Last night after work I sprinted into the garage to get the lid and front panel of my Patriot’s Tool Chest cut and fitted. I wasn’t really in a rush, but it’s been raining for two days here, and though the humidity levels are ridiculous, the temperature was warm but not so hot as to make it unbearable for me to woodwork. I started with the front panel, and like always, I crosscut the board to length a bit oversized on my table saw with a cross cut sled. I then ripped the panel to width, also a bit oversized, and used hand planes to trim it to a nice fit, the jack plane at first and the jointer plane to finish it off. I then crosscut it to final size on the table saw. Finally, I attached the simple latch to hold the front panel to the chest. I only need to add two small blocks to the bottom of the lid to keep it from popping out. All in all constructing the front panel only took around fifteen minutes.
The lid cut and fit was not much more difficult, with the only difference being the bevel angle I needed to cut to match the chest angle. Once that was finished I set the lid on top of the chest, and the disturbing image of this much heralded chest design looking quite like a doghouse sawed neatly down the middle came to mind. I half expected Snoopy to come strolling through the garage door, hop up onto the chest, and fly off to fight the Red Baron. In fact, a little while later my daughter wandered into the garage, probably because my wife asked her to check up on me, and when I told her the chest looked like a dog house she started to laugh uncontrollably.
In the meanwhile, because the lid and panel were cut and fit so quickly, I decided to install the hinges. I knew that this would be the most challenging part of the build, not because hinges are all that hard to install, but because of the way the angles of the chest and lid met; there really wasn’t a place to set the lid easily and do any layout. The first thing I did was temporarily attach the hinges and use a utility knife to mark the location. I then used my trusty Spear & Jackson backsaw, my first real woodworking saw, to saw kerfs into the plywood. I tried to pare away the kerfs with a sharp chisel but the plywood wasn’t cooperating, so I dusted off my electric router and used that instead. The next task was cutting out some small notches on the lid itself to give the hinge pin a place to set. So like before, I temporarily set the lid in place, and marked the location with a utility knife. The paring here was much, much easier; my chisel was razor sharp and Spruce works very easily. I can now understand why White Spruce is used in building log cabins. I then attached the lid with a temporary hinge, masking tape, and called my wife in to hold the lid in place as I fastened it. The fit isn’t perfect but it is definitely close enough, and the lid closes nicely with no gaps. Last thing I did was attach a few eye hooks and some jack chain to keep the lid from falling all the way back.
For all intents and purposes the chest is now finished. I still am going to make a saw till, and a small tool rack, but those are simple to make and install. I placed most of my hand tools in the chest just to see how I fared and I wasn’t disappointed. Even without any dividers or racks there is plenty of space with plenty of room to spare for any future expansion. Even if the chest looks like a dog house split down the middle it does a good job. I’ll admit that maybe my proportions and not the design are more the reason that this chest looks like a Hollandse Herdershond should be residing in it rather than my tools. The real truth is that I’m not overly impressed with making shop projects; I don’t get the satisfaction from them that some do, though I do enjoy traditional tool boxes/totes. Later today, or tomorrow, I will attach some handles to the sides of the chest, nothing fancy. If I were commissioned to build this, or if it was being featured in a magazine, I probably would have gone all out with fancy wood, joinery, and some even fancier hardware. The way I built this project could be done by nearly any woodworker with a decent table saw, a few hand tools, and the ability to do a little lay out and accurate measuring. All in all it was a pretty fun project, and it does the job of holding my tools exactly how I want it done. The only thing left to do is to decide on the finish. The red, white, and blue color scheme keeps coming to mind for the lid, or at least the star made famous by Captain America. Still, I could always paint the whole chest bright red and call it ‘The Snoopy Tool Chest’.