Feb 09 2012

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A Proper Toolbox for My Daughter

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With my daughter starting to work in my shop, I needed a good place to put her tools and unfinished projects. Usually I’ve been throwing them into a box and stashing it under my bench, but I figured it was time I made her a proper toolbox, something that would serve her for many years.

My plan was to use some 1×8 select pine to make a toolbox approximately 20″ wide. I would use the full width of the 1×8 to make the ends which would extend over the top of the toolbox for holding the handle. I would use dovetails to make the box and hold the bottom in place with a rabbet and groove.

I didn’t have the wood I wanted to use on hand so I was on the lookout when ever I went shopping. A few weeks ago while picking up wood for another project, I spotted some 1×8 select pine that I thought would be perfect for the toolbox.  I bought a 6′ plank figuring that would be enough for a 20″ wide toolbox, but of course I forgot about the bottom.

A few days later, I started calculations how tall I would need the ends to be when I discovered that the one board I bought wouldn’t be enough. I wanted to break down the board into two 20″ pieces and two 13-1/2″ pieces, which didn’t leave enough material for the bottom. Then I remembered that I had a stick of 1×4 select pine on my rack that I could use of the bottom if I joined them with a half-lap. Problem solved. Once I cut the sides and ends I leaned them together to look at how the toolbox would look. I thought it looked a little out of proportion, but I didn’t want to change any of the dimensions. 

After breaking down the 1×8 I started laying out and cutting the dovetails. I wanted to use hand cut dovetails to give the box strength and a bit of character. I didn’t want to make more than three tails per joint so that pretty much dictated the size of the tails. Since it would be made out of pine, I chose to make the pins a little beefier too. Once I finished the dovetail joints, I dry fit the box together and the proportions looked better, but still not right, I thought that after I cut the taper on the sides it might look better.

Then using a 3/8″ bit on my router table I cut a 3/8″ deep groove 3/8″ in from the bottom of the sides and ends. I was sure to make a stopped groove on the sides, ending in the middle of the pins, otherwise the groove would show up in on the outside of the box. For the bottom I cut two 18-1/2″ long pieces of 1×4 and determined that if I joined them with a 5/8″ half-lap joint, I wouldn’t need to rip either piece to width. Once I was satisfied with the half-lap joint I cut a 3/8″ rabbet all the way around the bottom that would fit into the groove.

Satisfied everything fit, I laid out a taper for the ends of the toolbox and cut them on my table saw miter sled. Then I drilled a stopped 3/4″ hole on the inside of the ends to hold a 3/4″ dowel for the handle. I spread a generous amount of liquid hide glue on the dovetail joints, careful not to get any in the grooves for the bottom, and clamped the toolbox to pull the joints tight. 

I’m still not satisfied with the toolbox proportions, but a toolbox isn’t about being pretty. It has a 660 cu in. of storage space, which shoult be plenty for my daughter’s tools. Since the toolbox is so deep, I’m thinking about making a tray that sits in the top. That way she won’t have to dig through all her tools to find the smaller ones that have migrated to the bottom. Also  I haven’t decided whether I am going to put a finish on it or just let it age, but I probably should clean up the dovetail joints to get rid of the glue stains.

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