The Maker gods recently smiled on me when a TechShop opened up only a few miles away from work.  One of the challenges of this new opportunity however has been organizing a tool kit that holds all my TechShop gear and can be grabbed at a moment's notice before leaving the house in the morning.  Traditional tool boxes offer plenty of large compartment space, but don't give much toward organizing and protecting the smaller items such as tablets, phones, wallets, keys, headphones, sketchbook, thumb drives, and badges that are likely to be part of any Maker's every day carry.  Smaller compartment organizers, on the other hand, offer lots of small part storage but don't have space to accommodate larger items.  This seemingly simple problem plagued me for months before I decided to build something of my own to fit my needs.

Long inspired by the Studley Took Chest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_O._Studley) I gravitated toward the idea of a tool kit with a wooden briefcase form.  Unlike the Studley Tool Chest, which has a specifically designed space for a set of finite tools, I need a flexible storage solution that can evolve along with the tools in the kit.  I also wanted something that could be used as a lap desk to sketch and draft on while sitting on the couch or in a public space without tables.  The concept I settled on was to create a suitable briefcase styled tool kit that combines old school woodworking craftsmanship with sleek minimalist aesthetics.  The end result is a portable lap desk and flexible tool kit that is equal parts function and beauty and of a level of quality that will easily outlast my own lifetime.

Due to the demand for a specific aesthetic and desire for robust high quality materials in this project I ended up custom machining both the front handle and inner lid stay hardware on this project.  Since the tools & materials required to create the hardware are so different from those used to create the wood case portion I have split the required tools and materials section into two portions.  Required tools and materials for this project are as follows:

Wood Case, Inserts, and Stock Hardware

Tools Used
  • Jointer
  • Planer
  • Table Saw with 40 tooth general blade and dado stack
  • Biscuit Joiner
  • Measuring Tape & Calipers (indespensable for getting accurate measurements and tool set ups)
  • Router
  • Rabbeting bit with multiple bearings for various depths
  • Multiple Flush Trim bits
  • Chisels & Mallot (multiple size options allows for greater efficiency and better end result for various areas being worked)
  • Marking Knife
  • Clamps (a box clamp or picture framing clamp will come in handy)
  • Laser cutter & PC w/ graphics software (used to cut lap desk insert and organization trays; could use a table saw, router, hand saw, or band saw just as efficiently)
  • Hand Drill & assorted drill bits (Forstner bits & twist or brad point bits)
  • Assorted screw drivers (to attach hardware to case)
  • Random Orbit Sander & sandpaper (150, 180, and 220 grit used for this project)

Required Materials
  • 1/4 sheet of 1/4" Walnut Plywood - G2S (Good 2 Sides)
  • Typically only available to buy in 1/2 sheet or full sheet quantities ($80-120 per full sheet)
  • 4/4 Walnut Hardwood ($6-10/BF; appx. 3 BF needed)
  • One piece 5" wide x 66" long will suffice as long as you don't make any mistakes
  • 1 Pair of #101 Soss Concrealed Hinges in Satin Brass finish ($20/pr)
    • (http://www.hardwaresource.com/hinges/SPECIALTY+HINGES/Soss+Hinges+and+Other+Invisible+Hinges/Soss+Light+Duty+Concealed+Hinges)
  • Qty. 2 of Woodcraft Medium Catch (brass plated) ($5.25/ea)
    • (http://www.woodcraft.com/product/2003743/2062/medium-catch-1piece.aspx)
  • Qty. 1 of Horton Brass half-mortise box lock (PN: LK-6) ($23)
    • (http://www.horton-brasses.com/store/locks/halfmortisebox)
  • Wood glue (Elmers or Titebond II)
  • Water based wood dye (medium brown)
  • 100% Pure Tung Oil
  • Paste Wax

Custom Brass Handle & Lid Stay

Tools Used
  • Mill w/ associated tooling (parallel set, center finder, center drill, 1/4" end mill, 3/8" end mill, and countersink)
  • Lathe w/ associated tooling (basic lathe cutter, parting tool, drill chuck w/ assorted drill bits)
  • Calipers
  • Assorted taps & dies (1/4-20 tap & die, 6-32 tap, 8-32 tap)
  • Metal cutting saw (cutoff saw, metal band saw, hack saw, etc)

Required Materials
  • McMaster Carr Alloy 360 Ultra-Machineable Brass
    • (http://www.mcmaster.com/#catalog/120/3766/=rhqv8k)
  • Appx. 4 inches of 1/8" x 3/4" bar stock (McMaster Carr PN: 8954K403)
  • 2 feet of 3/8" x 1/2" bar stock (McMaster Carr PN: 8954K294)
  • Appx. 1 foot of 3/4" rod (McMaster Carr PN: 8953K951)
  • Appx. 15 inches of 1/4" rod (McMaster Carr PN: 8953K45)
  • Appx. 6 inches of 3/8" rod (McMaster Carr PN: 8953K49)
  • Qty 1 - Brass Thumb Screw w/ 6-32 thread (McMaster Carr PN: 92421A144)
  • Qty 4 - 8-32 x 1/2" brass machine screws with Countersunk Head (Ace Hardware)
  • Qty. 4 - #8 x 1/2" brass wood screws with Countersunk Head (Ace Hardware)
  • Off the shelf 2 part epoxy
On a final note, disaster struck at the 11th hour of creating this Instructable when 3 weeks of my build photos evaporated into the ether due to a dead and unrecoverable micro SD card.  I sincerely apologize that a few steps are a slim on the visuals, but was able to recreate photos for many of the steps and am hoping there aren't too many holes in the overall instruction set.  Feel free to ask questions if more info is needed.

