Making your own tool storage solutions
A carpenter acquires many tools over time. Some of these tools come with decent storage containers, some don’t, and some come with nothing at all.
In this article, I’ll take you through my process of designing and building a box for a tool that has many accessory pieces and no box to keep it all together.
Years ago, good tools came with quality steel boxes that housed all of the components, but, for the most part, this is a thing of the past.
Many of today’s tools come with a plastic case or a carrying bag. Unfortunately, the hinges and snap connectors on plastic cases don’t last very long, as they get banged around in the back of a truck or van. And nylon bags, while nice, don’t really protect the tools at all, making this kind of bag useless as a permanent storage solution. Don’t get me wrong, nylon bags have their uses. As a matter of fact, I use a big red Milwaukee tool bag at the end of the day to gather up all of the little things that make their way from the van into the project site: extension cords, drop cloths, leftover hardware…you get the picture.
Some tools come with good cases but end up casualties of their own success: Tools by DeWalt, Milwaukee, Bosche, Festool, and all the other top brands, practically scream “Steal me!” depending where you are on a given day. For this reason I’ve gotten to the point of making my own storage boxes for new tools as soon as I get the chance, even when they come with adequate boxes. These homemade boxes are generally made entirely of scrap material, so they are very cost-effective, as well as utilitarian.
For the purpose of this article I’ve chosen to make a custom container for my Central Pneumatic flooring nailer/stapler. Not exactly a high-end target for thieves, but it does meet the other criteria: a tool with a lot of ancillary parts, which, if left to their own devices, would probably be lost in a year’s time.
I start by gathering up all of the things that I plan to store together, and lay out the individual components as I would like to have them in the box. Now I can get my measurements for height, length, and depth.
|(Note: Click on any image to enlarge. Hit “back” button to return to article.)|
First, cut out both sides according to length and depth, and tape them together end-to-end. Be sure to make your measurements from short point to short point or it may be too narrow.
|After all the pieces are taped end-to-end, flip the whole assembly over, spread glue into all of the corners,|
|and fold the assembly together into a box.|
Before the glue sets, cut the back piece from 1/4″ plywood. Glue and nail the back in place, squaring up the box. I cut the back piece a little proud on length and width, then trim it off on the router table with a flush cutting bit. This not only looks neater but keeps things from getting caught on the edges.
I cut the face frame out of solid stock. In this case, 1×2 pine. Mill a 3/8” groove in the end of your stock so the 1/4″ plywood—which you will be using for your front cover—will be able to slide freely.
Note: I usually keep the piece that will be the top (or handle) separate from the rest. Since you’ll be fitting and gluing the front cover into this piece, you want the groove to be a bit tighter in this one.
For the face frame, cut all four sides equal to the sides of your box (measuring from long point to long point). Tape and glue these pieces together like you did with the sides, only do not glue the piece that will be the top/handle of the box (see photo, right). For now, just tape this piece together with the rest to form a rectangle, square it up, and set it aside to dry.
Spread glue on the bottom of the finished box, and on the left and right sides, but don’t get any glue on the top piece of the box. (see photo, left)
Next, orient the face frame properly on the box, with the sides and bottom set precisely in position (but no glue on the top/handle piece!), then nail the three sides of the face frame in place.
At this point you can remove the top/handle piece and trim off any excess at the router table.
To complete the project, all you need to do is cut a piece of 1/4″ ply for the front and glue it into the groove of the top/handle piece.
Now you can set the tools into the box and glue up whatever cribbing or stops you need to keep everything in place.
Add a carrying handle, and there you have it—a finished box with a slide-out front cover!
Dan Broadbelt has spent all of his adult life building and fixing things.
He joined the Army in 1980 and spent the next 25 years in C/E (communications electronics) Maintenance, fixing everything from AM/SSB radios, FM radios, Microwave radios, Teletype equipment, mine detector sets, multiplexers…ad infinitum. This career wasn’t really a choice, it just kind of happened.
During this time he also began to build furniture and cabinets as a hobby, reading every book or magazine on woodworking that he could get his hands on.
After retiring from the Army, Dan spent time as a carpenter, cabinetmaker, and then handyman. As a handyman he found a new calling. It was an opportunity to put his knowledge of all types of work and trades to good use, helping others, and working for himself. Alas, starting a new business in your 50s leaves precious little time to do the things he used to enjoy, such as competitive swimming and running. He hopes he’ll have more time for these activities in the future.
Dan’s handyman service is called “In a Fix Property Maintenance.” He currently resides in the Reading, Pennsylvania area.
Dan-Damn good looking boxes! We’ve made most of ours too—some are over 30 years old——no rust;we just sand the edges and corners–use National/Stanley draw catches and similar utility handle. And this is with a crew of from 4-10. The wood boxes hold up 10x’s better in a rain shower…snowfall-easy to dry out;to retrofit……We said ‘bye-bye’ to steel boxes eons ago…plastic??? The latches and handles have improved, but with the blow molding they still cheat you on storage space for the tool’s cord,extra bits,fasteners,etc. Festool seems to have it much better with their systainer boxes…
Cheers! to you, Dan-very nice work for ‘just’ a tool box. It shows that you take pride in what you do, who you are. Take care…..Ed Latson aka ‘Latson’
Note: also, save any of those nice semi-hard foam pads that come with kitchen and bath faucets-they’re great for gluing in place for extra cushioning..
Dan, Great idea and the article was a good read. I often thought about doing something like that but have never taken action. You have motivated me to put it back on my list. I have those same tools that are awkward to store and your idea is the perfect solution. The Virutex edge-bander may finally get a proper portable home.
Dan, I also build my own storage boxes but with recessed tops and corresponding bottoms that fit into the recessed tops. I have 2 sizes that I build and they stack on top of each other for storage and shipping. I use folding utility handles and all the boxes are hinged and have suitcase style catches. The main thing you do that’s great is making them to house additional fasteners and optional accessories.
Thanks all, for the positive feedback.
Hey John, could you post some pictures of your stacking boxes? I’m always interested in how others find solutions to common problems and the stackable boxes sounds like a good space saving idea.
I really enjoyed the article.
The floor nailer box is great ~ it’s too bad that tool companies do not provide quality storage boxes for thier tools.
Awesome box. I have been pondering a box for my brad nails and finish nails for a while and this might just get me to do it. I use a Nylon bag now and the bottom is littered with different sizes of brads and finish nails. I basically just toss them out every 6 months, cuz I don’t want to deal with the mess. But a box with most of the basic sizes and space to hold a full box would be awesome to me. Thanks again and great article.
Good idea, Dan. Thanks for the article!