Introduction: Big Dovetail Tool Box

About: I make and create anything that comes to my mind from skateboard hooks to garden rooms. And I footle around with electronics and instruments at night....and I have a passion for reducing waste packaging by mak…

I need a rugged four drawer tool box on wheels to take all the knocks that work can throw at it...

...putting my hand tools where I need them... hand.

I wanted this tool box to be super strong and had some rough sawn scaffold boards left over from the Scaffold Board shed project last summer...

...the strongest way to build the box is with big dovetails.

This Instructable will show you how to make big tight dovetails with power tools + a simple knocked up jig, great for this large tool box.

Step 1: Design Thoughts

I wanted a big timber box with dovetails as an expression of the work that I do...

...the tool box needed to be 800mm high to fit in with my other workshop tools...

...I had a set of 90mm high wheels giving me a box height of 705mm.

The depth was determined by the drawer runner length, I chose 450mm runners giving an overall depth of 550mm.

The width that would work in the space I had available was 860mm.

I wanted four drawers...

The top one is for everyday tools that I use all of the time and the internal clearance I needed was 80mm to accommodate my jack plane + mallet...

...this drawer to have a drop down front to enable access to the tools from the front without the drawer having to be pulled wide open.

The other drawer fronts to be normal fixed, the second drawer for less used tools, maybe only once or twice a day...

...third drawer deeper with a tool tray for very occasional tools...

...fourth drawer for larger tools, lovely old timber try plane, large hand drills.....

Sawn timber to be used for it utilitarian ruggedness, this is not a prissy tool box, though the dovetails as well as being exceptionally strong are good to look at.

This instructable assumes that you have some knowledge of setting out and cutting dovetails, though if you need to recap on the process check out G S Haydon's great Instructable 'How To Dovetail' for detailed 'how to' on the setting out, terminology and how to cut out by hand...

...we will use power tools...

Step 2: Get the Bits Together

You will need

x3 sawn timber 40x210mm x 4.8m length - the sizing is the same as scaffold boards

Biscuits for jointing size no.20

Wood glue

12mm shuttering ply for drawer bases - 1220x2440 sheet will suffice

Off cuts of ply/MDF for the dovetail jig

x4 pair 450mm fully extendable drawer runners

Piano hinge + screws

x2 magnetic catches

Paper for stencils

Spray mount glue to temporary stick the stencil

Spray colour of choice

x1 old mountain bike tyre [tire]

Silicone glue - I used Wacker E41 silicone adhesive

x8 60mm bolts, nuts + washers to attach the handles

x4 castor wheels with wheel lock for the front two


General wood working tools

Hand held power saw

Biscuit plunge cutter tool

Drill + drill bits

Hand saw for finishing the dovetails - I use the Japanese 265 Kataba Crosscut Saw, a fantastic saw

Kreg R3 pocket hole jig

Sharp knife

Sash cramps

Spring clamps

Step 3: Cut Timber to Size

Work out the timber lengths required + cut to rough length

Step 4: Make Some Panels

You will need

x2 side panels

x2 top+bottom panels

x1 rear panel

Biscuit + glue + clamp

Step 5: Make a Jig

The dovetails on this tool box are cut by power tools...

...hand power saw for the tails...

...plunge biscuit cutter for the shoulders.

A jig is needed for cutting the tails + pins, to fit your power saw.

Make a fence out of an angle piece of ply [or a square stock of timber], deeper than the saw cut

Piece of MDF for the saw sole to run on...

... a timber strip for the saw to run against set at right angle to the fence...

...screw this MDF unit to the fence... will be reset to the dovetail angle for cutting the pins

Step 6: Get Ready

Cut the glue panels to length with a 10mm addition to the length for final clean up.

Work out the configuration of all of the dovetails that you require...

...set out a softwood dovetail ratio of 1:6...

and using an adjustable square set the power saw blade to it.

Two opposite panels can be cut at the same time...

...clamp them together and set securely in a vice.

Step 7: Cut the Tails

Clamp the jig to your setting out marks for cutting the tails of the dovetails.

Set the saw blade depth to the thickness of the board 40mm plus half of the addition blade depth 45mm.

I like to mark the part of the dovetail joint to cut out as a visual sign of which side of the line to cut.

Cut through the panels...

...move the jig to new cut line...and repeat.

Move and clamp the jig to the other side of the panels, climb onto the bench and cut the other tail sides.

Spin the panels around and repeat on the other end.

