How To Make A Wooden Trash Can

This is a project that can be adapted and transformed into all kinds of stuff. I really want to see what you come up with on this one. The two that I made cost around $70 combined. You will need two 1x12x96″ boards, 21 1-1/4″ pocket hole screws, wood glue, two hinges, and a finish of your choice. I used Minwax Ipswich Pine stain and top coated it with Minwax Polycrylic (affiliate links). I used pocket hole screws at a few locations in this project but if you do not have a pocket hole jig you can build this entire cabinet with butt joints, glue, and brad nails. Here is a downloadable .zip file containing all of these images in a higher resolution as well as a few printer friendly images: CLICK HERE. This is a relatively straight forward build so lets get started.

To start, cut all of your pieces according to the cutlist. The front piece of the lid assembly, the actual lid, and the top piece all receive angled cuts on one face. The cutlist shows all of these pieces with their longest dimensions so the angled cuts cans be made after cutting to initial size.

wooden trash can

wooden trash can

Next, assemble the four legs of the can. Glue and brad nails will hold this with no problem. Regular butt joints here.

wooden trash can

I cut a slight detail on the bottom of my legs but this step is optional. I recommend cutting some type of detail here as a can with 4 corners touching the floor is less likely to wobble than a can with four solid legs if the floor happens to have a bump in it.

wooden trash can

With the can assembled, drill pocket holes in the bottom of your base piece. Flip the can over and attach it from below. Make sure you have the height of the base set so that you cannot see it through your detail cut.

wooden trash can

The lid assembly is pretty simple. Drill two pocket holes on each end of the side pieces to attach the front and back. I also drilled a vertical pocket hole on the side pieces where the top will rest. The back piece should get three vertical pocket holes as well to attach the top.  Make sure all of the pocket holes are on the inside when you assemble. Again, pocket holes are just an option. Use glue and brads if you prefer.

wooden trash can

Attach the top piece.

wooden trash can

With the top attached, use glue and brad nails to attach the support strips. This is how the lid will sit on the can. This design calls for them to be spaced two inches from the bottom of the lid assembly. It’s OK if your strips do not reach end to end.

TIP: After attaching one of the support strips place the lid assembly on the can and use the can to line up the opposite side strip. Then attach the remaining support strips with the lid assembly still sitting on the can. This will ensure that the lid will not wobble on top of the can if one of your can pieces happens to be slightly misaligned.

wooden trash can

Attach the lid using your two hinges. Once everything fits the way it should, take the lid and hinges back off and sand the entire trash can. Apply your stain and finish of choice and you are done.

wooden trash can

Like I said, this is an extremely customizable project. You can even turn it into something completely different. Replace the front leg for a couple shelves and add a paper stop on top and you have an instant podium (well, maybe make it higher too!). You can even make a couple for onions and potatoes. Or, make some type of base with a cut out and have an automatic dog feeder! The options are limitless and I am sure you have some creative thought waiting to be used. Please turn this project into your own. I’d love to see what you come up with!

wooden trash can

wooden trash can

wooden trash can

wooden trash can



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      1. Rob R

        I am a novice woodworking hobbyist and was looking for some ideas and instruction. I am glad I found your projects.
        I don’t have many good tools yet but your plans and ideas make it easy to see that you don’t have to have them to complete many projects. I ran across you and your projects on YouTube and your website. Your explanations, plans, and videos are great!
        I hope to make some of your jigs and projects. I also hope to add some tools and a pocket hole jig along the way so I can make things easier and produce better projects!
        I am going to try to modify this project by adding a few inches in height and add a cut out in the top lid and a held below, to use it as a ticket collecting box for my daughter’s school for their fundraising events. Thank you, I hope you continue to add plans and videos!

  1. scottieie

    RE the trashbag size, a standard kitchen bag is 13 gal. This is 18, but the bag fits around the rim of the wood box and supports the bag. Shouldn’t be an issue.

    Thanks for the plan. My folks have one and am now making one for the kitchen. Looks nice and is a great way to keep the dog out of the trash, until she learns to use the dew claw as a thumb.

  2. DonLallier

    Jay –
    I am new to wood working, I have only accomplished a book case using my Kreg Kit. I am 77 and just setting up my wood shop. Starting with a 12X 14 shop, not as large as I would like but I,ll live with for a wile. Just brought a table saw- a 10 Inch Contractor Masterforce from Menards, I also brought the Kreg Forman machine along with Drill press, Sander,Bandsaw and RouterTable . Don’t think there will be any room for me??

    I really enjoy your projects I built the Router Jig in my Den untill my shop is completed. Lots of fun. Any way I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy your efforts in your Videos they are veryhelpful I am a firm beliver in the pocket screw type of construction. Keep up the good work in 2015 looking forward to your new projects this year.
    Best for now Don Lallier- Orchard, Nebraska

  3. Lacy

    Exactly what I have been looking for! I had one years ago and the man who used to sell them is no longer making items. I know the answer is simple but how would I make this bigger, like 30gal?

        1. Jay Bates

          Sorry for the confusion. I recently lost some files during a backup and am finding out about stuff missing little by little. I no longer have any dimensioned images for that project but I have updated the page with a link to download a sketchup file that can be viewed with the free sketchup program.

  4. Kathy

    Jay, thanks so much for the plan for the garbage can. I tweaked it a bit, and was very pleased with my finished product. I have done a lot of wood burning but this is my first garbage can…. I burned a scene on the lid of a deer in the woods. turned out beautiful…. if i do say so myself. gave it to a friend of mine who is a hunter… he loved it! Now I will make one for myself and then I am going to make coffee table/ottoman. You have created a monster. lol

    Thanks again

  5. Jessica

    Do you sale those trash cans at all ?And also i have one here at home and one time my bag rip inside and the juices from everything got stuck to the wood and it smells bad soo thats why im looking into buying a new one

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