Finished my Tool Chest – Then I Joined!

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    I saw a picture of this chest. I was familiar with Paul from youtube, but at the time I did not want to commit to the membership here. Here is a writeup I did of the build. I would like to share it with you all.

    “I recently completed my first “almost fully” hand tool project. It was a totally fantastic woodworking experience. I wanted to share it here.

    Brief intro: I thought it would be fun to try hand tools. I bought a Veritas dovetail saw. Got me excited. Found Paul Sellers (I am now a “disciple”); I love this man.

    I built his workbench. Which was 1: Incredibly taxing for me physically trying to do all that mess in 1 week during Texas summer. 2: a great experience that gives me an incredible platform to work.

    Next I wanted to make something for my dad. I saw a picture of this toolbox on PS website. I decided to make it. At the time, I was not a member. Had no plans or tutorials, and I had never done many of these things before; on a machine even or with hand tools.

    So, I got after it….

    I used ¾ hardwood oak flooring for the build. For the top panels, and the drawer fronts I used Cherry. Not sure why, I just wanted to… There is not enough contrast in the finished product, so seems silly now, but I really don’t know what I”m doing.

    After laminating the panels, it was time for Case dovetails.

    New Skill #1 – More than 3 dovetails in 1 corner.
    Pic 1: Dovetails started

    Pic 2: Dovetails complete

    For the toolbox, PS uses a fancy little half lap dovetail. I had no idea how to do this, so I made this one a regular dovetail for the middle draw divider piece.

    Pic 3: Case Complete

    Next came the Frame and panel lid.

    New Skill #2 – Making a frame.

    This was intense. I had no idea what I was doing. I have never done this with machines nor hand tools. I didn’t know at the time that I was supposed to also be cutting mortise and tenons to hold it together… So basically the cross pieces (dont know name) just sit in the groove that was cut for the panel. The little tenons are only as deep as the panel groove… hope it doesn’t break in the next 50 years or so…

    I only had a few chisels, a DT Saw, and a 4 ½ at the time, so I had no idea how to cut the groove… I resorted to the table saw; dangit.

    Pic 4: Frame Parts
    Pic 5:
    Pic 6:

    New Skill #3 – Raising a panel

    Next up was raising the Cherry panel. I most definitely had never done this either. I had a video PS put on youtube that showed the basic process, and using the 4 ½ I went after that sucker…

    Well, it was surprisingly easy. Now, the process was easy and fast… but perfectly aligning the corners was challenging… One pass too many made a huge difference, and I had to be careful but eventually I got it done.

    The problem then became how do I get that sucker to fit in the groove. It was too Fat. No matter what I did. So, I came to the forum for help, and was suggested that I cut a rabbet along the back… Great, but I don’t have a rabbet plane… I resorted to the jointer; dangit.

    Pic 7:

    Pic 8:

    Pic 9:
    Pic 10:

    New Skill #4 – Saw off the lid

    Look I had just spend 2 months trying to get to this point. I did not have the confidence to saw this sucker in half with my dull 26” disston from the garage sale. After many more projects, and understanding more how to use a plane to cleanup the edges, I would have no problem doing this today. At the time, I panicked, and resorted to the table saw; dangit.

    Pic 11:


    Next was time for the bottom panel. I was more confident this time, so I just went to work with the same procedure. This time I used a plywood piece for the bottom.

    Pic 12:

    After gluing on the bottom panel, this is where I’m at. Time for drawers.
    Pic 13:

    New Skill #5 – Half Blind Dovetails

    I had so many questions about this. I didn’t know if the drawer front was supposed to be thicker than the sides, or if it mattered. I didn’t know how to space the tails. Heck, on the first drawer, I made them backwards. Such that the tails were super thin and the pins were wide… looks so silly. But, I watched enough youtube to figure it out. They are certainly not pretty, but they are strong enough.

    New Skill #6 – Mortise/Tenon Drawer Back

    The mortise/tenon drawer back was interesting too. I had no idea how to chop a cross grain mortise… and my layout skills were lacking… But eventually I hacked that sucker through. They got progressively better, and the last one (pictured) appears a good fit.

    This picture shows the drawer resting on a piece of ply… after this dry fit, I cut a groove for the ply…

    Pic 14:

    New Skill #7 – Fitting drawers

    Well I sure screwed this up. I kinda figured out a way to glue a strip of oak on the inside of the case to be the drawer slides. Then I wanted the drawers to slide across them. I tried to fit this sucker lots of different ways… and I ended up taking off way more on the sides than I needed too…

    After I had already made this mistake I watched some more youtube, and I think it was Cosman that I saw mention that the drawer needs to fit almost zero gap side to side… because the wood won’t expand that way… the extra room is only needed on the top/bottom for expansion concerns… (well stink, because I already took off way to much on the sides)… So the top drawer is far too loose… The bottom drawer fits much better.

    Pic 15:

    New Skill #8 – Making Drawer Pulls

    PS has some shop made drawer pulls on his box that are mortised into the drawer front. I tried to reverse engineer those suckers with some pieces of Bois DArc and ebony… but it failed… so I panicked and went with some wooden knobs.

    Last step was to add strips of oak for the plywood bottom of the top shelf to rest on. I did not glue the plywood down in case I needed to get in there later on at some point and fix a problem or whatever…

    Here it is Finished building, before the finish…

    Pic 16:

    New Skill #9 – Shellac and Wax

    Well this was a huge fail. I totally butchered the finish. It is blotchy/streaky, and at some point I must have not gotten all of the sanding dust out or something because there are white streaks and some kind of buildup in the deep pores of the oak. After 3 coats of shellac I applied wax with 0000 steel wool, and then another easy coat later just with a microfiber. The wax makes it feel good, but the color is not even at all.

    I would give anything to get all that crap off of there and just rub some oil on it. Anything.

    Pic 17: Finished Drawer

    – I did a terrible job of grain matching when I glued up the panels… I mean terrible. Some of the panels have both flat and quarter sawn boards.
    The Finish.
    Not sawing the lid off by hand. I robbed myself of a cool experience.
    Using Cherry as the panels and drawer fronts. Not a good contrast.
    Not persevering and making the pulls myself.
    Screwing up the drawer fitting
    Screwing up the half blind dovetails. The 2nd draw was fine, but look at the bottom drawer… The tails are cut backwards.

    Overall it was an awesome experience… I have since become a member over at PS site, so after I watched the 10+hours of video on how to build this, I realize I made a lot of silly mistakes… But I learned a ton, and it was a great gift for my dad.

    Finished Pictures:





    • This topic was modified 6 years, 10 months ago by dovetails.
    Joe Kaiser

    Awesome work! Don’t be hard on yourself. I am currently making one myself, and this project is nerve wrecking. If mine looks half as good as your pictures, I will be a happy woodworker.

    And regarding your regrets list, I think that would be more aptly called “Things I have learned since doing this” 🙂

    Seattle, WA

    Frank Joseph

    You did good,, that is one to show mom
    Best of luck

    In South Jersey the good part of New Jersey, USA.

    Marilyn Moreno

    You did a great job, also with the write-up of each phase. This will serve as a record for you to look back on. A way to remember the things you did, and what you should change for the next time. Your dad will love it.

    Marilyn - Lehigh Valley, Eastern Pennsylvania - USA

    Matt McGrane

    I think it looks great! Your father will love this. And I liked reading your writeup – dangit.

    Don’t feel bad about using an occasional power tool – especially if you don’t currently have the right hand tool for the job. No shame in that. (Although I get a giddy feeling when I complete a project using no power tools.)

    Matt, Northern California - Started a blog in 2016:


    caminante, no hay camino
    se hace el camino al andar

    Traveler, there is no way.
    The way is made by going.

    Ethan McLeod

    Looks amazing

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