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Desktop Tool Chest

author-gravatar tenor013 Nov 11, 2018

I made this small tool chest for r/woodworking's "Smaller than a Shoebox" contest. I took inspiration from Michael Pekovich's "Tool Chest with Drawers" article on FineWoodworking's website  for general design ideas and adapted his plans to better suit my skill level and the design parameter of projects no larger than 15"x10"x6". I also added some Shaker design details into my project by using through dovetails, cherry wood for the body and a wooden knob for the drawer.

I initially wanted to create a sense of depth in the flower with sand shading but I failed after a few practice attempts and realized I needed to do more research into how to get more consistent results before applying the technique to a finished marquetry piece. However, I love how the bold black outline separates the flower from the background and really makes the design pop. 

My finishing process has been narrowed down through some trial and error but overall I enjoy the current iteration and most of my projects have come out looking great. I prep the wood by sanding to 150 grit then apply a thin coat of linseed oil to really bring out the grain pattern. After letting the oil dry I apply a few coats of shellac and lightly sand with 220 grit to knock down any dust nibs or raised grain. After another few coats of shellac I sand with 400 grit before the final coat to have the shellac as smooth as possible. This final sanding leaves the shellac silky smooth and with a slight polish. 

Finished project!

This project is 13" L x 8" W x 5" H

Rough layout of the pieces for the tool chest. I've had this piece of cherry wood for a few years now and I'm glad I found a good project for it.

Re-sawed and thicknessed the main pieces to 1/2" thick. The thinner piece will be stored until I figure out what to do with it.

Laying out the main components of the build and numbering them to help assemble them in the right order later on.

I really enjoy laying out all the dovetails for some reason. I usually try to stick to 3-7 dovetails per side. On the rare occasion I will use two dovetails instead of just one because Christian Becksvoort mentioned that two small dovetails have a smaller chance of failing versus one big dovetail

I saw an episode of Roy Underhill's show where Chris Schwarz demonstrated his moxon vise and I decided to build one for myself. It's helped me a lot with keeping a steady angle when sawing dovetails.

I don't always use a coping saw to hog out the waste but for this build I felt like it. Chopping out the waste with a hammer and chisel is ok but still takes me a while to do so. 

Checking the fit of the dovetails and checking how well the grain pattern of the drawer front matches with the top piece.

I have to write ok next to each set of dovetails  to remind myself that they are ready for assembly. Otherwise I forget and when it's time to glue everything up I have to make a mad dash to figure out which set of dovetails is too tight.

The lid portion of the tool chest is assembled with bridle joints and will have a dado cut through it to house the marquetry panel. 

Not the prettiest job I've done but most of this will be hidden after the marquetry panel is inserted into place.

I usually prefer to use hand tools for most of my woodworking projects. Given the odd shape of this piece I had to go in with hammer and chisel to chop out most of the material for the dados where the bottom of the top section and the main assembly would go.

Dry fit of the tool chest. I hardly ever use plywood in my builds so that's why the bottom of the top section is made up of several ship lapped pieces of wood. I later applied some leather to make it look/feel nicer.

After the dry fit I sanded everything to 150 grit before applying some linseed oil. After that dries I proceed with several layers of shellac until I have a smooth finish. These pieces are for the drawer and to make my life easier I screwed the drawer front onto a regular through dovetail box. I have done half blind dovetails in the past but I didn't feel like using that joinery method this go around.

I normally create an illustrator version of the marquetry design just so I can reprint copies as needed. This design was only 30 or so pieces of green and red veneer. I could use more colors but dyed veneers are expensive and regular wood veneers land in a spectrum of a shade of beige or brown. 

Transferred the flower design using carbon paper.

I really enjoy how these leaves turned out!

The red took forever given the weird shape of each flower pedal and without the sand shading each flower pedal gets lost with the other ones :/

I always get nervous when I go to cut out the slot for the hinges. I always think that the chisel or router plane will slip and gouge a visible part of the project. At this stage the tool chest was almost done it only needed hinges and the chain for the lid before the final coat of shellac.

I've been trying to get consistent results with sand shading but I couldn't get an effect I liked for this design. So I went with bold black outlines of the individual pieces to help separate them from each other and the background.

Glamour shot

Glamour shot


Wow, that marquetry is beautiful and so is the box! I'd love to see a post from you showing your marquetry techniques. It was perfect!

Thank for sharing

Thank you for the compliment! I have a few builds I'm working on that I plan on sharing that will have some marquetry designs. I'll make sure to include a section explaining the techniques I use. 

@Sean  said:

Wow, that marquetry is beautiful and so is the box! I'd love to see a post from you showing your marquetry techniques. It was perfect!

Thank for sharing

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