Pathfinders’ Kitchen

By Perry Burton - Holyrood, Newfoundland - Canada

Since the launch of my own John Welsford Pathfinder late last summer, I have taken a bunch of day trips to some remote coastal areas of Newfoundland. Each time we ventured out and loaded the boat we required a small shopping list of items not to forget to take, typical for day trips that involve at least one cooked meal on a beach or aboard. But Murphy’s Law rears its head and something gets left behind from time to time. One such trip involved cooking up some bacon and beans with no frying pan. I won’t get into details, but the paper was removed from the bean can, held with a pair of pliers, and the beans were held in a cup while the bacon fried... It got the job done. The missing frying pan brought to light an issue I have tried my best to minimize over the years by having lists of things to take on camping trips. With the Pathfinder on the water, a long term solution was needed for the constant packing and repacking of gear, kitchen gear to be more exact. It’s the list of all the kitchen items needed on a boat trip regardless of length, as well, a place to do the cooking and eat afterward. A Chuck box was required. Many designs can be found on the internet (for a price) and in many styles and sizes. But a small open sailboat has space limitations and the box shouldn’t be a size and weight that causes it to be intentionally left behind. The Pathfinder needed one that was compact enough to fit under the deck but large enough for all the essentials. No legs are required since it would get used within the boat, and sitting on the beach would be high enough anyhow. I set to designing one and went through different styles as I finalized the idea into a buildable box. Having access to the drawers and other kitchen items while cooking was essential, basic, tough and efficient was the goal.

I rummaged through the scrap pile in my workshop and found enough plywood to do the job though not the exact thickness I had drawn in the plan. It’s mostly of 5/16” thick plywood with ½” plywood top. ¼” ply was originally in the plan but the ¼” thick plywood I had was all warped and would have been a pain to work with.

With minor adjustments, all the parts were cut and sanded.
The top had a perimeter strap glued in place as a backing block for when the sides and back are attached.

The sides and back sections had backing blocks glued to the lower side for attaching the bottom panel.

Those pieces were glued together with a generous amount of epoxy glue backed up with brad nails until the glue kicked off.

The drawer ends and bottom were made from 3/8” pine and 1/8” ply sides glued to that.

Drawer ends

The front doors are made from ½” plywood and a pine overlapping strap as a closure piece. It all was given another sanding and all the corners were rounded off before several coats of varnish were added.
The door arrangement does the job but I couldn’t think of a better way to close up the front. A drop door would interfere with a person cooking on the stove that will sit on top of the box. Not to mention the floor space it would take up. A simple slider bolt type latch was mounted to one door latching to the box top to keep both doors closed.

I removed the bolt latch that was to go in the front, it didn’t work well.

The strap hinges were riveted in place since the plywood was thin and I didn’t want nuts and bolts that would eventually loosen.

The strap hinges were riveted in place.

Washers were put on the backs of the rivets to prevent them from passing through the wood. Rope handles at the ends are simple and naturally fall to the side when not in use not to mention light weight.

The side shelves are made from 3/8” plywood and have a stainless steel table bracket riveted to the bottom side. The matching bracket is riveted to the box.

It took as much time to apply the varnish as it did to actually build the thing and the hardware and varnish was a bigger cost than the wood, which in this case was only left over bits that have a new purpose other than cluttering up my workshop. Empty it weighs in at about 20lb and full of gear weighs about 47lb.

Here’s a list of what is stuffed into my Chuck box and accessible while cooking:

(1) Colman camp stove with full tank of fuel
(1) litre of camp fuel (brings total cook time on high to over 6 hours)
(1) frying pan (large enough for 4 eggs) iron or Teflon coated
(1) large pot
(1) small pot
(1) large kettle
(4) plates (plastic)
(4) mugs (plastic)
(4) bowls (plastic)
(4) forks (stainless)
(4) knives (stainless)
(4) spoons (stainless)
(1) multi use cutting knife
(1) bread knife/long blade knife
(1) can opener/knife combo (swiss army)
(1) rubber spatulas
(1) Large mixing spoons (wood/plastic)
(1) butane lighter
(1) roll paper towels
(lot) various spices
(1) plastic safe cutting board
(1) muli use deep bowl for mixing and washing dishes
(1) bottle of dish liquid
(2) packs waterproof matches
(1) roll aluminum foil
(3) small containers for coffee, sugar, teabags and other basic items.

A nice little project to make use of your scrap plywood and will keep your list short when heading out on the water for a weekend. All in all I figure I spent 8-10 hours building it spaced out over a bunch of evenings or stolen moments before supper. It can also serve as a seat for 2 adults when not in use. I’ll try out the box this spring and see how it goes, if I have any large issues there will certainly be a version 2.0 built.

I attached a file for anyone who wanted to build one of their own and the measurements and thicknesses can be easily modified to suit your type of stove and wood at hand. Reinforcement blocks can be added if you plan not to use epoxy for gluing.


Download dxf file (chuck box 2010.dxf 1.8mb) or pdf file (242kb).



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