Download Plans for the Traveling Tool Chest

During 2012 I’ll be teaching three classes in building a traditional tool chest. Students will be able to build either the full-size chest from “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” or the slightly smaller chest shown here that is designed for traveling.

This chest is based on a historical example I own, and I’ve been surprised at how many tools it can carry. It will hold almost all the tools of a full-size chest, but getting to all these tools isn’t as easy as it is in a full-size chest.

But this smaller chest will fit in a hatchback – something a full-size chest can’t do.

This chest has some interesting features worth exploring. Let’s take a look.

• There are two sliding trays for your small tools, which slide on runners that are screwed to the inside of the chest. In the original, these trays are nailed together (not dovetailed). When I build this chest for my own travels, I will dovetail the trays together.

• The trays are ingeniously positioned so you can fit moulding planes and typical bench planes below the trays without interfering with the way they move. The downside is that the planes must be stored with their soles against the floor of the chest – so you won’t be able to see the profiles of all the moulding planes.

• The back wall of the chest has a tool rack that is pierced with 1/2” holes on 1-1/2” centers. This little rack gives you lots of space to store screwdrivers, awls and other tools with narrow blades. But if you fill the rack you will limit the travel of the sliding trays.

• The sawtill at the front of the chest is a single piece of wood. It holds three saws easily and without taking up much space at all.

• The real downside of the chest is that it is only 15-3/8” high. So if you store it on the floor, you’ll be doing a lot of crouching or bending over. If you store it on your benchtop, I hope you have a huge bench. When I had a bench this size, I stored it on top of a wooden crate that was about 12” tall. That worked.

• The original chest was made of pine boards that were nailed together. I changed the joinery to dovetails. Also, though I don’t show it in the drawing, I recommend you dovetail all the skirting around the shell of the chest – just like I did on the full-size chest in the book.

You can download the plans for this chest for free from Google’s 3D Warehouse. You need Google SketchUp to view the files, but it’s free, too. And if you haven’t gotten your feet wet in SketchUp, I highly recommend you do so – it’s become the design language for woodworkers.

Click here to download the plans.

If you need some help learning the program, the best source is Robert Lang’s “Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp 7,” which you can buy from His tutorial, which is worth every cent and I own, is perfectly good for Google SketchUp 8.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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18 Responses to Download Plans for the Traveling Tool Chest

  1. Megan says:

    I need to build this — my cardboard “travel chest” is mighty embarrassing!


  2. Besides Megan it’s really difficult to dovetail a cardboard box!


    • Scott S. says:

      Um, I practice dovetails on thick cardboard. 😦

      Even cheap wood can’t beat the price of a quick trip to the dock at the end of the day for boxes.

      I have found that glued up cardboard layers beats the best CAD program for me to tell if something will work.


  3. Scott S. says:

    Chris, re. the saw till. Is it meant to be used with the handles on the short side of the jig with the blades hovering above the bottom?

    Or does it even matter as long as the points don’t get dinged?


    • lostartpress says:

      There’s only 4″ between the sawtill and the end of the chest so I’ve always put the totes on the other side of the till. Work great. Now I’ll have to fool around with putting them in the other way.


  4. sablebadger says:

    I recently made a saw till, and I found that creating the slots was the hardest part.

    Any tips on cutting those slots?


    • Brian Eve says:

      I had good luck making my saw till. I think the trick for me was accurate layout. Once I had the spacing (with dividers), I used a square to bring the lines down as far as I wanted them. Then, it was just a matter of sawing them out. I used my handsaw with the widest kerf, so I would never have a problem fitting saws in there. Then, I smoothed things up with a folded piece of sandpaper.

      As long as you cut to the line, everything should work great.


    • Scott S. says:

      I went with a jigsaw. The kerf of a jigsaw blade is ‘naturally’ wider than the vast majority of hand saws. Flowing electrons are still our friends.


  5. Jason says:

    For an even smaller tool chest, the school box from TJ&CM works very well. Instead of sliding tills it can be outfitted with two lift-out trays. A chisel rack fits nicely against the front wall, and several small planes (block, #4, router) can be stashed under the trays. A small back saw can even be fitted on a diagonal across the top tray.

    Not so good for the larger planes or saws, but fully loaded it can carry a respectable kit of tools.


  6. Adam W says:

    Chris, is it possible to remove the lower tray once you install the runners? From the SketchUp model, it looks like the tray remains in place after the runners are installed.


    • lostartpress says:

      As drawn, no, you cannot pull out the lower till.

      In the original, a later owner had removed a section of the runner for the top till that then allows you lift the lower till out. Of course, then you cannot slide the top till all the way forward.

      I know this is a later modification because you can see the distinct shadow of the missing runner, and a screw hole.

      When I build this version I will screw – not glue – the runners in place. That way if I need to repair the lower till, I’ll unscrew the runner.


  7. Joe Roth says:

    I am very interested in finding one of those 3 classes for 2012. I believe one is the Woodwrights School in Feb. Do you know yet where or when the others will be?


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  9. I too plan on building this version. I plan on using a nicer hardwood for mine and I need an opinion.
    I have boards that are about 2-3″ too narrow to constitute a full side for this project. Would you think it would make more sense to rip equal widths of the board and join them together for the full sized piece, or just add the 2″ extra at the bottom of the sides, in the hopes that it will be covered by the trim at the bottom. I don’t plan on painting it, so visual aesthetics of the wood grain matter more in this situation.


    • lostartpress says:


      The traditional approach would be to stagger the joints all around the box (see “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker”). This approach tries to keep the carcase together if you have some bad glue that fails.

      When I paint the carcase I use this staggered approach because there is no downside.

      Hope this helps.


  10. Doug Hepler says:

    I need a tool chest like this one. I read Chris’ “Twelve Rules” in PWW this month. My question right now, in the planning stages, is how much such a chest full of tools would weigh. I know the question is subject to many details about what I would put in the chest, but it seems that such a chest could easily be too heavy to pick up.

    Especially if you have made one, used one, etc. About how much does it weigh?



    • lostartpress says:

      I have made a few. With my set of tools, two adults can easily lift and move it. It is more bulky than it is heavy.

      Loaded with set of tools: I’d guess it is only about 100 pounds.


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