Editor’s note: As promised, Megan Fitzpatrick and I are writing a series of blog entries that explain how we have improved the construction process for “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” during the last nine years (and several hundred chests).
When I built my first tool chests, I dovetailed the carcase and then immediately nailed on the bottom boards. My goal was to use the bottom boards to pull the case square (if it needed it) and then hold it square as I attached the skirts around the outside.
The downside to this approach is that the bottom gets in the way of clamping the lower skirt to the carcase. Once we changed the order of operations, it became much easier to get the lower skirt attached to the carcase with few (if any gaps). Here’s what we do now:
- Dovetail the carcase, level the joints and plane off any machine marks.
- Assemble the carcase, and work like heck to get the case square at both its top and bottom. You need to check for square at both openings.
- Dovetail the skirts, as per the book’s instructions.
- Nail temporary 3/4”-thick blocks to the bottom rim of the carcase. These represent the future location of the bottom boards.
- Glue the lower skirt in place, making sure it is flush with the temporary blocks mentioned above.
- When the glue has dried, remove the blocks and put in the bottom boards.
We’ve also changed the bevel we cut on the skirts. In the original book I planed a 45° bevel on all the skirts. That’s fine, but a steep bevel looks much nicer. Now we use an approximately 30° bevel and leave a flat at the top of the bevel that’s about 3/16”. That flat area allows us to miter a 3/16” bead moulding around the skirt (if the customer wants it).
For many years, we made our own bottom boards for the chests and used shiplap joints or (my preference) tongue-and-groove joints on their long edges. Now we purchase ready-made tongue-and-groove pine boards from the home center. It’s cheaper and saves time.
The material is sometimes sold as pine “carsiding” in 1×6 or 1×8 sizes. You can find it in different grades. I suspect they are No. 1 and No. 2 grades, but they aren’t always marked that way in the store. You’ll know when you find No. 2. It looks like No. 2 (yes, that’s a scatalogical joke).
On the original chest, the rot strips were installed flush to the bottom edge of the lower skirt. Now we make the bottom boards flush to the bottom edge of the lower skirts. And the rot strips are proud of the skirts. This new arrangement prevents the skirts from getting wet and rotting. And the rot strips are now easier to replace when they get funky.
Finally, we now plane a 45° bevel on the long edges of the rot strips to make it easier to slide the finished chest across the shop floor.
— Christopher Schwarz
20 thoughts on “Anarchist’s Tool Chest Update 2: Bottom & Skirt”
I appreciates the thought processes and the growth of knowledge that has occurred. Learning on a learning curve and improving your past performance is admirable and keeps y’all endearing and inspiring to us out here.
You are simply awesome Chris. It will be of a great help for beginners like me .
It occurs to me that woodworking should be an approved social-distance activity.
Be careful with the primed “carside” boards from the “blue big box”, as the underlying lumber is pieced together, edges milled and then receives a very heavy coat of something like a primer. I used some of this material for a “Santa’s house” this past Christmas, and needed some of the material for natural trim inside. The primer is of an undetermined origin.
In other words stay with the unfinished!
Ah yes Lowe Lifes. Prefer Home Dump better, at least in my neck of the woods
I one had the opposite happen to me. I put 1×2’s all over my garage walls then I installed pegboard on top of the 1x2s. It worked nicely. The walls were white and the pegboard was white. As such, I painted all the 1x2s I had purchased from Lowes. I found out later the Home Depoy had primed 1x2s. The priming would have been good enough and I could have saved myself some work. I always though Lowes and Home Depot carried the same stuff. Wiles mostly true, it isn’t always true and pays to look at both on occassion.
Thank you for these updates, Would it be possible to also have them as PDF files so they would be easy to print out and keep with the book, like you did with the updates for the Anarchist Design Book. 🙂
I have the same request as Ron Dyck; PDF’s starting with No.1.
Pdfs are easy to make. Simply print the web page as pdf. Or copy and paste the text and photos into a simple (free) word processing program and print from there. Most computers these days include a print to pdf option when you select your printer. If not you can download a free one.
Thank you Jesse!
Many thanks for this blog series as i haven’t yet built my chest yet even though have had the book a year or so. But these updates are much appreciated.
Also, i don’t think i’ve ever seen the word “scatalogical”, nor seen any sentence before where that would be the best choice!
Skatology: the study of excrement
*scatology. Skatology would most likely be a musical variation.
Oh thank goodness. I thought he as writing about death, judgement, and the final fate of mankind.
Then I realized that’s eschatology.
Menard’s has the best selection of carsiding in the Cincy area. Decent quality with various lengths available.
I used the same carsiding from Menards for the bottom shelf on my syp ruobo bench. Another good application so long as you run them front to back and not side to side for strength.
what are the odds? just when I was about to put on my bottom boards….
guess i’ll do the bottom skirt first!
I do have a question though. I’m building a small version of this for my son. Kind of an “anarchist’s toybox”. Since I don’t expect the bottom to ever need replacing, can I glue it and nail it? I’m concerned about seasonal movement.
It depends – on the species of wood for the bottom and how big the bottom is. I rarely glue and nail bottoms on unless the box is hand-held. I’d probably err on the side of caution and use nails alone.
thanks for the advice!
“That’s fine, but a steep bevel looks much nicer.” I believe that should read “but a LESS steep bevel looks much nicer”?
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