Step 8: Cut the Shoulders

Place a panel flat on the bench...

...and clamp a straight edge along an end...

...set the distance to the 45mm plus the offset of the biscuit cutter blade from its body...

...the aim is cut exactly on the shoulder line.

Plunge and run the biscuit cutter along to cut out the waste pieces...

...I clamped stops to the fence so I wouldn't over run the cut outs.

The great ability of the biscuit cutter is that it will accurately cut a square cut, though its depth of cut is not great enough to cut right through the panel

Flip the panel over and repeat on the other side.

Make final cuts into the corners with a hand saw to cut out the waste piece...


Step 9: Pins Marking

Clamp a corresponding panel in the vice...

...lay the tail cut panel on top..

...and mark the tail onto the end of the panel...

...carefully mark the parts to be cut out.

Set the saw blade to 90 degrees...

...set the jig side runner to the dovetail 1:6 ratio angle.

Cut the pins

Step 10: Pins Cut Out

Set up the fence to cut the pins shoulders as before...

...and finish the waste cut out with the hand saw.

Step 11: Put Together

Put the panels together.

If all has gone to plan they should be a tight fit...

...add some wood glue to the joints and...

...use a soft headed thumper to ease them together...

Check the diagonals for square with a couple of thin strips of timber...

...and clamp together when satisfied.

Step 12: Cut Off Excess

Clean off the excess length with a saw...

...perfect dovetails!

Step 13: Dovetail the Rear Panel

Mark up the rear panel for tails all around...

...consider that the pins will be cut into the grain length of the box carcass, try and avoid narrow pins in case of the grain splitting.

Cut all as before on both the rear panel and the case edges.

Thump into place with some glue and clean up with a saw when dry.

You now have a very sturdy [and heavy!] box that will stand up to hard knocks + use.

Step 14: Wheels

I had a set of castor wheels in the workshop that were perfect...

...screw these to the corners so that they are retained beneath the box when spinning...

...put the two with locks to the front, if you having locking castors.

Step 15: Drawers

The top drawer has a drop down front for ease of access to the tools.

Cut a board along its length at a 45 degree angle to the width required for the drawer front.

Cut out the ply base.

Router a rebate in the cut piece of the timber drawer front to the depth of the ply.

Glue and nail the ply to the timber rebate.

Cut up timber boards for the sides + back...

...cut to length...

...glue + screw in place.

Fit the drop down front to the base with piano hinge.

The 45 degree cut is designed to lock together when the drawer front is open, acting as a strong stop.

Fit magnetic catches to both sides to keep the drawer closed.

The other three drawers have fixed drawer fronts...

...tosh screw the side of the drawers to the front...

...I used a Kreg jig to do this easily.

Please note that the drawer carcass width is the internal tool box carcass width less x2 drawer runners thickness...

The drawer front is the opening width less a couple mm each end to cover the drawer runners.

Step 16: Fit the Drawers

Fit the drawer runners...

...and fit to the tool box carcass

Hey if you like my Ear Defender Earphones check out the video or the Instructable

Step 17: Tyre Handles

A no nonsense tool box needs some rugged handles!

Take an old mountain bike tyre with knobbly tread...

...cut off the rims from both sides...

...determine the length of the handles needed...

...and cut four pieces of tyre to length.

Glue + clamp the walls of the tyre pieces together to make a tube...

I used Wacker E41 silicone adhesive.

When dry drill holes through the tyre and the drawer fronts...

...and secure with bolts, nuts + washers.

Feels good to the hand and looks funky!

Step 18: Graphics

You have made one cool tool box... about some cool graphics to make it look even better!

Choose your design...I decided I needed a reminder of what was inside!

Cut out a paper stencil and stick in place with some spray mount temporary glue...

...mask off the rest of the tool box...

...and spray with your chosen colour.

I also added a little hidden logo to the drop down down drawer front.


Check out some of my spray stencil videos if you want to learn more

Step 19:

...Use + Enjoy!

This was a great project and fairly straight forward to build...

...I hope you enjoyed it and will may use some of the techniques to make your own project...

...I am entering this project into the Woodworking Competition. If you have enjoyed this project, I would really appreciate your vote. Many thanks.

This project is part of my YouTube series where I try to make cool and interesting projects.

Please check out my channel if you want to see more of the projects, if not there will be more coming to Instructables soon.

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Woodworking Contest 2017

Participated in the
Woodworking Contest 2017