A Joinery Tool Chest

The first piece constructed using my new workbench was a portable tool chest. I store my tools in the house, while I do all of my woodworking in my shed and outdoors. Therefore this chest would help me organize and transport my growing body of joinery tools including two western style back saws (14” hybrid filed sash saw and 9” dovetail saw). That way I could grab this box when I head out to the shed and I would have most of the tools I need to layout pieces and cut joinery. The chest measures 22” W x 17” D x 9 ½ H (including battens) and holds most of my primary tools except my rip and cross cut handsaws, Stanley no. 7 jointer plane, and hand drills (bit brace and ‘eggbeater’).


The carcass of the chest was built using 1×8 pine from the home center and rabbet and cut nail joints. The chest bottom was tongue and groove yellow-poplar. I used poplar flooring boards with precut tongue and groove as they are fairly inexpensive and because I do not own a plow plane. The chest lid was made using two pieces of pine held together with yellow-poplar battens and clinched cut nails.

Christopher Schwarz’s book The Anarchist‘s Tool Chest provides a very good overview regarding the design of a tool chests and stresses good planning on how the space is arranged and tools stored. To lay out the interior for this piece I sketched varying dimensions and how items like my backsaws, tool roll, Stanley no. 4 smoothing plane, and try squares would fit. I also needed to consider how wide the chest would be based upon the longest tool I wanted to store in it and a comfortable width for me to carry it quite regularly from the house to the shed. I settle on 22” wide. While I cannot store my Stanley no. 7 in it, it fits through our door ways and I can handle it pretty easily with my “wingspan”.


About a third of the chest interior is made-up by the backsaw till. This till is made from yellow-poplar and has 1/8” grooves cut vertically to hold the backsaws. The grooves are deep enough so the saw is supported by its back and not the toothline touching the bottom. I ripped these grooves by holding the pieces in the Moxon twin screw vise I built. Since 1/8” is wider than the kerf of any saw I owned, I had to rip these using a saw cut on each side of the groove and removing the waste with a coping saw. After my first attempt to saw these grooves was a failure, my second approach was to saw each side of the groove incrementally (i.e., saw a bit on one side then saw the equivalent depth on the other) until the depth had been reached. In addition to the saw till, I mortised a piece of walnut to hold my small try square and made a support on the side of the chest interior to hold my 9” try square. The the hinges and handles are basic home center stuff. The exterior of the chest was finished with two coats of danish oil. The chest has served well so far and I am pleased with its design.


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