Category Archives: Dutch Tool Chest

My Dutch Tool Chest based on article in Popular Woodworking

Road-ready Dutch Tool Chest

It is time to finish the Dutch Tool Chest.  I just signed up for my first real woodworking class this August.  I’m going to build a small bench with chair maker Greg Pennington.  It’s not about the bench, it is about learning more green woodworking skills, learning compound joinery, and learning to turn on a lathe.  The bench will be a nice bonus.  This class is the encouragement I needed to complete my Dutch Tool Chest.

DTC_outside  Finished_closed

Racing stripes are guaranteed to make your chest 20% faster.

Monotone was too boring, so I added stripes.  They are a 3:1:2 pattern, which I’m sure George Walker would approve of. I painted the whole chest with Kilz, then 2 coats of white trim paint, then laid blue tape down to create the stripes before painting the whole chest maroon.  I topped it all off with a couple of coats of clear poly.  I guess I have a dozen coats of pain(t) in all.  It’s excessive, but it looks nice and shiny.


Hardware after a 24 hour vinegar bath.

I took the cheap, zinc coated hinges and handles off and soaked them in vinegar for 24 hours.  They still look like cheap hardware, but now with a matte finish.  It’s a small improvement, but worth the tiny amount of effort required.


This rack will hold a surprising number of tools. 

I also needed to finish the tool storage.  I think this shot shows most of it.  The rack consists of a 3/8-inch thick stick against the back wall, a few spacers to create a 3/8-inch open slot, and it is topped off with a 1 1/2-inch piece of Swiss cheese.  The holes are located at 1 1/4-inch centers, which is a little more spread than some.  I don’t like my food or my chisels to touch.


The 3 vertical pieces of the saw nest are not exactly easy to attach inside the chest.  I nailed them to a couple of scrap sticks (thanks Lowes) and then tacked the whole assembly in place.  It should be stable enough to hold the 4 hand saws that I use most often.

I did depart from the instructions in the PWW article by making the chest longer than described.  I did this so that my full length Stanley handsaw would fit inside the chest.  I probably should have stuck with the plans and purchased a shorter saw.  Longer chests are heavier (maybe too heavy) and harder to move by oneself, but I can manage.

I’m proud that my tools can now travel without the shame of being kept in an unfinished pine box.  If you would like to join the class, sign up now.  Greg said there was only one open spot as of today.

Bob Jones


Closing thoughts on the Dutch Tool Chest project

mag article

I know I did not include enough information in these posts to build the DTC, that was not my purpose.  Read the article in PWWM, it has everything needed.  I just wanted to document my build.  On that note, here are my closing thoughts on the project.


Will I ever “finish” the chest?

That’s relative.  I may paint it one day, but I don’t think it’s necessary.  I will probably add more tool storage to the inside as I have need to transport more tools, like saws.


What about the size of the DTC?

The size of the DTC is great.   I made mine a little longer than standard, but shorter would be fine.  It’s small enough to be moved around by one person and big enough to hold the most important tools with no wasted space when full.

Should a beginning woodworker tackle this project?

Yes.  This is a great “entry level” project to hand tools, or just woodworking in general.  The chest will teach you lessons in all of the most important skills for furniture building; board selection, milling lumber, case joinery, case glue-up, nailing, hardware installation, and on and on.


Would you build this chest again?

My Dutch Tool Chest has a purpose – a nice packing crate.  It should serve that purpose very well and it required minimal effort to construct.  My DTC is not intended to be “permanent” tool storage, protecting tools from years of dust. It is not intended to showcase my skills as a builder.  That’s what my tool cabinet does for me.  If I needed something more portable for definitive storage, I would build a traditional chest.  Like my wall cabinet, that chest would be made from nice hardwood, premium hardware, inlay, and include fitted tool storage.  I built my wall hanging cabinet this way and may still build a portable version one day.  Time will tell.

Bob Jones 

Complete the Dutch Tool Chest


I call this complete because I got it to the point where I needed it and I’m leaving it alone (for now).


The top front board was nailed in place.  Only time will tell if seasonal wood movement split it.

front_3  front_5


I installed the fall front after the top front board.  I thought it would be easier to work on the latches and catches for the front before I attached the back.


About the back – I had a semi-original idea.  I went back to the home center to seek inexpensive, clear stock that would be suitable.  What I found was processed tongue and groove pine boards.  Talk about easy!  I cut them to length and attached them to the case with screws.  The only watch-out is to lay them all out before ripping the top and bottom boards to width. If you use a whole piece at the bottom, you may be left with only a 1/4″ wide piece needed at the top, and that is poor craftsmanship.

back_2 back_3

I chose to bevel the front board after I nailed it to the front.  Feel free to bevel it first.  The ends were planed flush with the sides after the glue dried.  Be sure the nails and screws are below the surface of the wood, otherwise you will scar your plane.

 hinge_1 hinge_3

Lid hinge install.  I marked the holes with a pencil with the hinge in place, then mark the center of the hole with my awl.  I really like that pointy awl.


