[image id='563f543e-1acd-4e45-be32-f219b1f9b4eb' mediaId='c23568b3-5669-43de-bc25-45791ab3f93e' align='center' size='large' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image][image id='1153fda3-d584-497b-94b7-8799e956fba4' mediaId='2a6cc9a9-df12-48a8-93e3-94f907edd145' align='left' size='small' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image]
POP Projects is a collection of new and classic projects from more than a century of Popular Mechanics. Master skills, get tool recommendations, and, most importantly, build something of your very own.
We designed this toolbox to be as attractive as it is durable, and capable of holding and protecting some of our most prized tools. But more than that, we wanted to build something our children might cherish long after we’re gone.
[image id='f8157c0b-1fe0-489c-8605-52f287a6238f' mediaId='1ea6d0f5-fadc-4d13-84a4-92e075becfc8' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image]To do that, we created a design that prioritizes precision and requires patience during construction. The joinery for the corners, handle, and uprights has to fit together tightly to be structurally sound.
The box sides and ends are joined using dovetails—the strongest corner joint you can make without fasteners or hardware in a home shop. The uprights are inset into the box ends. Done neatly, the wedging action of the joint is strong, especially when glue is added, and this holds the two pieces together firmly. Even more strength comes from the tenon that connects the handle to the uprights.[image id='bbf98c91-f1d2-4c2e-b078-d3ff1aa54f16' mediaId='a7d3863c-df1f-4d63-a378-d9deb7e72eaf' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image]
Lastly, note that the handle is composed of three pieces—a lamination. This crucial detail enables you to form an attractive compound curve without a weak boundary area created by the handle’s shape. At the point where the grain is weakest, another piece of wood with a different grain pattern reinforces it. The difference between the two grain patterns interrupts the forces that would normally crack the handle.
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It’s possible to hand cut dovetails, but it takes a lot of practice to make them fit well together. We used a Rockler dovetail jig and Rockler’s Distinctive Template A (templates are available for a variety of dovetail patterns).
If this is your first dovetail joint, practice by making two or three test cuts on inexpensive, knot-free pine. Then cut and dovetail together two pieces of scrap hardwood, of the same type you’ll be using for the box. Once you’re satisfied with the results, dovetail the box ends and sides.[editoriallinks id='746ec8bd-e4d4-4e8d-ae86-66e12f1fd62a'][/editoriallinks]
Cut the box sides and ends to length and stand them up as they will fit together once assembled. Label them so that they go into the jig with matching corners routed together.
Cut the tails first (the part of the joint oriented on the long sides of the box), then the pins (the pieces of wood that will fit into the spaces of the tails). Cut the tails about 1/16-inch longer than they need to be, allowing them to stick out of the joint. This ensures they won’t be too short. You can trim them flush once the box is assembled.
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The pieces should fit together snugly, but should not need to be forced or pounded into place. Sand the edges if needed. When everything fits tightly, route the box sides and ends for the bottom, then cut the bottom panel to size.
[image id='09fb2fac-75ad-49f1-a853-513a19ca874e' mediaId='f90c112b-3159-4a91-b31d-0c70ae5d17ea' align='center' size='large' share='false' caption='The plans call for a 1/4-inch birch plywood bottom. We chose 1/2-inch maple and rabbeted the edges to fit.' expand='' crop='original'][/image]
Use a router with its fence and a straight bit to cut the ¼-inch-wide groove that will hold the bottom of the box in the ends and sides. Refer to the tool box drawing for the groove location. Plunge the router down on the mark(¼-inch from the end on the side pieces, to prevent it being visible when the box is finished) and guide it down the length of the workpiece, lifting the router at the end of the cut. Square the end of each groove with a ¼-inch chisel.
To cut the groove on the ends, move the router down the length of the workpiece, using a piece of scrap wood clamped to the work bench to prevent the router from overhanging and tipping as it nears the end of the cut.[image id='b5a9c239-fefc-4dc8-8a5c-a7a566eb5aed' mediaId='85e1841d-1c14-4ea2-927e-a31dcfe447f8' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image]
Rip and crosscut a piece of birch plywood for the bottom panel so it is slightly undersize in width and length; it should fit into the groove with a little air space. Fit too tightly, the bottom panel could prevent the sides and ends from coming together.
Dry fit the ends, sides, and bottom and check that the assembly is square. Find the exact center of the box end and lightly scribe a line with a sharp knife down the center of each side. This line is an important reference that you will refer back to.
