Home > Woodworking > Build a traditional tool chest – continued

Build a traditional tool chest – continued

The build continues on the traditional 2-day tool chest. Since my last post I have had several shop sessions but these have all been limited to a couple of hours of work time so my progress has been measured.

Dust Skirt

One evening session I milled the stock and cut the dovetails for the lid dust skirt. When a fella is putting a shop together there are so many things that “he needs” or believes that he needs. So far I’ve glued up a table top and assembled a large tool chest carcass without any long clamps. I decided that I should address this, at least partially so I purchased 4,  3/4″ pipe clamp fixtures, and 4  6′ lengths of 3/4″ black pipe. The next day I hurried 3 of these into service gluing the dust skirt to the lid. I’m trying to limit my use of the 18 gauge nailer (although I did use it on the faux raised panel) if for no other reason than to stay somewhat “traditional”. In most instances I have used hammered nails as directed in the video. I don’t think there is a great advantage to this only that it is a skill for me to work on. I could have glued and tacked the skirt on but I chose to glue and clamp it instead as did Chris on the video.

Hing Mortises

My next session was devoted to cutting the 6 hinge mortises for the 3 hinges. At the time I cut these, I didn’t own a miniature router plane as demonstrated in the video but my wife loves me very much and having seen the video with me, decided that she would buy me one for a surprise. It’s a D3830 Shop Fox Router Plane and I can’t wait to try it out. A bit too late for this project, I will definitely have many applications for it in the future, especially instrument building. No doubt my mortises would (or could) have been a bit cleaner if I had this rascal.

D3830 Shop Fox Router Plane

Pickling the Hardware

I very much realize that it isn’t necessary to do exactly as instructed in Chris’ video, but I have chosen to follow along as closely as possible.  It’s just a decision I made early on, so when I came across the exact style of casters and handles he used, I bought them.  I did purchase green paint in lieu of black but in terms of the plans, I’m trying not to stray too much.  I liked the idea of removing the zinc plating to give that old-time traditional appearance but I didn’t have any citric acid lying around the kitchen. Chris indicated that it was inexpensive to purchase but really it isn’t all that cheap. I looked around the forums for alternatives and decided to give plain old white vinegar a try. I had it on hand and it really is inexpensive. I tried it and it  worked. I’m not saying do it, I’m not saying it’s as good, etc. I have nothing to compare my results to. I am saying that I left my parts in the vinegar over night and they were very much zinc free the next day. The plating was removed although the steel underneath was blotchy. Personally this doesn’t bother me one bit but I’m not sure what they would have looked like if I changed the soak time or used citric acid. I can say that vinegar was cheap, safe and effective.

Removing Zinc Plating from Hardware

I followed up the vinegar treatment by rinsing the parts in OSPHO metal prep and letting them dry completely. The screws came out almost completely black which I love and the rest of the parts mostly gray.

OSPHO Metal Prep

Tool Tills

If I have one criticism of Chris’ video it would be the way he glosses over the building of the tool trays. Building the carcass is very detailed and almost to the point of painful except that beginners need this level of detail. Brilliantly done. By the time he gets to the tills we are told they are so simple, “they practically build themselves”.  Not being experienced, I spent a fair amount of time rewinding the video for a look, and in SketchUp trying to sort it all. I wasn’t sure if I should have installed the runners first (yes!) or built the tray first.  I got ahead of myself and after milling all the tray stock, thought I would go ahead and build the bottom till.

Bottom Tray

This was mistake numero ono. My second mistake was hoping that I could glue and nail all four sides together and not have it set up before I squared it up with the bottom panel. Let’s just say by the time I glued and nailed all four sides, it was racked and it wasn’t going to be pulled square. No way, no how. I “showed” the till to the carcass, and the carcass said, “No way!”. I planed and planed but it is still hopelessly racked. Lesson learned, I now have 4 groovy corner clamps for the next two tray builds and beyond.

Corner Clamps

The good news, I have discovered the error of my decision and last night I installed the wooden runners for the trays. Conclusion, the lower tray wouldn’t have fit anyway, duh! I made it the width of the carcass, not the bottom runner.

Too Big!!

That is actually good news, my plan now is to cut off both ends of the till square and put on new ones. I should have just enough length to do both sides but I’ll check carefully before cutting. The goal of course is to not only shorten but to square the thing up. (Notice how black the hinges are now that the zinc is removed and steel is exposed).

Next Up…

Tonight I’ll probably start but cutting off the ends of the built tray and see if I can get it rebuilt to size. As time permits, I’ll cut the rest of the stock (sides and dividers) for the other two trays and maybe even get one or both of them glued up. After all I have it on good authority that, “The trays practically build themselves!”.

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

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  1. September 3, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    It always turns out the parts that build themselves really don’t do a great job of building themselves, or is that just us?

  2. Nathan Pickard
    August 25, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    One of the thing I noticed Chris said was to clue and screw the sides to the bottom instead of to each other first. I wonder if that would fix the racking and you wouldn’t need the corner clamps. What do you think?

    • August 25, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      I’m not sure what you’re referencing here, do you mean when assembling the carcass or the tills?

      Wisdom dictates a careful choreography during glue up and I’m often woefully negligent. 😉

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