Introduction: A Dovetail Toolchest

This is my first entry in Instructables.

The Idea to make this chest came from my love of Gerstner's toolchest. I always wanted to have one but the price tag attach to them and not having the satisfaction of building it my self was enough for me to dive on the drawing board and create something very similar in looks but different also so I could called it my own.

It also happens to be my first ever recorded You Tube tutorial project ever featured on my Channel. I had to learn a lot just to publish the first part of this video. (Computers, Videography and Editing) at this point are 3 totally new rabbit holes.

After thinking, researching ,and creating the information to build this toolchest, I was on my way to the hard wood lumber store. I already had my mind set on Black Walnut for 2 reasons;

1- It's a extremly stable wood once dry.

2- I wanted to utilize the difference in the wood between Heart and Sap wood.

Step 1: Initial Assembly and Dovetails.

I bought 4,S4S,Kiln dried boards, 6"x1"x8'. That is enough to build the whole outer shell.

I waited a full week before I started cutting anything to allow the wood to acclimate to my shop. then it was fair game... I started by cutting every pieces according to my cutting list , then right away made the tongue and grooves and proceeded to my first set of glue ups. By the end of day one I had the back and sides glued up. The next morning I routed the tongue and grooves on the top of all 3 previous glue ups (Back and sides) and added the top piece..

At this point it's time to start the dovetails, Once again i refer to my scematics and lay out the tails on the sides which I cut at the same time. Paul Sellers technique came very handy in this project and I do mention this fact in my video.. even, If at many occasion in the comment section of this first part, people keep pointing out that the sound is very poor. I'll really try to do better in part 2. The tails are now the reference point to trace the pins on the back. Soon enough I have my first dry fit...

Step 2: Dry Fit and Inner Dividers.

Once the 4 sides are dry fitted it's time to tackle the top!

The top is in itself quite the step because it has pins all around it therefore it need to be match to every other sides individually and then the first full dry fit of the outer shell can be made.

Now, this chest has a lid, drawers, and needs a bottom.. I used 1/2 birch ply to make the dividers and hard maple to make the slides. 3/4 maple ply will make a very strong base.

I won't lie... This next step is nerve wracking , the Idea of making a mistake at this point is on my shoulders.. But I trust myself and do the (Measure twice cut once)...It was more like measure 5 times, but, oh well... so referring once again to my drawings I push on and cut all the groove that will accept the ply dividers, and also the ones for the drawer slides. Last dry fit before glue up. The dividers,grooves, slides, every part of this project is in it's place.. So far..I haven't started the drawers yet..

Thing on You tube seems better also, I figured out how to add speed to some video sections and i'm really trying to focus on a better sound. Lets face it , I need a DSLR, my Iphone just doesn't cut it.

Step 3: Glue Up...

Gluing this many dovetails needs not only planning, but time. Most traditional glues don't allow for the latest.. Titebond 3 on the other hand allows for about 1/2 hrs of work time.

I decide I will split the glue up in 3 steps;

First: I will glue the top to the back and add the front piece also, In order to do that I need to install all the dividers at this time. For good measures I also lightly inserted the sides to keep everything in alignment.

Second: I glue the first side (again using Titebond3) and go around with my square to verify the whole carcass.

Third: I add the last side , and once again I double check with the square and make minor adjustments before the glue sets.. I may have had a beer or this point.

I publish the glue up video on YouTube and for the first time my video doesn't get bad critics... Feeling really good!

Step 4: Minor Step Back and Cutting the Lid.

The next morning, I step in my shop, put my coffee on the End grain coaster, and start to remove the clamps.

First thing I notice is how every thing flows so well... then I get closer and realize some of the pins have compressed and are lower than the matching counter part... I tried to blend it by sanding it to the same height, just to come to terms that i'm making things worse. I will have to bevel the front of the box...not lots .. about 3/16 by 1".. Turns out I'm really happy now that I had to do this step... It give an extra special detail...Fixed a few others on the back with color matching the grain..

Cutting the lid is another Nerve wracking step...But it went well...I pushed the chest through the table saw on all 4 sides...

At this time I haven't quite decided on which DSLR i will get...Soon though, very soon!

Step 5: Drawers...Lots of Drawers.

Tedious is the word to use here. I milled rough oak boards to get all the sides and back to make the drawers and milled the last walnut board to make the drawer fronts... I made dovetails on all of them so It was very repetitive but long and behold got them done and fitted in the chest...Once again I'm really glad I took the time and prepared the drawing for the drawers...

I also just started using my Canon T5I to shoot in the shop ... what a difference !!!

Step 6: Finish Line...

This is the part I believe, all woodworkers love... Sanding!!

After this was done I applied 3 coats of Minwax Polycrilic.. It dries fast and does not alter the color of the dark heart wood.The wood color contrast is something I wanted to keep.. I added the Hardware, Guitar strap buttons for the drawer pulls, Gerstner side handles, lid hinges and clasps.. I also added a stay in the lid by Ferrary America.. Black felt in the drawers and the lid. And Tah Dhaa..

I have now been enjoying this toolchest for over 2 years in my shop and it always a pleasure to go fetch a tool in it..

I did make a set of prints available to build this chest and I'll leave the link here:

Thank you for taking the time to read this through...

If you would be interested in seeing the whole build video I'll leave a link to the playlist here:

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Woodworking Contest 2017

Participated in the
Woodworking Contest 2017