Introduction: Tool Box Tote
In this tutorial I will be making a tool box or tote out of scrap wood I have found in the bins at the local Chandler TechShop over a period of time. Other than the nails it is 100 % recycled wood. It did not take me more than a couple of days to amass enough wood for about 4 of these. Construction time depends on the level of skill. It took me about two hours spaced over several leisurely days to get it to the final stage. The handle is not installed because the hole saw in that size is currently missing from the kit, but when it is found it will probably take minutes to make the holes and run the round handle in position.
Enclosed are construction pictures and a PDF template for the end pieces together with a 3D PDF of the model. Not many know this, but Adobe PDF reader is capable of interpreting 3D drawings, and clicking on the image while holding down the Left button will allow the viewer to rotate the part in any direction. Quality is not as crisp as a dedicated 3D program but enough to get an good idea.
The dimensions shown are just for guidance, and I used them because I had some pieces of wood that were about that size. Feel free to adjust any dimensions to suite your scrap pieces :)
I made it at TechShop Chandler, techshop.ws.
Step 1: Materials
Try to get hold of some pieces of wood that resemble the picture. Plywood is a good choice and is found more readily than solid wood. Also it is more uniform and lighter. MDF is on the heavier side of the spectrum I do not really recommend it as the edges need special fasteners because of their tendency to crumble. Same with Particle Board. Best material for bottoms and dividers is tempered hardboard anywhere from 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
Whatever you choose for the handle try to get it a couple of inches longer, it will help with rigidity and the stresses of a heavy load inside the box.
Step 2: Other Shapes
A simple search on the internet will reveal more Tool Box ideas than anybody has space to store them. I have made some heavy duty ones that when put side by side with a plank on them can hold me up (I'm 6.4 and 240#)
Depending on what you plan to put in the box should dictate the shape and design. Make a couple out of cardboard cut on the laser or by hand and put together with some tape. Metal totes are common also but require other skills and materials, I'll make some in a future tutorial.
Step 3: Collect Some Scrap Wood First
There is all kinds of usable wood in the wood shop scrap bins at the Techshop, I found useful pieces also near the lasers where thinner plywood that I use for bottoms and dividers can be found. Some of the wood has irregular shapes so, using the table saw I squared off the odd shaped ones that usually came out of the ShopBot area. I used the table saw with the regular fence and also the Cross Sled, Some smaller pieces were cut with the slide saw. At this stage you can cut the long sides to the final sizes. Get some of the smaller scrap pieces also, as they can be used later to set and test cuts. I also got some Corrugated Cardboard to test the end pieces for the right shape.
Here are the pieces I ended up with
Step 4: Make Some Sort of Template for the End Pieces.
A template is useful especially if it is as a PDF. A downloadable PDF is included with the tutorial. Feel free to take it, and using the software available at the shop (Illustrator etc) modify it to suit the wood you have. I actually cut the shape out of cardboard on the laser cutter and used it to trace the shape onto the end pieces. Cardboard is cheap and just sits around doing nothing so why not use it :).
Once you are set on a shape and size you like, take the future two end square pieces and fasten them together sandwich style using the plastic fastener gun used for the Shop Bot, or some double sticky tape, or the ole' glue gun just on the edges. I think that just three fasteners, one in the center of the round hole and the other two on the bottom edge corners is the easiest way. Position the template and trace the shape onto them with some fine point marker.
Step 5: Cut Out the End Pieces
Take the stacked pieces to the band saw and starting from the top of the shape carefully cut on the outside of the template lines. You do not need to be too precise but try to stay as close to the line as possible because it will save you time in sanding later...
Another method would be to cut the parts on the Laser, it is probably neater and work pretty good for a smaller design, but my end sides were 3/4 inch thick plywood and that was not a suitable solution for me. Plywood wasToo thick for a 40 Watt Laser it will probably generate a lot of smoke and end up with rather charred edges.
At this time it is a good idea to cut the hole for the handle as both stacked pieces are still together. Use a hole saw and the drill press or hand drill. If the handle material is some weird shape or size I suggest you use the fret saw. Symmetry would be maintained if pieces are cut together that way. My handle was a piece of wooden handrail about 1-1/8 thick.
Just about anything can be used including a hefty tree branch, a piece of pipe remnant from the metal shop or whatever else lays around for the taking.
Step 6: Sand Your Parts to Shape
Using the combination belt/disk sander get as close as you want to the template line drawn earlier. The scalloped sides cannot be sanded that way so you have to move onto the spindle sander. Choose a large spindle it will help speeding the process as more surface is abraded at once. Make sure band saw blade markings are gone, it makes for a better looking product.
If you already have the sides and bottom cut to size you can take any edge fuzz off at this stage. I recommend a small piece of sandpaper held in hand for that purpose as machines tend to actually take more than intended in a hurry...
Step 7: Cutting Grooves for Bottom and or Partitions
Next step is cutting the grooves that the sides and ends have. In my case, the bottom piece came from an old speaker enclosure and was exactly 1/4 inch thick. The sides were probably sold as 3/4 and 1/2 inch plywood but in reality they were slightly over that.