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Rip and crosscut the pieces for the lamination slightly oversize, then glue and clamp them together. Drive screws into the lamination in areas that will be sawed off to pull the parts more firmly together. When the glue is dry, make one or more ripping passes on the table saw to ensure the long edges are parallel.
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Rip and crosscut the wood forthe uprights (you can find a template for the uprights here). On the inside face of each upright, draw a line across the width, 7 inches off the bottom edge to mark the height of the half lap cut into the upright.[image id='f00618b6-5358-4254-9e7b-12c68faf72cf' mediaId='85ff248c-ea63-42d6-8c73-4039b928eb55' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image][image id='f13b52df-8b76-4e43-823e-634364b6a67d' mediaId='c44348c3-d971-403d-b3ef-7b7854a4c49a' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='1x1'][/image][image id='efa9e5d9-ca09-4d82-bd5d-6cbec06320e5' mediaId='9655e2cf-781e-4db4-a380-cd4869508dfc' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='1x1'][/image][image id='e4853c00-bb34-450c-8ec2-241d05e41909' mediaId='b2d5b9ff-56e9-4bb6-8ce5-9c4a4232fb06' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='1x1'][/image][image id='2d1d236d-88d5-4ea8-abdd-cccc12f94232' mediaId='be388b38-8140-4dc8-a958-fd12046e7b65' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='1x1'][/image][image id='252a3f62-d28e-4786-8c6f-6a5f1490bcfa' mediaId='3c97ca62-0c2f-4866-98c0-1c1294665e5d' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='1x1'][/image]
Raise the table saw blade up to the depth of the half lap and position the fence so the saw blade cuts on the waste side of the line. Butt the upright against the saw fence and feed it slowly over the blade. One side of the sawed groove will become the top shoulder of the half lap. Use a straight bit in the router (set to the depth of the half lap) to cut away the remainder of the half lap, being careful not to cross over the groove.
Mark the center of the upright on its top edge, and extend this mark down its inside face to the half lap’s edge. Repeat on the outside face, with acenter line from the top edge to the bottom. Check this line’s position with the center mark scribed into the top edge of one of the box ends. With your center line established, use a square, a marking gauge, and a sharp knife to mark out the handle mortise in the uprights.[image id='8cb749c3-4edd-4856-9f52-a6350398bf2b' mediaId='f638a6a9-e1f9-47eb-ab03-6c15650d29a1' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='1x1'][/image]
Remove the bulk of the mortise with a drill bit, then use a sharp chisel to pare the hole into a rectangle. Rest the chisel in the scribed line during the last fine paring cuts—they need to be precise, and that scribed line is extremely narrow.[editoriallinks id='e507ce64-4066-4f86-9dcb-f9d0878b5aa7'][/editoriallinks]
Using the pattern, make horizontal tick marks on the outside face of the upright to mark its curve; both curves should be equidistant from the center line. Clamp an upright to the workbench and saw out its profile using a jig saw fitted with anarrow wood-cutting blade. Cut just to the outside of the curved line, leaving a small flat on the top edge of the upright where the center line is marked as a reference mark.
Sand down to the upright’s perimeter line to perfect the curve. Trace the completed upright’s shape on thesecond upright, then saw and sand as before. When the second upright is completed, clamp the two together and sand them to smooth away any minor differences.
Align the center mark on each upright with the center mark on its respective box end. Clamp the pieces together, and scribe the shape of the upright onto the box end using a sharp knife. Using the straight bit in the router, cut away the bulk of the half lap, being careful not to cross over the scribed line.
Usinga razor-sharp ½-inch chisel, cut away the remaining material in the half lap. Start outside the line and work back to the knife line,making sure that the chisel’s bevel faces the waste that’s being cut away. And tap the chisel; don’t hammer it. Excess force will cause the chisel to overcut as its bevel is driven into the wood. Remove the material up to the center of the scribed line.[image id='f90e4f6c-90bf-452c-b3c0-eb42c25c5214' mediaId='6d194a61-062d-4578-b2a3-cad4d372c290' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='1x1'][/image][image id='cffed2de-7c2a-4253-9941-427ed916ca7f' mediaId='c7ea6518-697c-4772-9aa1-c0d4675d49ff' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image]
You should be left with a smoothly curving notch cut into the box ends. Test fit the upright in the box end— there will likely be tight spots on the upright that will need to be carefully removed with a block plane set to take the finest cut possible. Fit both uprights in this manner, dry assemble the box and uprights, then span between the uprights with a straight edge from center line to center line as a quality control check.
