Instructables
Picture of Build a Woodworker's Toolbox
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If you're a mechanic, finding a toolbox is no problem - there are dozens on the market, from huge roll-around shop cases to small metal boxes. Framers, plumbers and electricians are well served, too, with everything from pickup-truck storage to toolbags and belts. However, if you're a shop-bound woodworker, the picture changes. There's simply little out there that suits the range and variety of hand tools most woodworkers like to have nearby. For those who refuse to make do with second best, there's only one solution - build a wooden toolbox designed expressly for a woodworking shop.

Of course, building a case for your fine hand tools is more than a practical solution to a storage problem. It's an opportunity to fine-tune and show off your woodworking skills. Our design is based on an early 20th century Arts & Crafts theme and features traditional frame-and-panel construction and hand-dovetailed drawers.

This project was originally published in the January 2001 issue of Popular Mechanics.  You can find more great projects at Popular Mechanics DIY Central.
 
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Step 1: Build the case, part 1

Picture of Build the case, part 1
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Joint and rip the leg blanks from 11⁄2-in.-thick cherry stock, and crosscut each piece several inches longer than the finished dimension. Then, cut the rail and mullion blanks in the same way. Cut 1⁄2-in.-thick cherry stock to size for thee and mullion blanks in the same way. Cut 1⁄2-in.-thick cherry stock to size for the toolbox panels.

Lay out the mortises in the leg blanks so there’s extra waste stock beyond them at the ends. To ensure uniform positioning, clamp the pieces together and use a square to mark across them. Then, lay out the mullion mortises in the rails.

Set up a plunge router with a 1⁄2-in.-dia. spiral up-cutting bit and edge guide, and rout most of the waste from each mortise (Photo 1). Note that the extra length at the ends of each blank supports the router base for these cuts. Then, rout the mortises in the top and bottom rails. After routing, the mortises will have round ends. Square all mortise ends with a sharp chisel (Photo 2).
Readjust the router bit depth and cut the panel grooves in the legs, rails and mullions (Photo 3). Then, lay out and rout the stopped rabbets for the plywood inner sides, and square the rabbet ends.
Mike J18 days ago

I just made a 3D model of this in Sketchup and copied the parts list over into Excel. I'm planning on using these to make this, but figured I'd share the model in case others want it.

https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model.html?id=u3d...

The Butt joints are hard enough but at least they're concealed. The Dove tails ?????

Really how many wood workers today can make quality dove tails. It's an art or a craft that very few would have.

The fact that you have chosen imperial units of measurement and the results you get clearly indicate that you sir are a seasoned craftsman.

I think this project is well beyond the abilities of the average hobbyist.

Personally, with all the modern bonding agents I would choose anything over dove tails. Some time setting some templates and a power tool would so much easier.

All in all, an excellent build. The best I have seen for a long while.

Dovetails are a sign of a craftsman but they are not that difficult to make if you are careful. Of course they are even easier with one of the many jointing jigs available these days. Don't be put off, give it a go. Lovely box and well made.

I used to feel dovetails much as you do - that dovetails were beyond the ken of mortal men. Now that I've learned to cut them I'd say they were on par with learning to weld or solder. If the first time you try it you're working on something very important to you, you're making a terrible, terrible mistake.

There's lots of advice on how to cut dovetails out there. Here's advice on how to learn to cut dovetails.

0) Read and watch a bunch of videos. There's a ton of them out there. Be prepared for people to disagree on how things are done as there are like five ways to do everything in woodworking. When people get all religious about pins first or tails first, feel free to roll your eyes.
1) Get a decent saw for cutting dovetails with. Most straight back saws are too big and have too few teeth per inch. The Craftsman folk will sell you one for less than $10 that is good enough to get started, but you get what you pay for. Ideal a 14-20 tpi saw filed for rip cutting is what you want. A decent chisel or so is also necessary. A coping saw can be handy too.
2) Keep your tools sharp. Learn to make a chisel to where you can shave your arm with it. Rip saws sharpen different from cross-cut saws. That matters.
3) Practice. As I said, just like with welding or soldering don't start with a project, start with scrap until you get good enough that you can produce reasonable results. I got a cheap pine 1x4 (pallet wood would have been fine) cut it into 4" pieces and every night cut a set of three tails and four pins.
4) Don't worry too much about layout while you're practicing. The only line that is critical is depth of cut. Uniform angles and spacing are nice, and when you are doing a real project it makes sense to lay them out just so, but for practice? Meh. Anywhere between 10-25° is good enough as you're mostly learning control. If you want to build or buy a little jig or use a bevel gauge, it won't hurt, but it's not necessary  to learn to cut.

Nice project, thank you for showing us a nice box!
Austringer, I like your reply. It's gentle and encourages learning a skill that might not take very long to do. You've inspired me to start trying dovetails by hand. I used to think a dovetail jig and a router were the only way I could do dovetails. Kudos to you, I'm convinced I should practice some patience and discipline and learn handmade dovetails. Thank you very much!

striker1498 months ago
could u make this into a tackle box too that would be pretty cool!
Ray Unseitig11 months ago
looks great.
Andy_Fuentes2211 months ago
Beautiful
bob303011 months ago
Beautiful job. I always love beautifully crafted wood crafts. Thanks for posting.
pfred211 months ago
I have the plan for this someplace. A plan to make something like it someday too. Years ago I slapped together a wooden toolbox out of scrap lumber I had kicking around my garage. I still use it. I have wanted to go all out so to speak one day though. That is if I don't run across a Gerstner tool chest for cheap first.