Introduction: My Great Grandpa's Toolbox

Picture of My Great Grandpa's Toolbox

Every summer we would go over to my Great Grandpa's house out on his ranch and see what cool things he had. Unfortunetly he passed away in August of 2010. He had all these awesome compasses, hammers and all sorts of old tools that were fun to look at. We would really all just take a second and think, " Holy cow, tools have changed so much from 1890's to now". Actually just last week my cruddy cardboard toolbox (not really a toolbox) fell apart and I thought about building another one and, ta da, I was inspired to build an old-fashion toolbox in dedication to my Great Grandpa.

Warning: Tools are dangerous and don't forget to wear safety equipment.

Step 1: Get Your Design Together

Picture of Get Your Design Together

I'm pretty sure you can't build this without a design first so this step is the most important of all. You may need more height, width or length than me but you can follow my design if you'd like. This includes an optional set in tray that fits on a notch on the inside of the toolbox. Here is my design. Oh, and here are the measurements:

Length = 30 in
Width   =  11 1/4 in

Long Side:
Length = 30 in
Width = 8 in

Short Side:
Tallest height = 15 in
Smaller height = 11 1/4 in
Width = 11 1/4 in

Set in tray:
Length = 29 7/8''
Width = 9 3/8''
Height = 2 1/2''

Step 2: Materials

Picture of Materials


1  2"x12"x16' Southern Yellow Pine (treated)
1  1"x12"x6'    Knotty Alder
(I didn't have the 1''x12'' so I used my bisciut jointer to make 2 boards equal the width I needed)
1  1 1/8"x32''     Stainless steel dowel
A box of 2 1/4'' Stainless steel screws
Wood glue
Wood stain
Clear coat
Crown staples


Skill saw
Miter saw
Table saw
Crown stapler
Screw gun
1'' butterfly bit
1 3/8 drill bit


Surface planer
Biscuit jointer
Good attitude

Step 3: Cut and Plane Wood

Picture of Cut and Plane Wood

Cut your material to the design lengths and prepare for assembly. The option of using your surface planer here will result in a more accurate finished product later. 

Step 4: Notch for Tray

Picture of Notch for Tray

Cut a notch with a table saw (by adjusting the height of the blade) on the long sides of the toolbox like the pic. below and then the one after that. The first cut is 2 1/2'' deep. The second is 1/4''.

Step 5: Glue and Screw Pieces Together

Picture of Glue and Screw Pieces Together

Apply wood glue to the parts of the wood where it is necessary then screw them together.

Step 6: Cutting and Inserting Handle

Picture of Cutting and Inserting Handle

In this step you need your stainless steel dowel. You will be inserting it through a hole on both sides of the toolbox. Pics. below will show you how.

Step 7: Routing the Edges

Picture of Routing the Edges

I love the end result of a router. Routing the ends of the toolbox made it great. I suggest that you should too.

Step 8: End Caps

Picture of End Caps

End caps have to go on the end of the tool box where the excess pipe is to make it look good.
You can make these out of scrap Knotty Alder if you have some or just out of any other board. The dimensions of this are up to you. 

Step 9: The Set in Tray

Picture of The Set in Tray

I love this part of the project. The tray looks so good when it's inside of the toolbox. The measurements for your tray depend on what size you made your toolbox. This includesthe handle that was made from Knotty Alder. Again, you may follow my design.

Note: The length of the short sides of the tray will determine the width of your base.

Note: The board with the handle cut into it is placed of center becaude of the fact that there is not enough space to put your hand in and pull the tray out.

Step 10: Sanding, Staining, and Clear Coating

Picture of Sanding, Staining, and Clear Coating

.This the last step for assembly. Sand the parts where you want it to be sanded. Stain and polyurathane the entire toolbox, wait 2 hours and then it's complete.

Step 11: Load Your Tools Up

Picture of Load Your Tools Up

You're done. Now load your tools up in your old-fashion toolbox.


Oysteinsa (author)2016-10-16

Really nice!

JWaltLayne (author)2016-02-28

This is perfect. I've been making some old fashioned tools, mortising gauge, rabbet plane, draw knife, etc. thus will be a good place to store them.

