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Dovetailed Tool Box Revere MA

You can make this box with many different dovetail jigs. You can use a Keller (no relation!) through-dovetail jig for the corners (see Sources, page 65). Other through-dovetail jigs will work, but you may have to change the width of the box’s sides for the spacing between the pins and tails to look good.

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Dovetailed Tool Box

Dovetailed Tool Box

Fill it, carry it, bang it around: These joints will last forever.

by Seth Keller

A lightweight, sturdy toolbox is perfect for odd jobs around the house. Carpenters used to make their own, just nailed together. I’ve built a more sophisticated design using two different dovetail joints.

The corners of my toolbox are held together with through dovetails. The cherry handle supports are dovetailed, too, but this joint is more subtle. It’s a huge tapered, sliding dovetail. (Fig. A, Detail 2, below). To make this joint, I used a special dovetail bit and a shop-made jig. The jig is so simple that I can guarantee you’ll get a perfect fit right off the bat. 

Tools and Materials

You can make this box with many different dovetail jigs. I used a Keller (no relation!) through-dovetail jig for the corners (see Sources, page 65). Other through-dovetail jigs will work, but you may have to change the width of the box’s sides for the spacing between the pins and tails to look good. You can also use a half-blind dovetail jig, the kind widely used for making drawers. If you do, you might have to increase the thickness of the sides and ends to accommodate the dovetails’ length.

I used white pine for the sides; it’s lightweight and easy to sand. I used cherry for the handle supports because it’s stronger and contrasts nicely with the pine.

Dovetail the Box

1. Mill the sides (A) and ends (B) to final dimensions (see Cutting List, below). 

2. Dovetail the corners (Photo 1). Glue the box together.

Photo 1:  Rout dovetails on the box’s sides. You can use a through-dovetail jig, as shown here, use a half-blind jig or cut them by hand. Corner joints don’t get any stronger than this!

3. Even the box’s top and bottom edges with 150-grit sandpaper (Photo 2). Use the same method to level the dovetails.

Photo 2: Sand the box’s edges on a flat surface to make them flush. Use double-faced tape to hold the sandpaper. When the sides are flush, glue on a slightly oversize plywood bottom.

4. Cut the bottom (C) slightly oversize and glue it to the box. Use three or four clamps per side to ensure a tight fit. When the glue is dry, use a router to trim the bottom flush with the sides (Photo 3).

Photo 3: Rout the bottom with a flush-trim bit to make it even with the sides. Move the router counterclockwise for the best control.Make the Handle Supports

5. Mill the handle supports (D) to rough dimensions.

6. Make a template (Fig. A, Detail 1, below) for the supports. I use 1/2-in. MDF for router templates, but plywood works fine, too. Cut the angled lines on the template with a bandsaw or jigsaw, and then straighten the edges with a sanding block or file. Trace the template onto the supports. Cut 1/16 in. outside the line with a bandsaw or jigsaw. Affix one support to the template with double-faced tape.

7. Shape the support o...

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