Tool cabinet layout/design

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Forum topic by Ben posted 06-24-2017 03:48 PM 2178 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Ben's profile


471 posts in 3666 days

06-24-2017 03:48 PM

Hey Guys,

As usual I wish I had spent more time on designing this thing instead of just diving into.

Here’s what I’ve got: Main/central cabinet holds all my planes on shelves. There will be two doors, only about 13 1/2” wide X 34” tall. Main cabinet is 6” deep (5” interior space). I designed the doors to be 6” deep also, so they’d be in the same plane (against wall) when open.

The problem I’m having is the potential for lots of wasted space in these doors.

So far I’ve built one door and installed one shelf for chisels. I realize there is massive space behind the one row of chisels. I could theoretically add a 2nd row of chisels, but then they’d have to be pulled out vertically, and the space I’d gain underneath would be killed above.

In hindsight what I wish I’d done is made that shelf a loose enough fit that it would slide in and out. (Dang!!).
It’s razor tight and actually glued in, so that’s in.

I thought about putting sharpening stones behind the chisels underneath, they fit perfectly, and my honing jig/accs. behind them on top. Decent solution. But have to pull all the chisels to get to the stones.

The other issue is above the chisels I’d like to put my squares and all layout related stuff (wheel gauges, bevel gauge, etc…). But how to make use of that 5” space? Do I build a door within the door?
Or just say the heck with the wasted space and tuck one layer of tools in there?
I realize with my squares, they ideally want to be an inch or two off the back anyway so the hand can grab it.

Here’s a photo of door #1, without revealing too much of the rest of the cabinet, which I’m very happy with.

Thanks for any insight.

22 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4457 days

#1 posted 06-24-2017 04:29 PM

After about 20 years of doing this I am no
longer really acquiring tools. What I’ve
discovered is that while there are only
a handful of woodworking hand tools
I use regularly at the bench, I have dozens
of other tools I use infrequently, little
gadgets and odd measuring devices,
things like that.

I think you might do well to keep your
most frequently used tools in the cabinet
without overthinking how to cram everything
you might use into it.

Tool collecting is such an irregular process
it’s difficulty to predict how the collection
will grow.

I use a lot of drawers. I’ve never built a tool

View Ben's profile


471 posts in 3666 days

#2 posted 06-24-2017 04:47 PM

Thanks Loren. That’s helpful.
My inclination is to just put my most prized tools in there, organized nicely, and not worry about expanding/changing tools.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1729 days

#3 posted 06-24-2017 07:32 PM


One possible solution for the chisels would be to build a chisel holder that presents the chisels at an angle, similar to a knife block. If you go in this direction, having a method to fasten the angled chisel block to the door would keep the chisel block and chisels off the floor when opening the door. The block angled away from the back of the door would leave some space for long items to hang down behind the block. Something like this but for chisels…

Some ideas for capturing space in the door are to add adjustable or slide-out shelves for lay-flat items. A flat panel mounted in a frame with pivot hinges at the top and bottom and where the frame mounts inside the door would give hanging space on the door itself and on each side of the pivoting panel. Since this is a door, a catch of some kind to keep the panel in place when opening and closing the door would be required.

One idea for the planes is to lay a rubber shelf liner from the home center on the shelves. This way the planes can be placed in their upright position or on the sides. It also helps them stay put.

View JackDuren's profile


1260 posts in 1769 days

#4 posted 06-24-2017 09:08 PM

You really need to think of how to compress space to make it functional in the shop. Many try to spread it out to look like there’s more only to find later they have consumed more space than needed as the shop grows..

View Ben's profile


471 posts in 3666 days

#5 posted 06-24-2017 09:20 PM

Thanks Jack.
I’m not really sure how this applies to my cabinet design question. It is a pretty small, humble cabinet and definitely could have been much larger.
Thanks for the links to nicely organized shops.

View JackDuren's profile


1260 posts in 1769 days

#6 posted 06-25-2017 02:11 AM

The ideal is to think ahead. Think what will eventually be in the cabinet and how you will arrange it. I never build on the fly. I’l always thinking ahead…

This cabinet alone is designed to hold $1200 worth of clamps. This doesn’t include what will be on the doors.

This cabinet for accessories…

View rhybeka's profile


4870 posts in 3931 days

#7 posted 06-28-2017 04:58 PM

Hi Ben! Is this cabinet going to be wall mounted or will it travel with you? I would say if it’s going to remain wall mounted just chalk the wasted space up and keep going. As you stated in an earlier comment you could just store your most used/prized tools in it and either build something else to store all the other tools.

Or, to cabbage on to the other idea, could they be angled slightly to the back so you could store say pencils or marking gauges below them? Maybe install a strip of wood on the back to rest the tips against so they don’t free swing and catch your hands as they reach in??

