Today I’m going to be talking about apple boxes. No not for holding fruit, or something for your fancy laptop– I’m talking about film equipment. How to build some equipment more specifically. Also, it’s is something that’s pretty easy! (with the right tools)
For those who aren’t “in the know” apple boxes are basically just rectangular closed boxes of plywood of constructed in various shapes and thicknesses. They might not look like much, but they are the kind of thing you always are wishing you have when you don’t on productions. Apple boxes are for setting things on, pure and simple. From raising equipment, to art department, to coffee cups, to people: they are awesome. A full set of apple boxes, consisting of a full, a half, a quarter, and a pancake, will run you about $120 (plus shipping), generally. Being generally thrifty and handy with a saw I thought, heck, why don’t I see if I can make some. So I did!
The first step was getting the wood, which ended up, ridiculously, being the most stressful. I decided on a nice sturdy 1/2″ sanderply, which would give the boxes a nice surface without much work on my part. From my calculations I knew I could get a full set (with leftovers) from a single 4′ x 8′ sheet. The full sheets were too big to fit in my car, so I had them cut them in half, leaving me four pieces of 4′ x 4′. Always the genius I had measured beforehand to make sure the 4′ x4′ pieces would fit into the back seat. Except that, always the genius, they didn’t.
I’m not exactly what you’d classify as a “comfortable in the world” sort of personality. I like things simple, predictable, and well thought through– and the world is everything but that. Whenever I do anything out in the world, for some reason I always feel like there’s some old man who is going to come up and say through his scruffy mustache, “Well now what’chu really should be doing…” and then go on some long explanation as to why I’m an idiot and should be doing something the “right” way.
Well, there I was trying to figure out how the heck I was going to fit what was essentially a hamburger into a hotdog bun and, sure enough, here comes some old man with a tiny dog. I managed to keep my cool and not just run for the hills when he asked, “Need a hand there? Not sure that’s gonna fit. What you should do is–” I managed to interject a, “No it’s cool, I got it…” right before he could get the lecture up to speed. It was then my instincts kicked in and I started noodling around on my phone. Perhaps there was an app on there that would make my car turn into a cargo plane, or something to repel nosy overly-helpful old dudes. Thankfully the old man seemed put off by my intent button mashing and lost interest.
The immediate old man crisis was averted, but it didn’t help the larger situation. Luckily I was at a hardware store, and one thing hardware store actually have in abundance is stuff that can solve problems. I wheeled my purchase back inside so it wouldn’t get wood-jacked and bought some ratchet straps. Now, if you’ve never used ratchet straps, they are extremely useful little devices designed by the devil. You see, they’re useful but nearly impossible to figure out under pressure. Back in the parking lot I began desperately loading up grainy youtubes videos in my phone trying to figure out how to get the strap into the little metal piranha bits, fearfully keeping an eye out for any more old men. The youtube video finally started and in it an old man voice says, “Well, what we have here…”
After a lot of ratcheting I finally got the boards strapped to my car, and with white knuckles drove the long stretch of freeway back home, convinced the boards were going to fly off at any second.
The rest of the trip ended without incident, and I was able to retire to the safety of my workshop.
Ah, sweet respite.
According to my doodles, there were a bunch of different sizes to be cut. Because of their specialized use, Apple Boxes need to be fairly exact to make sure whatever you are using them to support is level.
The specifications of the different sizes are so:
Full Apple: 8″ × 20″ × 12″
Half Apple: 4″ × 20″ × 12″
Quarter Apple: 2″ × 20″ × 12″
Pancake: 1″ × 20″ × 12″
Since my stock was 1/2″ the tops of bottoms remained a straight 20″ x 8″ but the sides were wall reduced by an inch on the top, and the end bits by another inch on the sides.
The I cut out some handles with a router.
Next came the gluing, and some nails for extra strength. The nailgun is another tool I have recently overcome my reluctance of using, and has turned out to be extremely awesome! The idea of something that shoots deadly spines powered at 150PSI and is attached to what is essentially a bomb of pressurized air, had me sticking to using screws. But after some use I acclimated to the idea and treat it like one treats any firearm (don’t point it at anything you don’t intend to shoot, don’t look down the barrel, make a little “pe-tchew!” noise after pulling trigger)
After some “pe-tchewing!” the boxes were beginning to take shape. At this point I added the secret ingredient which is a middle support cut the same size as the ends for extra strength. I didn’t remember to take pictures so you’ll have to use your imagination.
The pancakes didn’t need any middle supports since they’re so flat. All they needed was glue.
After drying the pancakes were put to the router, and a small finger groove was added to the ends.
The boxes were dry and nailed together, but they were all looking a little rough. So out came the orbital sander to give them all nice beveled edges.
Oh you fancy huh.
And of course, they had to be painted to match the rest of my workshop…
Paint them any color you like, as long as it’s black.
Then came the final touch: branding.
And there you have it, two sets of apple boxes! I managed to make mine for $34 for each set (because I went for the nice wood), with wood left over. The math works out so you can get 4 full sets out of 3 pieces of 4×8 plywood. Which means you’re paying about $28 per full set for raw materials (with glue and wotnot).
Not a bad deal, and also extremely satisfying.