A Trimming Trick and a Degree Change


Getting the lid, the dust seal, the carcase and the top skirt of the tool chest all working in tandem requires some care. Small errors compound quickly.

In the end, the lid should overhang the carcase by about 1/16” on its front and ends before you attach the dust seal. Sometimes you have to trim the lid. Sometimes you have to trim the carcase.

Trimming the lid is straightforward. Mark what you want to remove and plane it away.

Trimming the carcase can be trickier. On one carcase on my bench today, the lid was out of square by less than 1/16” over its 24” width. The best solution was to trim the carcase. But the wood that needed to be removed was a thin taper that started at less than 1/16” at one end and diminished to nothing at the other end.

To mark this out I use blue tape.


I first used a knife to mark where the taper should begin. Then I laid the tape down on the edge of the carcase. I put a shoulder plane on the carcase. Because of the tape, I can easily see the wood I need to remove (even with 49-year-old eyes). If I get any blue tape in the mouth of the plane, I know I’ve gone too far.


The Dust Seal
The dust seal is dovetailed at the two front corners and wraps around three edges of the lid. With these two particular chests, the dust seal is 1-3/8” wide. The problem here is the slope of the dovetails.

Usually I use a 1:4 slope for dovetails (about 14°). The problem is that the slope is a little extreme for a piece of wood 1-3/8” wide. So I use a less-radical slope, 1:8 or about 7°. This slope makes the base of the dovetail a good deal beefier.

While I’ve gotten away with a 1:4 slope on the dust seal, it looks like a pencil-necked chicken.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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9 Responses to A Trimming Trick and a Degree Change

  1. jbakerrower says:

    Last line… should it say “While I’ve gotten away with a 1:4.slope…”?


  2. Pat says:

    Great job with the updates Chris, it’s much appreciated! I bought the book, and have been saving your emails concerning all the updates, but just in case I’ve missed a few, I was wondering if you’re going to put these all together somewhere for us to refer to later?


  3. Rachael Boyd says:

    a 1/16th out. I have problems like that at times, so I go back and check all the joints for square and everything looks good.so I just do what I need to make it fit. did you find why it was out? (joint, panel, glue slip)


    • Hi Rachel,

      When I deal with large carcases, tiny errors seem to add up. The carcases of these tool chests were dead square at glue-up. But I added skirts and a bottom, which could have pulled things one way or the other. And the lid might be a tiny bit out of square. I don’t know for sure.

      In the end, it’s impossible to see the minor irregularities without a fancy square. So I accept them and make things work when they go a bit wonky.


  4. What is (and where did you get) that awesome double roll tape dispenser?


  5. Nathan says:

    I had a nicely fitted lid when I finished building the tool chest in the middle of a Texas summer. Then winter came and it was a much tighter fit. Now a few years later and relocation to Colorado’s version of winter, my lid sits on top of the carcass.

    I think your method of shaving down the top of the carcass maybe a better approach. I was going to remove some material on the inside of the dust seal. Thanks Chris.


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