After years of drooling over Gerstner style machinist tool boxes, and countless hours looking for an inexpensive one for my shop, I decided to try my hand at making one. This 1st attempt was a trial version, and ended up being a gift for my brother. I spent a long time studying all the plans and instructables I could get my hands on like these:
I also bought a nice set of plans that was helpful with some tips, and techniques:
A couple of notes:
- Since I gave this one as a gift, I don't have it anymore, and in putting this instructable together, realized I don't have pictures on some things I would like to add, but can't, sorry. I will most likely be building a newer, bigger, better one in the future, and will do a better instructable for that.
- I was using an odd selection of reclaimed materials so in this instructable I am not supplying many dimensions, as they are very odd and specific to my supplies.
Step 1: Assembling the Materials.
This tool chest could easily (and possibly more simply) be built from a few pieces of nice plywood, and a few planks of hardwood from Home Depot or Lowes and would cost about $50. I decided that since this was my 1st foray into the cabinet making side of woodworking, I would use stuff I already had in my shop.
The hardwood for the drawer frames came from chairs from an old dining room set. The 3 chairs I had yielded a nice amount of very useable lumber. One could also source this wood from some decent pallets.
At work (a printing shop) they were getting rid of some old letterpress dies, so with a bit of work to remove the scoring and cutting blades, I had some quite nice 3/4" plywood to use for the case.
I cut strips from an old plastic kitchen cutting board to use for the drawer slides. Most of the other designs and plan sets I have seen use small pieces of wood for these, which work well when lubricated.
The other materials/supplies you'll need are:
- 1/4" plywood for drawer bottoms
- Drawer pulls. I used some short allen bolts , but off-the-shelf pulls, or other specials made ones will work fine.
- Small screws for attaching drawer slides
- 1/2", 3/4", 1" finish nails/brads
- Quality wood glue
- (optional) Wax or other lubricant for drawer slides
Tools I used:
- Tablesaw w/ dado blade, a high tooth count plywood blade, and regular blade
- Router (could be substituted with careful dado and chisel use)
- Wood chisels
- Drill w/small drill bits
- Hammer and nail set for brads
- Sandpaper (can be block sanded by hand, but is easier with a random-orbit, or palm sander)
Step 2: Layout and Mock Up.
After disassembling the chairs, I took an inventory of the boards I had. My initial plans were more ambitious calling for 4 drawers (one deep at the bottom and 3 thinner ones), and storage area on top with a lid similar to the plans I talked about in the introduction. Due to time constraints for completing this gift, I downsized it to 3 drawers (2 deep and one thin) and lost the top storage area.
Don't be afraid to deviate from a set of plans, or change things midway through, just make sure to take a moment and make sure that a small change here doesn't make for a larger issue down the road.
My drawer dimensions were dictated by the length for the wood from the seat supports, I tried to get as large a drawer as possible, and ended up with about a 15" side to side, and 12" front to back drawers. The deep ones were ~4" deep, and the shallower one as ~2", again dictated by the size of the pieces I was working with.
Step 3: Frame Building
Once I had a good feel for the drawer size, I was able to cut the plywood to form the base and sides for the frame. Once cut, I dry assembled them to make sure my measurements, and cuts were correct. I also stacked the drawer fronts in to double check the fit.
For the frame I used rabbet joints all around. The joints were glued and a few brad nails were put in. Since I was nailing so close to the edge of the plywood, I pre-drilled small holes before glue-up for the nails to go into. On all the joints in the frame and drawers I used a combination of small brads nailed into pre-drilled holes to hold things in correct alignment while wood glue was allowed to cure properly.
If you have more confidence in your woodworking abilities or have built your drawers 1st, you will want to lay out and install your drawer slides (see step 4) onto the sides of the frame before assembling it, as it will be easier than after like I did.
Step 4: Drawers and Drawer Slides
For the drawers I used tongue and groove joints for the front to side attachment, and used a rabbet joint for the back corners. The floor is free floating in a dado'ed groove in all 4 sides, this allows it to expand and contract due to temperature/humidity without affecting the drawer frame. There is a large dado in the sides and back (but not the front) to allow the drawer to ride on the plastic drawer slides.
Spending time on each drawer to make sure that it is square will ensure that they will slide well in the frame, and not bind. Some extra time and care with fit and finish here will save headaches later.
I cut the 1/2" thick plastic cutting board into 1/4" wide strips. I machined them smooth, but you could just sand them to get a nice smooth surface for the drawer to slide on. Make sure the plastic slides are only slightly smaller than the height of the dado'ed grooves on the drawer sides. This will allow you to pull the drawer out almost all the way out without the front of the drawer drooping down. (sorry, I don't have any pictures of the finished slides, or their installation)
Once the slides are sized correctly and have a smooth surface, you can drill and countersink holes in them to allow you to use very small screws to attach them to the tool chest frame. You will want to make sure that you space the drawers by ~1/8" to allow for clearance while opening/closing.
Step 5: A Top and Finishing Touches
I found that despite my best efforts the frame of my chest had warped slightly, and I needed to cut the top to be "not-quite" square so that it fit and looked right. This is one of the many little tweaks I needed to do throughout this project.
With the drawers now on their slides, and the top cut top size (and shape), you can take measurements to decide how much to dado the sides and back of the top to nestle it down in and get the gap between the top and top drawer to match the gaps between the drawers.
With the top dado'ed I glued and nailed it on.
For drawer pulls I kept on with the trend of random items I had around the shop. I used 6 8mm Allen bolts. I drilled holes in the drawer fronts and tapped the holes. I put some glue in the tapped holes, and threaded the bolts in to a distance that made them comfortable to use as pulls.
The final touch I made to the tool chest was to lubricate the drawer slides. I lubricated the dados in the drawer sides with mink oil (I didn't have any wax available) used to waterproof boots. After 2 coats it worked quite well.
Well that's it. Go out and make your own, or one that is way better :-)
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