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Woodwork 

Winter 2013-2014

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Dovetailed Tool Box

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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.

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

Click any image to view a larger version.


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.


Rout the bottom with a flush-trim bit to make it even with the sides. Move the router counterclockwise for the best control.


Shape the handle supports with a template. I use a twobearing flushtrim bit (see photo, right), which makes it possible to cut with the grain on both sides of this piece. It’s a neat trick. I shape one side with the template down, using the top bearing, and the other side with the template up, using the bottom bearing.


Bevel the handle support’s sides with a dovetail bit. Position the fence flush with the bit’s lower edge.


Build a jig to cut a large dovetailed recess for the handle supports. Begin by clamping two shop-made brackets flush to the box. They’ll support the jig’s angled parts. Mark a centerline on the bottom bracket.


Align the handle support’s template with the bracket’s centerline and flush with the box’s bottom. Butt two guide boards to the template. Fasten the boards to the brackets.


Rout a recess with the dovetail bit you used to bevel the supports. This bit’s bearing follows the guide boards. Bridge the boards with a large baseplate.


Slide a support into the recess as far as it will go. Mark the overhang and trim the waste on the tablesaw using a miter gauge.


Mark centerlines on both ends of the box’s handle, a large dowel. Guide the pencil with a board whose thickness is half the dowel’s diameter. Saw the line to make a kerf that will receive wedges.


Taper both ends of a long, thin piece of wood to make two wedges.


Glue and clamp one handle support to the box. The next step is a bit tricky: Slide the dowel through the other support so that its end sticks past the hole. Slide the support into the box, then push the dowel back into the hole on the far side. Clamp the second support.


Tap the wedges home. The wedge must run at a right angle to the support. If it were to run the other way, following the support’s grain, the wedge’s force could split the wood.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker November 2006, issue #125.

November 2006, issue #125

Purchase this back issue.