Home > Woodworking > Build a traditional tool chest – completed

Build a traditional tool chest – completed

Dedicated shop time has been pretty sporadic over the last several weeks and this has somewhat delayed the completion of my tool chest. I’m not worried about this only mention it in case readers were wondering what happened. Two weekends ago we spent time at our other home in Melrose (Turtle Cove) and the weekend after that Susan and I took the girls to Universal for a family memory. Last weekend we worked on Saturday leaving just one day (yesterday) to relax, catch up on sleep and finish up the chest.

When I last posted, I had basically fixed the largest bottom tray. It took two other shop sessions to complete the last two trays. Chris’ (Schwarz) trays may have practically built themselves but mine were clearly not cooperating. I readily admit that I got off on the wrong foot with them (see last post) but I wasn’t through messing up either. I had previously milled the long sides and bottoms for the upper two trays and when I got back in the shop I began to assemble one of them. It was only after assembly I realized that I had messed up again! The sides were too tall. This mistake had been made previously but I didn’t check myself when I got back into the shop. So it was back to the table saw for a hair cut. Trimming the sides went smoothly and I called it quits for this session.

Three Sliding Trays Completed

When I got back into the shop, I felt that I had finally gotten the hang of how to glue and hammer these things together. Third time is the charm. It was close but the top tray fit so I left the sides as they were and planed them to fit. To make all this work inside the chest less awkward, I went ahead and fit the chain to restrain the lid. This chain was left over from the shop lights I put up in my shop. Once I had stripped all the zinc, they took on that nice dark gray color matching the rest of the hardware.

A couple more short sessions in the shop were dedicated to removing (most of) the screws and plugging the holes. I used 3/8″ hardwood dowels from the big box store but when I ran out, I made up a whole big batch of pine dowels using a plug cutter on the drill press. Truthfully, flushing up dowels has not been one of my favorite chores. I now realize that my flush cut saw works well as long as the right side of the blade is against the work-piece.  If I use it the other way I end up marring the surface. I’m not sure if the set is supposed to be that way or not and come to think of it, I might be able to flatten the set on it. For now I just make sure I use my right hand and it works pretty well. I also found that the soft pine plugs I made were a whole lot easier to flush up than the hardwood dowels. in any event, there were a lot of holes so I got a fair amount of additional experience in this. I finished this session by pulling out a tube of wood putty to fill and smooth all the various imperfections I had subjected my chest to during the build.

By Sunday, the end was in sight. I muscled the massive box onto my rolling cart (see previous post) and sprayed on two coats of green spray paint.  If I were to do it again, I wouldn’t use spray paint. Advice I received a Fine Woodworking video suggests aerosol finishes are better suited for smaller projects and I see the reasoning.  In this instance, I already had the paint and was ready to get on with finishing the project, so I went ahead and used it.

Completed Tool Chest

I like the color but I could have used at least one additional can to add a third coat.  I was just glad to be able to wrap up the project.


I’m not sure these photos do justice to just how big this chest is. It’s a big honking chest and really too big for my humble shop. I’ve made a temporary if not idea space for it and I wonder how long it will take me to fill it with new tools?


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

  1. Nathan
    August 24, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    On the DVD I received, it didn’t give dimensions for the sides of the tills. What dimensions did you use?

    • August 25, 2015 at 9:37 am

      You should have the width of each of the ledges the tills rest upon so the sides need to be slightly less tall than that. Like a dork, I made my first till way too tall and had to saw the top off and I actually think I had to do this twice; ’cause I’m a dork.

      I can measure them tonight when I get home but it would be safer to mount your slides then measure for the till sides individually keeping in mind that they must shorter to allow for clearance. To repeat, reiterate and say again, “don’t forget to allow for clearance” or they won’t slide independently of one another.

      Good luck!

      • Nathan Pickard
        August 25, 2015 at 10:07 am

        Thanks for your help. If you don’t mind measuring, that would help. I guess I got an older DVD where they forgot to put dimensions for the 1/2 inch plywood cuts.

      • August 25, 2015 at 11:50 am

        I purchased the download version and there were some extras that you could download in addition to the video. Here’s what Chris specified in the cut list (Word document). For the runners length it says 22 1/2 but this will need to actually fit inside your case so you might have to adjust the fit. The same goes for the till bottoms/fronts/backs, you’ll notice no length is specified, you’ll need to measure once you have the runners installed. The trick is to not make them gappy (or they will rack) while at the same time they have to be able to slide without binding.

        Bottoms 1/2 x 9
        Ends 1/2 x 8
        Fronts/backs 1/2 x space between runners
        2 Lower runners 3/4 x 1 x 22-1/2
        2 Middle runners 3/4 x 5 x 22-1/2
        2 Top runners 1/2 x 3 x 22-1/2

      • Nathan Pickard
        August 25, 2015 at 12:16 pm

        Thanks Art. Based on the runner measurements, it looks like the bottom till should be just shy of 5 inches tall, the middle till should be just shy of 3 inches tall. Is the top till also supposed to be 3 inches tall? The DVD also had the downloads, however the PDF for the schetchup drawing of the 1/2 inch plywood had no measurements included. From my research, that was an issue that they corrected later.

      • August 25, 2015 at 8:18 pm

        Mine wound up 4 1/2″ bottom, 2 3/4″ middle and just shy of 3″ for the top. Of course all this depends on the actual size of your runners.

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