Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. If you need to carry a few tools around, an open-top toolbox is great, especially if you are a visual person and need to see things for them to exist. Plumbers love these boxes, as pipe wrenches are long and awkward to carry. I just laid out a few tools I knew I wanted to carry in this box, and made up a plan.
I wanted to build something that would carry a saw or two, a level, a few chisels, and a what-have-you or two. The size of your box is your call; I made mine long enough to hold lengthier tools. The method is the same, irrespective of the length of your toolbox.
- 6′ 1×10 clear pine
- 6′ 1×6 clear pine
- 2-4′ of 1 1/4” diameter dowel
- Wood glue
- 35-40 1 1/4” #6 wood screws
- Pilot drill bit and countersink for #6 screws
- Cordless drill
- Phillips screwdriver bit
- Bit brace
- 1 1/4” auger bit
- Japanese pull saw
- 120-grit sandpaper
- Small block plane
- Wood putty (optional)
- Varnish (optional)
There are only six pieces of wood in your toolbox: a bottom piece, two sidepieces, two end pieces, and a dowel for your handle.
Pick good, clean boards. Sometimes you’ll need to pick through the pile to get a good board without large knots (little ones are fine, they add character). You want nice, clean edges, so take care in transport.
Choose the size of your box. I decided to make the interior length of my box 36” so it would hold some longer tools like a handsaw, level, etc. I laid out the tools I wanted to put in the toolbox to assure they’d fit.
Make sure your lumber is square. Not all lumber has square ends, and if something’s a little off, it’ll show up during construction. Using a t-square, mark a fresh line an inch or so from the ends of the board and trim off. You don’t have to do this, but it’s not a bad habit to get into, especially when you see what happens when you’re fitting your last board and realize there’s an 1/8” gap where there shouldn’t be.
Measure and cut your pieces. I made the interior dimensions of the box 36″. Since the bottom and sides of the box will be capped by the end pieces, I cut them all at 36”. You will need two pieces of 1×6 and a single 1×10. Mark them with your square and cut.
Design and cut your end pieces. Measure 6 1/4” from the bottom of your 1×10 and mark that spot on both sides of the board.
If you do not have a brace and bit you can use a cordless drill and a 1 1/4” spade bit, but you will have less control. If you do go this route, remember to stop halfway through, turn the board over and finish the bore from the backside so the wood won’t splinter.
All that’s left to do is fasten the bottom piece to the side pieces. The number of screws you use is related to the length of the toolbox. Same technique: 3/8″ from the edge, measured with your square. Drill and countersink a hole every 6 or 8 inches. I wasn’t precise because it doesn’t matter to me, but feel free to be if you want to. Watch for appropriate squeeze out.
Another option is to finish the box. Since this isn’t sitting in the rain somewhere, it didn’t matter to me. I did decide to wipe the outside down with a Danish oil finish that penetrates the wood, but again, that’s optional. If I were giving this to someone as a gift, I probably would seal it somehow. Use varnish if you want the wood to show, or your favorite color paint if you want something a little colorful. Either way, in 30 years it will have a glorious patina.
Last updated: May 16, 2016