Save a Day on Your Bottom


Making the bottom boards of a tool chest is straightforward work. For years I made tongue-and-groove boards using rough pine and beaded the tongue side.

Then, I visited Menards.

This home center giant carries 1 x 8 x 8’ pine carsiding in Eastern white pine. It is already tongue-and-grooved and finished beautifully. I couldn’t find any machine marks when I handplaned it. And the price in incredible. In the store a 1 x 8 x 8’ is about $5.50. That’s cheaper than I can buy rough white pine.

So all you have to do is crosscut it, plane it and nail it in place.


This takes us to another change I’ve adopted since publication of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” in 2011. I use Rivierre nails to fasten the bottom boards instead of cut nails. These nails hold as well as blacksmith-made Roman-style nails.

For the bottom boards I used 40mm nails from Lie-Nielsen. You can also buy them from Lee Valley. Or from Dictum in Germany.

I use a tapered drill bit to make the pilot hole. Its depth is about half the length of the nail (the nail has to do some of the work…).


After nailing on the bottom, I glue on the top skirt. This is much easier than gluing on the bottom skirt.

Next up: Making the lid. A process that mystifies some people.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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33 Responses to Save a Day on Your Bottom

  1. tsstahl says:

    Carsiding is great for the back of the Dutch tool chest too! At least for me.

  2. Michael L Dyer says:

    Whenever I look at these chests (in pictures) I am surprised that two nails per board will keep the bottom from jaring loose under it’s load and from the rough handling that tool boxes get. I keep expecting it to need a ledge screwed to the sides around the bottom interior for the boards to rest against. Guess I’m just a belt and suspenders guy.

  3. I’ve heard you can save big time at Menards. Or… something like that.

  4. rons54 says:

    I don’t know about my tool chest, but I just found the walls for my workshop once the insulation is up.

  5. I’m serious surprised that you didn’t do this before when you built the plywood one. Also if your Menard’s has untreated 4x4s I’ve gotten some of the straightest Douglas fir from it. I rip it to half an inch and use it for the till sides.

  6. Matthew Holbrook says:

    This is the first time I have seen the term “carsiding” in a woodworking article. The material’s first widespread use was as the exterior of wood railroad cars in the 1870s through to thw end of woid RR car construction around WW I. A test of a railroad repair shop employee in the Carpenter department was to see how many planks of car siding could be stacked on his shoulders before his knees started to buckle. The need for thousands of linear feet of car siding also was a major factor in the rise of planing mills.

  7. jarvilaluban says:

    I’ve made entire chests out of carsiding. Great stuff.

  8. Coop Janitor says:

    But only bugs and little mice get to see the nice nails.

  9. William says:

    What is the rationale for that particular orientation of carsiding? Why not rotate it 90 degrees for less expansion and less nails?

  10. Joseph Newman says:

    Did I miss the “how to fix the gap” day for the skirt?

    Sent from my iPad


  11. Stan says:

    How many nails per chest? I count 8 boards in the picture. I assume there are at least 2 more boards not seen, for a total of ten boards. With one nail on the end of each board, and two additional nails through the end boards, I guess you used 26 nails. Incorrect? Lie-Nielson charges $100/30 nails, so the unit price is $0.30/ea. (assuming shipping is free, which is not for normal folk). $0.30/nail x 26nails = $7.80 (plus 26% of the shipping costs). These nails are aesthetically interesting, but will never be seen until the bottom falls off or rots and needs to be replaced. Ergo, aesthetic benefit is zero. The cost/benefit analysis seems simple. Is the extra unseen value found in the satisfaction of using an historically-important nail? Is the toolchest intended to be a faithful reproduction of a period chest? If so, is all the hardware historically correct? Hand-forged hinges? File-made screws? Lead-based paint? Menard’s boards?

    • Hi Stan,

      I’m going to break down my response into bullet points.

      1. There are six boards for the bottom (these are 1x8s). There are 30 nails to affix the bottom. If the expense is an objection, try Lee Valley, which sells the same nail for 14.4 cents apiece.,250,43298,41306,41324,74648

      2. “These nails are aesthetically interesting, but will never be seen until the bottom falls off or rots and needs to be replaced. Ergo, aesthetic benefit is zero.”

      I don’t use them for their aesthetic appeal. They hold better than any other nail on the market. In my experience, you cannot pull Rivierre nails out without destroying the bottom board (when it is poplar or pine). This is exactly what you need for the bottom boards of a chest. You can read more about this here:

      3. I charge $3,500 for a tool chest. So $4.50 or $9 for nails that work better than any other nail seems appropriate.

      4. “Is the toolchest intended to be a faithful reproduction of a period chest?” No. This is my design.

      5. “If so, is all the hardware historically correct?” No.

      6. “Hand-forged hinges?” Yes, blacksmith-made hinges.

      7. “File-made screws?” No. But I wish I could make screws on a screw-cutting lathe because I like the way they look.

      8. “Lead-based paint?” If the customer asked for it, yes, I’d make it. These will use milk paint or acrylic I suspect.

      9. “Menard’s boards?” Absolutely. I can save time and money with no change in appearance? Yes please.

      • Stan says:

        Hi Chris

        Thanks for the detailed answer. Makes perfect sense.

        Sorry I got the cost wrong. $30/100 nails is the correct price from L-N.

        I own and love the Anarchist’s Tool Chest. This series of blogs outlining some of your insight is very interesting. I look forward to reading more.

        Please keep up the great work.


      • wsgilliam says:

        Oh you machinist at heart. It is ok. Machinist are fine people. But you’ll have to search the vintage market for a lathe acceptably domestic.

  12. Daniel Williamson says:

    I got some of those boards for free from a neighbor. They worked perfectly for the bottom shelf on my SYP Ruobo I finished last summer. I just left them loose because all the weight will be pushing them down onto the runners, and the bench isn’t moving. I figured that way I could replace them easier if they were to somehow get damaged or I changed my mind on what I wanted the bench to be. No complaints.

    Keep up the good work, Chis!

  13. jaymesa says:

    Closest Menard’s is a 8 hr drive from new Jersey the box stores here charge 2x that price. last week storm means 2 more maple trees will have to become lumber the hard part is waiting for it to dry. last springs 40″ diameter white oak is still to wet to do more than rough sizing and the hewing has worn out my elbow. Next time I buy land it will be flat the wind in hill side trees will turn a 8′ blank into a 2′ boards in a hurry.

  14. Mike Siemsen says:

    I cut the head off the tapered nail and grind or file the 4 corners round so it can be chucked up in a drill, Makes a decent tapered bit for short runs.
    If the cost or procurement of the nails is a problem use square drive screws from, of course, Menards.

  15. David Ryle says:

    Could I ask, why you don’t use nails from Tremont?

  16. Erik says:

    After reading this post I looked up the nearest Menards to Denver, CO. Turns out it is in Cheyenne, WY. I just happened to have a trip through Cheyenne scheduled for this weekend and I happily purchased all the wood for my Dutch Tool Chest for a song, including the carsiding for the back.

If you can't spot the wiener in the comments, it might be you.

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