When working alone, find a way to keep the lid in place while marking screw locations.

After the front and back was installed I turned to the lid.  I used super cheap strap hinges.  I turned them “inside out” based on the countersinks, because I wanted the hinges on the outside of the chest with no mortises required and the hinges would not rotate far enough the other direction.  I think they look right nice.  I used battens on the underside of the lid rather than breadboard ends because it was much faster.  I think it is a fine compromise for this shipping crate.


What about handles?  I decided that I liked the feel of large, fixed handles rather than the more common type that swing up for lifting.  I did not like the thought of the handles being held in place by only 3/4in long screws, so I doubled the thickness by gluing scraps to the inside of the case behind the handles.  I let the glue dry before screwing in the handles.  I am confident this makes the handles more secure, and hopefully it will prevent splitting of the case (near the handles) which is commonly seen on antiques.


Handle placement – I made it up.  I was about to attach the handles in the center of the chest, as they “should be”, but I thought it would be more comfortable to carry the chest if the handles were raised.  This position also made it easier to attach the reinforcing blocks, so I went for it.  It feels pretty natural to lift the chest with this handle placement.


After all this, I made some interior places to keep tools and called it done.  Paint yours if you like, but I really need to get back to my dresser project.

Bob Jones

Glue up the DTC


With the 4 joints cut, fitted, and tested there is only one more thing to do before glue-up.  Notches need to be cut in the front of the shelf and the bottom to allow the latches to slide in place behind the front.  This is really easy to do by hand – no jigs or routers required.


I’m only showing the shelf here, but the bottom is the same except that notch does not go all the way though the board.  It is just as easy, just mark both boards while they are clamped together to ensure the notches are aligned.  Once the location of the notch is marked, saw the sides.

glueup-3  glueup-4

Next follow the saw with a wide chisel and remove the wood that is in the way of the latch.  You can use a mallet, or just work slowly using hand pressure in soft wood like this.  I used a mallet then followed that by hand to finish the job.


With the notches cut it’s time to glue-uo the case.  I like to do everything possible before I open the glue and that includes marking the location of every nail with my brad awl.  I really like that awl.  It makes locating a hole much easier and more precise.  Try one sometime.  Don’t want to buy one?  Sharpen something metal to a square, pointy tip and give it a try.  The hole created does not need to be deep, it just needs to be deep enough to start the drill tip.

glueup-6   glueup-7


Don’t be afraid to use a saw bench (or bucket) to elevate yourself to a comfortable working height when assembling a case.  Stepping up is easier than lowering the case to the floor (I think).

This is the easy part.  Glue the case up and check for square.  Once you have it close pre-drill the nail holes (one at a time) and hammer in the nails.  I only nailed the shelf to the sides (no nails required in the dovetailed bottom).  After the nails are in check again for square.  Push on the “long” diagonal until you are happy with it.  Now wait for the glue to dry before tackling the next steps.

Bob Jones

The most critical joint of the DTC


The most critical joint of the Dutch Tool Chest may surprise you.  It’s not the dovetails on the bottom corners.  It’s the shelf and the dado on the sides.  That shelf controls the squareness of the chest.  Why?  The width of the case is set by the length bottom board which is joined to the sides by dovetails.  Make the bottom length whatever you want, because as long as the shelf matches the bottom, the case will be square.  Use you imagination and you should see that small changes in the shelf length make larger changes in the case width at the top (aka squareness).  See it?  I suggest you take the advice given in the article and trial fit the shelf before glue-up.  The process of fitting the shelf wasn’t discussed much in the article so I thought a post was in order.

DTC Shelf Installation

dado-1  dado-2

Join the bottom of the case to the sides with dovetails.  I covered that process already.  Next clamp your shelf on top of the bottom board on your bench making sure to position them as they will be in the final product (match up/down and left/right).  Next we are about to get “precise”.

dado-3  dado-4

In the picture on the left I hope you see the line that marks the depth of the dovetail joint on the bottom board.  This line marks the inside of the case.  Transfer that layout line to the self board with a square and marking knife.  If you have no marking knife, here is a suggestion for a cheap alternative.


With the dovetail depth line transferred, decide the appropriate depth of the shelf dado.  Mine is about 1/4inch.  Mark that line toward the outside of the dovetail depth line, then wrap that line around the shelf board.


Cut the shelf to length using the new lines (one on each end).  I cut the board leaving the line then planed the end grain just to the line.  No need for an XL shooting board for this, a Moxon vise works great.  If your feeling brave feel free to save the fuss and just saw to the line.  Careful – this length is critical.

dado-7 dado-8

Shelf board (left pic) and Case Side (right pic)

Now that the shelf is cut to length, use the marking gauge to transfer the depth of the dado from the shelf board to the side board.  FYI – I like a wheel gauge better than any other kind I have tried.


