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Advent Calendar Display Box

Count down the days until Christmas with this Advent calendar. Then put it to work as a display shelf the rest of the year.

Advent calendar display box.

Project Overview

Skill Level


Estimated Time

1 weekend

Estimated Cost


Tools & Materials


  • Miter saw or table saw
  • Random-orbit sander
  • 120-grit and 180-grit sandpaper
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Clamps
  • Hammer
  • Wood glue


  • 8 - 1/4 x 4 x 24 poplar boards
  • 2 - 1 x 4 x 72 radiata pine boards
  • 1/4 x 24 x 24 birch plywood
  • 2 - 1 x 2 x 6 poplar boards
  • 1-1/2-in finish nails
  • #6 x 1-in wood screws
  • 6-in Hangman picture-hanging system, #56156
  • 1-in square felt pads, #643044
  • Sherwin-Williams: Fresh Arugula, #HGSW2271; Show Stopper, #HGSW1052; Snowbound, #HGSW4062

Items may be Special Order in some stores. Product costs, availability, and item numbers may vary online or by market. Paint colors may vary slightly from those shown. Availability varies by market for lumber species and sizes.

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Assemble the Shelves and Dividers

Step 1

From 1/4 x 4 boards, cut four shelves (A) to length using a stop block for consistency. While your saw is set up, cut the case top and bottom (D) to length as well.

Good to Know

Cutting groups of parts to identical lengths is essential to assembling the grid for this display.

Step 2

Cut the 4-inch partitions (B) and 5-inch partitions (C) to length. While the saw is set up to cut each group of parts, cut four 4-inch spacers and two 5-inch spacers from scrap pieces of 1 x 4 wood.

Step 3

Glue the shelf assembly.

Mark the partition locations on both faces of each shelf. To begin assembling the grid, glue and clamp four short partitions to a shelf using spacers to help hold the partitions upright (Project Diagram, Drawing 1). Check that the partitions are 90 degrees to the shelf using a square. Repeat to create three more shelf assemblies using the 4-inch partitions.

Good to Know

Allow the glue to dry for at least three hours before handling the shelves.

Step 4

Glue shelf assemblies together.

Using a carpenter’s square to align the shelves, glue and clamp two assemblies so the partitions on one shelf align with the partitions of another shelf. Repeat for the other pair of shelves.

Step 5

Separate the remaining partitions with 4-inch and 5-inch spacers, then glue and clamp the center partitions to the shelves of the subassemblies (Project Diagram, Drawing 2) to complete the grid.

Frame the Shelves

Step 1

Use a carpenter’s square to align the case bottom (D) with the shelves (A) as you glue and clamp it in place. Repeat for the case top.

Step 2

Glue and nail sides to the case.

Measure between the outside faces of the case top and bottom and cut the sides (E) to length. Glue and nail the sides to the top and bottom (Project Diagram, Drawing 2).

Step 3

Measure the frame length.

Cut the frame pieces (G) oversize. Then cut a 45-degree miter on one end. Hold the inside of the mitered end against an inside corner of the frame and mark the frame edge at the other inside corner. Cut the frame piece to length and cut the opposite frame piece to the same length.

Step 4

Install the frame.

Miter-cut the other two frame pieces to length. Glue and nail the frame to the case (Drawing 3).

Step 5

Attach the back to the frame.

Measure the back of the case and cut the back (F) to fit. Center the back on the case and drill 3/32-inch countersunk pilot holes through the back and into the case.

Good to Know

If you want a back without holiday colors to use the rest of the year, cut a second back, stack it on the other, and drill pilot holes through both backs into the case. Then add countersinks separately to each back. This will help make them interchangeable.

Step 6

Trace openings on the back.

Temporarily screw the back in place on the case. Then use a pencil to lightly trace around the shelves and partitions for each opening. Remove the back, and mask off every other square with painter’s tape. Use a 1-inch roller to paint every other square red (Show Stopper shown). Remove the tape and let the final coat dry overnight. Then tape and paint the green (Fresh Arugula shown) squares.

Step 7

Paint the rest of the case, including the back face and edges of the back (F) white (Snowbound shown). After the final coat dries overnight, screw the back to the case.

Step 8

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to glue one half of a 6-inch Hangman picture-hanging bracket through the back into the case top. Attach the other bracket to a wall using wall anchors as needed and hang the shelf. Attach felt pads to the bottom corners of the back to avoid marring the wall, and hang the case.

Make the Presents

Step 1

Wrap small boxes in the paper and ribbons of your choice.

Step 2

Remove the wire rings from 25 round tags (#219413) and spray-paint them the color of your choice (metallic gold shown). After the final coat dries, label the tags 1 through 25 using a contrasting metallic color marker.

Step 3

Attach a gift tag.

Spray-paint lengths of string to match the tags. Use the painted string to attach the tags to the packages so each number is visible from the front.

After hanging up the display box, fill it with colorful numbered boxes.