Want to build a boat or some furniture in your apartment or in some other nonworkshoppish space? I suggest having a toolbox-workbench. It will hold your main tools inside and even outside (intrigued?), hold your workpiece on top or on the side, and you can sit on it and at the same time -- yes! -- reach for your tools beause of its clever side-door. Four feet of your body can also lay on it (I used it sometimes as a weightlifting bench, but not so often, because lonely exercise inside a room never quite worked for me).

It is a perfect stool-height for sitting on, as well. Many a morning passed when I sat on it sipping coffee, looking out my giant sliding glass doors toward the comely retaining wall that was three feet away. Similarly, evenings passed when the toolbox-bench held up my plate of spaghetti as I sat on the floor pretending to be again a cool dude (well, I was never very cool) college kid who eats on the floor with the world to conquer ahead of me.

Though my conquered world was owned until recently by a landlord, and so much of my world of free time orbited that toolbox-bench (which I will tell you about any time now), I set my mind toward what could be yet accomplished if only I rejected the common measures of success that Cursed Ideology and Cussed Convention curses us with so often. And thus I pondered the comforts of a liberal education as I recalled what Hamlet said: "...I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space..." but I digress.

Though some will say, "Oh it's just a box, while waste the space of the kindly Instructables people?" I hope to gently prove otherwise.

PS: If someday you get a workshop, you can still keep the box. There is no physical law against the idea. I now have a basement shop and continue to find uses for my box, as I shall prove right now: the photo below shows the toolbox-bench in use even as I write this; it holds wood being edge-planed for my new ama for my second-generation outrigger sailing canoe; the toolbox bench is highly adaptable and functions well in either dire straits or spacious luxury.

PS 2: NOTE the stool to the right (or your bottom right if you are not holding your head sideways). It started as an anchor box with a padded seat-top for my cramped sailing canoe. I never used it much, and, inspired by the creative energy of Instructables, just this week I turned it into a fashionable padded stool. If I lose water pressure, I could put a pan inside it and use it as a chamber pot. More likely I would pee and poop outside, but I could offer it to squeamish guests who happen to be visiting when the world ends. Just a thought. I had two cups of coffee tonight, brewed with a dash of cinnamon, which, no doubt, people in California invented.

PS 3: Very very VERY observant readers saw another box in the back of the room and felt an echo as they did. Yes indeed, it has the same dimensions as the toolbox being considered now, but was built more plainly. It functioned as an extension in case I worked on very long wood (such as a mast). But most often it simply held my larger tools (grinder, small drill press, and small bandsaw, on top, and belt sander, electric drill, and jigsaw in the compartments).

Step 1: Build the Toolbox-Bench

Of course I have skipped many steps. In literature we call this starting "in media res" and because you are smart, you know what that means, and if you don't, you are still smart but also curious and always follow up on your curiosity.

So, starting in the middle of the action, here is your box. It is simple to build, so simple that I need not tell you how, really. You will probably make it out of standard 1x4 foot pine shelving wood from Home Despot (oo, did I misspell that? No.). I figured out after a while that I could have gotten the same good stuff inside if it had been only 3 feet long. I will post another Instructable about breaking the rules of physics, but for now, no need. There was air-space left over, and some of the space I used was for sandpaper, wooden wedges (always have several wooden wedges around), and etc., stuff that need not be in a toolbox if you really need a three-foot box (as when you live aboard a sailboat).

Here is how I ordered it: (1) Plastic kitchen boxes were used as drawers in the left and middle compartments. (2) On the left top and bottom I stored sandpaper, sharpening stones, wooden blocks for spacing and clamping, wooden wedges (always have several; you will find uses for them), and small to medium C-clamps. (3) In the middle bottom I stored boxlessly a bit-and-brace, crank-drill, drill-bit box, and a tool roll with chisels, with a little room left over. In the top middle I had lots of small things in a box that fit in that space perfectly including measuring tools, with some room left over. (4) In bottom right I had a joiner plane, jack plane, smoothing plane, and block plane, each laid on its side separated by wood strips glued in form-fittingly, some of which you can see. In top right I had long thin things such as 18 inch ruler, Japanese cross-cut saw, dovetail saw, some other saw, and enough room for other thin things such as a two bar clamps, so that I was thinking about a 1/4 inch thick subdividing shelf for them.

You see the very useful hold-down vise on top (slides into a T-nut or just a plain nut). This vise regularly migrates between the toolbox-bench and my big stand-up bench (now that I own a house, or rather, now that a bank owns my house). I keep the manufacturer's T-nut on the big bench and the plain nut on the toolbox for quick interchange. I recess the nuts in a hole to get them out of the way when unused.

