I have a few friends with young children who, "want to help Dad fix stuff" around the house. They even have their own "tools," so it's only fitting that they should have their own toolbox. However, instead of giving them a finished toolbox, I decided to give them a toolbox kit ... which they can then assemble with Dad (and/or Mom).
I sketched out a quick design and then searched Instructables to see whether or not it had already been done. Lo and behold ... a shockingly similar design was posted just quite recently by Nikolaiwood87.
My design uses plywood and a captive dowel handle, whereas Nikolai used solid wood through and pinned dowel handle.
My end pieces are angular, while Nikolai's are nicely curved and rounded.
What I like the most, is that we both used Dominos to attach the sides by way of a through tenon.
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Step 1: Fabricating the Sides and Ends
I used plywood off cuts for this project, so started with the rip cuts against the table saw fence and then switched to the small parts sled to make the crosscuts.
The 1/2" sides were ripped to 3" and then crosscut to a length of 11"
The 3/4" ends were ripped to 5 1/2" and then crosscut to a length of 8"
The bottom was ripped to 5 1/2" and then crosscut to a length of 9 7/8"
Step 2: Cutting Grooves and Rabbets
My design connects the bottom panel to the sides by way of a lock rabbet, as opposed to a floating panel within grooves. I did this for a few reason:
1. I like the look.
2. I'm using plywood and not worried about wood movement.
3. It provides more available surface area for glue .. again not worried about wood movement.
4. I expect this tool box to be tossed around or at least dropped and a recessed bottom panel would create more opportunity for the bottom edges of the side panels to get smashed and/or sections broken out.
For the grooves, I set the blade height to 1/4" and the fence to 3/8". Since I'm using a 1/8" blade, that puts the top edge of the side grooves 1/4" up from the bottom of the panels. After making a pass on each panel, I moved the fence to 1/4" and ran the panels through to enlarge the grooves to 1/4" wide.
For the rabbets on each end of the long sides, I moved the fence to 5/8". 1/8" blade + 5/8" puts the inside edge at 3/4". In order to make this initial cut "safely", I ganged both side panels together and used a Gripper. I would NOT run them individually due to the increased risk of the part rotating away from the fence during the cut.
NOTE: If you aren't comfortable with this type of cut, use a cross cut sled. Better yet, use a larger panel and cut these rabbets first .. then slice it into the individual 3" sides. This is the method I used in the build video. A third option would be to use the miter gauge and the material against the fence, which can be done safely since the blade isn't raised up past the material, so the risk of binding and kick back is greatly reduced.
Once the initial cut was made against the fence, I removed the rest of the material from the individual panels, using the miter gauge in several passes.
Step 3: A Captive Handle
I'm using a 1" oak dowel for the handle and I want it to be captive so that it auto-aligns during assemble and adds rigidity to the box.
I marked the hole location on the inside face of the end panels using a combination square and a shop made marking gauge. 2 3/4" in from each side (the center point) and 1" down from the top edge.
The holes were marked with an awl to help align the bit and then drilled to a depth of 1/4".
The dowel was cut to a length of 10" using the small parts crosscut sled. I always cut a bit long and sneak up on the cut while test fitting.
Step 4: End Angles
I wanted the end panes to angle in towards the handle - a trapezoidal shape if you will. The bottom point of this line was determined by the height of the side panels, which is 3" up from the bottom. The top point of this line was determined by eye and it ended up being 1 1/4" in from each edge. I have attached my sketch in order to make this more visual.
These cuts could be made using the table saw and a tapering jig, but it would require some kind of blocking for repetitive cuts. The miter saw was a quicker option for setup. In order to make the repetitive and symmetric cuts, as well as keep my hand a safe distance from the blade, I used a large plywood panel as a stop block. This is actually a template I made for cutting perfect holes in Cornhole boards, which I clamped to the miter saw fence.
In an attempt to mitigate tear out, I applied masking tape over the cut line. I'm happy to report that it produced perfect results.
Step 5: Peg Assembly Prep
The handle could probably be secured in place with just glue, but I decided to add pegs as an insurance policy. In addition to adding strength, they'll add a visual element and an additional assembly step for the whippersnappers.
Using the center of the 1" holes as a guide, I drilled a 5/16" through hole. I didn't trust the 5/16" brad tip bit not to grab the wood and/or wander, so I used a 5/16" counter sink bit (I don't have a 5/16" Forstner bit, sadly).
After making the center point on each end of the dowel, I drilled a 5/16" hole using the brad tip bit. It's not bang on perfect center, but it'll be concealed and works well enough.
The rabbets on the long sides lock against the end panels, but again I didn't trust just glue. Drilling holes and using more 5/16 pegs would be a visually appealing option, but I chose to use Dominos ... mainly because it's fun. I used a 5mm bit, set the fence to 3/8" (center of the 3/4" thick end panels) and plunged the maximum depth of the bit.
Note: I labeled the sides and end panels as A and B. This will ensure perfect assembly in case the cutter wasn't consistently placed on each corner.
The last step was to make the necessary pegs. I used the small parts crosscut sled on the table saw.
Two 5/16" pegs for the handle
I cut 3 sections of 5/16 dowel (one extra just in case). They are a little shorter than the full hole depth to accommodate for glue and the ability to be hammered in flush with no need for flush cutting and sanding.
Four 5mm Dominos for the sides
The 5mm Dominos were a tad longer than necessary, so I trimmed off around 3/16" from each.
Step 6: Steps for Assembly
I'm off the hook for final assembly/glue up and finishing, but i'll list out my order of operations to serve as a set of instructions nonetheless. This is a dry assembly .. final assembly would incorporate wood glue.
1. Insert the 1" dowel handle into one of the end panels.
2. Insert the bottom panel into this end panel with the rabbet facing down.
3. Attach the two long sides onto the bottom panel rabbet and push them flush against the end panel.
4. Attach the last end panel to the bottom panel rabbet, as well as the end of the dowel.
5. Tap a Domino into the mating holes on each end of the long side panels.
6. Tap a peg into the mating hole on each end of the handle.
7. Clean up any glue squeeze out with a damn cloth and allow 24 hours of drying time before applying any finish.
Note: Masking, or even packing tape, can be used to hole the box together while the pegs are inserted.
Step 7: Glamour Shots
I'm interested to learn how the kids react to these build kits. Will they be excited to build it? Will they be excited to have their own toolbox? Will be be disappointed that it isn't a plastic toy or doll? Will Dad and/or Mom end up building it alone? Will it fall to the wayside and never be built at all? So many questions.
My hope, if you haven't already guessed, is that they find it exciting and it's a memorable bonding experience with Mom and/or Dad. Maybe keep it throughout the years even as it becomes too small for their tools ... maybe an adhesive caddy or desk organizer ... even a beer caddy as they become an adult.
Time will tell.
Ends: 8" x 5 1/2" x 3/4"
Sides: 11" x 3" x 1/2" x 1/2" wide x 1/4" deep rabbets
Bottom: 9 7/8" x 5 1/2" - with 3/8" wide x 1/4 deep rabbets
Dowel: 1" Diameter x 10 1/4"
Side Note: I'm having camera struggles in my space. The usual Nikon is too dark, while the iPhone seems to over expose. I've added more lights to the shop and I'm definitely more of a "point and shoot" type guy. I'd rather be making something than dinking around with a camera. I'll work on it.