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I recently completed my first "almost fully" hand tool project. It was a totally fantastic woodworking experience. I wanted to share it here.

Brief intro: I thought it would be fun to try hand tools. I bought a Veritas dovetail saw. Got me excited. Found Paul Sellers (I am now a "disciple"); I love this man.

I built his workbench. Which was 1: Incredibly taxing for me physically trying to do all that mess in 1 week during Texas summer. 2: a great experience that gives me an incredible platform to work.

Next I wanted to make something for my dad. I saw a picture of this toolbox on PS website. I decided to make it. At the time, I was not a member. Had no plans or tutorials, and I had never done many of these things before; on a machine even or with hand tools.

So, I got after it….

I used ¾ hardwood oak flooring for the build. For the top panels, and the drawer fronts I used Cherry. Not sure why, I just wanted to… There is not enough contrast in the finished product, so seems silly now, but I really don't know what I"m doing.

After laminating the panels, it was time for Case dovetails.

New Skill #1 - More than 3 dovetails in 1 corner.
Pic 1: Dovetails started

Pic 2: Dovetails complete

For the toolbox, PS uses a fancy little half lap dovetail. I had no idea how to do this, so I made this one a regular dovetail for the middle draw divider piece.

Pic 3: Case Complete

Next came the Frame and panel lid.

New Skill #2 - Making a frame.

This was intense. I had no idea what I was doing. I have never done this with machines nor hand tools. I didn't know at the time that I was supposed to also be cutting mortise and tenons to hold it together… So basically the cross pieces (dont know name) just sit in the groove that was cut for the panel. The little tenons are only as deep as the panel groove… hope it doesn't break in the next 50 years or so…

I only had a few chisels, a DT Saw, and a 4 ½ at the time, so I had no idea how to cut the groove… I resorted to the table saw; dangit.

Pic 4: Frame Parts

Pic 5:

Pic 6:

New Skill #3 - Raising a panel

Next up was raising the Cherry panel. I most definitely had never done this either. I had a video PS put on youtube that showed the basic process, and using the 4 ½ I went after that sucker…

Well, it was surprisingly easy. Now, the process was easy and fast… but perfectly aligning the corners was challenging… One pass too many made a huge difference, and I had to be careful but eventually I got it done.

The problem then became how do I get that sucker to fit in the groove. It was too Fat. No matter what I did. So, I came to the forum for help, and was suggested that I cut a rabbet along the back… Great, but I don't have a rabbet plane… I resorted to the jointer; dangit.

Pic 7:

Pic 8:

Pic 9:

Pic 10:

New Skill #4 - Saw off the lid

Look I had just spend 2 months trying to get to this point. I did not have the confidence to saw this sucker in half with my dull 26" disston from the garage sale. After many more projects, and understanding more how to use a plane to cleanup the edges, I would have no problem doing this today. At the time, I panicked, and resorted to the table saw; dangit.

Pic 11:

Next was time for the bottom panel. I was more confident this time, so I just went to work with the same procedure. This time I used a plywood piece for the bottom.

Pic 12:

After gluing on the bottom panel, this is where I'm at. Time for drawers.
Pic 13:

New Skill #5 - Half Blind Dovetails

I had so many questions about this. I didn't know if the drawer front was supposed to be thicker than the sides, or if it mattered. I didn't know how to space the tails. Heck, on the first drawer, I made them backwards. Such that the tails were super thin and the pins were wide… looks so silly. But, I watched enough youtube to figure it out. They are certainly not pretty, but they are strong enough.

New Skill #6 - Mortise/Tenon Drawer Back

The mortise/tenon drawer back was interesting too. I had no idea how to chop a cross grain mortise… and my layout skills were lacking… But eventually I hacked that sucker through. They got progressively better, and the last one (pictured) appears a good fit.

This picture shows the drawer resting on a piece of ply… after this dry fit, I cut a groove for the ply…

Pic 14:

New Skill #7 - Fitting drawers

Well I sure screwed this up. I kinda figured out a way to glue a strip of oak on the inside of the case to be the drawer slides. Then I wanted the drawers to slide across them. I tried to fit this sucker lots of different ways… and I ended up taking off way more on the sides than I needed too…

After I had already made this mistake I watched some more youtube, and I think it was Cosman that I saw mention that the drawer needs to fit almost zero gap side to side… because the wood won't expand that way… the extra room is only needed on the top/bottom for expansion concerns… (well stink, because I already took off way to much on the sides)... So the top drawer is far too loose… The bottom drawer fits much better.

