The Mother Of All Tool Totes

Ask any of my family or friends, I don’t do anything half way. The Germans would be proud of many of my projects, which tend to be engineered to last forever. So, when I decided I needed a tote to bring tools to an install site, things got a little out of hand.

I started off with a design incorporating hand cut dovetails and angled ends. This way I could get some practice laying out and cutting angled dovetails (next step, compound angled dovetails). It was to be made of OBS radiata pine boards, 24 inches long and 8 inches wide. As I began to layout the boards for cutting, I re-thought the dimensions. 24 inches, with the angled sides, would give me a box with a 20 inch floor. Not quite enough to hold my jointer plane, which was one of my requirements. So, I decided to add six inches to the overall length. After all, 6 inches wasn’t a significant increase, right?

After cutting the side boards, I transferred and cut the desired angle at the ends. I stepped off the dovetails using dividers, just as with a squared end. The difference was the angle of the tails. I transferred the angle from the ends of the two sides to the bottom half of the tails, and guesstimated the top angle at just over 90 degrees. They looked good, so the outlines were cut, the waste removed with a fret saw, and the excess chiseled out. The pins followed, and were actually pretty easy. Once the tails were cut, the only thing left was to transfer the tail outlines onto the pin boards. After cutting and fitting, they came out like so…

The floor was easy, I cheated. Rather than glue up pine boards (which I didn’t have enough of), I used some birch ply I had lying around. I simply cut to size, then angle cut the ends. Done. I wanted to put more time into the handle.

I cut the handle to length, with some excess for tenons to fit into the box sides. The combination of dovetailed sides, and the tenons on the handle ends, would insure good weight carrying capacity. Probably more than I could carry.

After drilling and cleaning up the mortises, I rough cut the tenons, making the cheeks with my small rabbet plane. It was trial and error fitting, which worked out pretty well. I elected not to add wedges to the tenons. It just seemed redundant.

I marked out the contours and piercing for the hand grip, then cut everything out with a coping saw. It worked well, but on 3/4″ material, a coping saw is slow work. A turning saw may end up on my Christmas list.


After the waste was removed, I used rasp and file to clean up the cuts (add a spokeshave to that list), finishing up with sandpaper.

Assembly was fun. I used a slow setting wood glue, because I had four sets of dovetails to glue up, and then put everything together…carcase, floor, and handle. Once together two clamps held it all together. It was a snug fit, but came out perfectly square.

After sanding, a little putty (very few gaps I’m happy to say), I put two coats of paint on the box exterior, followed by two coats of water based poly on the bare wood and the paint. The paint was mixed using existing stocks I had. I didn’t want to spend more money on this project, so I mixed some white into the obnoxious General Finishes Corinth Blue “milk paint” to try and tone it down a bit, along with a dash of analine dye powder.

Interesting color, I’m tempted to add a Tampa Bay Rays sticker to the side. When done, I had what I affectionately called my Big Ass Tool Tote, or BATT for short. I can not only fit in my jointer plane, but also a full size panel saw, with room to spare. I guess 6 inches can make a big difference.


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