I wanted to give myself some practice with joinery and hand tools so I thought I would make a traditional-style tool tote out of pine. I didn’t take measurements and instead relied on a combination square to lay out all the joints and scribe-fit all the pieces together. The ends are dovetailed to the sides with mortise and tenon corner braces near the bottom. The tenons are pinned in place along the bottom edges with hand-split pine treenails in 3/16″ holes.
The handle is a red maple sapling that I cut last winter. The bark had been peeled and it was drying indoors for a year with endgrain sealer on the crosscuts. I forgot what I originally had planned on doing with it but it made a nice handle for this project. I lodged the sapling into holes in the end boards lined with a piece of leather to prevent it from spinning in the hole. I pounded a little pine wedge in the hole underneath the handle to secure it firmly.
The bottom of the box is a loose pine board cut about 3/8″ shorter and narrower than the sides. It rests on top of the corner braces with four wedges lodging it in place. I figured the bottom of the box shouldn’t rest directly on the ground where it could wick moisture from the soil and cause tools to rust. The gap between the bottom and sides has the added benefit of draining away anything that might spill inside and provides a little air circulation.
It’s amazing to me how much more satisfaction comes from building something using only hand tools and joinery. All of the rigidity of the box comes from the design of the joinery and the natural compression resistance/ tensile strength of the wood. The facets of the box are held together in complementary tension to one another with no nails or glue whatsoever; just a few wedges and dowel pins in key locations.
The tools I used for this project: Crosscut, ripping and dovetail saws; jack and block planes; 1/2″ and 3/4″ chisels with mallet; egg-beater drill, brace and bits; combination square; and a pencil. I bought the lumber from a big box home improvement store after digging through the whole stack for the least cupped, least twisted and most knot-free boards I could find – not easy with cheap, 1″ flat-sawn pine. I think it was around $8.00 for a 10′ 1×10 and 4′ 1×12 (the dimensions of the finished tool tote are pretty large: about 3’L x 1’W x 2’H; big enough for axes, saws, etc). Not a bad price for a nice tool tote, although it took me about 6 hours to make it considering all the mortise chopping. This project definitely taught me that a quality backsaw for dovetails is something I need to acquire. The little flimsy pull saw I was using was too frustrating to control and took too much effort. I could’ve probably saved a little more time by using a rasp or file to clean up the joints. The chisel seemed to produce the same rough results on the endgrain of kiln-dried pine while taking longer. I also learned that, not unlike heavier anvils making for lighter work, a bench with a thicker top might be something I should think about building.
Well, now I have another wood item awaiting warmer temperatures for a coat of finish…