It’s been about a month since I finished the traveling tool tote. I am very pleased with the result. Even if I haven’t figured out how or where to attach a transom chain.
I may be my own biggest critic, but there also are genuinely some things I don’t like about it. In no particular order of importance, the good and the bad are as follows:
Size and Shape
- The Good: the basic dimensions are nearly perfect for the tools it was designed to hold. My panel saws fit inside lengthwise (in a till) and the well area comfortably holds a bevel-up jointer, a No. 4 smoothing plane, a large router plane, a block plane, a tool roll (chisels) and sharpening gear (diamond plates, saw file roll, etc). The 4″ deep sliding tray has plenty of capacity for two backsaws (dovetail and carcass), marking and measuring tools and assorted odds and ends. The simple rack on the back wall rounds out the basic storage setup, giving me everything I need for working away from the shop. It’s heavy but portable, even fully-loaded (but by “portable”, I mean “I can move it from my apartment to my trunk by myself without herniating a disk”.
- The Bad: the sliding tray itself is too wide. At just under 7″, it covers more than half of the well, making it difficult to reach tools that sit in the center of the floor. I find myself removing the tray more often than not as I’m unloading. A small complaint, but still something to address in the next version. In addition, the simple rack, with its four spacers, will eventually be replaced with a solid rack of 1/2″ holes bored every 1 1/8″ on center (which I avoided this time around due to lack of drill press).
- The Good: rabbets and nails are definitely easier to get right than dovetails. Angling the nails a bit adds to the holding power and properly sizing the end grain makes for a strong joint. Although not strictly necessary, I added a dovetailed lower skirt to keep everything cinched tightly and cover the end-grain on the floorboards. And the lid, consisting of a pine panel and two oak battens nailed on, came together quickly and easily.
- The Bad: rabbets and nails will never be as strong as dovetails. In fact, trauma to the case during construction fractured one of the corner joints and even when re-glued and re-nailed, I felt it necessary to add corner brackets as reinforcement. I will likely dovetail the next incarnation. Also, the oak battens only hold the pine lid flat across the width and do not affect the slight bow across the length of the lid.
- The Good: the Lee Valley iron handles are comfortable and stout, being screwed through the pine sides and into the oak tray runners. Both the Tremont cut nails (used for assembling the case and attaching the tray bottom) and Dictum die-forged nails (used for attaching the lid battens and assembling the tray sides) look nice and hold well. I am still searching for a reasonably-priced transom chain for the lid.
- The Bad: the “no mortise” hinges are a pain to get straight. Even after attaching all three to the case and transferring marks to the lid, I still put the lid on slightly crooked. An extreme amount of fussing barely undid the damage, and I switched in regular butterfly hinges . I also continue to struggle with slotted screws (hand-driven or not) to the point where it was preferable to glue in the panel saw till.
I may have overestimated the tools required for on-site work. I don’t really need everything this tool chest is meant to hold (e.g., I haven’t once reached for a panel saw or my saw set). As a result, the fully-loaded tool chest is very heavy; almost too heavy for casual travel.
The next incarnation will be smaller and lighter. I’m testing out a 24″ x 12″ version (also made from home center 1×12 pine, but thicknessed down to 1/2″) that will be dovetailed at the corners. In addition to experimenting with french-fitting the well storage, it will also swap out a sliding tray for a full-depth version that should be placed on the benchtop (like a mobile tool well).
And this might be a good excuse to splurge on that BT&C Hardware Store Saw, which I believe will fit the 23″ inside dimensions.