My eldest grandson just turned nine the other day. Last Christmas he got a screwdriver with many different bits, and it soon became obvious that it was one of his most treasured gifts. Consequently I’ve been thinking ever since about getting him some additional tools. Having considered some of the things he’d need, I quickly realized that he’d also need something in which to store them.
As his birthday approached a hazy view began to materialize through the fog that is my mind. The idea slowly gathered that maybe I should make him a toolbox. This week I did just that, and I thought I’d talk a bit about the experience in case you might want to do something similar.
This is the finished product.
I thought a while about what material to use. In the end, I opted for half-inch plywood. I chose this for two reasons; first, I had enough of it lying around; and second, I was concerned that using three-quarter-inch stock would make the box too heavy. I’d encourage you not to follow my example in this regard. If I make another, I’ll use three-quarter-inch pine, which is light in weight, for the sides and half-inch plywood only for the bottom.
The bottom of the toolbox looks like this:
The bottom is set into dadoes cut one-quarter-inch deep and one-quarter-inch in from the edge of the stock. This makes a sturdy joint that should hold the bottom securely when tools are dropped in. Unfortunately the sides are plywood, so as you can see on the corner on the lower left of this image, the plies are somewhat susceptible to chipping off. That weakens the structure considerably. I’ve glued and nailed these–using a pneumatic brad nailer–to give them extra strength. It might be useful to add some small quarter-round to the inside corners of the box to provide extra support, though I have not done that in this example.
Use of three-quarter-inch stock for the sides would have been a better choice because it would have been much less likely to break off at the outside wall of the dado.
I drew the rough curves for the ends freehand. After cutting out the first one on the band saw using an eighth-inch blade, I found that I liked one side of the curve better than the other. Fortunately it was the deeper of the two so I still had room to fix the less appealing edge. I laid the fairest curve on the blank I planned to use to create the second end and traced around it with a pencil. That gave me a cut line for one side of the piece. Then I flipped the piece I had cut earlier and traced around that fair side again to complete the outline on my blank. Once that was done, I took the blank to the band saw and cut to the line by hand. Then I traced around the resulting piece and got the worst half of the first end closer to correct. With that finished, I clamped the two pieces together and used a belt sander to make them exactly the same.
I then marked a point as close to the center of the top of the curve as I could easily figure, clamped the two ends together at the drill press and drilled the hole for the handle. This particular handle came from some garden tool in a past life. It was not a simple three-querter-inch dowel. Instead, it was nine-tenths of an inch in diameter. After I sanded it down a bit to make it smoother for handling, it was a heavy seven-tenths of an inch in diameter. I used a nine-sixteenths-inch Forstner bit to drill out the hole. Since that was still a little shy of the needed size, I mounted a sanding drum in the drill press and sanded carefully until the handle just fit into the hole.
This handle is very hard wood. I think it’s probably Hickory. I cut it an inch longer than the length of the box bottom thinking I’d have a half-inch extra length on each side through which I might put a steel nail shank to keep the handle from slipping out. As it turned out, I had no room for such a fastener because I had forgotten to account for the thickness of the plywood ends.
I make errors like this a lot in my shop, so if you’ve come here assuming you’d find the perfect woodworker, I do apologize. You may feel free to pass me by in the future because I doubt I’ll be improving significantly in the near term. On the other hand, maybe I am not alone in my quirkiness and you too make the occasional error in planning. If that’s the case, perhaps my candor about such foibles may serve to assist you in gracefully recovering from your own.
In the end I ended up with a handle perfectly sized for the toolbox, but one better glued in place to ensure that it remains attached.
To make the handle ends more stylish and to remove the sharp edges, I rounded over the ends on the belt sander. All joints including the handle are glued, and the dado joints are also secured with brads.
I filled this with various and sundry spare tools from my own collection. I also included a couple of sheets of sand paper, a jar with nails and screws in it, and another jar with a few carriage bolts with nuts and washers. He should have a lot of fun playing with all this and figuring out different things he can “fix” and build.