Vintage Style Tool Box




About: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check out my site @

This vintage style tool box was made to house my various leather-crafting tools. It features five different levels of storage and is made in beautiful white oak using box joints. It has antique brass hardware, leather labels and lots of room to store a bunch of different tools.

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Step 1: Purpose

So this all started because I've been getting into leather crafting lately, so I got a whole bunch of new tools and so far I've had them in the bucket they came in, and it's extremely frustrating because I time I need a tool, I pretty much have to empty the entire bucket to find whatever I'm looking for. So I figured, that's ridiculous and I should build a tool box that can house this stuff.

Step 2: Oak for Wood

For material, I'm going with white oak. And I think that really fits. White oak is such a perfect material for a tool box. And when I was thinking about this box, I kind of pictured those vintage box jointed camera boxes or microscope boxes full of instruments - so that was kind of the look I was going for.

So first of all, I did a whole lot of milling this wood to get it to size. I resawed it on the bandsaw and I didn't want the wood too thick, I was going for about 9 mm or 3/8 of an inch.

Step 3: Glue Up

A lot of this box is gluing up pieces for panels, and just cutting everything to size.

Step 4: Box Joints

And to connect everything I decided to go with box joints. I made this jig a while back, and it really comes in handy every now and then. I decided to go with 1/4 inch box joints because I think that looks nice and proportional and I cut up box joints for several boxes here in different sizes.

Step 5: Glue Up

So we have the main box and this one measures 9 1/2 x 11 3/4 by 9 inches deep. I decided to simply glue on the top and the bottom pieces.

Then there's a separate box underneath which the big box will fit into, which measure 3 1/4 inch high.

Inside the big box, I have a tray which will sit in the middle of the box, on top of lower dividers. And that's the basic design.

Step 6: Cutting the Boxes

After gluing up the big box, I'm cutting it open on the table saw - and it was a little nerv racking doing this cut cause I was nervous I was going to mess up the box in some way, but it turned out well. And I just love this concept of making a closed box and then cutting it open.

Step 7: Trying It Out

I also need dividers for the main box as well as the tray, so getting pieces in order for that.

At this point I figured, I should probably try this out and see what's going to fit in here. So I've got some tools in the lid, and then trying to find where's the best place for everything.

Step 8: Smaller Boxes

I realized I could use another level and some smaller storage - so I decided to make two small boxes using the same technique - box joints and then cutting the boxes open.

Step 9: Routing

So doing some sanding, and here you can see that I used thicker oak, about 1/2 inch or 12mm thick for the bottom box and that's because I need to do a rabbet on the router so the big box can sit inset, kind of providing a lid in a sense. So I'm using a 1/4 inch rabbeting bit going around. And then I cleaned up the edges with a chisel.

Step 10: Dividers

To make everything a little more organized I have a divider here for the tray which I'm gluing in and this also functions as a handle when you lift the tray up. And I added those extra blocks to provide a bit more gluing surface.

For the bottom of the big box, I also need dividers - and this is both to keep things organized, and to raise up the tray.

Step 11: Hardware

I'm putting on some small hinges and this really nice clasp.

Next I put on the hardware on the big box as well - and I've got some beautiful heavy duty antique brass hinges. I also got some nice latches in the same finish.

Now the screws protruded on the inside of the box, so I used a dremel to grind the points down, and that worked really great.

Step 12: Finish

For a finish, I decided to go with one of my favorite - dewaxed shellac. Of course this is a tool box, so I'm not crazy about a perfect finish here, but it's nice with some protection.

Step 13: Leather Details

Since this is a toolbox for leather tools, I thought it would be nice to integrate some leather in the box, so here I'm cutting up some pretty thick 8 ounce dark brown leather for handles. And I want one handle for the top of the big box, handles for the sides of the bottom box, and smaller handles for the little boxes. I decided to double up the leather for the main boxes and I'm just using contact cement to connect them together.

Also, I'm marking out where I want these handles on the boxes, and then applying contact cement on the wood and the leather, and letting that get tacky before setting together.

I also stamped two labels in the same leather - tool box and leather and I glued this one as well.

Step 14: Sewing the Handle

To make sure the handles are strong and secure, I'm actually sewing them to the boxes. So marking out holes, then drilling and sewing through with heavy duty waxed thread, doubled up. And this provides a really nice and secure connection.

And finally I'm finishing all the boxes with my raw linseed oil beeswax polish - and I sell these in my shoppe at, if you're interested in picking up a tin for yourself, or gifting one.

Step 15: Conclusion - Watch the Video

For a much better perspective, make sure to watch the video!

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    12 Discussions


    2 years ago

    hi linn that is a nice job your things are almost too nice to use .could you add some latches to the bottom box so they can be moved to shelves or under a bench without coming apart ,again nice job ...frank


    2 years ago

    Thats brilliant :) I was using my box joint jig earlier today, though it's not even close to the tidyness of yours, but it has spurred me on to practice more.


    2 years ago

    Beautiful work darbinorvar. Meticulously planned and assembled. The only change I would make is cosmetic. I like a darker oil finish.


    2 years ago

    A really nice box. It looks to be a convenient and useful design. I have a couple of questions though.

    1) When you lift up the toolbox, I don't see anything to secure the leather box to the bottom. If you want to carry both somewhere would you have to hold it from the bottom instead of the top handle to keep them together? Am I understanding the design correctly?

    2) When you cut the solid box to make a base and lid, how do you predetermine the dimensions? You could allow for the blade thickness, but I've personally found that to not be as accurate as I would like. For example, If you want the box to be a total of 60 cm high with a 10 cm lid and a 50 cm base, what height do you make the solid box? I guess you could just make it 60 cm, plus the blade thickness, plus some sanding allowance, say 62 cm high and the cut it at 11 cm, but I'm curious as to your approach.

    Captain Teague 1978

    2 years ago

    Lovely box- I like the vintage style of catch and the leather handles
    Your box kind of reminds me of the type used by Watch makers


    2 years ago

    Beautiful toolbox, Linn!


    2 years ago

    Great project Linn, I like the combo of wood, leather and box joints.

    So, so cool, and I absolutely LOVE the brass and leather accents! I just used the same exact combination of materials for my next Instructable! Great work as always!


    2 years ago

    Excellent work as usual! Always enjoy seeing your builds. Thanks.


    2 years ago

    This makes me want to complete my workshop even more!! I'd love to build one of these for my embroidery supplies. :)


    2 years ago

    What a charming little tool box!
    So lovely, well done!


    2 years ago

    Wow- that is such a cool tool box!