Introduction: Making a Small Toolbox From Scavenged Wood.
I don't know how many of you out there have a need for a good, cheap toolbox, but if you're like me you can never have enough. I tend to move my work quite a bit, since I make a lot of things at Techshop (including this toolbox!). Essentially, since Techshop is my main general workshop (as opposed to my more specialized knife workshop in my garage), I needed a way to move my projects into and out of my car and, of course, into and out of Techshop.
I had two primary goals for this project. First, I wanted this to be a very quick project. Second, I wanted this to be an exceedingly CHEAP project as well.
One of the great things about Techshop is that they do a great job of maintaining scrap bins for all manner of objects, objects that conceivably can be reused/recycled for other projects. So it was with this project. I didn't buy a single scrap of lumber, and managed to find every piece I needed in Techshop's scrap bins.
Since my other goal was to make this a very fast project, I wanted to test my mettle and complete the entire project without making any proper measurements. While I know that seems a bit silly to some of you, the idea was that since I only needed it to fit nicely and didn't have any specific size requirements, I wouldn't need to spend much time "measuring twice, cutting once."
Step 1: Parts/Tools List
Wood (preferably plyboard)
Screws (Estimate 3-4 for each side, i.e., 12-16)
Dead Blow Hammer
Step 2: Step 1: Clean Up the Scrap
In order to get started with this project, it helps a great deal to clean up your scrap such that you have regular pieces from which to cut out the sides of your toolbox. This particular toolbox is five-sided with an open top, so plan accordingly. Ideally, you want to find larger pieces that will suit your needs that require a minimum of cutting to get to the sizes you require.
The most important way to start this process is to square up the corners and give yourself straight sides. All three saws I mentioned in the tools list - the table, band, and mitre saws - can capably to most of this work. The ideal approach is to consider the right tool for the right job. For example, for long, narrow pieces that need to be shortened/squared up (what's known as a cross cut), the mitre saw is the preferred tool. On the other hand, for pieces of wood that need to be split length-wise parallel to the grain (what's known as a rip cut), the table saw is the ideal candidate. For any sort of radius cuts or even rip or cross cuts cuts that require more precise (and narrower) stock removal, the band saw is the way to go, particularly if you have a good fence for your saw.
Step 3: Step 2: Rough Fit Your Pieces
Once you've managed to clean up and square up your scrap wood, it's time to start working on getting the basic size/shape of your box established. I prefer to find a good bottom piece and use that as the foundation. I do this mostly since that will be the largest piece of wood needed for this project. So it's really, really important to find a piece that is both the size you need for your project, and to square it up so that all the other pieces will fit well.
Now that you have your bottom, look for sides and end pieces that will work for your needs. You're only limited by the scrap you have available to you, and the amount of time you're willing to spend to get these pieces sized and squared up so they will work for you. After the bottom piece, I like to size my long side pieces next. Once they're well-sized and squared, I finally look for the shorter side pieces. That way, I have more latitude in terms of scrap wood I can repurpose, as we all know that it's always the larger the piece you need, the more difficult it is to find.
Step 4: Step #3: Start Assembling the Box
At this point, it's time to start screwing the pieces together. As with finding pieces for the box, it's important to start with the bottom piece. This way, (assuming you've squared your bottom piece correctly) everything will be square relative to everything else. Also, by starting with the bottom, it's easier to make small adjustments to the side pieces to make everything fit together with a minimum of gapping.
So here, you want to corner clamp both ends of one of your long sides to the bottom. Make sure you get all sides square. Once you have the bottom and your first long side clamped together, clamp the bottom in to the wood vise so that you can start screwing these two pieces together.
Step 5: Step #4: Keep Building!
Once you have the bottom piece and one long side screwed together, do the same thing for the other long side. Once those sides are sufficiently screwed down (I prefer to use three screws for each piece - one in the middle, one on each end), it's time to dry fit the end (short) sides.
Essentially, you're probably going to have to make a couple of cleanup cuts to make sure the short sides square up with the bottom and the long sides. That's fine. The end result will look great, and since this is meant to be a toolbox, it doesn't have to be perfect. Function over form in this case!
Screw in one side, then the other, and make sure all of your screws are sufficiently tight.
Step 6: Step #5: Final Fit and Finish/Clean Up.
Once you have screwed in all four sides to the bottom, make sure you check the entire piece to ensure you didn't miss any glaring issues. The end result should be a perfectly workable open-top toolbox that will be heavy/low-slung enough to not tip over in your car, but sufficiently easy to replace such that if you don't need it anymore, you shouldn't feel guilty about parting with it.
Final note: This entire project, start to finish, took me a total of an hour. That includes grabbing coffee a couple of times, and taking a couple of breaks to talk to a couple of my Techshop friends. Seriously, this is a very easy intro project for anyone who just wants to get acclimated to the tools or just needs a good, robust toolbox.
Hope you enjoy!
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