Using a smaller piece of scrap I made some test cuts to get the bottom groove positioned high enough usually about equal to the bottom plywood thickness. Next I made progressive cuts to sneak to the right width for the bottom. This groove needs to be as deep as the thickness, so I made it about 1/4 inch deep. The fit needs to be a sliding fit to aid in assembly and later, if humidity makes the wood expand and move it would allow for that.
Take your time and sneak onto the right size, as you can see from the picture. I made quite a few cuts in the scrap pointy piece shown. Once you get it right use the piece you made as a template to set the blade height and fence spacing for the grooves. It might be worth saving it for a future similar project when more scrap shows up :)
Use the saw to clean the waste strip in the groove, also a chisel can be used, I used both.
Step 8: Fine Tunning
By now you should have all the pieces cut approximately to size and all the grooves made. Try to put the parts together dry without glue or fasteners to see if they need any trimming. In my case I had to trim the bottom piece shorter and narrower in order to make it slide easily in and out of the assembly. I left it longer on purpose to aid with a precise fitting of the ends.
Getting the bottom right will help with squaring of the box in final assembly.
Make use of the measuring tools available and think twice before cutting. Identical pieces of scrap are hard to find, and a missed step can force you to change the design due to the dissimilar scrap available :)
Step 9: Final Fitting
Now that all the fine tuning is done, feel free to do one final assembly. Using plenty of clamps practice the best and fastest way of assembly. Any last minute mods can be done here. The middle compartments can be added here like in the 3D drawing, if that seems like the thing to do do not glue them in final assembly. They can be made removable that way.
My Tote is built without dividers because I want to put some long tools inside.
If you have certain tools or small bins that are to be nested inside now is the time to get these fitting issues sorted out.
So, if you are happy with the outcome so far, make a note of the assembly sequence and disassemble your tool box. Lay out the parts, tools and clamps in a logical sequential manner, as to help the assembly flow and not fumble in the middle of the process.
Step 10: Glue the Box
I use Titebond glue on my wood projects and it is plenty strong. It is readily available everywhere and it is also at our TechShop in small bottles. One bottle is probably enough for 20 of these Tool boxes, and then some...
Use a small brush or even a scrap stick to put glue on the edges of the ends and sides. A little goes a long way. Assemble the box on some scrap cardboard as to protect the tables.
Put one end and the two long sides together and clamp them square.
Make sure there is no glue on the grooves as this will not allow the bottom to float freely within the assembled box, in case of high humidity. Here in Arizona that is not that much of an issue, but other places have more of it than we do. If some glue gets on the grooves it is not a big deal, just wipe it of with a wet paper towel or something.
Now slide the bottom into place. The bottom helps with squaring of the box. Put the other end on, and clamp the whole assembly crosswise and lengthwise. Use a square to see if everything is as it should be (SQUARE) and shoot some finishing (3 or 4) nails per side on the 4 edges to set everything. Do not nail too close to corners as to not have nails sticking out because they were shot too close to the edges.
Clean any glue Squeeze Out with a wet rag of paper towel and set the whole assembly aside to dry overnight.
Step 11: Finishing
With the box all put together we can now look at finishing it. Round off any sharp edges with some sandpaper and also give it a light sanding all over with the palm sander. This will help smooth and hide imperfections and any markings that were visible. After all it was made out of discarded stuff...
Also, scrape or sand off any glue runs as they will not allow stain to penetrate if that is chosen for a finish. A stain will keep the natural look of wood and will hide the fact that the box might be made from different shades and grains of woods. That is likely the case, since it was scrap made...
Now, one can look forward to some embellishments. Wood can be finished in a variety of ways: varnish, stain, paint, Laser engraved, gem stones, gold leaf etc ...
My box is not decorated yet, as my 6 year old daughter will be in charge of that. She is going to take some time...
The easiest way to give the box some protection is to coat it with some cheap water borne varnish available at any store for a couple of dollars in a spray can. Polyurethanes are available in a huge variety, and one trip to the home improvement store can be a good idea.
It is also useful to line the bottom with something to protect it from tools, or what have you thrown in there. Some thin foam or cardboard would suffice. That way, when it gets dirty or damaged,. you can replace it cheaply and easily.
I hope you have learn something from this tutorial, and if you have chosen to actually make a similar box you will soon realize that you are now ready to make several more complicated ones. Try a modular approach so they can all fit together in a similar space.
A simple search on the Internet under "Wooden Tote" or "Wooden Tool Box" will bring forth hundreds of ideas. Use Autodesk Inventor to tinker with different designs and variations before cutting actual wood. You can also color your creations virtually and even photo render them.
The 3D PDF will work if you save the file then open it with a Adobe PDF reader. In fact it is a good idea if you save all the files first as the PDF reader built in the browsers is rather weak...
I hope you have fun making your ToolBox Tote