Instructables

Improved Wooden Toolbox - A new take on a classic

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I wanted to create toolbox that was strong, easy to build, cheap to produce and also had some style. But more than that, I wanted to use recycled materials and for the design to be different enough in a simple and functional way.

I feel like I succeeded.

There are quite a few tool boxes/totes which look similar to mine, but none that have the same versatility. Because of the two extended, parallel handles, I can easily clamp other items/cases to the toolbox--without it tipping to one side--and hold much more in one hand. The metal handles and a vice-grip pliers can also be used in a number of different ways.

The parallel handles also enable tools to be hung between the gap in creates, which allows it to hold more tools with easier access.

The two top cross-braces are spaced far away enough from the handles so a 2x4 or even a 4x4 can be rested on top and used to cut items if no other flat surface is available. The braces are skinny enough to be used for clamping. And if repeated clamping and cutting damage or dent the braces, they're the only pieces which use screws to hold in place and are easily replaceable if needed.

Most everything (except the previously mentioned four screws and polyurethane) was made using salvaged materials, making this project environmentally friendly and very cheap.

It's strong and probably took me two hours to build, over the course of two days.
 
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Step 1: Tool and Materials

Although I used a bunch of different tools, this toolbox could be made using only a jig saw and drill.

The material list is adaptable as well. I used 3/4'' plywood scraps because it fulfilled my design needs and that's what was available at the time. 1x6 pallet planks were my original wood of choice when I first envisioned this project.

The handle was made out of old, rusty rebar. I thought about using electrical conduit, but I liked the strong thinness and industrial/construction look of the rebar too much to change. The fact that the rebar was laying in the yard for the last ten years and was never going to be used was an added bonus. Wooden dowels, PVC piping or even threaded rods could be used as suitable alternatives.

Power tools I used:
Table saw
Miter saw
Router
Angle grinder
-wire wheel
-metal cutting disc
Drill
-thin bit for pilot holes
-paddle bit for handle holes

Materials I used:
plywood scraps
rebar
old nails
screws
polyurethane

Also used:
Table measure
Pencil
Goggles (for cutting)
Work gloves (for rebar work)




Step 2: Cutting

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What you want are:

(3) pieces of wood that are the same width
- (2) of those pieces should be the same length (ends)
- (1) will be the box bottom

(4) pieces of wood that are length of your box bottom PLUS the twice the thickness of the end material
- (2) should be thin
- (2) should be wider

How long and how wide you want these pieces to be will depend on your needs and materials.

As for my box, the measurements are, in inches:

Bottom (1) - 8 W x 13 L

Ends (2) - 8 W x 12 L

Sides, upper (2) - 1 W x 14.5 L
Sides, lower (2) - 3.5 W x 14.5 L

The dimensions of the sides can be played around with the most to reduce waste. Having two rails for the sides isn't even completely necessary, it just makes clamping possible and reduces weight slightly. Cutting the corners off the ends isn't necessary either, as it's mostly done for aesthetic purposes. I cut the corners because...well, that's how toolboxes look like. It's a classic shape that's easily recognizable and has stood the test of time. I feel it's what separates a toolbox from a box with tools.

With that said, the corners can be cut almost any measurement. I used the golden ratio as much as possible. Mathematicians/artists/architects have been obsessed with this ratio for thousands of years and say it's more aesthetically pleasing, so why not use it for an otherwise arbitrary cut.

If you decide to cut the corners using that method this website is very helpful. My golden ratio measurements are on one of the pictures.

The handle should be a few inches longer that the total length of the box (the length of the sides). I cut my rebar pieces to 16.75" to give me about 2" of overhang, which is all I needed to clamp my drill case, but I'd suggest anything from 3"-6" would be good. You should follow your needs.

Step 3: Drilling

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I always pre-drill any spot a nail or screw will go into to ensure the wood doesn't split. Make sure the bit is slightly smaller than the fastener itself. It can be a little tedious, but it's a lot less frustrating than ruining and having to re-cut another piece of wood. For the beginning woodworker, the satisfaction of knowing you did the best possible job with limited knowledge is kinda rewarding as well.

