Introduction: Tool Cabinet

I built this cabinet to meet a need - I don't have space for a workshop, so I needed a discreet alternative. This cabinet which sits in our carport area provides comfortable space for many of my tools, and along with a folding worktable (not featured here) provides a usable alternative. So I'm going to guide you through the process I took to make this cabinet. You will undoubtedly take a different path to me, either subtle or not, but however you decide to build yours this instructable will provide you with a guide to building your own outdoor tool cabinet.

Basic Materials Needed:

This will depend on what you need and how you build it. For this specific cabinet I used :

  • 6 sheets of recycled 3-ply (it's thin, so I doubled up the sheets to make the equivalent of 6-ply, so you might want to use a thicker plywood or suitable MDF)
  • An abundance of screws
  • Planks to frame the cabinet (I used item 3 in this list (click view the image) basically, I used the wood as-is, and measured the cabinet around the available wood. You will have to work out what is appropriate for you to use to meet your needs)
  • 6 hinges (minimum)
  • Plastic feet
  • Padlock & Latch
  • Old tools for 'crossed-swords' emblem
  • Keep your offcuts, you can use them for shelves and hooks etc in the doors!

Basic Tools Needed:

  • Circular Saw
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Glue

Click here to view my blog posts regarding this cabinet, though I do prefer to call it my tool-shed, even though it is quite small!

Step 1: Constructing the Box of the Cabinet

You don't need framework for this cabinet if you are using wood like this because it is thick, solid, and quite strong.

My cabinet is measured based on the quantity of wood that I could afford at the time, and the available space. Remember, this is not a guide to reproducing my cabinet, it is however a guide to building your own that meets your own specific needs, so I am not including measurements in this Instructable.

The cabinet will be squared up when you attach the back panel later. All screws were pre-drilled and countersunk. Glue all joints with a suitable exterior glue.

I inserted a single shelf at a suitable height, like a standing worktable, which helps to make the cabinet more rigid.

Step 2: Adding the Feet

For a cabinet of this size use at least six of plastic feet underneath to lift it off the floor. I made the mistake of not painting the bottom of the cabinet before adding the feet, I suggest that you should, and that you should probably use some kind of sealant as well.

Step 3: Squaring Up and Adding the Back Wall

The structure was squared and then two sheets of recovered 3-ply were nailed onto the back of the cabinet. You don't need a large square for squaring up the cabinet, just use a measuring tape and compare diagonal measurements top to opposite bottom and adjust as needed.

This plywood was already painted white on one side because it had formerly been used as wall sheeting.

If you are going to use a shed style roof as I did then make sure that the back wall is at around 30cm longer at the top.

  • Tip: If you are doubling up thin ply like I have then I suggest using a good amount of glue between the sheets. Glue and nail one sheet down onto the bottom and sides first, apply glue on the face of the sheet, and then nail down the second sheet.

Step 4: Preparing the Wood for the Door Frames

If you are cutting up your planks to frame the doors and top of the cabinet then follow this step:

  • Cut the planks into equal widths of no less than the width of the tools you intend to store in the doors, to make the door frames, and the crossbars installed to square up the top.

If you want to purchase wood that is pre-cut for you, or off-the-shelf, just make sure that it is no less in width than the width of the tools that you intend to store in the doors.

Step 5: The Top of Your Cabinet

You have free choice here as to how you want to build the top of your cabinet, here are two choices:

  1. If you just want a squared of top then either use a solid piece of wood as you did for the bottom and sides.
  2. If however you want it to look a little more like a shed, as I do, the use some of the wood prepared for the door frames to frame up the top of the cabinet, after all, there is no reason why the roof area cannot also be used as internal storage right!

Step 6: Constructing the Doors

Cut the wood that you set aside for framing the doors. I suggest making the top and bottom pieces full-width of the door, with the vertical pieces cut to match the height of the cabinet minus the thickness of the top and bottom pieces. Again, glue the frames together, pre-drill and counter-sink the holes for the screws.

Cut some plywood to cover the doors on the outside only, so that they can be used for storage.

