Introduction: Hardboard Tool Crate

I really don't like to using a 5 gallon bucket or a milk crate to carry my tools to the job site. So I needed something better. After looking around for some ideas(both online and offline). I stumbled upon it right in front of me. This design was inspired by a mandarin orange crate (you know the kind that has 5lbs of oranges at the grocery store), that I have sitting on the top of my refrigerator. The mandarin orange crate uses 1/8" hardboard with pine corners. So I'll have to beef up the design to hold up to heavy tools, but while still trying to stay true to the simplicity of the original design. If you don't feel like flipping through this whole instructable, I made a slideshow just in case.

Step 1: Parts and Tools

You will need the following materials:

  • 1qty - 4' x 8' x 1/4" Tempered Hardboard ~$11.00
  • 2qty - 1" x 4" x 8' Quality pine board ~$6.00
  • PVA glue
  • Narrow Crown Pneumatic staples


  • table saw or circular saw
  • pneumatic stapler and compressor
  • lots of clamps
  • miter box
  • drill/driver with hole saw bit
  • jigsaw
  • files
  • flux brushes

Optional Tools

  • router and pattern bit
  • glue stick
  • poster board

Step 2: Cutting the Harboard

First up lets cut the hardboard sheet. It helps to have a second person to help guide the panel on the table saw. Out of one sheet of 4' x 8' hardboard you will have enough material to make four crates. Each crate basically uses a 2' x 4' section of the hardboard. I tried to design the crate so that as little material is wasted as possible. Since I can't stand some woodworking projects that waste wood just to match up grain.

Cut List

"A" - Square ends - 1/4" x 11 7/8" x 11 7/8" - 8 pieces
"B" - Long Sides - 1/4" x 11 7/8" x 23 7/8" - 8 pieces
"C" - Bottom piece - 1/4" x 11 1/2" x 23 7/8" - 4 pieces

Attached is a cutting diagram for all the hardboard pieces. Make sure to review it before you start to cut up the hardboard.

The way that I cut the hardboard. I first set the table saw to 23 7/8" to cut the large sections for the bottom and long sides. Then I set the table saw to 11 7/8" to cut the Square ends and to cut the long sides to height. Finally I set the table saw to 11 1/2" to cut the bottom pieces. The reason that I did the cutting in this order, was to minimize the number of times that I set the table saw, which reduces the number of errors in the project.

Step 3: Cutting the Pine Corner Supports

Using two 1" x 4" x 8' pieces of standard pine board, will yield the following pieces:

Cut List

"AA" - Vertical Blocking - 3/4" x 3/4" x 12" - 16 pieces total
"BB" - Bottom long side blocking - 3/4" x 3/4" x 21.5" - 8 pieces total
"CC" - Bottom side side blocking - 3/4" x 3/4" x 9.5" - 8 pieces total

I've also attached a cutting diagram for all the pine pieces. Start by cutting the pine boards to length. After being cut to length you then need to rip the boards into the 3/4" x 3/4" square blocking. This is when you can use the thickness of the board to set the fence, as well as for setting the blade height.

You will have some pine scrap left over from the cutting.

Step 4: Cutting the Hand Holds on the Ends

I wasn't very scientific in designing the handholds. I basically looked around the house for stuff with handholds, and came up kind of short. So I basically cupped my hand and used a ruler to get a general idea of the length for a comfortable grip. Then in CAD I drew up a couple of different lengths, and tested then out on a piece of poster board. I finally ended up using a distance of 2 1/2", since it seemed the most comfortable on my hand.

When I made these the first time around I used a hole saw for the ends and a jigsaw to cut out the field. If I had to do it over again, I would have spent the 15 minutes to make a router template. And then used a pattern bit to cut out the grips. Live and learn.

I've attached a cutting diagram with a bunch of different distances for the grip. As mentioned above, I ended up using the 2 1/2" length one. But you can use which ever one works for your hand, the choice is up to you.

Step 5: First Part of the Glue Up - Bottom Supports

When gluing on the blocking to all the side pieces. I used both glue and staples, which might be overkill. But I'd rather add the insurance policy of a couple of staples, instead of having a glue joint failure and the bottom falling out when the crate is full of tools.

Make sure to center the pine support pieces across the width, also making sure that the bottom edge of the pine piece is flush with the bottom edge of the hardboard piece.

The way that I designed these boxes, is in a way that you can stack one on top of another. So when I made these the first time, I cut the bottom supports so that it was a very tight fit, maybe too tight. In this instructable, that mistake has been corrected.

Step 6: Second Part of the Glue Up - Side Supports and Final Assembly

The last part of the assembly is to attach the bottom and ends. Start by attaching the bottom first. Making sure that the bottom is flush with both side pieces. Take your time. After the bottom has been glued and stapled. Turn the partially assembled box on its short side, so that we can attach the short ends.

Now glue and staple the vertical support blocking, remember to use clamps so that you can apply the staples. Also make sure that the vertical supports are flush with the side, as well as touching the bottom panel.

After the vertical blocking has been attached. Apply glue to the vertical and bottom blocking and attach the end panels. You'll probably also need to use some clamps to apply the staples to the vertical blocking. Flip it over and repeat at the other end.

One last thing on the inside on the box, apply staples to the bottom supports on the short ends.

Step 7: All Done, Now Fill With Junk.