Japanese toolbox

Most wood workers or indeed keen diy'ers will own a number of tools. So with this comes the need to store them, keep them safe and so on. So the quest begins.
There are many options , opinions and ideas. Some say that a toolbox is kind of a right to passage , showing off the skill of that person normally involving a lot of dovetails. Dovetails are strong , look good and will stand the test of time but, will also take some time, especially if your opting for a chest with tills. I do use dovetails in my work but I didn't want to spend that time when there's other options . Others will opt for a mix of dovetails (or other joints) and screws/nails and these type of box's can be really good as well. so what do you build? 
My first toolbox was not a common design but something I seen on YouTube which I really liked. So having spent some time looking at other designs I decided that this design was for me. Both sides of the box fold down allowing access to all the tools which are fixed to the sides with metal clips and some wooden holders. The top (when closed ) has a cutout to fit your hand in to pick the box up. So with the top being flat it doubles up as a small sawhorse/platform to saw on. It uses four screws as the hinge system, so no need to buy hinges. The center has a flat surface to store planes etc. So I built the thing, changed the design to include some dovetails and fitted it out with my tools which took considerable longer then making it.
It was done. I marveled at the toolbox , and began using it but soon discovered the design wasn't for me. It was long and heavy with only a single hand cutout , putting all the weight onto one arm and one side of the body. I find it awkward to reach around the backside for tools and was it necessary to put all the tools in holders? And of course, the Biggie , I didn't anticipate extra tools which there's no room for.
I did learn a few lessons while making and using the box which did lend themselves in this build.

1.Use a light material. Pine is a good choice, it's light and readily available here in the UK. Which is my choice for this build.
2.Don't over complicate things, keep things simple and practical.
3.The length of your toolbox has to (at the least) accommodate your longest tool which in my case is my rip saw.
4.Build the toolbox big enough to accommodate some extra tools you WILL acquire.

With these points in mind I also wanted the build to be quick but still strong and potentially use the box for a platform if I ever needed to. I had given the toolbox a lot of time and thought. I was leaning towards a Dutch tool chest which I do like but, the slopping lid stops you from using the chest as a platform to saw on if needed,  or to rest a piece your working on if your bench is to high for the task at hand. The lid was thought to be slopped for rain and/or for paperwork. The drop down lid is a good idea but, for me , same again, it has no use that I'm aware of and you can't really mount any tools to it. 

Scrolling through Instagram getting my visual woodworking fix I seen a Japanese toolbox and couldn't believe how simple the box was and, the fact that I had never seen one before. I was so impressed that I knew this was going to be my new toolbox. It ticked all the boxes but, I didn't like the way that all the tools where just stuffed in there. so after a little thought I decided that there could be a little bit of tool organization without complicating the box by use of rare earth magnets and tool clips. I have opted for housing joints and some rose head nails for the build but I have seen the boxes with just nails, through tenon's and finger joints.
I started off with gluing 2 boards together which were 9" each.
These will be the the bottom and the lid. I rough cut these after the glue had dried so they were easy to handle. I marked the boards with a knife wall then created a step with a chisel. I cut the bottom to size and used it to size the long sides. I then used an off-cut to roughly lay out the the lines for the housing joint, I left the thickness of the stock then another thickness for the joint itself. I struck a knife wall then used a chisel to create a valley down to depth. This could be done with a saw and a fence clamped in place but, I prefer to use a chisel. I then placed the board that was intended for that joint in place to get the second knife wall for the joint. Note the distance between the board and pencil line. There was a slight difference in the thickness of the stock and you will always move the knife wall back no matter how careful you are. This is why it is a good idea to mark the joint out this way. Once the knife wall is established then a valley is made with a chisel leaving a peak in the middle. I then remove the thick of this with a chisel and finish it off with a router plane. The other three joints are cut in the same manner. I then placed the sides boards on the bottom board and put a pencil mark inside the housing, this gave me the length of the two boards that will fit into the housing joint.

Once the boards were cut , fitted and a dry assembled , I added glue to the joints , marked out for the nail placement ,then began to drill the pilot holes. I bored these pilot holes at about 80° so the nails resembled a dovetail like pattern . This helps to stop pieces coming apart. I placed the bottom board onto the box's frame and lined one side flush. The bottom board had some cupping (bending) so, I nailed the two corners of the side I had just flushed. I was then able to clamp the board flat. I marked out for the rest of the nails and repeated the same dovetail like pattern for the pilot holes. There was a slight lip on the bottom board which I planed off. 
I cut two strips for the top which were fixed in the same manner as before. One of the strips has a bevel on it , about 80°. This will accommodate the wedge that locks the lid that is also beveled and tapered. I cut the wedge and two battens, again one had a bevel for the wedge. I ripped the lid to width and finished one end with the plane. I placed two battens on the top of the box to support the lid. I took a lot of time moving the lid back and forth , making pencil marks and making sure the lid will fit in the open/closed position. When I was happy I cut the lid to length. 

I put the lid battens and wedge in place on the box, I lined the lid up with the pencil marks, double checked the battens and wedge was in place. This gave me the placement of the battens. Again , I had cupping in the lid so I clamped the battens in place and marked out the pilot holes. When the nails where seated the ends were bent over to stop the batten separating from the lid, the wedge needed a little fitting and the lid was done. Next was the handles 
 which were two strips , with a bevel on one side to accommodate my fingers tips. I glued and nailed the handles in place.
At this point your pretty much done. Nearly all the examples of the box's I've seen, the tools are
just placed on top of one another with not a lot of organization. I opted for tool clips, rare earth magnets and several wooden holds. I attached these to the underside of the lid and , was able to house a good few tools. The lid hangs very nicely on the end of the box by the batten. This could be clamped in place but I've not yet seen the need, the weight of the lid keeps itself in place. 
All in all its a good sturdy box with lots of room, the lid has a lot of tool storage and could be hung on a wall etc. The box can be used as a platform/saw horse. I did also have the idea that, it could be used as a poor man's moxon vise. Although I have not yet tried this idea out , I think the box is stout enough , has the height and, has plenty of clamping area for wide boards. Another unexpected plus is there is a lot of area to hang or sit your tools without fully putting them away which keeps the bench nearly clutter free. I also added some rare earth magnets to the outside and these hold my rip and crosscut saws vertical. 

This was a quick build and it was intended to be. So I would recommend to anyone who doesn't want to spend a great deal of time or, anyone that can't cut dovetails yet. Tool tills could be added so, that is a possibility some may consider.

Comments

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