Follow the instructions to build this woodworking project for a small and large size toolbox. The free plan has step-by-step directions and only a few tools are required.

By Gene And Katie Hamilton


Not too long ago, the first project most apprentices completed was a box to hold their tools. Here are two easy-to-construct traditional toolboxes, one scaled for a master craftsman, the other just right for his apprentice. These matching toolboxes are constructed from inexpensive but hard-working pine with hardboard bottoms. There is room for long-handled tools such as hammers and saws, plus small items like nails and measuring tape. Your screwdrivers and chisels are stored in custom-made compartments that hold them all in a handy upright position.

Our boxes are sized to be built with standard dimensional lumber with no long ripsaw cuts required. Construction of both toolboxes is identical except for the dimensions. The directions here are for the apprentice box, but you can use them to build the large toolbox by adjusting the measurements given, using the Cutting List as a guide.

Shopping List

Begin by laying out the dimensions of the ends (A), sides (B), nail compartment partitions (D), and divider (E) on the wood (see Cutting List). Use a combination square to draw straight layout lines. Then cut the pieces, securely clamping the wood to a table or placing it in a vise for safe and accurate cutting. When cutting, keep your saw to the waste side of the layout lines. Don't forget to wear safety glasses or goggles whenever you use cutting or striking tools.

The sloping end shoulders of part A are laid out by making a full-size cardboard pattern (see Building Plan) and then tracing it on the face of the end. When you clamp part A for cutting, place a piece of scrap wood along the layout line to guide the saw.

Cutting List

The handle slot in the divider (E) is next on the list. Make marks 6 1/2 inches from each end and 1 1/4 inches from the top edge. Through these two spots, drill 1-inch holes; these will form the outside corners of the handle. Then use a keyhole or coping saw to make straight cuts from the edge of one hole to the other, parallel to the top edge. Sand the handle cutout smooth with a piece of 120-grit sandpaper wrapped around a short piece of dowel.

Sand all the cutout parts with 120-grit sandpaper. Then test fit the parts, and make any corrections that are needed before assembly. When everything fits, your tool- box is ready to glue up. Make a light pencil mark down the cen- ter of each end piece (A) to help you keep nails aligned. Drive four number 4 finishing nails placed about 1 1/2 inches apart along this line. Pound them in just deep enough so their points emerge from the other side. Then run a bead of carpenter's glue down one end of the divider (E) and align it down the center of one end piece (A). Check that the divider is flush with the bottom of the end piece and then nail it in place. Follow the same procedure for the other end.


Before you glue on the sides, attach the nail compartment partitions (D) to the divider (E). Use number 4 finishing nails and glue in the same manner as above. Then nail and glue on the sides.

The bottom © is held in place with 1- inch roofing nails placed about 1 1/2 inches apart. Drill 1/8-inch pilot holes for these nails, then apply glue and nail the bottom in place. Your new toolbox is now ready for finishing, if desired. We like the natural pine look, but you can finish your box with paint or stain. After the finish has dried, you can customize your toolbox to meet your exact needs by making tool holders out of heavy shoelaces held in place with tacks or staples. Set a tool in place, put the shoelace in position over the tool blade, and tack it down. Keep the shoelace snug but not too tight, so that the tool will be easy to insert. Repeat for each tool.

Now that your apprentice has completed his own toolbox, he'll be ready to tackle the larger box; he might not even need the master to help on this one.

TIME REQUIRED Four hours for cutting, building, and assembling, plus drying time for glue and finish.

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Find helpful advice and tips about tools, finishing, safety practices and a glossary of woodworking terms at Before You Begin