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“Does everybody know what time it is?”

It’s Tool (Tote) Time!

It has been a busy and wonderful few days. Last Thursday, March 21, Susan and I took off work and celebrated our 4th anniversary by going to the movies and having a nice meal together. Friday I drove to Orlando to see my dentist for my 6 month checkup. It’s worth driving 2 hours because my dentist is highly qualified and he’s also my brother. Susan went with me and we had lunch with my Mom before returning home. Saturday my eldest daughter spent the entire day testing for her black belt. Sunday being our Sabbath we attended church and attempted to rest up for the coming week ahead. Even with all this activity, I still had some quality shop time so I’ll keep you waiting no longer …..

I don’t recall the exact sequence of events (who does when your browsing the Net) but I ran across a plan for a Tool Tote from the Megan Fitzpatrick “I Can Do That” series of articles.  The title had the desired effect, I felt I could give it a shot and I even had the materials on hand. Once I have added a few tools to it, I was thinking that I could give it as a gift to my office.

Tool Tote from I CAN DO THAT

I began by cutting the poplar into 4 side pieces and a handle section to length.

Tool Tote Cuts

I measured and marked the mortises for the through tenons for the handle. I then followed Megan’s lead and used a 5 gallon bucket bottom to lay out the arcs on the short side pieces.


To mark the arc on the handle I used my large compass rather than making a trammel as suggested. As my father used to say from his 18 months in the Army just following WWII, “Smoke ’em if you got ’em”. I used 3″ stock instead of the recommended 4″ so I’m hoping my handle doesn’t snap under load. It seems strong enough to me but the damn tote is made of 3/4″ stock and turned out quite heavy.


“I was really looking forward to chopping out my first mortises”, he said winking. I tried the first mortise the old fashioned way, with mallet and 3/4″ chisel. It was pretty lousy but I’m glad I did it. Once I’ve hacked out about 100 of these, I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it. I had spent so much of my precious shop time chopping out the first one, that I wanted to speed the process on mortise #2 so I took it over to the drill press and used a 3/4″ forstner bit to hog out the bulk of the wood. This worked great except I tried to lower the bit a third time in the center and with nothing for the bit to bite in to, it went errant, leaving a nice mark (left). Oops, live and learn and don’t get greedy.


Shaping the handle was probably the biggest challenge for me. I don’t yet have a band saw so I cut the handle out using a thin blade on the jig saw and then took it over to the drum. Although shaping with a sander can be tedious, I found it somewhat relaxing. Because so little material is removed at any one time, it seems more forgiving to work with.

Having all the pieces completed, I checked them all for fit (left) then drilled all the holes for the 1/4″ dowels (not shown). I made sure to place the inside dowels where they weren’t going to interfere with the holes for the 3 decorative dowels.

Tool Tote Dry Fit

Once I had all the dowel holes drilled and lined up I glued everything together. The two small strips pictured were glued and pin nailed inside the box and will serve to hold the bottom panel in place. Again, with no table saw, I ripped these using the jig saw, then trued them up a bit with the block plane. They aren’t identical but they are the exact same thickness (having been cut from the same stock) so I used that fact to make sure the tote bottom sits level.


The assembly called for glue and nails but once again, I left the reservation and decided to use dowels. Each joint is glued with two 1/4″ dowels and 3, 1/8″ through dowels that are supposed to be decorative. I really wanted the through dowels to be larger and prettier but I was scared the 5/16″ dowels would cut too close to the edge and I’d get tear out or worse and I didn’t have anything else to use on hand. I also cut the 1/8″ dowels too soon after they were glued; I should have let them cure before cutting them flush. Mostly though I just think they are too small for the intended decorative effect.


And here’s the completed tote. Last night I rubbed on the first of several coats of Tung Oil finish. Depending on how I feel at the time I might add a lacquer top coat or I may not. My initial reading indicated that you would never do this with oil finishes but then others point out that most aren’t really true oil. The Tung Oil finish I purchased at Home Depot indicates you can add a top coat product after allowing 72 hours of cure time.


There were plenty of foul-ups, bloopers and blunders on this project and you don’t have to look very hard to spot them. I had fun making it, and I continue to learn new things with every project I undertake. I think my office will appreciate the gift even with the imperfections!

You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.

  1. Susan Watson
    March 26, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Nice job Mr. Watson!

  2. March 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Looks great! Nice graceful curves and lines. I made a dovetailed tote about a year or so ago. I was thinking about making the same one that you just built (I have the plans as well) using cut nails. I was going to scale it down a little and give it to my daughter.

    • March 26, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement, the kind words are appreciated. The tote as built is a bit heavy even before the tools. And it’s funny because I too thought bout trying another version using dovetails. Having never cut any it would make some entertaining posts :-0

  3. Brenda
    March 28, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Looks great Art!! Beautiful product and looks like it will last a long time. Just be sure to put your mark on it. Get a wood-burning pen, ‘Handmade by Art Watson on the bottom.

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