Tommy Mac’s Toolbox

Combine power and hand tools to improve your joinery skills.

By Thomas J. Macdonald
Pages 24-29

Building a toolbox much like this one was a real turning point in my woodworking career. It was 1999 and I had begun classes at Boston’s North Bennet Street School’s Cabinet and Furniture Making program. At the time, I was a pretty good carpenter and could build plywood cabinets using power tools, but I was pretty inexperienced when it came to crafting fine furniture. Designing and building a toolbox was one of our first project assignments at school.

The experience was for me way more than a project; it was my introduction to hand tools and more advanced joinery. Years later, I realize just how much this project influenced my woodworking. While building it, I was learning the harmony of using both power and hand tools.

Now, it’s one of my favorite projects – and it’s featured in season three of my PBS television show, “Rough Cut – Woodworking with Tommy Mac.”

If you’re new to woodworking, or haven’t learned basic hand-tool skills, this project could have a similar influence on you. Don’t worry about the joints being a perfect fit. It’s a shop project after all.

Mill Your Lumber in Stages
I prepare stock in a couple sessions at least a day apart. This is meant to minimize wood movement while also allowing for it. As a rule of thumb, avoid taking more than 1⁄4″ of wood off of the thickness of a board in one milling. I call the first session “rough mill” because I cut the parts out of the rough board leaving about 1″ over in length, 1⁄2″ over in width and 1⁄8″ over in thickness.

First, flatten one face on the jointer. Check the grain direction of the wood and watch for tear-out. Take off about 1⁄16″ with each pass until the face is flat. Next, straighten one edge with the jointed face against the fence. Make sure the fence is 90º to the bed of the jointer.

When the jointer work is done, move to the planer and make the opposite face parallel (to avoid tear-out, whichever end trailed over the jointer should lead over the planer). Run each part through the planer with the jointed face down. Mill the boards to the sizes in the cutlist plus the overage described above.

Stack the parts with stickers between and align them vertically so each board is supported by the one below it. Leave the boards overnight then repeat the milling process to bring the boards to final dimensions.

Enter the Drawings: Register your name to win daily prizes in the “31 Days of Christmas” sweepstakes.
Web Site: Visit the author’s web site for more information about “Rough Cut – Woodworking with Tommy Mac.”
Web Site: Visit the WGBH web site to watch past episodes of “Rough Cut” and see the schedule for upcoming shows.
In Our Store: “Mastering Hand Tools,” a two-DVD set by Christopher Schwarz.
Plan: Download a free SketchUp model for “Tommy Mac’s Toolbox.”

From the December 2012 issue #201
Buy this issue now