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DIY Project for Your Pickup Truck

This DIY project for a sliding cargo tray will give you plenty more DIY storage.

| July/August 2017

  • Install a cargo tray that slides out so you can load and unload what you need without having to climb into the bed or do the belly balance leaning over the bedside.
    Photo by Bruce W. Smith
  • The author’s supplies, including the set of heavy-duty Hettich drawer slides, Titebond III wood glue, and more.
    Photo by Bruce W. Smith
  • Cutting the plywood to size.
    Photo by Bruce W. Smith
  • Rabbet joints offer ample surface area for the glue.
    Photo by Bruce W. Smith
  • Routering the tie-down holes for maximum utility.
    Photo by Bruce W. Smith
  • Ron attaches the front board to the slide-out cargo tray.
    Photo by Bruce W. Smith
  • Positioning the slide onto the tray, after application of Rust-Oleum.
    Photo by Bruce W. Smith
  • It’s an optional step, but drilling a lockpin hole into the drawer slides ensures the tray won’t slide open in transit or unexpectedly.
    Photo by Bruce W. Smith

Pickups are a wonderful tool for the farmer, homesteader, homeowner, or anyone else who needs a people-moving vehicle that can also handle transporting goods and materials. The bed is a huge open cargo space that will handle just about anything you want to throw its way.

If there’s a downside to a pickup’s cargo-carrying attributes, it’s trying to reach the smaller things put into the bed. There’s some mysterious force that always places the item we need just out of reach when we get to our destination, so we have to drop the tailgate and hop into the bed to get it. I don’t know about you, but doing that gets old after a while, especially if you drive a pickup that has any type of lift on it.

A practical solution to such a dilemma is installing a cargo tray that slides out so you can load and unload what you need without having to climb into the bed or do the belly balance leaning over the bedside. There are commercially available cargo slides built from aluminum and stainless materials. They are fancy, well-designed, and most cost more than I’d spend on gas in six months.

I’m of the mindset that building something yourself that works just as good as something store-bought, and saving hundreds of dollars along the way, is a much better alternative. My friend Ron, a homesteader who is a talented woodworker, is of the same mindset. So we came up with a simple sliding cargo tray based on nothing more than the drawers you find in your kitchen or shop.

The only difference is this tray, which measures roughly 36 inches by 44 inches by 4 inches, is custom-made from 3/4-inch plywood to fit in the bed of a full-size pickup (or SUV). The total cost of materials is about $125, and less if you already have a half-sheet of plywood and some angle iron lying around. What’s nice about making your own sliding cargo tray like we did is it can be made to whatever size you want to fit a pickup, SUV, or even the cargo area of an RV, using whatever quality of tray material and slides you want.

We kept this one simple and cheap except for the most important part: the slide mechanisms that support all the weight when the tray is slid out over the tailgate. Most full-extension slide mechanisms found at DIY centers are 18 inches to 24 inches, but they don’t have a high load rating or the length needed for pickup applications, so you may have to look toward stores that specialize in cabinet making, or shop online like I did.

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