Mid-sized Tool Chest for Travel

Sometimes, I just have to get into the shop and build something without any distractions. I forget sometimes how quickly a project can come together when all my effort is focussed on the build and I’m not worrying about light and camera positions, closeups, or whether the microphone batteries have enough juice left. I built the case and lid in a few days the week before WIA. I fit the final till last night. Now my tools will have a proper home when traveling with them, rather than being tossed into a cheap plastic tool box. All that remains is to apply a couple coats of Lexington green milk paint and some oil.



29 thoughts on “Mid-sized Tool Chest for Travel

    • Not too heavy. Easily lifted (empty) with one hand. It should be no problem lifting it by myself with a traveling tool kit loaded into it. Not with my entire tool kit, but this chest isn’t meant to store everything, just a modest selection for traveling to demos & classes.

  1. Bob,

    Very nice looking chest! Is this a scaled down version of Chris Schwarz’ Anarchist Tool Chest Design? I’m just curious if this is what a smaller version of that chest end’s up looking like because it’s pretty impressive piece of storage you have here…simple and strong, but great looking at the same time.

    • Nah, this one isn’t based on Chris’. I just started Chris’ book (got it at WIA). I started this chest before I saw Chris’. This is a chest Roy Underhill built years ago. He published it in PWM in 2009 and also did 2 episodes of the Woodwright’s Shop on its construction in 2008. I have wanted to build this one since seeing Roy do it in 2008 because of how he made the interlock joint between the 1 x 12 that forms the top part of the side panels and the 1 x 6 that forms the skirt. It’s a cool joint that allows you to build a chest that is about 15″ deep, from BORG 1X material, without gluing up any boards to make wide panels. The design saves lumber because the skirt becomes a part of the chest sides, not just an added on molding. It also makes the chest lighter since there is less lumber involved. It’s a little challenging to make the joint and make everything come together just right, but it was a fun challenge.

      • You know, Schwarz has kept it no secret that he, too, is inspired by Underhill. I think he even dedicated his latest book to Underhill. This could very well be where the similarities are coming from.

      • Can you post the final build dimensions of your chests? I can’t watch the vids from an I pad because they are flash or something and I can not access the PW article with measurements. Thanks

  2. Okay Bob, you know you can’t post a picture of an awesome looking tool chest like that and not promise us how we can make our own. Please? At least some basic dimensions, or maybe a SketchUp file?

  3. Great looking toolbox Bob! Can we have more details and pictures. How large is it, what does it weigh, what are the internal and external dimensions, etc. Thanks again for all the sharing you do, you are making a significant contribution to the renaissance of hand tool work.

    • See reply right above. This is one project I did where there are measured drawings and Sketchup plans available. I usually don’t work from plans, but I liked this one so much I used Roy’s plans as a guideline.

      • Thanks Bob, I also tend to not use measured drawing, although it does make for some interesting dilemas from time-to-time.

  4. Looks rather Anarchist inspired, or is it just that you and he are drawing from the same historical sources? Beautiful work…

    • Nope, not Anarchist inspired. Roy inspired :). In all honesty, most tool chests historically had very similar lines and proportions. Chris is right in his book. These dimensions were not arrived at by accident. There was a method to the madness.

      • Kudos to you for answering this for the nth time after all the above detail! I love this design (I have seen this episode of Woodwrights Shop and loved the joint). Thanks for actually building it. A bit sad that you didn’t use it for one of your excellent videos, but we are just spoiled from all your other videos. Glad you have a chest worthy of your tools now!

        • Thanks! I figured since Roy made two episodes on it that are available for viewing online, there was no need to reinvent the wheel. Plus, sometimes I just need to get in the shop and build something without worrying about the camera. 🙂

  5. Looks beautiful and functional! I saw the chest Roy based his off of at his school in Pittsboro. N. Carolina-made, poplar, retired but still holding up. Do you feel like the distance between handles is about right? Maybe it’s time for me to get some of my tools off my apartment floor…

    • I think Roy designed the chest to minimize the lumber usage. The way the chest is dimensioned, you can get the front, back, two sides, and lid panel all from a single 1 x 12 x 10′ board. The rest of the dimensions of the parts are all relative to that initial box, made of the four 1 x 12 pieces. At about 30″ wide, I think the handles are close enough together that one can comforatbly lift the chest, but honestly, a chest like this filled with tools should really be supported from the bottom and only balanced with the handles. While the screws in the handles are beefy #12 – 2″ & 2-1/2″, I wouldn’t rely on them to support the weight of the chest filled with tools.

  6. It looks good Bob, but are you going to use any kind of finish? I know Chris likes paint, and it’s pretty traditional too, but what are your plans on it?

    • It will be painted (outside only). Just haven’t gotten to it yet. These things typically take a beating, so paint works best. Most period chests were painted.

  7. Hi Bob, First I wanted to Thank You for doing the great work you do! I’ve been using hand tools more and more and your site is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.

    I watched the first episode on Roy’s tool chest and I had a question about the “thin” tail he uses at the bottom of the chest to hide the groove that holds the bottom panel. Wouldn’t a stopped groove and a full size tail be another way to accomplish that task? I’m guessing it’s easier to hand cut a thin tail as opposed to a stopped groove. Either way I like the way that joint came together and definitely plan to used the kerfed-in miters on my next project.

    • Hi Steve,
      A stopped groove would certainly work, but stopped grooves and dados are a big time suck by hand. For this reason, stopped grooves/dados/rabbets are very rare in period work. It is much easier and a lot faster to simply make a through joint and then hide it in some other joinery or behind a molding.

  8. Hi Bob,
    Great Job. Thanks for the links as well. Most informative. I started a similar sized chest about six months ago but unlike you, I haven’t found the time to finish it. If I had seen this design before I started, I might have made some changes but it’s too late now. I like the interlocking side and skirt board detail. I added some extra height by building a three inch deep lid which will contain the saws, but your lid looks cooler. I sized mine around the width of the lumber I had on hand and the tools it will hold but the resulting size seems very close to yours. I think it’s a convenient size and works well with 3/4″ material.

    Harlan Barnhart

  9. Bob what a nice chest I am not sure how I missed this one. I did buy Chris Schwarz book and it is a fantastic read. Now what to do Chris’s or Roy / Bob’s. I will have to watch Roy’s episodes to make my final decision as I like them both, but a 1X12 X10′ is enticing. I want it to be simple to build but functional.

    Thanks again for all the work you do here.


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