Introduction: 3-Tier Toolbox

About: Primarily enjoy making stuff out of trash. You can find me on twitter & instagram @wafflebeaver.

The first time I saw a sewing box I was ~ 8 years old at my grandmother's house who used to be a dress-maker. She used to use this sewing box to organize her thread, some small fabrics, needles, scissors, and etc.It wasn’t until after college while probably helping her change out some plumbing fixtures that I found the sewing box again and re-discovered the ingenuity of these fold out storage containers. Her box was actually more complex than the one I’m making. It’s actually 5 boxes, 4 are the same size and the bottom one is the base for the other boxes. All made out of wood and the damage from decades of use has made it seem like it’s had added character. So maybe this idea really started decades ago.

I wanted something small, portable, and novel and started designing this idea while reading my grandmothers book about plantation clothing in Hawaii. I suffered from feature poisoning where too much features can poison the whole project. The latch really gave me trouble. I redesigned the back plate more than 4 times. I was just making this thing way more complex than I needed to.

When I saw this contest closing, I just thought I had to finish this, thing get it over with and start using it. In the end, it's not too bad. I don't love everything about it but it'll be functional and my tools will fit in my car a lot easier. Most of all, I think I can show this to my grandmother one day soon and let her know that she influenced me.


  1. 3 boxes the same size in height, width, and depth
  2. Backplate - I made mine out of 3/4" baltic birch plywood scraps
  3. Hinge arms top and bottom - total quantity of 4 made out of 1/2" baltic birch plywood scrap
  4. Hinge arms middle - total quantity of 2 made out of 1/2" baltic birch plywood scrap
  5. 3/4" foam sheet from shipping waste for the bottom of the top and middle boxes
  6. 1 1/4" woodscrews
  7. 5/8" woodscrews for the handles
  8. Nylon strap I got from old ratchet straps

Step 1: Design

  • Start by drawing the most simplest version of the sewing box version I wanted. My first iteration was simply 3 boxes with the arms so I could learn how the arms work relative to each other.
  • My third iteration was pretty much the basis of what I wanted, but I decreased the material in the back plate a little for the final iteration.
  • The final was where I really thought more about the function and how these boxes would work.From the final iteration, I would generate a parts list of pieces I would need to buy or fabricate. Something not listed in here is brass grommets and some old damaged surfboard straps that I used for the handles.
  • The second iteration created was a little to fancy. Also, I looked at the scraps that I had available and changed my design to use less material.

This was done all on Sketchup. Autocad, fusion, solidworks, bluebeam, paper & pencil etc. would all be fine. Main thing is take some time to make some iterations. I find that my imagination and problem solving starts to work better when I really think about my design and how I can build this object

Step 2: Make a Box, Then Make Two More

I make random boxes all the time so I had these three lying around. Another option would be to buy some cheap pre-made boxes on amazon or from IKEA.

I added 3/4" packaging foam I received from buying an expensive piece of equipment online to attach to the bottoms of the top and middle box. Using something that can compress is helpful when closing the boxes.

The bottom box just need Feet. I used 3/4" plywood. You can get away with using just two feet but it was just a little easier to work with assembly installing 4 feet and it just feels more stable.

Step 3: Fabricate the Hinge Arms

These hinge arms are made out of 1/2" plywood. I rounded off the corners with a router and template. You can also use sandpaper and a sanding block if not available.

Important: Make sure the spacing of the holes relative to each other on each arm are the same. Also drill the holes so they're just a 1/32" larger in diameter than the screw thread you're using. This is what will make the hinge mechanism work.

Step 4: Layout Holes on Boxes

Layout the Hinge arms with the three boxes. Take your time and make sure the angles are the same. See video for how I would typically install the middle arm and work my way to the top and bottom arms.

Important: Make sure the wood screws used going into the boxes ARE NOT Pre-drilled with the same size hole. This will allow for the hings arms to work as hinges.

Do not over-tighten the screws or it will be tough to move the boxes around.

I used a softwood from pallets so I made sure to pre-drill so my layout would be accurate.

Step 5: Assemble Hinge Arms to Boxes

Follow your layout and put the Hinge arms on the boxes per your layout.

Do not over-tighten the screws. I used brass ferrals to help keep the screw loose relative to the boxes. This is not necessary but would be helpful to avoid the screws from getting loose with time.

Step 6: Fabricate and Install the Cam Lock

This was a little tricky as you need to make a bunch of small cuts to make this little cam lock work. I also recessed the back plate a little to receive the cam lock mechanism. the diameter of mine is actually 1" and I used a 1 1/4" forstener bit to carve out the female end on the back plate.

I would encourage someone to make a better mechanism here. This works but it's not the best part. of this build. I really got discouraged when designing this and definitely made this cam lock to just get it done.

Step 7: Add Straps and Accessories

I used a mixture for grommets and washers with 5/8" screws to install the straps holding my drill and impact gun.

Using the sharp tubing in the grommet kit, I chucked the 3/8" tube to my drill and it makes holes a lot quicker than using a hammer.

This is actually one of my favorite feature of this box. As I like to have my impact and drill available for quick access.

Step 8: Fill Up With Your Stuff and Start Using

Thanks Instructables of pushing me to finish this project.

For anyone interested, I uploaded my sketchup file for your use.

I did not include much dimensions as it's not actually that important. I measured the boxes when I made them but other than that, I just made sure that the spacing for the hings arms were the same.

In this case, precision is more important than accuracy.

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. I also video'd most of the construction of this, but I definitely lack the motivation to edit and post. With enough encouragement I would definitely start editing.

Thank you for reading.

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