American Woodworker

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Tool Cabinet


Tool Cabinet

Tons of flexible storage for today's woodworking tools. 

By George Vondriska and Dave Munkittrick

Old tool chests made by the masters utilized every square inch of space with custom-fit nooks and crannies for all of their hand tools. Today’s woodworker needs a different kind of storage space, geared toward power tools. Our tool chest is just the ticket. It offers a massive amount of storage space that can be customized to adapt to your ever-changing arsenal of power tools.

The drawers are inexpensive and easy to make. We built them without mechanical slides and saved about $100. Even without the slides, the drawers extend just shy of full length and glide like a dream.

We’ll also introduce you to a timesaving technique for edge-banding casework. This technique eliminates the hassle of cutting and fitting edge banding one piece at a time, plus the nuisance of trying to sand the edge banding flush with the plywood carcase.

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Our tool chest features cubbies for routers, sanders, a plate joiner and cordless drills. The drawers below store the supplies these tools depend on, plus the usual assortment of hand tools. The step-back design yields a small work surface where bits and sandpaper can be changed on the spot. Adjustable shelves above allow you to reconfigure the power-tool storage as you replace old tools and add new ones.

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. Rabbet the ends of both drawer blanks. It’s easier and more accurate to rabbet seven drawer sides at a time and then rip the blanks to final size. Go ahead and rabbet the case sides while you’re at it.

2. Dado the case sides for the drawer runners and the bottom shelf. Label the top and bottom to make sure you get the dadoes located correctly (see Fig. A).

3. Use clamps and a caul to add hardwood edge banding to the plywood after the dadoes and rabbets are cut. Don’t forget to edge-band the bottom of the lower cabinet sides. They act like skids and protect the fragile plywood ends.

4. Glue the drawer runners into the carcase sides. Mark the dado for the bottom shelf so you don’t accidentally glue a runner in the wrong place.

5. Add weights to the two sides set face to face to ensure the runners are seated completely in the dadoes. Use some scrap plywood to protect the case side from your weights.

6. Notch the shelves and dividers on the tablesaw, so they fit into the case sides perfectly (see Fig. C, below). Position the tablesaw fence 1/4-in. from the outside edge of the saw blade. Make test cuts in scrap and fine-tune the fence until the joint is perfect. Push the part into the saw far enough to cut the hardwood edge banding. Then, turn off the saw, flip the part over and cut the other corner.

7. Finish the notch with a handsaw. There’s no need to be fussy here—just cut behind the hardwood edge banding.

8. Careful notching of the edge banding creates a perfect fit between the mating parts. The notched shelves allow you to sand the hardwood edge banding flush to the plywood parts before assembly.

9. Assemble the upper and lower cabinets with glue and clamps. A caul with a cardboard wedge helps distribute clamping pressure across the bottom shelf. Measure diagonals to check for square.

10. Measure the cabinet opening minus the rabbeted ends of a pair of drawer sides to determine the exact length of your drawer fronts and backs. Hold the sides back to back so one rabbet fits over the cabinet side; then subtract 1/8 in. from this measurement. In this case, measuring off of assembled parts is more accurate than working out the dimension mathematically.

11. Screw and glue together the drawer boxes. Then, screw on the drawer bottom to square the drawer.

12. Glue birch wear strips to the bottom of each drawer. Use a caul to distribute clamping pressure.

13. Attach the drawer fronts, using a shim to set the gaps between them. Start at the bottom, and use a pair of spacer blocks to set the front so it overlaps the bottom shelf by 3/8 in. Work from the bottom up, keeping the bottom edges of the drawer fronts approximately flush with the drawer bottoms. Screw them on as you go.

14. Screw the handles to the front of the drawers. Spacers make sure the handles go on straight and level.

15. Screw drawer stops into each opening so you won’t drop your drawers. The kickers hit the stops before the drawer can be pulled all the way out. Don’t use glue because you may want to remove the drawer some day.

16. Fasten shelf standards into the upper case. Use an L-shaped spacer to make sure the standards are uniformly set front to back and top to bottom.

17. Gang cut notches into the ends of the shelves. This locks the shelves onto the standards so they can’t get pulled off along with the tool you’re dragging out.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker October 2002, issue #96.

October 2002, issue #96

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