Machinist Toolbox #1: Design - Feedback Welcome

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 12-06-2010 04:38 AM 9670 reads 5 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Machinist Toolbox series Part 2: Milling some Lumber »

I’ve seen machinist toolboxes here and elsewhere a couple of times, but never felt they would be useful for my woodworking needs as they seem to be aimed at organizing smaller items/tools/etc, so I never paid much attention to these boxes.

With my recent interest in machining, I find I need a toolbox to hold all my small gauges, tools, keys, wrenches, tooling, measuring devices, etc. A machinist toolbox would be perfect for the job. I’ve looked around, and to be honest- these boxes are quite complex in construction. Unlike a regular (tool)box which is like all other woodworking projects- a 4 wall box, with a floating bottom, and a floating panel on top that is sliced to open or house drawers, a machinist toolbox has openings on 2 sides – the Top, and the Front, making it impossible to construct a regular 4 walls box (with just 1 opening on the top).

I couldn’t find much info online regarding construction of machinist toolboxes except for a couple of plans for purchase in places such as woodsmith (afaik), and I didn’t really like the look of that particular box. What I ended up doing is searched for images of machinist toolboxes, and found some really nice ones made by Gernster (which I then learnt was a very reputable maker of such boxes). Even those boxes didn’t seem to fit my needs though as in addition to housing small tools, I also want it to house my lathe quick-release-tool-holders, which are ~3” tall. I also wanted the toolbox to be on the smaller size, and so decided to design a custom box based on what I’ve seen in others.

I ended up making 3 versions of the design until I was happy with how it looks, and the joinery worked out well. This is one of those times where SketchUp really worked well and saved me hours of recutting by being able to draw out all the joinery and the panelling, and figuring out the weak spots, and the problematic areas.

The box if I end up building it (time constraints) will look like this:

And Opened:

Dimensions are 16”(w) x 10”(d) x 13.5”(h)
The box is made of mahogany frame, with maple drawer fronts, and probably poplar for secondary wood.
The front panel is automatically locked when the lid is closed, and hopefully I can incorporate wooden dovetailed full extension drawer slides for the drawers.

Lots of ideas, lots of plans, hopefully I can Bring this also through the build process.

Any design feedback, or ideas are welcome. Especially from folks who’ve built those before, but also from anyone else as well.

Thanks in Advance.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

22 comments so far

View dannymac's profile


144 posts in 3492 days

#1 posted 12-06-2010 04:44 AM

if i made something that beautiful my mother or sisters would steal it for a jewlery box. keep your eyes on it once your finished it may get pinched

-- dannymac

View Pawky's profile


278 posts in 3280 days

#2 posted 12-06-2010 04:52 AM

How are you planning on having the front drawers lock when you close the top lid?

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile


742 posts in 3750 days

#3 posted 12-06-2010 04:58 AM

You must include a “secret compartment”! It is traditional and a sign of the craftsmanship.

Just don’t ask ME how to do it. I got nothin’.

-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

View AaronK's profile


1508 posts in 3941 days

#4 posted 12-06-2010 05:01 AM

nice – i look forward to seeing this come alive. i also wonder about the locking mechanism. finally, do you plan to keep ts box in one place like a cabinet, or will it move around? if so, you might consider some sort of handles either on the sides or underneath.

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4358 days

#5 posted 12-06-2010 05:03 AM

Sorry I don’t have much to add. But a cab like that could be quite useful.
I like it, good luck, I hope you get to build it.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3535 days

#6 posted 12-06-2010 06:19 AM


Here is a link that shows how they build them at the Gerstner factory. Check this out.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View Karson's profile


35197 posts in 4877 days

#7 posted 12-06-2010 06:26 AM

Sharon: A great start. Keep track of the build.

Great video.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3810 posts in 4498 days

#8 posted 12-06-2010 07:02 AM

Sharon, layout your tools on some paper and see what your fit is going to look like.
A 1/2” here or there is easy to adjust for at this stage.

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4456 days

#9 posted 12-06-2010 09:40 AM

Nice job Sharon.

The planning stage is often my favorite part of a project. (That, and seeing it finally leaving the shop)


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3333 days

#10 posted 12-06-2010 12:43 PM

Great project,
I’m looking forward to following your progress.
I think it is something on most folks list.

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View mafe's profile


12096 posts in 3566 days

#11 posted 12-06-2010 12:44 PM

Go for it!
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View b2rtch's profile


4886 posts in 3525 days

#12 posted 12-06-2010 01:06 PM

I really enjoyed the video,
I noticed the guy that sands all day long with a out a mask or dust collection.

-- Bert

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4125 days

#13 posted 12-06-2010 04:21 PM

Thanks Everyone – some good points to consider. I have laid out some tools in SketchUp (my digital paper), but not all. I guess now would be a better time to see if it all fits than having 1 couple of tools that just wont fit later on. So thanks for the reminder Bob.

The construction for the sides is indeed using a rabbet to lock the vertical grain panel (that locks with dovetails to the bottom) to the horizontal grain panel (That locks with dovetails to the front and back). I don’t have any QS lumber, and was planing on using mahogany which may not be as long lasting as oak but is what I have at hand, and I like the look of it. may not be the best option for longevity, but this is a smaller size box, and for private use and should receive it’s proper care so I think It’ll work out (hopefully lol).

The hardware for locking the front panel and drawer is indeed what Skarp has linked to (Thanks for the link, I didn’t realize LV carried it and was planning on making it myself, but I might just end up ordering it from them).

Doc – Thanks for the vid link, these are all very inspiring!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4125 days

#14 posted 12-06-2010 05:13 PM

Yup Skarp, this is what this is – the first post in the blog.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3343 days

#15 posted 12-06-2010 06:22 PM

Sharon, I like your design fine and I’ve seen the hardware available for these boxes. You also might want to check out Tommy J. McDonalds site. He has a tutorial on building a tool box and you might find that some of his ideas that he uses might help you. The box is not exactly like the one that you want to build but his videos are interesting.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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