Treasure Chest Made From MDF Wood – Small Project

Table of Contents

Treasure Chest Made From MDF Wood with a Laser Cutter

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This is a small treasure chest that I made for a friend. If you have a laser cutter then you can use these laser cutter files from my shop to build the chest at home.

Materials Used

  • 3 mm thick MDF or plywood
  • Acrylic paint
  • Wood glue
  • Paint brushes
  • Some tissue paper
  • A laser cutter

You can use any 3mm thick material to make the treasure chest. I recommend using MDF or plywood but you could also make a transparent chest out of acrylic, for example. Just keep in mind that diode lasers can´t cut transparent materials.

I use Vallejo acrylic paints and Army Painter speed paints for painting most of my projects, including this one. But you can use any acrylic paint that you want.

You can either use wood glue or super glue for gluing the pieces of the chest. Wood glue will take longer to dry but generally creates a stronger bond.

Any old paintbrushes and any kind of tissue paper can be used to paint the chest. The brushes are only used to broadly apply paint and the tissue paper is only used to wipe away some of the excess paint.

For drybrushing, you will need some very soft brushes. I use cosmetic brushes as they are quite affordable and perfect for drybrushing.

And finally, you also need a laser cutter to cut and engrave the parts. I used the S1 from xTool for this project. You can read my review of the S1 right here if you want to know more about the machine.

Alternatively, you can also order the parts online or cut them out by hand. Even though cutting them by hand is not really recommended, because it will take quite some time and is generally a very tedious endeavor.

The laser-cutting files for the treasure chest can be bought in my shop right here.

Paint the MDF

You can either cut the pieces out, assemble them, and then paint them or you can paint your choice of material first and then cut and engrave the parts.

This will give the parts a nice base coat that you can work from and the laser will remove some of the paint when you engrave the painted MDF which can be used to create some interesting effects and add a lot of texture very easily.

I opted for the second option.

painted MDF wood with acrylic paint before cutting it

I applied several layers of acrylic paint to both sides of the MDF. It will usually take about two or three layers before the paint covers fully, depending on the quality and the color of the paint.

I applied the paint with a brush and I made sure to always move the brush along the same axis to simulate some kind of grain texture on the surface of the wood. This effect is very subtle.

Alternatively, you can also use a small paint roller to apply the paint more evenly and prevent any kind of texture.

Cut and Engrave the Parts of the Chest

Cutting and engraving painted MDF wood

Next, I cut and engraved all of the parts on my S1 from xTool.

You might need to use a little more power or a slower cutting speed on your laser cutter than normally. This is because of the acrylic paint.

Engraving painted wood gives a very interesting effect. The laser cutter basically removes some or all of the applied paint when it engraves an area. The effect is kind of subtle right now but I will show you later how you can add some contrast to the engraved areas.

Engraved painted MDF part from the treasure chest

You can go ahead and assemble the whole chest by using the instructions that come with the laser-cutting files once you have cut and engraved all of the parts.

Adding Some Contrast

Next up, we will add some contrast to the engraved parts because they look a little boring right now.

I like to use speed paints from Army Painter for this. These specialized paints are very thin and can be used to add grime and dirt to props but they can also be used to add some dark color to recesses. Choose a colder color for this to get a nice, realistic effect.

I opted for a dark purple.

speed paint used for adding the wood grain effect to the treasure chest

Apply some of the paint with a paintbrush and make sure that the paint seeps into every recess.

Applying speed paint to the chest

Then use some tissue paper or a sponge to remove some of the paint and only leave the paint inside the recesses.

Removing some of the speed paint on the surface

You can also dip the tissue paper in some water if you are having trouble removing the paint from the raised areas.

Here, you can see a side-by-side example of how the engraved part looks with the speed paint applied and how it looks without it.

Treasure chest difference between the wooden engraving effect with and without speed paint appplied

Normally, the original base coat gets a little darker but we will use some dry brushing later to add some highlights to the areas that lost some of their color in this step.


Now we will add some highlights to the chest to increase the contrast further and to simulate some natural wear and tear on the chest.

Use some regular acrylic paint mixed with a few drops of water for this. Even though it is called dry brushing, we want our brush to be a little damp. You should choose a very light color for this. I chose a bright green.

Add some paint to your brush and then remove most of it on a piece of paper until only a little paint is left on it.

Then run over the chest in select areas to add a highlight.

Dry Brushing Paint on Wooden Treasure Chest scaled.

And here is how the effect looks once it is applied to the entire top of the chest.

Results of the dry brushing effect

You can see that the wood grain is now very visible and noticeably darker.

Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create interactive props and puzzles for Escape Games and marketing agencies. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.

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