a 21st century bench with engineered wood #14: tool trays

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Blog entry by metolius posted 05-20-2021 01:50 AM 605 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 13: top slab completion Part 14 of a 21st century bench with engineered wood series Part 15: dogs and pegged legs »

Bob Lang’s 21st Century bench was originally made with 4 removable tool trays between the top beams. The trays may be individually removed or flipped over for a solid space. Ive seen build pictures of 3, 4, or 5. I chose to work with 4, each about 23 inches long.

I’ve noticed that I often place my chisel into the closest open dog hole to hold it; and I get flustered if my current chisel is too wide to fit. For this, I wanted to build a chisel rack into the bench.

The design I ended at is an incorporation of chisel racks into the tool trays where one end would have 3 slots for chisels and the other a very large slot for larger things such as a dovetail saw.

Looking for material, I found that I had just enough cutoffs of 1.5 inch thick ply to make 17 tool tray ends. 16+1 for a mistake. These were glued together then re-cut into rectangles with the ply layers exposed.

I also acquired some hickory for the side and bottom panels.

... milling …

... filling ply voids blue … filled some hickory knots too …

... I think it adds interest …

.. cleaning dados that hold the end pieces …

Each end piece is custom fit for its place, so they had to be tracked and labeled. In the vise is a 10 1/2 carriage plane that was being used to trim the rebates to size. For the most part, the plywood cutoffs were cutoff because they weren’t stable and de-laminating. I had to re-glue these pieces together many times as work progressed. A few edges disintegrated almost entirely.

... all cut and labeled …

... a dry run test assembly with the trays inverted …

From here, I cut dadoes for the chisel holder dividers and prepared some hickory cutoffs for slats.

Hickory does expand/contract a lot, yet I feel that I made the bottoms 1/16in too narrow. The gaps are quite noticeable. To keep the floating bottoms centered and the gaps even, I shimmed it center and pinned it with a dowel to the end piece. This was done without gluing the end piece to the sides, because the glue up is a bit complicated for that.

... final pieces laid out for assembly …

.. and clamp …

... putting the V-twin to work as I trim protrusions ….

... at the drill press I used a router chamfer bit and a 5/8 forstner to add stability to chisel holding …

... double checking all with touch ups for flat and square …

That picture shows a couple gap spots where the plywood fell apart while being worked. I thought about mixing more blue for filling, but chose to go with a neutral acrylic putty instead.

After sanding, I shellac wash coated the plywood parts so that they will finish more evenly.

This picture show ends like a french movie with all ready for that last scene .. but alas, fin, no climactic finish.
At the rate I’ve been working these, it might be the end of June before a final coat.

-- derek / oregon

3 comments so far

View HokieKen's profile


18400 posts in 2294 days

#1 posted 05-20-2021 03:52 PM

I like the idea here! Something similar would work nicely on my bench :-) Just curious why the dividers on the chisel ends instead of making both ends with one long slot? Seems like you could just as easily stick 3 chisels on the other end without any negative consequence? Not that I see any problem with the dividers, it would just be more versatile for me I think if I could put two saws or 6 chisels or whatever depending on what I was doing at the moment…

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View metolius's profile


430 posts in 1886 days

#2 posted 05-20-2021 05:26 PM

There was a design iteration of two long slots with no dividers. There was even contemplation of 3 or 4 slots, 2 long slots with one divided, and perhaps 2 trays would be normal box trays and the other two would consist of only a variety of slots and holes, etc.

I ended up using dividers on an end because I was concerned about chisels tipping into each other. After construction, I find that the chamfered hole in the slot holds socket and tang chisels upright just fine.

I can imagine a future, wanting an additional long slot might lead me to cutting out the dividers in one of the trays.

Good luck!

-- derek / oregon

View HokieKen's profile


18400 posts in 2294 days

#3 posted 05-20-2021 05:28 PM

Thanks! That’s basically what I figured but wanted to make sure I wasn’t overlooking something :-)

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

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