I put (3) pilot holes along the lower edge of both end pieces and into the box bottom.
and (4) pilot holes, two on each side for the lower side pieces
and (2) pilot holes, one on each side for the upper side pieces

For the four handle holes, I used a paddle bit that was the same diameter as the rebar. Put scrap wood under the end piece you drill into to reduce tear out on the other side. Find the center of the width and mark. Then strike a line across that's about 1" from the top. Then mark off an equal distance on both sides of the center line. Drill two holes on that end piece, then align it with the opposite end, trace the holes, and drill the second set of holes.

I drilled my holes 5/8" from the top and spaced 3/4" from the center line. Don't do this.

If I were to redo this project, I'd drill the holes 1" from the top and spaced 11/16" from the center line.

The toolbox is sturdy enough, but I'd feel better with an extra 1/2" or so of wood between the handle and edge.
The 11/16" seems like a small amount, but when both sides are accounted for, it results in a gap that's 1/8" smaller and it'd give the tools a little less wiggle room.

If your handle is made from something other than the standard sized 1/2" wide rebar I used, your measurements will be different and should be adjusted appropriately.




Step 4: Extras

I routed the edges with a chamfer bit. If I were to do this project again, I'd only do the top three edges of the end pieces--the edges most likely to peel/splinter from heavy use.

***If you want to stain your wood, now would be the best time. I liked the look as it is, so I didn't stain it.***

Then I sprayed polyurethane over every face. This is something I do recommend, but also not necessary.

I also coated the rebar with a rust resisting paint after cleaning the rust off with a wire wheel. I DO NOT recommend this--at least at this stage--before trying to squeeze the bar through the tight handle holes. Most of the paint right off and I wound up having to use the wire wheel to strip it clean again. Learn from my mistakes.

Step 5: Assembling

Pretty straight forward. Put fasteners (nails or screws) where the pilot holes are and squeeze the handle where handle holes are. I used nails for everything except the upper side rails, where I used screws. If I ever need to replace or adjust the rail, it could be removed fairly simply. Nails were used because I had a lot of them from dismantling pallets and didn't want to waste them. Think green!

The rebar was somewhat difficult to fit through the holes. Some pliers to help twist and a hammer to tap will makes this part of the process much easier.

Step 6: Conclusion

I'm happy with the final product as it does everything I need it to do and accomplishes what I set out to do.

But that doesn't mean it's perfect. Everything can be analyzed and improved.

Along the way, I pointed out small things I'd do differently and why. If you have suggestions, feel free to let me know.

And if you liked this instructable, feel free to vote for me as well :)

In any case, thank you for your time and good luck with whatever projects you might be working on.
pfred21 year ago
Looks like a fine tool tote to me. Good job!
bpoundah (author)  pfred21 year ago
Thanks. I've never put so much thought into design before.
It is amazing what we are capable of if we allow ourselves to do them. One of my favorite sayings is the only limits are the ones we place upon ourselves. I am working on a challenging project right now and I just got what I think is yet another brilliant idea for it myself as I drifted off to sleep last night. Now I'm happy I procrastinated and didn't do what I was going to do originally. So what I'm trying to say is it pays to put in that thinking time. After everything is all done the only thing that matters is the end results. Not how long it took you, or how much work you did etc. All of that is in the past and you are left with what you have. I'd rather do a few great things than a bunch of so so things. As others wiser than me have said, anything worth doing is worth doing right.

So keep on thinking, designing, then choosing the best you can!
r_harris21 year ago
Good recycling! If the rebar gets to be too much for your hands (which may depend partly on the state of calluses and partly on how often you wear gloves), you might try a string wrap to soften the grip.
bpoundah (author)  r_harris21 year ago
That's a good idea. The rebar isn't too tough after cleaning it with the wire brush but the skin on my hands are pretty baseball glove-like :P