Good luck!

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

View Ben's profile


471 posts in 3666 days

#8 posted 06-28-2017 09:52 PM

Thanks rhybeka!
The cabinet will indeed be on the wall. And chalk it up is what I will do!

If I had that one shelf to do over again I would probably angle two rows of chisels. But it’s glued in!


View Ben's profile


471 posts in 3666 days

#9 posted 07-09-2017 10:45 PM

Hi Guys,

The rough construction of my cabinet is basically finished. I just need to layout the storage in the doors.

One question I’m struggling with: I had always planned on hanging the doors on brass butt hinges.
I’m hesitating now for two reasons. One, whether or not they can take the weight of these very heavy doors, also with a lot of torque/load twisting towards the back. I was planning on three hinges per side.

The second reason I hesitate is that all that brass will distract from the nice aesthetic going on now, and particularly will interfere with the look of the drawer bank.

My final hesitation has to do with questioning my skills to pull it off and have all my dovetails line up, flush all around, with an even reveal between doors. I’ve hung a million doors, but this is particularly high stakes.
Also the two doors are not perfectly square so some fine tuning with hand planes will be in order.

If I don’t hinge it, I may use the Chicago Bolts sold by Lee Valley to just hang the doors off the main cabinet.

Functionally I don’t really need the cabinet to be able to close. Practically I’d like to, for a little peace of mind if I’m out of town (anyone can peer in my glass door and see the tools on display otherwise).
Also I went to a lot of trouble to resaw a 13” wide piece of Walnut to bookmatch the panels.

Pretty soon I’ll have some official finished shots of this cabinet. It’s been rewarding to build.



View JackDuren's profile


1260 posts in 1769 days

#10 posted 07-09-2017 11:03 PM

Looking good…...............

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3761 days

#11 posted 07-09-2017 11:59 PM

The doors are book matched, right? Looks really great, nicely done!

-- Mike

View Ben's profile


471 posts in 3666 days

#12 posted 07-10-2017 12:03 AM

Yes, book matched.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1729 days

#13 posted 07-10-2017 02:46 AM


The cabinet looks like a nice home for your planes and shaves; well done!

Butt hinges to hang the doors may be the easier of the two approaches given what I suspect must be done to make the brass pivot hinges work. I agree that the each door loaded with tools will be heavy. Rather than three brass hinges, four or maybe even five may be worth considering, depending of the size of the hinge. But as you say, all that added brass could detract from the care and attention to detail you built into the cabinet.

I personally like pivot hinges for their low profile, simplicity, and strength. However upper and lower mounting points on the cabinet to accept the pivot pins for attaching the doors to the cabinet are needed but seem to be absent. Therefore for the pivot hinge option to work, mounting points must be added.

The bottom mounting point would need to be especially strong since it will bear the full weight of the door. Since the top and bottom of the cabinet are flush to the sides some options are: 1) blocks attached to the cabinet’s top and bottom, 2) a strip of wood attached to the front edges of the cabinet’s top and bottom, extending the depth of the cabinet’s top and bottom, or 3) a second top and bottom, both cantilevered beyond the front edges of the existing top and bottom and attached to the existing top and bottom.

The first option would look like an after-thought. The second option would cover the sliding dovetails, which I suspect you would like to show off (I know I would). That leaves the third option; a cantilevered top and bottom. For such heavy doors, I would think that a minimum cantilever beyond the edges of the cabinet’s top and bottom should be 1” with the pivot bolt set at ½” from the cabinet edge. The back edge of the doors, where the doors meet the cabinet sides, would need to be chamfered or rounded to provide clearance for the door to swing open. The location of the pivot points on the door would dictate the amount of relief required on the door edge. Leaving a gap on the hinge side where the door meets the cabinet could reduce the amount of relief required.

The sketch shows the requirement for a mounting point and the need to relieve the edge of the doors. The black dot represents the pivot bolt.

View builtinbkyn's profile


3009 posts in 1750 days

#14 posted 07-10-2017 03:40 AM

Why not use piano hinges? They’ll spread the load and should look fine.

I just did a site search and it seems that’s what many have done.

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View Ben's profile


471 posts in 3666 days

#15 posted 07-10-2017 11:01 AM

Thanks guys.
JBrow – thanks for the thorough writeup, although I have to say I’m not liking any of those options for the pivot hinge.
Maybe a cantilevered top.
Seems more convoluted than just putting on butt hinges.

builtinbkyn – I think a piano hinge would cover up my sliding dovetails, unless mounted to the outside, in which case the knuckle might keep the door from opening all the way, and would look like hell with doors closed.

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