Note: When I first built my cabinet I made the mistake of only using one piece of 3-ply per door, which turned out to be too weak, so after several months of use I decided to add a second piece to each door, and this has worked nicely. Again, this tip only applies if you are using thin plywood like I did.

Step 7: Attaching the Doors

Recess the hinges into the wood as appropriate for the hinges you have chosen, on both of the doors and the cabinet. I used only two hinges per door, but I think three would be better.

Step 8: Making It Secure

Firstly the latch. It needed small pieces of wood cut and located inside the doors so that it could be screwed in securely.

Inevitably, I didn't get my measurements absolutely perfect, so there was a small gap between my doors. This did not matter however, because I had already planned on decorating the cabinet in a barn style, which I did using a strip of plywood which I cut to cover that small gap between the doors. It is about 6cm wide, and was cut around the latch, full height of the left-hand door, and centred over the gap between the doors.

Step 9: The Roof

The ‘roof’ was made out of the same plywood and framed with scrap wood. Make it to suit your design preferences. Cut the back wall of the cabinet to the shape of the roof that you want and then build the roof, and fill it in at the front.

Note: Don't get confused yet by the photos, I haven't painted it yet. Remember, I am using recycled plywood which is already painted on one side, though covered in unattractive marks.

Step 10: It's Time to Paint!

Go for you life with the painting! I chose a plain white semi-gloss for mine, but you can paint it however you like. Just make sure that it is exterior paint and can handle some bad weather if needed.

Step 11: Trimming Up the Doors, Barn Style

Cut some strips of plywood, about 3cm wide, and overlay them onto the doors to give it them the barn door look. Give them a coat of paint.

Note: For my cabinet I painted them first in the same white as the rest of the cabinet, and then carefully painted them green. I used green simply because I had some left over from painting the kitchen walls, and it looks okay.

Step 12: Optional - Crossed-swords Emblem

This is purely up to you. I picked out an old spanner and screwdriver and attached them crossed-swords style. You might like to use a monogram of your initials, or a metal sign, or anything that you like.

Step 13: Fitting Out the Interior

This again is purely up to you and what you need.

In my case I used a few odds and ends that I had lying around, such as a metal bathroom rack, scraps of wood, a plastic tool hanger and steel hooks, all of which I used to start fitting out the interior of my cabinet.

Tips:

  1. For the circular saw I used an offcuts of wood and made a shelf for it with a slot cut in it to match the width of the blade guard. It is screwed through the back wall of the cabinet from behind.
    • Note: This is why you need to make sure that the walls are strong.
  2. That double shelf near the red clamps is actually an old draw with the bottom removed and simply screwed to the door from outside the door, and fences attached to hold whatever is on the shelves.
  3. An old draw knob is used to hang the earmuffs, though in a later revision they were moved and a steel hook is used instead.
  4. For hanging hand-saws of any kind I simply cut small block of wood, rounded of the corners, and screwed in a butterfly on the front. Each hanger can hold two saws, which suits the depth of the door.

Step 14: As Time Goes By, Revise, Revise, Revise!

As you are building this cabinet make sure that you do not lock yourself into a fixed format that you cannot revise later as needs-be. In my case the bottom of the cabinet was left open for several months while I worked out what I needed. In the end, I simply added a couple of recycled shop-shelves at equal intervals, which are working out fine. But, when I first built the cabinet, they would have been a nuisance, so keep in mind the need to be able to change it over time, just like you would do with any good garden shed.

The right had door got completely revised. It now has shelves for all my planes, which gradually increase in number. The hangers for the saws got moved down, with new hangers added for my hammers and mallets etc. A close-up study of my photos will reveal the simple methods I used to make these revisions.

The full photos shows the cabinet in it's current state, as you can see, it is well used!

Incidentally, that wood mallet is another DIY project of my own, so keep an eye out, I'll be posting a tutorial for that soon too!

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Bio: Hello, I'm David. I'm an Australian and I have been living in Phuket, Thailand, since 2006. I started my working life as a ... More »
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