Why Buy a Toolbox – Make Your Own


Red Toolbox

Old School

You want this one to last a long, long time so pick a solid hardwood. Ipe is our first choice. And since this isn’t going to require a lot of cutting, you’ll be able make it without too much trouble.

  1. Take a plank of 1-by-10 and cut a pair one foot long a piece. These are for the two ends of the toolbox.
  2. What’s left of the 1-by-10 will be ripped into a couple of 4-inch wide strips.
  3. Then, cut those two pieces 8-inches wide and 24-inches long.
  4. With a compass, mark the shapes of the curves on both top ends of the toolbox. Be creative, but just remember that the center of the side must be 8-inches long and the two ends are 4-inches high.
  5. Make your cut. Sand the edges smooth.
  6. We’ll be connecting it all together with dovetail joints. It is a matter of taste; you can do it on the sides or the end pieces. Either way will work.
  7. Use your router with a dovetail bit to slice-up the slots. Once finished, put a straight-cut bit in the router. Set up your router with a dovetail bit and configure your dovetail jig to cut the tails in either the side or end pieces of the toolbox.
  8. Once the tails have been cut, change your router to a straight-cutting bit. The pins you cut need to be extra tight. If it’s too snug, no sweat, you can always shave them down a hair.
  9. Do a test fitting to see that it’s all shaping-up fine.
  10. To hold the bottom of the vintage toolbox in place, keep the ¼-inch straight-cutting bit in the router to grind-in some dadoes a ½-inch from the bottom into the ipe. The size of the bottom will be a half-inch thick, 23-and-an-1/8th inches long and 11-and-an-1/8th inches wide. Just watch out that you don’t disturb the dovetail joints.
  11. Carefully measure the sides for where you’ll be drilling a couple of holes to hold the round handle. Go down between 1½ to 1¾th-of-an-inch from the center of the sides. We recommend a hole that’s 1¼-inches in diameter.
  12. Give the whole thing a sanding. Wipe-off any extra with a tack cloth. We’re about to stick it all together.
  13. Start with the dovetail joints. Use waterproof woodworking glue. You’re only going to connect three dovetail joints at first.
  14. Slip the bottom into the dadoes. No glue is needed. You want it to be flexible to shrink or expand.
  15. Glue the final dovetails in place.
  16. Glue the dowels where they belong.
  17. Clamp everything until it dries, usually overnight.


Since you’re using ipe, forget about staining or painting it. The wood is beautiful enough to begin with. Just oil it down, throw in your tools, and wish your granddad was still around to see what a handy-person he helped raise.

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