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 

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