some scrap wood under where you're drilling for less blow out on the opposite side.

Spiffy little finger holes, yay!
With a drill bit* the next size up from quarter inch, what is that....hang on, gotta run downstairs and look, 9/32", I drilled four holes 3/4" down from the top edges, 3" in from the sides.  The opposite sides of the garden stake lid holders.  And all randomly decided upon dimensions fyi.

Ah, little rope handle holes!
Gave the whole shebang a wee sanding with a sanding sponge* just to knock off sharp corners and edges and splintery bits.  Ok!  Pie box!  Woo!

Pie box!
With my favorite stain, the Watco Danish Oil* in Dark Walnut, despite knowing it might not be dry enough come pie transport time, I stained the exterior flat sides of the box.  I used painters tape to keep the edges stain-free which worked; I shoulda put some across the top edges but didn't, doh.

On the inside, in case of spillage or smearing, I coated every surface with that beeswax/mineral oil recipe I used on the kitchen's butcher block counter, figuring it would make clean up simpler and minimize staining.

Be sure to wear gloves here lest the mineral oil absorb into you and uh, does its job.
Next I chopped off two pieces of 1/4" sisal rope* into about 24" long pieces and with 1/4" inside diameter washers* on the inside (kinda like those paper hole protectors* from when you, ahem, I was a kid) tied tight knots or hopefully tight knots for my handles.

And don't forget to tape where you're cutting so the rope doesn't unwind on you.  Plus it makes it easier to get through the drilled holes.
Shockingly the sisal is not scratchy or irritating.  I know, I was surprised.  The only other rope I had was the clothesline* from my dip dyed string curtain project and felt eh, nah.

Please stay knotted, please stay knotted.
Lastly?  Heh, yes finally, I cut a thin piece of cork* and rested it loose inside the bottom to assist in the no-pie-slippage.  As this box is larger than the pie I placed in there, the cork kinda worked.  Well, not really, the pie tin this time was the foil type.  I'll need to revisit the concept.  But in theory, it's promising.

Did this come out as the pie box of my dreams?  Close.  I think if I make another one, and I may, I'll tweak the size and design probably a bit but overall, it absolutely, totally worked.  I mean ideally, my dream pie box is bendy ply and circular but heh, we'll have to see on that one.

Placed the nummy nummy pie in the box, squished on the lid, crossed my fingers, and away I went in a Lyft* car, on the Metra train, walking, then into Mike's car.  Travel travel travel and tada, the pie, though slid to one side, was safe and unscathed!  Butt wiggle!  Plus the box wasn't heavy, it was easy to carry, the handles were perfect.

This is my baking photo set up.  If only our counters were really this white marble.  Alas.  Sigh.  Sigh.....

Cha-ching, score!

Mike said, "what's this?  Where'd you get this box?  You made it?  What?  It's a pie box?  What?  You made a pie box?  hahahaha wow....Huh!  You could sell these, babe!"  Awww, he's so sweet!

I think next up on the pie box strategy will be detachable car seat levelers.  Yep.  I could even put rubber feeties on the box bottom or something to counteract slipping on a flat or carpeted surface, hmmm......chin scratching.....

So happy pie boxing!

Here are some more exact dimensions to work with:
  • For the top and bottom, two pieces of plywood at 11.75" x 11.75" (I used 3//8" for the bottom, 1/4" for the top)
  • For the sides, two pieces of quarter inch plywood at 4" x 11.75" and two pieces at 4" x 12.25"
  • Lid stoppers, two strips of wood at 11.75" and thick enough to keep the lid from falling in
  • 1/4" sisal rope, two pieces at 24" long
  • Note for this whole project:  you can use craft plywood* already pre-cut or close to sizes you need, easier than a trip to the hardware store but why miss out on a trip to the hardware store?
*The cake carriers, pie dishes, Gorilla glue, wire nails, 1/16" drill bits, forstner bits, drill bit sets, sanding sponges, Watco Danish Oil, sisal rope, washers, paper hole protectors, cotton clothesline, cork sheets, and craft plywood are Amazon affiliate links.  The Lyft link gives us both credit when you sign up, a win-win for us both!  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

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