Home > Woodworking > 10-Drawer Small Tool Chest – Part 2

10-Drawer Small Tool Chest – Part 2

Boy, I had what I can only describe as a stressful week last week. No less than three deaths of friends and acquaintances plus two roll-outs of new equipment. I’ll not trouble my readers with the sad details for the families of those who lost loved ones had a far more stressful time than I. My heart and prayers go out to them. My brother wanted me to travel to Orlando so that we could begin the process of selling my Mother’s house but I fought for my shop time, there really wasn’t a whole lot that could be accomplished so that work lies ahead.

Build Day 3 – Case Assembly

Coming off the hubris of last weekend’s work I realized that I wasn’t yet ready for case assembly. In fact a fair amount of work lay ahead of me before I was at that point. I needed to form the back crown and bottom shelf edge banding, then glue them up and sand them flush. I started with the edge banding for the plywood bottom which I glued up, planed flush and relieved the edges with my block plane. I used the same strategy as I had on the back edges (dado stops) which was to leave both ends a bit long then after glue up I sawed them close (if necessary) and planed them flush.


While the bottom edge banding was drying, I began the layout of the crown. Although I have project plans it’s not like I’m working with a template.  So it’s back into creative mode to see how the arc for the crown should be drawn. I laid the sides on the back and used the previous arc as a guide. This is not exactly how it was done in the plans but I thought it reasonable for my version, so I extended the arc out to the edges and cut it out on the band saw. I was careful not to butcher the off cuts because I was going to need them for cauls. The back was oversized being of the correct width but taller/longer than required so prior to assembly I cross-cut  it to terminate at the bottom shelf.

IMG_3729  IMG_3730

For this glue up I pulled out my “never been used” pipe clamps. Another day, I’ll bolt on some wooden pads but to keep things moving I decided to save that work for another day.


With these two oak pieces completed I was ready to plan the case assembly. I begin with a mock-up using four corner clamps. I inserted 1/4″ strips into the bottom dado to make sure the bottom shelf lines up properly and relied on pencil marks to align the top. Hummm things basically fit but how am I going to glue four sides and a back at the same time while? The age-old wood working question I suppose. My solution was to glue and screw a piece at a time so it was time to drill and counter bore for screws.


I began by laying out the screw locations while the case was mocked-up. I made two simple templates, one for top and bottom and the other for the back screws. This was no time to mess up so I carefully checked that I going to hit what I was aiming at. I marked the locations by drilling with 1/8″ bit using a hand drill (could have used a punch) then after marking all the screw location on the side, I took to over to the drill press to make the through hole. With the 1/8″ holes drilled, I changed the bit and bored a 3/8″ recess with my Forstner bit. I didn’t want to counter bore too deeply and weaken the joint I decided to stop just shy of the bit depth which translates to about 3/8″ or 9 mil. Deep enough to hide the screw and easy to plug. Because the through hole was only 1/8″ the Forstner bit was fairly easy to center on the pilot hole. After doing about half of them, I remembered my press has a laser light that I had never used before. That really sped things up when I realized that the thing actually worked. So instead of turning off the press for each hole, I kept it running and relied on the laser to center on the pilot hole. Worked.


Tired or not I can’t stop now as everything has been prepared for assembly.

IMG_3733   IMG_3734

So my strategy was to once again mock-up the pieces using clamps as required. Once I was happy with the alignment (double and triple checking) I then pre-drilled and in some cases, replaced the clamps with screws so the case would hold shape until I could glue it. The actual glue-up is now a bit of a blur. I started with the back laying flat on the bench and I simultaneously glued one side and bottom using the pre-drilled screw holes for clamping and alignment. Next I did the same thing on the side, gluing the bottom, back and side together using the screws to keep things aligned. It wasn’t perfect but it was pretty close and my best work yet. I managed to get it assembled without covering up the bottom dado and it looked like all the other ones lined up. Smashing day’s work!

Build Day 4 – Drawer Manufacturing and Plugs

After a lovely morning spent with the Mrs., I made it to the shop around 10 AM. I started by pulling out the circ saw and rough sizing the plywood draw bottoms. After the first cut, I took to the case and realized I had cut it too narrow. But how, I used by nifty guide how could this have happened? It’s called, cutting on the wrong side of the blade. I forgot on this first cut that the waste is to be on the left side of the blade and the work piece to the right. That is why we test right? Turns out I had more than enough if I chose not to use this first piece, but I kept it handy in case one of the slots was bit tight perhaps I would need it. After I dialing in the dimensions I wanted, I made final cuts on the table saw. Drawer bottoms took a little longer than I might have predicted and this time included an attempt to clean up the dados to make them slide cleanly. All but the top and bottom drawers cooperated. I’m still working on those.

Satisfied that I could move on, I pulled out my 3/8″ plug cutter and made plugs to fill my screw bores. This was the first time I used this technique that I learned (on the Internet of course). So you drill your plugs making sure not to drill all the way through your piece. You then put a piece of tape over the plugs and then re-saw the piece in half. I used my bandsaw which seemed way safer than the table saw. Worked like a charm, the plugs stick to the tape so nothing goes flying. You might have noticed that I used white pine instead of purple heart. Smoke ’em if you got ’em I say 😉

IMG_3735  IMG_3736

So while the plugs were drying it was time to turn this:


into this:


then after that, each one of these had to be ripped to final drawer height. I forgot to get a photo, sorry. This all took a fair amount of “quiet time” at the table saw.

Now it was pretty late in the afternoon but I still wanted to glue up a few drawer sides before calling it quits. One piece at a time, I plane and sand relieve edges prior to gluing. I pulled out four drawers to start with which worked out just right because I was ready to quit for the day and I ran out of clamps and table space.

IMG_3742   IMG_3741

Nothing but glue (and clamps) holding this together but Jim Stack as assured me in his plans that when secured (glued and nailed) to the plywood bottom the drawer will be plenty strong. I though about using dowels but they would have drastically slowed progress. Perhaps when I’m retired I will take the extra time but now if I was really worried about strength I would nail it instead.

What’s Left?

I would estimate another day or two will be required to finish the build. I need to shape and finish up the other six sets of drawer sides, then glue them to the bottoms. Then I’ll need to fit the drawers which I fear I have made too tight. Oh they fit but I’ll definitely have to trim the sides to make them practical. I completely forgot about that whole wood expansion, contraction thing. Perhaps because it’s summer I’ll be OK but then again, I’m in the air conditioning so maybe not.

Finally I’ll make and fit the drawer pulls. No telling how long it will take to apply the finish but I think I’m going to stick with shellac.

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

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