German Work Box

Cut the drawer dados in the case sides prior to assembly. We used a router to make the dados and a store-bought guide that clamps across the plywood to guide the router. You could just as easily clamp a straight board to the side to serve as a guide. Use two passes on each dado to achieve the full depth. This puts less strain on the router and the bit.

Cut the drawer dados in the case sides prior to assembly. We used a router to make the dados and a store-bought guide that clamps across the plywood to guide the router. You could just as easily clamp a straight board to the side to serve as a guide. Use two passes on each dado to achieve the full depth. This puts less strain on the router and the bit.

During a trip to Germany, Steve Shanesy snapped some pictures of a utilitarian, but also clever, rolling tool cart used in one of the woodworking shops he visited.

The cart was designed to hold your tools so your bench or assembly platform remained tidy. It had doors and drawers on the lower section, plus wings that opened on top to reveal three tool wells that kept things orderly and prevented items from falling onto the floor. When not in use, the cart closed to a nice size and could even be locked.

The staff agreed that the idea was a good one, but we decided to put a Popular Woodworking spin on it. We divided and detailed the lower drawer space some more and added a tool till inside the center well with magnetic tool holders.

Plus we made sure the construction was simple. Mechanical fasteners do all the hard work. You could easily build this cart with a circular saw, a drill and a router, making it a great project for beginners or even a professional cabinetmaker in a production shop.

While we didn’t start out worrying about price, the finished bill is worth talking about. Using two sheets of good-quality 3/4″ shop-grade plywood and one sheet of 1/2″ Baltic birch ply for the drawers, wood costs came in at about $125. The necessary hardware (there’s a lot more than you might think imagine) comes in at less than $150 if you build it exactly as we have. So for $275, you’re still getting a lot of storage for the price and the space is arranged to be exactly what you need, unlike a store-bought toolbox.

The veneer edge tape is easy to use and quickly adds a finished appearance to the cabinet. Even though we ended up painting the exterior, the paint still applied better to the veneer tape than on a bare plywood edge. You'll need to notch the tape with a file at the dado locations in the left case side.The veneer edge tape is easy to use and quickly adds a finished appearance to the cabinet. Even though we ended up painting the exterior, the paint still applied better to the veneer tape than on a bare plywood edge. You’ll need to notch the tape with a file at the dado locations in the left case side.Next use either screws or Miller Dowels to attach the back to the center assembly. Check the spaces to ensure they are square, then add the bottom shelf to the back, holding the back flush to the bottom side of the shelf.Clamp your center assembly between the two sides, drill the appropriate holes, add glue and assemble the rest of the case. It’s a good idea to trim the dowels flush to the case side before flipping the case onto that face: It’s more stable and there’s less chance of messing something up.Add the front piece to the front edges of the sides, holding it flush to the top edge. The front will overlap the top shelf, leaving 1/4″ of the shelf edge exposed. This allows room to attach the front to the shelf with brad nails. The exposed edge will act as a door stop once hinges are installed.The wings go together like simple versions of the case. The side closest to the cabinet on each wing is 3/16″ narrower than the other. This creates a recess to house the hinge to mount the wings to the cabinet.We recessed the captured panels 1/4″ in from the outside edges to avoid any alignment problems. Using the stepped dowels, attach the wing sides to the wing panels. Attach the fronts and backs to complete the assembly.
Storage Details
The last steps are adding a finish (we opted for two coats of dark green latex paint on the outside; the inside was left as-is) and then some sturdy 2-1/2″ casters to the case and placing and organizing your tools. The photos will show you a couple of storage tricks and items available for sale to help keep things neat and tidy.

Click here for a PDF of this project

– David Thiel

18 thoughts on “German Work Box

  1. wgbrazier

    I checked out the Lee Valley web site and found metal drawers but they do not fit the work box. The box could be adjusted to fit these drawers but the L.V. ones are only 10″ Deep. The slot at 1.25″ spacing is also very different. I have not found other sources. Does anyone have a suggestion?

  2. ricrowe

    Okay, I’m new here, but sorta old in the world and my eyes don’t always pick up everything I think I’m seeing, so I am going for the dumb question of the month. Not too unusual for me. As I look at the “Wing Hinge Detail, it appears to my old eyes that both sets of hinges (the lid & the wings) occupy the same plane, which would seem to make it difficult to close the wings over onto the lid. I’ve studied the drawings as well as an old guy can and I don’t see this as workable, so figure that I simply don’t understand the drawings… another symptom of my years, and would truly appreciate enlightenment. (Well… as regards these drawings, anyway.) Of course, it may well be

    Thank you for your assistance.

    Sincerely,

    Richard

    1. karlpinturr

      I know whaat you mean – I was struggling with this for a while, too.

      But if you magnify the PDF a good bit, then scroll around to the Wing Hinge Detail, you can see that the Till/Lid Hinge’s centre-line is actually on the same level as the Wing Hinge’s base-line.

      Given that the Till/Lid slips inside the section, to rest on the Till Rest, this allows sufficient room to close both sets of hinges.

      1. karlpinturr

        Correction – not according to my Sketchup modelling, it doesn’t!

        Although I’m no Sketchup expert, I can’t make all 3 hinges work together without dropping the Lidand Spacer by a minimum of 27/32″ – and it’s another 1/4″ before it rests on top of the Rest.

        I’ve also had to resize the base for the 3 left-hand drawers, so maybe the PDF is just a guide and not meant to be followed religiously?

        It could be my measurements, of course, but I have checked them repeatedly.

  3. John Hutchinson

    David — I was reading karlpinturr’s Sketchup comment and that made me think of something. Imagine that! I have the .dwg and .dxf files for this project sitting on a CD in my office. I’d like to assist anyone that I can when they’re transitioning to CAD. The original CAD files would take some of the drudgery out of starting from scratch. Would you like to have them? I’ve got about a hundred.

  4. options

    On a great and very different project like this, we all want one NOW.

    A thought, pick a charity and let readers bid on it for the charity

    to win the finished project.

  5. karlpinturr

    Exactly the sort of thing I (probably we all) need – simple and useful (ie utilitarian).

    Thanks for the free PDF – I’ll translate it into Sketchup, then I can see better how it goes together, before looking at my own mods.

    A couple of things I need to ask, though:

    1) Is there any specific reason you don’t appear to have used a couple of ‘braking'(?) casters to stop it rolling off on an uneven surface?

    2) How have you stopped the tools falling out of the wings as you flip them over (either to open OR closed)?

    1. humanjoe

      I think the wings are just meant for storage while the cart is open and in use. If you want to store the cart those tools would be stored elsewhere and the wings would then be flipped up.

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