Creating a truck bed storage system is a good learning project that is popular throughout the USA. This may provide for additional local income from Facebook Marketplace sales or Craigslist commissions.
The first step is to take measurements of your truck bed. This is a crucial first step in this process as all truck beds differ slightly from year to year and model to model.
First measure the length of the truck bed from the tailgate to the cab. This will determine the maximum length of the storage unit you can build. Keep in mind how much clearance you want when the tailgate is closed versus open.
The width of the truck bed from the inside of the wheel wells is next (think about if you would like to design around or above the wheel wells). This will determine the maximum width of the storage unit you can build. Look for things like protruding steel members as you measure and note their locations and measurements. Try to leave some space between your ideal modeled design and the dimensions you measure.
Finally measure the height of the truck bed from the floor to the top of the sides where the tailgate meets. This will determine the maximum height of the storage unit you can build (also consider the thickness of added things such as a mattress pad). If you are going to use a bottom piece of wood as a base then you need to add that thickness to your overall height measurement. This can be a good idea as most truck beds are not completely flat on the bottom and thus this may throw off your ability to get your top level. To save on cost consider using OSB for the bottom base layer and a birch plywood for the components above.
For material there are a few options that will work for this project.
We recommend either 3/4″ or 1/2″ plywood because it is strong, durable, and resistant to moisture. It is also fairly well priced and available at any big box hardware store.
In addition to its structural properties, plywood is also resistant to moisture and rot, making it a good choice for areas where it may be exposed to wet conditions. It can also be finished with paint or a protective stain/sealant.
The other option would be 3/4″ MDF but this would require some kind of either paint or seal to make sure you kept the moisture from warping the material.
We recommend the 1/4 compression router bit for your plywood. This will ensure a smooth cut on both the top and bottom.