How to Build a Pie Safe

Although the specific use of the pie safe, to cool pies while keeping insects and children away, has faded, the classic piece makes a comeback when placed in other rooms of the house. Pie safes can be used as bookshelves, linen closets, a hutch for antiques and collectibles and even a place for media storage for keeping CDs, DVDs and other home office or entertainment items. In the kitchen or not, a traditional pie safe can be made at home in an afternoon and serve as a great family storage piece for years.

Making the Frame

    Shelf, top and trim placement (back not shown)
  1. Stand one of the 5-foot long boards upright. Mark a horizontal line 12 inches from the top edge of the board. The next line is marked 13 inches down from the first line. Draw a third line 17 inches down from the second line. Mark the other 5-foot board in the same manner.

  2. Hold the two 5-foot side boards about three feet apart with the pencil marks facing in. Place one of the 3-foot long boards against the top line on one side board. The line shows you where to set the top edge of the shelf.

  3. Have a friend hold the boards while you nail through the side boards and into the shelf. Space the nails 2 inches apart. Secure the shelf to the top line of the other side board in the same way. Repeat the process with the other two shelf boards, aligning the top edges of the boards to the marked lines and nailing the unit to secure.

  4. Place a 40-inch long 1-by-8 board on top of the shelf unit. Push the 1-by-8 to overhang the back of the cabinet by 2 inches. The board should also overhang the sides by 2 inches on each side. Nail through the board to the sides of the shelf. Set the other 1-by-8 board on top of the shelves and butt it up against the board you just attached. Keep the same overhang of 2 inches on each side and there will also be a 2 inch overhang on the front.

  5. Add a piece of 1-by-2 inch trim to each side by aligning the trim on the front of the cabinet. The trim should be flush with the outer edge of the side board and enclose the cabinet by 1 inch on both sides. Hammer a nail every 4 inches along the side of the trim to attach.

  6. Attach the plywood to the back by placing its 38-inch width up against the overhang of the top. Nail the plywood to the back every 4 inches along the sides. For added security, also nail the back into the shelves every 6 inches. Sand the entire piece to smooth corners and surfaces. Apply wood stain or paint as desired.

Making the Doors

    Layout for the pie safe door
  1. Make each door by setting two of the 1-by-4 inch boards 9 inches apart. At the top and bottom, set a 9-inch long 1-by-6 inch board between the 1-by-4 boards. Place another 1-by-6 board in the center; it should rest 13 inches away from the top and bottom boards. Nail to attach all three inner boards to the sides. Repeat to create the second door. Sand the door, followed by staining or painting.

  2. Set a piece of punched tin over one of the holes with the right side facing down. Keep a 1/2 inch overlap around all sides of the tin and the wood frame. Double-check that your pattern is upright and sitting how you would like before you begin to attach it. Nail a finishing nail every inch down all sides of the tin. Repeat for the other three frames.

  3. Measure along one side of the front of each door and mark points 8 inches in from the top and bottom. Most hinges are made with holes 3 inches apart; if yours are this same distance, then mark a second point 3 inches in from the first at the top and bottom. Attach your hinges by screwing directly into the marked points.

  4. Attach the doors to the frame by having a friend hold one door at a time up to the trim edge of the pie safe front. Use a pencil to mark the points you will need to screw into by lining up the hinges to the trim. Screw the hinges to the frame.

  5. Add a simple pull knob by choosing the point where you want the handle to be. Twist a screw in from the inside until the tip of the screw shows through the front. Line up the knob with the screw and finish twisting until the screw cannot turn and the knob feels secure.


  • Be finished with sanding and staining before you add the punched tin. Some chemicals can be harmful to the metal and cause unsightly discolorations.