Sunday, March 7, 2021

Tool Chest Part I (Chest)

Several years ago, at beginning of my "career" of woodworking lover, I purchased a good book which title was: "The Toolbox book" written by Jim Tolpin. 

Is this a book that disamines all types of hand tool cases and between these the tool chests.

 I have always wanted to build one but I had never done it because after all I already had many storage systems in my small shop.

The opportunity for me was unexpectedly provided by the Covid-19 lockdown: not being able to reach my usual shop, I stocked up some wood and transported the necessary tools to be able to work by hand in the basement of our house. But where to keep the tools, considering that the place is quite humid and I didn't want to implement a new complete shop?

So I decided to build a tool chest. I built one of medium size, sufficient to accommodate a Jointer plane in length and capable of containing some sliding drawers in which to store the tools.

The construction scheme is the traditional one: case in a softer wood (fir) assembled by means of dovetail joints, a lid that I have structured in such a way as to be able to contain squares and saws and  the skirts built using a harder wood (beech).

As I do usually, I used hand tools for this project and I finished it with a home made casein tempera (milk paint) which was followed by a treatment with 50% mineral spirit boiled linseed oil.

A pair of large handles help to move the chest in case it is transported elsewhere even if the considerable weight calls for a stationary use, on a bench to be placed next to the carpenter's bench.


As can be seen from the drawing, the construction scheme essentially comprises 4 elements:
1) The main case
2) The lid
3) The sliding drawers
4) The revolving drill box



The chest is assembled by means of dovetail joints with the bottom inserted in grooves. I preferred this solution over simply nailing the bottom in place as in traditional way. The intent of the nails would be to replace quickly the bottom in case of failure or wear but this solution did not convince me due to the fact that the considerable weight of the planes could favor its detachment. In my case the fund is not replaceable so I had to bet on its resistance.

I used 18 mm fir single-layer solid wood panels, the ones we find cheap in DIY stores. They are perfect for the case, especially as this will be painted and the knots and various defects will be hidden under a layer of covering varnish. Even in the traditional tool chests "poor" woods were used for the construction of the box, especially pine.

The project starts

Cutting the grooves for the bottom

Rebating the bottom   

I prefer to cut a shallow rebate before cutting the tails: this will help me to tracing the pins and to close the joint in the inner side


Tracing the tails

Assembling test 


Test for the plane capacity


Case completed

Part 1: Case

Part 2: Lid

Part 3: Skirts

Part 4: Drawers and Runners

Part 5: Finishing 

Video and photo gallery 

Tool Chest Part IV (Drawers and Runners)


 Drawer runners  
The runners for the sliding drawers are made of beech.
The three drawers are of decreasing length from top to bottom. 
In this way it will be possible to insert and extract them freely 
as needed. The two lateral runners are therefore made with a stepped 

Building the beech runners


Roughing by rebating using a combination plane

Rifinishing by a rebate plane

each drawer slides on one of the edges

Drawer joinery

The drawers are also assembled with a dovetail joint.  
The tails are cut on the short sides. The bottom is inserted in grooves cut on the sides.


Cutting the bottom grooves

If necessary cut grooves for accomodate drawer dividers


The bottom is rebating to be able to insert it in side grooves

Across the grain the skewed rebate has no competitors

The drawer slides on beech replaceable elements

Tune up the drawer insertion by using a block plane

Sliding tests

Drill box 
The revolving box that contains the drilling accessories is initially made as if it were a closed box, then 4 perimetral elements 
and 2 closing panels, upper and lower.

The revolving drill box is made as a closed box

The lid is then separated by using a bandsaw


Handles will be used to facilitate the movement of the drawers.
The classic solution is to use small folding handles; 
in this case I opted for self-built handles inserted in the thickness 
of the drawer fronts.

A Hydraulic connector is used for obtain a ring screwed in the drawer front

Improvised tapping device

 The inner thread helps the finger grip during the mouvement

Part 1: Case

Part 2: Lid

Part 3: Skirts

Part 4: Drawers and Runners

Part 5: Finishing 

Video and photo gallery 

Tool Chest Part III (Skirts)


Lower skirts joinery

The skirts have the purpose of protecting the case from impacts but also of preventing it from disassembling in case of failure of the joints. Traditionally these elements were made of hard wood. I chose the beech which works well for the purpose; it is also quite easy to work so I was able to add some moldings that add an aesthetic note to the project.
The lower skirts are glued to the perimeter of the case and also joined with dovetails but with the tails positioned on the short sides, in the opposite way to what is foreseen for the case.

The upper skirts are glued and jointed at 45 ° with the joint reinforced by 6 mm pins, always placed in such a way as to contrast any failure of the dovetailed case.

The moldings were made using hand planes.


Piece squaring up


Assembling test 

Tracing and cutting the tails

The moulding is cut at 45°

A mitre 45° template helps to cut at the right angle

Gluing up the lower skirts


This is the upper skirt profile

The work begins by tracing by a marking gouge a deep mark that fixs  the rebate width; this will help us to guide the round plane

This mark guides the rebate plane used without a lateral fence; the first shots will be done keeping the plane in a inclined position toward the inner side of the rebate.  Then the plane will be kept to right angle and the rebate completed

Rebate completed

The rebate guides the round plane

Add a beading by using a Stanley 50

The upper skirts are glued up in manner of be kept several mms below the chest upper edge. In this way is possible, when the lid is closed, keep away the dust from tools

Part 1: Case

Part 2: Lid

Part 3: Skirts

Part 4: Drawers and Runners

Part 5: Finishing 

Video and photo gallery