Pic 15:

New Skill #8 - Making Drawer Pulls

PS has some shop made drawer pulls on his box that are mortised into the drawer front. I tried to reverse engineer those suckers with some pieces of Bois DArc and ebony… but it failed… so I panicked and went with some wooden knobs.

Last step was to add strips of oak for the plywood bottom of the top shelf to rest on. I did not glue the plywood down in case I needed to get in there later on at some point and fix a problem or whatever…

Here it is Finished building, before the finish…

Pic 16:

New Skill #9 - Shellac and Wax

Well this was a huge fail. I totally butchered the finish. It is blotchy/streaky, and at some point I must have not gotten all of the sanding dust out or something because there are white streaks and some kind of buildup in the deep pores of the oak. After 3 coats of shellac I applied wax with 0000 steel wool, and then another easy coat later just with a microfiber. The wax makes it feel good, but the color is not even at all.

I would give anything to get all that crap off of there and just rub some oil on it. Anything.

Pic 17: Finished Drawer

- I did a terrible job of grain matching when I glued up the panels… I mean terrible. Some of the panels have both flat and quarter sawn boards.
The Finish.
Not sawing the lid off by hand. I robbed myself of a cool experience.
Using Cherry as the panels and drawer fronts. Not a good contrast.
Not persevering and making the pulls myself.
Screwing up the drawer fitting
Screwing up the half blind dovetails. The 2nd draw was fine, but look at the bottom drawer… The tails are cut backwards.

Overall it was an awesome experience… I have since become a member over at PS site, so after I watched the 10+hours of video on how to build this, I realize I made a lot of silly mistakes… But I learned a ton, and it was a great gift for my dad.

Finished Pictures:



· Registered
19,720 Posts
Looks great Rusty

· Registered
1,819 Posts
Nice work Rusty. The build pics and story are great, I'm sure your dad is proud to have it.

· Registered
434 Posts
Rusty, nice build and nice write-up. Way to stick to the task. The best way to learn to build a box is to build a box. Keep boxing and keep posting.

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100 Posts
Nice build Rusty, really well done. I agree, I LOVE watching Paul Sellers, videos are great, he is so down to earth and capable. Always focuses on the basics to produce things that are not basic. Your tool box is a great example, simple joints that when done as well as you did, it becomes art. Thanks for sharing and a great writeup.

· Registered
133 Posts
Nice job man , I agree that doing the raised panels by hand can be a challenge but as you see it can be done. You do good work. I also have a set of the of Veritas saws and I must say that I was not totally impressed. The "set" of the saws is way to much and it makes them hard to start correctly. My wife bought me a Crown 20 tpi dovetail saw for Christmas because she didn't know I had a dovetail saw, and I like it much better, even though it is much cheaper than the Veritas. Keep up the good work.

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1,276 Posts
We are our worst critics. I was admiring the dove tails so much I had over looked the mismatch grain …
Paul Sellers is a spot on instructor, I watch lots of his videos and he even shows off his mistakes.
Your tool box is an inspiration.
Thanks for sharing.

· Registered
133 Posts
I know that I already left a comment but, I agree Paul Sellers work is something to aspire to. One thing I have gained from him is that you should treat every project as a fine piece of furniture, don't compromise even when you are using cheap pine. One other thing is that you gain the added ability to plan ahead for how the end product should be put together and how it should look. Keep on making sawdust "fellas".

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3,100 Posts
Any way you go about it, you have made a beautiful box. I too am sure Dad will love it. Nice work!

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2,094 Posts
You're too hard on yourself. That tool box looks fantastic, and it's an ambitious project for a relative newcomer.

Don't sell out the cherry fronts too quickly. They're going to darken over the years, and give the contrast you were looking for. It's actually going to be nice little surprise.

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2,509 Posts
Looks great to me!

· Premium Member
8,021 Posts
Great job on the box and the write up, dangit! Made me laugh. Sounds a lot like me in a build, especially the 'silly mistakes' part. Bet your dad loves it. Thanks for sharing.

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81 Posts
Looks fine to me. The only way you can build fluency in these types of operations is to do it. What you'll also find will happen is that all those mistakes are pretty fixable-and all of us continue to make them!

I've always maintained the best way to learn how to cut dovetails and fit drawers quickly is to make a spice box. 13 drawers later…

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70 Posts
That looks great! Really nice work, and lots of new skills learned.