Trike Lover (author)2015-01-06

I've been mulling over making one or more toolboxes similar to this pattern - I still have one like this I made in Grade 7 wood shop class. My thought was to make the box a bit larger and beef up the joints, etc. This is a very nice project, and I thank you for sharing. Gotta get busy and go make some sawdust....

Grim Man (author)2014-04-23

Love it. When I was helping to move my grandmother into a retirement village I was asked to do grandfathers workshop. His toolbox was a lot like this, but the handle has swing out end caps and the bar was threaded on one end. Took me a while to realise that it was for a bar clamp. One more tool, one less thing to carry.

Trike Lover (author)Grim Man2015-01-06

Now that's a really neat & inventive addition to what is already a very nicely executed and useful project. I was going to build a couple of these toolboxes, slightly customized for particular classes of tools (e.g. electrical, plumbing, general woodworing, etc., and now I'll add the bar clamp modification to each one.. I was also going to add a reinforced section in one corner to allow mounting a small clamp-on vise - this could also be made in such a way as to augment that. Many thanks for sharing.

Dr. Pepper (author)2012-11-26

Oh! I almost forgot. I would love to see an Instructable or some pictures of your toolbox when it's finished.

HunterBond (author)2012-11-25

I can't believe that no one has commented on this, but I wanted to say that is a very nice toolbox you've made there. Nothing quite like making something yourself, and exercising some craftsmanship to honor a Grandfather.

I'll be thinking of this and likely referring back when I finally get started on my own tool box.


Dr. Pepper (author)HunterBond2012-11-26

Thank you so much! A few people have commented on the intro page I believe. He was a great guy and I was glad that I could build something in honor of him.

average joe 1999 (author)2011-11-08


twhitfield (author)2011-10-30

Forgot to mention in my last comment that my box got extremely heavy as I kept adding tools. I ended up using a piece of seatbelt from a junk car to make a shoulder strap. It ruins the "old" look but makes it much more comfortable. I also added two strips of rubber from a floor mat to the at each end....screwed into the sides so the box sat on the rubber strips. I took mine into customers houses and this way I could set it on hardwood floors or counters without worry of scratching it didn't slide around in my truck as much!

Dr. Pepper (author)twhitfield2011-10-30

Cool! My toolbox is at least 50 lbs. I'm strong so I can move it around but not a very long distance.

twhitfield (author)Dr. Pepper2011-10-30

yeah...I carried mine with just the handle for a while but I found it was more a matter of being off balance than too heavy. All the weight in one hand and on one side. Give it a try! It's easy to do and if you don't like it it's easy to undo.

twhitfield (author)2011-10-30

A suggestion for a different handle...I made a box similar to this years ago and my grandfather suggested a 2' pipe clamp for the handle. My box was sized to fit a two foot level. The pipe clamp was sturdy and always there. Didn't need it often but there were times when I was glad I had it!

Dr. Pepper (author)twhitfield2011-10-30

Thanks! I really love your suggestion and might make another.

sunshiine (author)2011-09-09

I remember the contest. I though you had won 1st prize on this?

Dr. Pepper (author)sunshiine2011-09-09

Nope, didn't win anything. :( I was really disappointed.

Chumlee (author)2011-07-24

love it, gonna make it with my grandad :)

Dr. Pepper (author)Chumlee2011-07-24

Thanks! I hope it works out well! Oh, and make the tray a little smaller than the measurements if you are going to stain it and clear coat it.

Chumlee (author)Dr. Pepper2011-08-09

making it today, the only thing is how thick wood like deph ?? an is it heavy??
its much bigger than i expected !! :D

Dr. Pepper (author)Chumlee2011-08-12

Cool. Sorry I couldn't respond quickly because I was on vacation. What do you mean by wood depth? It is heavy. Yeah it's pretty large.

Chumlee (author)Dr. Pepper2011-08-13

thatss all right mate, ive made it an it looks great.... i did make mine abit smaller tho an i did the handle slightly different (i ran out of wood, lol ) really good project tho an i enjoyed making it :)

Dr. Pepper (author)Chumlee2011-08-14

Thanks, can you show some pics?