With the dado depth marked, finish marking and making your dados as I described in the Simple Shelf project.  Pre-assemble the case to ensure it is square.  If the case is not square, plane the shelf as needed.  Of course, that will only work if your shelf is too long.  If your shelf is too short, make a new shelf and know you learned a lesson.  It is easier to remove wood than to put it back.

Bob Jones

A Nice Dutch Tool Chest (not mine)


Travis from middle Tennessee saw my post on building a Dutch Tool Chest and offered to send me some pictures of his.  I think you will agree that he did a fantastic job on the build and has filled it with a nice set of tools.  The pictures prompted some questions from me, so I thought an interview type post would be fun.  So check out all the pictures and learn what you can from them.


“Can you give me some of your highlights from the build?”

“I used home center white pine. The top and fall front are glued panels. SYP for the locks, battens, and skids. I made the larger version because I do not have any other chest or cabinet for tool storage. As you can see by the orientation of the planes, I too am a southpaw. The #8 is the one I bought from you. I made a small drawer for inlay tools that always seem to get lost. It is a simple rabbeted construction with a nailed on bottom. I made no attempts to remove plane tracks or tear out. There is a lot of tear out and I am ok with it. I think I got the craziest grained white pine in America. One coat of primer followed by two coats of flat latex and one coat of wax. The hinges and hasp are from Van Dyke’s Restorers. The handles are home center zinc plated. I removed the zinc with vinegar. All hardware was treated with gun blue and oiled.”

That was not enough info for me, so I probed a little deeper.


“What would you do differently if you had it to do again?”

“Make it deeper front to back. At 11 1/4 inches the top compartment feels cramped.

Make the top compartment deeper top to bottom. I wanted to hang a small try square on one of the sides but there is no room.

Make the middle shelf narrower. Stopped dadoes would not take anymore time than cutting all the notches for the locks and battens, and would make it easier to attach tools to the fall front.

Use milk paint for the finish. I had some leftover primer and paint so I don’t feel too bad. I prefer the look of milk paint.”

“Do you recommend the small drawer below the shelf for others?”

“I would recommend the drawer if you have small tools that are prone to getting lost. I store inlay tools and a router adapter in there. I don’t use them enough to put in the top and I was afraid that they would get lost or fall out if placed in the open compartment.”


“How do you have the lid attached / stopped?”

“I don’t follow instructions well so I tried to do something different with the top. It did not go well and as a result the top was too narrow to act as a stop when open. At first I used a leather strap and that failed because of the weight of the lid. The attached photo shows my solution. Two blocks approximately 2 x 3 x 3/4 inches. The top of the blocks are cut at 10 degrees. They work great and take most of the stress off of the hinges. I recommend them if your vehicle is large enough that there is little chance of knocking them (when) moving the chest in and out.”


“Ok, what’s the significance of the donkey?”

“Two-fold: 1) I love donkeys. 2) Many people are put off by my sense of humor and I have been called a ‘donkey’ (paraphrase) more than once.”

“I have to ask.  Is there any political influence in the choice of the donkey?  Someone who reads the post will ask, so we may as well get that out there.”
“The donkey has zero political indication. It never even occurred to me. I’m not naive, honestly. I love burros.”

Many thanks to Travis for sharing and being willing to answer all my questions.  I expect this will help others who are considering building this chest.  Please, since the burro is not political let’s leave the politics discussion for other blogs.  Thanks!

Bob Jones

Nothing is Free

bad-lumber good-lumber

On the left is a sample board from the crate lumber.  On the right is a panel made of purchased (inexpensive) lumber.  Which would you rather use?

“Everything costs someone something”.

I don’t know who originated that quote, but they knew what they were talking about.  I had a goal of making this tool chest from 100% recycled materials, but one night of aggravated hand planing ruined that goal.  I was frustrated with 75% of my materials because the boards were too skinny, too short, too knotty, and just too terrible.  I could have made it work, but life is too short to mess with inferior materials.  Backup plan time.  I needed to go to the home center for another project, so I took a detour through the lumber section.  No harm in looking, right?  My expectations were pretty low.  First up, the “premium” pine.  It looked great, but cost way too much.  Next was the “builder’s grade” pine, which was affordable but knotty.  Then came the middle grade material.  The price was good, but the boards on top were as knotty as the “builder’s grade” stock.  After a little digging through the middle grade material, I found 3 really nice, clear, 10-inch wide boards. I bought them.  I’m $30 more invested in this tool chest but I’m working with some decent lumber and having fun planing again.


Good lumber = more fun at the bench.  This pine is really nice stuff for hand planing!

Word to the wise – don’t waste much time with inferior materials.  Your projects and your time are too valuable.  The crate “recycled” lumber is still being used in this project, just less of it.  The rest can be used in my fire pit.  I really enjoy a good fire.  As an added bonus, I am now able to make the chest a few inches longer than the chest in the PWWM article (full 32 inch).  It should be long enough to hold a full sized hand saw and I’ll still be able to lift it.  Fingers crossed on that one.

Bob Jones