Mark the location of the handle tenons on the short edges of the lamination using a square, a marking gauge, and a sharp knife. Dry assemble the box sides, ends, and uprights. Rest the bottom edge of the lamination on the top edge of the box ends. Lean the lamination against the uprights with an equal amount of overhang at each end (use a sharp pencil to draw a line on the lamination at the inside of each upright). Remove the lamination and scribe on the pencil line with a knife. That knife line will mark the inside corner where the handle tenon meets the upright. Mark the tenon’s width, thickness, and shoulders on the short edge of the lamination and scribe with a knife.[editoriallinks id='85d1f54b-970f-4838-89d6-2954b7a0195f'][/editoriallinks]
Next, design the shape of the handle: Mark the center of the long side of the lamination—this will be the middle of your handle. Create a curve you like, making sure it’s high enough to remove trays or bulky tools if you’ll be carrying those. Draw the curve on one side of the center, then trace and copy on the other side (or use our handle template) to be sure that it’s even.
To make the tenon, carefully remove the wood around the area you have scribed with a table saw, making it oversize by about 1/64-inch. You’ll want the mortise-and-tenon to fit snugly together, and you should always fit the tenon to the mortise, not the other way around. (It’s very difficult to trim wood evenly from inside the mortise.)[image id='d62d59ed-c7ec-4648-bfa7-977388216018' mediaId='66b3da5b-305b-4836-9907-8b3df0fa97be' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image]
Complete each tenon by working down to the scribe lines using a shoulder plane, block plane, and a chisel.[image id='835cb29a-083e-4690-b87f-a26c0c9f7ffd' mediaId='29fa8e7a-2bd2-4ca1-beed-63ff16c53d92' align='center' size='large' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image]
Once the tenons are complete, cut out the rough shape of the handle on a band saw. Mark the shape of the handle on the shoulder of each tenon—this will give you a target as you remove material. Remove equal amounts of wood off the corners, until the handle profile is roughly octagon-shaped. (We used a variety of planes and chisels to shape the handles.) Remove material on the corners, down to the outline on the tenon shoulder. Sand by hand until smooth.[image id='e98ac3b6-5ec5-4db4-b5ff-edaec73ad395' mediaId='40a8fb9d-d65b-4ab5-a38c-e2dc92ab574a' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image]
Once the handle fits into the uprights, contour the handle using a spoke shave, rasp, and 80- and 120-grit sandpaper. Use cardboard templates to match the compound curvature, checking as you go. And leave a little wood for the final sanding process.
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Apply a thin film of glue to the dovetails on the sides and ends of the tool box. Slide the bottom panel into its groove—there’s no need to glue it in place—and clamp together the box body. Leave the clamps in place for several hours until the glue that squeezes out of the joints has turned into a firm and rubbery consistency. Skim it off with a razor sharp chisel.
Next, clamp the handle and the uprights to the box. Apply a thin film of glue to the tenon sides, the shoulder of the handle, and the sides of the mortise. Let the glue dry and shave off the glue that squeezed out.
Saw off the excess tenon with a dovetail saw and sand the outside of the box and the handle with 120-, 150-, and then 220-grit sandpaper.
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The tray parts and blocking we installed in the box are dimensioned to suit the specifics of the screwdrivers, chisels, saws, and planes that I own and plan on storing. Create blocking, cut-outs, and routed pockets to suit the tools in your own collection.[editoriallinks id='7742475e-305f-4ded-bf3a-e1b0ad88bfee'][/editoriallinks]
Rip and crosscut the chisel and screwdriver blocks to appropriate size. Use a tablesaw to cut the notch in both blocks to support the tray. Drill the holes in the screwdriver block and cut the notch in the chisel block using a router and straight bit. Attach them to the body of the tool box using wood glue and a single wood screw.
Our tray parts are simply ripped, crosscut, joined with one dovetail joint at each corner, and glued. The bottom of the tray is cut slightly undersize and sits in a groove, just like the main box bottom.
The trays rest on a spacer glued inside the box made out of the same stock as the tray sides. They should rest on the bottom, fit snugly to the inside perimeter of the box, and be made tall enough to clear the tools stored in the bottom.[image id='d623b00e-6094-467d-a807-83d959b31428' mediaId='f374b366-657a-41d4-b440-86a4150adc75' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='' expand='' crop='original'][/image]
Apply a couple of coats of tung oil finish to the box followed by a well-buffed application of paste wax. Stock your box with tools.Bradley FordTest EditorBrad Ford has spent most of his life using tools to fix, build, or make things.