Chumlee (author)Dr. Pepper2011-08-22

certainly... mine was made on the cheap and havnt got round to varnishing it yet!!

Tupulov (author)2011-06-28

Well illustrated with complete measurements. WELL DONE!

Dr. Pepper (author)Tupulov2011-06-28

Thanks! Was there anything that I could have improved?

unaffiliatedperson (author)2011-02-10

good looking. i thought the picture was an oldie tool box that u were gonna restore and ruin.

Oh, cool. Thanks.

Grand-Pa (author)2011-02-08

Great job, nice looking box.Just a word from the wise. "P P E"
I noticed in a couple of pics the lack of personal protective equipment.
For instance concrete, bare feet and power tools don't mix well. If your tool would have had a short in it you just might have been joining your great grandpa.
I also noticed the guard was missing on your table saw. Saws do not know the difference between a piece of wood and your fingers. (BTW I am guilty of that one my self). My Dad had a chunk of his thumb chewed out by a saw once.
I couldn't see if you had safety glasses or hearing protection on so I'll trust you on that one. Just remember "SAFETY FIRST"!!
Still like your box though :)

Dr. Pepper (author)Grand-Pa2011-02-08


cdawisconsin (author)2011-02-07

Great job. Love the classic look.

Dr. Pepper (author)cdawisconsin2011-02-07


RDProgrammer (author)2011-02-06

The only thing I'd say is that rather than using a bit of scrap for the end caps for the dowel, you could put a hole through the dowel pre-insertion and then run a screw down through the end piece and into that hole. That would keep it in place AND stop it from rotating.


Dr. Pepper (author)RDProgrammer2011-02-07

Thank you. Very nice to know for next time!

tbcross (author)2011-02-06

really cool my pa had some like this and I love them thanks for the pattern, I think there may be some of these under the christmas tree next year!!

Dr. Pepper (author)tbcross2011-02-07


Creativeman (author)2011-02-06

Just saw your 'ible....front page, no less! Great instructable, and nice to remember your grandfather. Reminded me of the box I made 25 years ago, but which received little use...had a few jobs then where I needed it. So I dusted it off, took pictures and it's pretty similar, wouldn't you say? I like your finish much better, and I have built in storage for tri-square, pencils, drill bits, saws, and hand screw driver. For the handle, I used a piece of hardwood cut to about 1.25 inches square.

Dr. Pepper (author)Creativeman2011-02-07

Thanks! I like your toolbox too!

Techgirl-52 (author)2011-02-02

Sweet Toolbox! It looks very impressive! I'm glad it's a featured Instructable! :D
And the dedication to your Great Grandfather? Totally cool!

Dr. Pepper (author)Techgirl-522011-02-03


glorybe (author)2011-01-22

That box looks nice and sturdy as well.
If you want something even a bit more antique you might build another, very similar box called a walking tool box. The edge of one side is curved in such a way that the upper leg and hip don't rub against the box when you walk. The long tools, such as hand saws will flex enough to fit in the box.

Dr. Pepper (author)glorybe2011-01-22

Thanks! Nice to know.

GEESE GIRL (author)2011-01-12

dr.pepper1234 are you on

Dr. Pepper (author)GEESE GIRL2011-01-12

Why don't you ask me on my orangeboard?

GEESE GIRL (author)2011-01-10

hi dr.pepper1234 it is me geese girl are you on

Dr. Pepper (author)GEESE GIRL2011-01-10

I have an orange board you know.

HALOPLAYER101 (author)2010-12-18

That`s AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

Dr. Pepper (author)HALOPLAYER1012010-12-18

thank you

e3d3jg34 (author)2010-12-09

Beautiful toolbox. Great job!

Dr. Pepper (author)e3d3jg342010-12-09

thank you, glad you like. I love it too!

drewgrey (author)2010-11-25

Nice job. The biggest difference between your box and the one I use at work every dat (at the UW ) is that I have little lightweight cardboard boxes and tubes glued to the bottom for keeping stuff organized. Yours is much nicer looking but mine does have a great charlie the tuna sticker on it.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a young inventor and entrepreneur. I build stuff and make art when I have spare time but my main priority is to do ... More »
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