Introduction: Father and Son's First Toolbox

About: Programmer by day, maker by night, nerd all the time.

This was a project of many "firsts".

It was the first time my son asked to build something. The first time he hammered a nail. The first time he saw a band saw or used a drill press. This is his first toolbox and the first one I've ever made. The first one we've made. It was a disaster! So many things went wrong and so many of them I wouldn't do again. Ultimately, I don't care about the toolbox though, just what I hope it represents: the first of many good memories for my son, for us.

Step 1: Designing the Toolbox

First things first, we went over the design. The inspiration for the project came from an old green toolbox my son found. He liked it, but wanted one that was his. "Exactly like the green one, but red." he said. He insisted that it be red. No problem I said.

I was confident this was a project I could tackle, after all, I have been watching YouTube woodworking videos for years. Who cares if I only recently began to actually create things when I discovered the local Makerspace. I mean how hard could it be.

OPTIONAL: Drafting

This step is totally optional and really was just more of a way to get my son engaged before getting to the shop. We went over some drafting principles in SketchUp Kids, i.e., a piece of paper and a red crayon.

Step 2: Cutting Things to Size

We made the toolbox entirely out of scrap material. The makerspace had some 1/2" plywood that I thought would be great.

WRONG! This stuff was pretty rough and required more sanding and finishing than I would have liked. If I did it again I would choose a better grade plywood, or mill some solid pine or something.

Also note that 1/2" plywood isn't actually half an inch, this stuff was closer to 3/8".

Anyway, we needed two pieces for the long sides, two for the short sides, one for the bottom and a dowel for the handle.

I cut everything using a table saw cross-cut sled that I recently made. If you don't have a cross-cut sled you should make one. They are awesome.

Measure twice and cut once, right?

WRONG! That's for framing houses or some other stuff. Woodworkers often measure zero times, and then cut a bunch of times to sneak up on an exact fit.

True to my new title as master woodworker I didn't use a measuring tape. Just laid out the pieces and cut them like so

  • setup a stop block and cut the long side pieces (and the dowel) to length (just piked any length I liked)
  • add (shim) two layers of plywood to the stop block and cut the bottom piece to length
  • setup a new stop block and rip the bottom piece to width (any width)
  • shim two layers of plywood to the stop block and cut the taller side piece to width
  • finally, trim the tall side pieces to their desired width

Step 3: Making the Handle

First we cut the trapezoidal shape on the tall side pieces. While I didn't let my 4 year old son help out at the table saw, I did set up a stool for him and we went over the band saw and he observed as I cut. We went over all the parts, where it is safe to put your hands etc. It was great and I think a valuable learning experience for him so I would highly recommend that.

After cutting my son lost interest and wanted to play with some of the other toys. This gave me a chance to try out some other stuff.

OPTIONAL: Round over the tops using the router

You can see in the pictures that after the bandsaw the edges are all sharp. I decided to try using the router with a 1/2" rounder bit to ease the edges. I adjusted the bit height so it was flush with the table.

WRONG! The plywood isn't 1/2" remember, so when I did the pass it rounded it over but it was asymmetrical. To fix the problem I flipped the wood over and ran it through again on both sides.

WRONG! I should have just lowered the bit in the table so the center of my workpiece was at the center of the router bit.

Despite my incompetencies it still turned out okay. More of an ellipse-over than a round-over. But whatever. Covfefe.

At this point I enticed my son to come help me again by letting him not only observe, but USE the drill press. We drilled some holes for the dowels. It was awesome, or so I thought, but he went back to his toys, which allowed me to try...

OPTIONAL: Hold the handle in with wedges instead of glue

I've been watching the SamuraiCarpenter on youtube a lot and I admire his use of wedges, so I thought this would be so easy to do.

WRONG! I have no idea how to actually cut a wedge safely. I ended up finding scrap and then just sanding it down to size. And then I used glue in the joint anyway. #fail

To make the slot for the wedge I sed the bandsaw. Just one kerf blade. I think drilled a small hole at the base of my kerf cut so that the wood doesn't split when you drive in the wedge. Also, you should orient the wedge so that it is perpendicular to the grain of the wood, not of the dowel, but of the surrounding piece, that way when you drive it in it is less likely to split the wood.

Step 4: Assembly

First I did a dry fit. Always do a dry fit. Then I used the orbital sander with some 120 and then some 220 and went over all the parts before it was assembled, it was easier to get to everything and I thought would save me from sanding after assembly.

WRONG! You have to clean up the glue and all that jazz after assembly. Just stick to the 120 in the pre-assembly sanding phase.

To get my son involved again, I wanted to secure the box together using some glue and nails. Specifically, I wanted him to do the nailing. I picked what I thought would be a good nail, 1" in length which seemed appropriate for the wood thickness, and with a big head so he could hit it easily.

WRONG! These nails were way too thick. Plus have you ever tried to hammer in two boards at 90 degrees to each other. Didn't work. I did let my son practice some nailing though and it was glorious. He held it in place, got it started and then drove it home. After two nails he got tired though.

I decided to glue up the box using some wood glue and clamps. Screw the clamps I thought, let's just use the finish nailer cause that will be faster and way easier.

WRONG! I can't stress how wrong I was. I used a 16 gauge finish nailer with a 1" nail. My 1/2" plywood material is only 2/8" thick though, so I had quite a few blowouts with the nails. Plus, they left behind tons of holes. I used wood filler to fill them in, which meant even more sanding.

Step 5: Finishing

My son's favorite color is red. Remember how at the design phase he insisted that the toolbox be exactly the same as the green one, only red? Well, we went to the hardware store to pick up some spray paint and just like that, all he wanted was the shiny metallic silver spray paint. I couldn't believe it. He turned his back on red like it was the Paris Accord. I still bought a can of red because I felt sorry it.

Sand. Wipe. Spray. Sand. Wipe. Spray. Sand. Wipe. Spray. San....I HATE FINISHING! I did three coats of spray paint. I picked spray cause it was fast and easy.

WRONG! it's such a nuisance. should have just thrown some quick drying varnish or put some oil on the wood and left it au natural and be done with it.

OPTIONAL: Really crappy stencil job

After some discussion, I urged my son to show some loyalty to his long standing pal red. We agreed to put his name on the toolbox. I printed off his name and cut it out leaving a bit of the A so it acted as a stencil. I put plastic packing tape on both sides of the paper to beef it up so it would sit flat when I sprayed.

WRONG! Even though it looked flat the red just bled at all the edges. No idea how you are supposed to do this. Wow, this is such a great instructable. You're welcome guys.

Once I had the box all super shinny I put a protective coat of glossy lacquer on top because I thought that would give it protection and keep it shiny and then he could use it right away and the spray paint wouldn't rub off etc.

WRONG! This clear coat totally killed all the shine from the metallic spray paint. The final box looks mostly grey now. Also, it's been two days and the toolbox still smells of lacquer.

Step 6: Conclusions

Jokes aside, this is an easy project that anyone with little to no experience can do. It took us two days to complete. We spent the first day doing the majority of the work: cutting, assembly and the first coat of paint Then finishing and that amazing stencil job for the whole second day.

My son has yet to touch the toolbox, and it could be that he never does, and that's okay. The good part is that when we came home and my 3 year old daughter saw it, she said she wanted to make one with dad too...only hers had to be pink. "Eggzaki the same, but pink."

Yeah, I said, we'll see.

Makerspace Contest 2017

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Makerspace Contest 2017