Note that the toolbox-bench has a false top screwed down for easy replacement someday (still years away, so far). I sometimes wonder if I wrote secret messages to myself (like a time capsule) on the structural top underneath, to be discovered by me or my son or daughter someday, who knows? (I imagine them to be like Telemachus. If you know what I mean, then I respect you even more than I did before). Would I have been that foresightful?

Note also the cute toggle that holds the fold-up side door in place. I love simple fasteners like that, as well as toggles that fit through rope loops, and the way the ancient Vikings had ingenious quick-disconnects on their mast stays in case they had to bring their rigs down fast if caught aback and such.

Fastening things and unfastening things without wrecking things must be considered to be a primary human technology often lost in the archaeological record because the most important materials rotted.

You really must read Gene Wolfes' SF story "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" where the robot-grandfather makes the two kids lecture about the stone spearpoints they saw in the library, then you'll fully understand the paragraph above. Think "whole-world method," a word I just made up but a method first invented by literary scholars inspired by anthropology some time in the last century, but seeds were planted by the Russian formalists. Richard Feynman had a hint of it as well in a case of parallel evolution, just like a squid's eye.

Only the blind and earless gods know where this Instructable is going.
Seriously, as the pseudo (don't ask) only-child of a mechanic, I would date a guy who told me about his box. This is cool along the lines of Martha Stewart (whom I love, but in a different way) cool. The holes for clamps, the wheels, the vice, it's all so wonderful I could shed tears...
Thanks. Sure thing, a box for Martha Stewart's more rugged twin sister :-) What is not to love about practical boxes? They are the Swiss Army Knives of furniture if you build them with features that adapt to you and your space.
Given to understatement, I can only say "nice box, nicer prose." Well done, Sir.
very nice. how heavy does it end up when laden?
I never weighed it, but it was easily towed around or lifted. 30 to 50 pounds? The heaviest things in it were the planes.
hmmm i suspect i own more metal ended whacking sticks than you.... i'm still pondering making one, a bit sized up to hold the power tool cases, although with weight as a concern i'm not certain it'll remain stair portable. i suppose bigger wheels and bottom skids would help... hmmm... in wonder if the anvil is as bad an idea as it seems.... (small 20lb one with a nice horn and clamp....)
I must say this is an excellent instructable. Great idea for people like me who already have too much stuff in their living space.
Thanks, although this box would count as 'additional stuff. ;-) At least if you made it a bit differently, add your own touches and build it high-quality, it could look like just another piece of unobtrusive furniture. Benches are low-profile and can be hardly noticed under the right conditions.
Ironic how you made this instructable for people without workshops when the picture is clearly taken in your workshop! :-P
Not as ironic as fortunate: when I built the box, I had no workshop, nor did Instructables exist. Later I had a workshop, and also Instructables came to be. The only photos I had of the tool box was the one you can see on the first page of my "sailboat-in-a-closet" instructable, which you will find acceptably workshopless ;-) .
Excellent! Now I can have my workshop and keep the missus happy at the same time.. onyer mate!
Thanks for posting this :D I too suffer from crampedspaceitus with the side effects of 10lbs of fun in a 5lb room :P If I do end up building (really considering), I think I am going to use bigger wheels and make this trailerable behind my bike :D
Nice idea! How about two sets of wheels: small permanent ones for wheeling around the room, and detachable bike wheels for transport? Just pop off a cotter spring thingie and pull bike wheel axle through.
radiorental's name reminds me to add that you can design a toolbox-bench according to your lifestyle. I envision versions adapted for mechanical, metal or electronics work! I was thinking of a powercore version: box holds deep-cycle marine battery and required electronics; outside has outlets for various voltages; part of the top folds to reveal solar panel. Of course, leave enough room to sit on part of the top, and incorporate a draw for commonly used everfyday items. Live in a flat open area? A windturbine mast can tilt up (though rethink the sitting accomodations). Wheels and handle, as on the box discussed here, would permit wheeling around the room or yard to catch the best sun angle. MIT people can also design for you a motorized lateral third wheel timed to turn the box at the rate the sun passes through the sky. Some would say motorizing the solar panel is a better idea, but this sounds cool. --wt
this is a really awesome idea. I love it!

About This Instructable


129 favorites


Bio: If you read blogs, come vist mine: www.tristramshandy21st. blogspot.com where right now I am posting chapters of my humorous and philosophical nonfiction, "In ... More »
More by Wade Tarzia: Designing and building a light, car-top-able outrigger sailing canoe [8/20/15/update] Build a Short Dragon (16 foot 3-Board Outrigger Sailing Canoe) Hold Down Long Round Things with this Quickie Bench Loop-and-V Vice
Add instructable to: