Wood choice for tool chest or joiner’s tool box?

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    Curtis Grenier

    Greetings, all!

    I have decided that my next project is going to be the tool chest or jointer’s toolbox. As I begin to plan, I was wondering about the type of wood I want to use. I have narrowed it down to white pine or poplar. The poplar is cheaper where I live, but I am not sure if it will be durable enough to last. I recognize that it is a place to store tools and will be painted, but I want something strong enough to endure my accident-prone self.

    I’m open to hearing your thoughts. Any pro’s and con’s?


    Amateur sawdust creator


    I’ve built a small, Japanese-style toolbox with poplar, and it has held up fine. Of course, a lot depends upon how it’s used. Both poplar and white pine are similar in their hardness (or lack thereof), and are similar in density.

    The advantage of pine or poplar is that they are light. A harder wood like, say, Sapele will typically quite a bit more dense, and the large joiner’s tool chest (especially with all the tills) made from it would be quite heavy even before you added the tools. I believe the joiners toolbox has a skirt around the bottom, which will help protect the main carcase. The biggest disadvantage IMHO is the inevitable ding while a panel is sitting on the bench waiting to be assembled tends to dent the softer woods. Finally, the low cost of poplar is attractive for a workshop project.

    The weight is probably less of an issue for the smaller tool chest (for which I believe Paul did use Sapele). Paul didn’t paint his, but that doesn’t prevent you from painting yours if you prefer.


    A pine joiners tool box is out of pine is going to be near bullet proof and light weight which makes it good around the shop. You don’t want much in the way of extra weight in the chest. I used Sassaphras for my carcass and Cedar for my tills since it will live in a shop that is not bug tight and both woods are insect and rot resistant with out alot of weight.

    The counter dovetails in the cracass and skirting make a really strong frame. If you don’t go for pine, I would go a wood you can except getting dingged as it likely will carrying sharp heavy tools around.

    Tuscloosa, Alabama
    Lung T'an Hu Huesh Kung-fu Woodshop

    Aaron Fore

    I made mine out of white pine, but only because I could get some 16 inch wide boards from my uncle. If I had to buy the lumber I would have used popple from the local sawmill. I think both would work equally well.

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