Step 1: Develop Requirements

Knowing that this portable tool kit would be used for a specific purpose I decided to develop requirements prior to designing in order to help drive certain decisions along the way.  My brainstorming session for the tool kit requirements yielded the following:

Functional Requirements:
  • Entirety of work surface should be flat with no obstructions that interfere with writing/sketching
  • Should be capable of opening 180 degrees to lay completely flat on work surface as well as lock at varying angles to support upright/titled reading position of tablet in multiple sitting postures
  • Organizational spaces should be tailored to contents, but not overly customized to be obsoleted by newer versions of contents
  • Overall dimensions should be roughly the size of a briefcase
  • All contents should stow securely to avoid damage during transport
  • Should have a latching feature to avoid inadvertent opening & spilling of contents
  • Should have a locking feature to protect contents when not in sight
  • Should have a method of supporting hands-free carry
  • Ergonomics should support use on a bench top as well as a lap desk for research & project development while being lazy around the house
  • All hardware should be flush mounted or recessed so that the cube silhouette is completely unmodified and the case can be set completely flat on any of the six sides
Should be capable of holding the following contents:
  • Tablet or Laptop
  • Cell Phone
  • Phone Charger
  • Head Phones
  • Keys & Wallet
  • Thumb Drive
  • Tape Measure
  • Work Gloves
  • Ear Plugs
  • Flashlight
  • Xacto Kit
  • Utility Knife
  • Safety glasses
  • Reading glasses/Sunglasses
  • TechShop badge
  • Pen & Pencil
  • Sketchbook/Moleskine
  • Drafting tools
  • Calipers
  • Tooling consumeables such as router bits, end mills, lathe tooling, countersinks, etc
  • Arduino and small electronics kit
  • Larger compartment for specialized hand tools such as planes, chisels, and marking gauges
<p>Mind = blown.</p><p>That is the most amazing wood work that I've seen in a very long time. Keep up the great work!</p>
<p>Thanks very much for the great compliment!</p>
<p>super awesome! Keep up the good work</p>
<p>Awesome project!</p><p>Great choice with the Soss hidden hinges too.</p><p>I noticed from the pics showing the front of the case there is a small gap btw the lid and the base - what happened? The rest of the case esp. the joinery throughout look perfect! Only mentioning it cuz Im some what of a perfectionist and that would bug me. Not meant as an insult or to take away from your craftsmanship though.</p><p>You guys in the US are so lucky to have those TechShops - I am so jealous. How do they get around the insurance issue - don't think that would fly here in Canada. If someone were to cut there finger off on a saw etc? Insurance must be extremely expensive.</p><p>The other great thing about this project is it can also be used for personal protection. Don't think a mugger would appreciate getting hit with a solid walnut case to the head lol ;~)</p>
<p>Thanks for the comment, and thanks for noticing the hardware selection. It took several weeks and lots of hardware samples to finally settle on a configuration that worked well. No offense taken as I think the perfectionist mentality is a prerequisite for this type of work. You definitely made me do a double take on the case sean, and I can see what you're talking about in the pictures. The seam is as straight as my table saw will cut; which is pretty damn straight because I use a Tenryu Gold Medal blade that leaves a mirror finish and doesn't require any sanding as long as the cut was made properly. I did notice that one of the store bought latches does hold a little more loosely than the other though which can allow for a slightly more prevalent gap to appear (on the order of a few thousandths of an inch) if anything inside the case is pushing outward. I think that the prevalence (or disappearance) of the seam in the photos is an artifact of the lighting and angle more than anything else. In person, the seam is uniform. This was my first go at trying to get studio quality photographs so I'll definitely pay more attention to those details next time.</p><p>I couldn't agree more about the luck of having access to a well equipped maker space like TechShop. It's still pretty new to me so my imagination and skill set will be trying to catch up to the available capabilities for quite some time. That's a good problem to have though. I'm sure the insurance policies are a little sticky, but basic safety training is required on the equipment prior to use. There's also a lot of momentum and excitement in that industry now which translates as $$ for the bean counters so the effort seems well incentivized on all sides. I wouldn't be too surprised if they open up shop in Canada pretty soon.</p>
<p>*case seam</p>
This is awesome! Well done!
I can tell you know what you're doing! Looks great!<br>Keep the posts coming!
<p>Thank you all for the comments. Very complimentary and they make me anxious to break off my next project.</p>
Are or were you air force. I noticed a remove before flight streamer in the pics. lol
<p>Haha. Good catch! I'm a civilian in the rocket business actually. The RBF flag is a souvenir from a previous launch.</p>
<p>Awesome great job Monolith!</p>
<p>That is a piece of art! You have inspired me to move my woodworking skills beyond the laser cutter.</p>
<p>Wow, this is gorgeous. Superlative work, sir. I love the handles.</p>
<p>Simple and beautifull!!</p>
I love this! Such a finished look -- fantastic job. Favourited!
<p>Appealling design and exellent completion</p>
<p>I have only registered to tell you that for me, this is the most beautiful wooden work I've ever seen. Good job, and please, continue with this wonderful work. Thanks.</p>
A work of art in every way, from the parts list to the last lick of wax.

About This Instructable


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Bio: An electrical engineer by trade and a creator by DNA, Monolith Fab is my outlet for a creative addiction a long time in the making ... More »
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