Blue Box

Terry and I took our annual Christmas trip to Montreal this past week, loaded down with gifts and luggage. Like years before, we had more baggage than I could reasonably fit into the Jetta, and was obliged to resurect the roof-top box. However, this year, we had even more than before, and the makeshift roof-top box that I had used previous years was just too small. It looked like it was time to go buy a bigger box.

A quick trip to Canadian Tire showed me how difficult and expensive that would be. The smallest box (about 7 cubic feet) cost over $250, and wouldn't mount to my roof racks. The next size up could hold about 11 cubic feet, and looked like it would mount properly, but cost around $650. Enough of that - I could build a large, custom box for less than $200, and would be guaranteed that it would fit the roof racks. So, I abandoned Canadian Tire for The Home Depot, and gathered materials: two sheets of 3/8" plywood, 36 feet of 1x2, screws, glue, paint and "truck bed liner spray". And I started building.

I planned the box to be 46" long by 36" wide by 12" deep, with a rounded "nose". I used one continuous length of plywood for the bottom and "nose", bending and wrapping the plywood around the curve of the nose. The remaining sides were cut straight out of the plywood, and I reinforced all the edges with lengths of 1x2.

Bending and wrapping the nose took a few hours. I first cut kerfs into the interior face of the plywood, where it would bend around the nose; that took about fourty passes with the router (a kerf every half inch, for 20 inches). Then, I secured this length of plywood to the bottom of the box, turned it upright, and wrapped four tension straps around the works.

Now, for the fun part. It takes a lot of hot water to soften the wood so that you can bend it without breaking it. A lot of hot water. Every twenty minutes for the next 5 hours, I boiled 10 litres of water. Every seven minutes, I took two towels, soaked them in this boiling hot water and wrapped them around the bend in the wood. Then, I tightened the straps a couple of notches. And then, seven minutes later, I'd do it all over again. Every seven minutes for five hours. When I finished bending the wood, I let the whole thing dry for 24 hours before I replaced the straps with clamps and secured the bend with screws.

Next, I cut a top for the box, and added a lip to it. This lip would fit under the front edge of the nose to secure the lid in place, and I secured the rear edge of the lid with hasps. Finally, I had the box ready for it's paint job. Blue enamel on the outside and "truck bed liner" paint on the inside. To complete the job, I cut slots through the reinforced bottom to take the tension straps that would hold the box to the roof racks, and mounted the whole thing on the car.

And, now I had an 11 cubic foot roof-top box that would accomodate almost all of our Montreal baggage, for 2/3 the cost of a small, commercially-available carrier, constructed in 10 days by yours truely. And, it worked.

Yes, I will change a few minor things, like the handles and the hasps, but overall, the box is a great success.