DIY 5 Gallon Bucket Project STARting Point

Basics & Layout

Bucket Basics «— (Start Here)
Plus These Essentials Below ↓
Intro to 5 Gallon Bucket Projects
Where To Get Free Buckets
Make A Bucket Base Layout Template Tool
Make A Circular Layout Template For A Round Bucket

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Bucket Basics

First understand that a five gallon bucket is not a 5 gallon bucket all the same. There’s different materials that they are made from; apart from some being made from metal, aluminum, or even wood; even some of the plastics are different, so much so that it is enough to make some projects unpractical for the given intended use. It’s important to note that most projects made with these kinds of buckets are the food grade HDPE 2 type, even when the end project will not be used for storing food or water. It’s perhaps ironic that the food grade buckets tend to be stronger for utility usage. Metal and aluminum buckets are seldom used because they are easily dented, may rust, are noisy when used for hunting and fishing, and the metal would conduct electricity which is generally not desired for most projects.

Five 5 Gallon buckets sold at stores and checking food grade on bottom of bucket

5 gallon buckets such as these are often at the front of stores such as Home Depot** or Lowe’s**.  Be sure to check the bottom of the bucket for additional info.


Measurements and Layout

There is only one universal denominator as far as measurements of 3½, 5, and 7 gallon buckets go; and that is the size of the top opening rim, which is approximately 11 and ¾ inches wide. This is done as a mutual benefit among the different manufacturers so that various lids, seats, and other accessories fit their bucket. Another common yet not universal denominator is the size of the bucket bottom base, although this is known to vary slightly depending on the manufacturer. The bucket height (measurement from bottom base to opening rim) is not an exact common denominator among manufacturers. The term “5 Gallon Bucket” is not considered to be an exact measurement as far as the bucket itself goes, but more like a reference. And when talking about “Five Gallon Bucket Projects,” including 3½, 6, 7, and 7½ gallon buckets into the mix of jargon are known misnomers, but an accepted form of reference on the general topic.

Thus, the phrase: “Measure twice, cut once”… applies to 5 gallon bucket projects as much as any other type of project. Measure those buckets!

Bucket measurements

With the exception of the top opening rim, “5 Gallon” buckets measurements vary. In the above photo, the Lowe’s** brand bucket measures 14 and 1/4 inches tall, while the Home Depot** brand bucket measures 14 and 1 tick past the half inch mark. Also notice how you can stack a Lowe’s brand bucket inside of a Home Depot brand bucket, but a Home Depot brand bucket can not be fully and properly stacked inside of a Lowe’s brand bucket.

You can quickly find the center line of circular layout using the below technique…

Center line cardboard cutout layout for five gallon bucket DIY projects

Often you can find a circular piece of cardboard that just so happens to be the same size as a bucket rim or base; regardless though, you can just trace such with a piece of cardboard and then cut it out with a pair of scissors. Then, you can just fold it in half to quickly layout a center line if your project calls for such.

More layout techniques


bucket selection
Proper bucket inspection is crucial for selection in making quality DIY bucket projects. Nicks and cuts on the rim could cause swiveling impairments, and/or poor lid closure.

Aside from choosing the color, lid, material, it is crucial to inspect each bucket for quality control.  Inspect and select your buckets especially paying particular attention to the opening rim.  If you have nicks or cuts in the rim, it will impair any potential swiveling action, such as that of a swivel seat.  And will potentially cause poor lid sealing and closure qualities.


Using adhesives is generally not the preferred joinery method for most bucket projects.  It is difficult to create a strong bond with glue type of adhesives onto the synthetic plastics such as HDPE 2 and other surface films.  Such adhesives have been known to peel off of the plastic buckets.  However, sometimes it may be the only practical choice depending on the project.  And if applied correctly, can in fact hold a fairly strong bond.  Also, adhesives can be used in bucket projects as a temporary holding technique to apply another joinery method and/or to assist another joinery method.  Furthermore, glues and adhesives can be used as filling agents between gaps of different materials.

7 and 5 Gallon Bucket preferred glues/adhesives for DIY project working

Though glues don’t normally stick well to HDPE 2 plastic buckets, of the various glues and adhesives that AW has tested in working with bucket projects, 2 particularly stand out. The Loctite** brand Power Grab Ultimate**, and the Liquid Nails** brand Fuze It** all surface adhesive – have had the best bonding effect to 5 and 7 gallon buckets that we’ve tested thus far.

An adhesive that generally bonds great to most surfaces for most DIY projects such as the PL Pro Line** brand construction adhesive did not bond effectively to HDPE #2 buckets in our tests.  Of course, this is only necessarily true when the bonding target is the bucket surface itself.  If you are gluing separate components that will later be joined to the bucket/s, then the best adhesive will be whatever bonds best to that particular material’s surface.

Also keep in mind that in some cases, it may actually be desired that there is not a strong bond of surfaces, such as when a part or material is only needed for a temporary bonding.

Painting Buckets

Though it is now possible to spray-paint plastic buckets with the new type of spray enamels and plastic primers, it is not generally recommended.  When you think about the time and the money, it is nearly always a no-brainer.  Yes, you can buy the cheaper ad-printed buckets such as the Home Depot**, Lowe’s**, or Wal-Mart** brand buckets and paint them to your desired color; but you’re not saving money and certainly not saving time.  If you buy a bucket for $ 3.00, and then buy a can of spray paint for $ 4.00 (and hopefully that can will cover the entire bucket externally) are you saving any money than by just buying a colored bucket?  And do you want it painted internally as well?  That’s not an easy thing to paint.  Nearly always the better option is to buy the color of bucket you desire if it’s available (and nearly every major color is available) if your project requires a colored bucket.

Intro Tutorial to Five Gallon Bucket Projects

Where To Get Free Buckets

Essential Bucket Working Templates and Strategies:

Make A Bucket Base Layout Template:

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