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Dovetailed Tool Box

Fill it, carry it,
bang it around:
These joints
will last forever.

By Seth Keller

A lightweight, sturdy toolbox
is perfect for odd jobs
around the house. Carpenters
used to make their own, just
nailed together. I’ve built a more
sophisticated design using two
different dovetail joints.

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Rout dovetails
on the
box’s sides.
You can use
a throughdovetail
jig, as
shown here,
use a half-blind
jig or cut them
by hand. Corner
joints don’t get
any stronger
than this!
Click any image to view a larger version.

Sand the
box’s edges

on a flat surface
to make them
flush. Use
tape to hold
the sandpaper.
When the sides
are flush, glue
on a slightly
oversize plywood

Rout the
a flush-trim bit
to make it even
with the sides.
Move the router
for the
best control.

Shape the
a template.
I use a twobearing
bit (see
photo, right),
which makes it
possible to cut
with the grain
on both sides
of this piece.
It’s a neat
trick. I shape
one side with
the template
down, using
the top bearing, and the
other side with the template
up, using the bottom

Bevel the handle support’s
with a dovetail bit.
Position the fence flush with
the bit’s lower edge.

Build a jig to
cut a large
dovetailed recess
for the handle
Begin by
clamping two
brackets flush
to the box. They’ll
support the jig’s
angled parts. Mark
a centerline on the
bottom bracket.

Align the handle
with the
bracket’s centerline
and flush
with the box’s
bottom. Butt two
guide boards to
the template.
Fasten the boards
to the brackets.

Rout a
the dovetail
bit you used
to bevel the
supports. This
bit’s bearing
follows the
guide boards.
Bridge the
boards with a
large baseplate.

Slide a support
into the recess
as far as it will go.
Mark the overhang
and trim the waste
on the tablesaw
using a miter gauge.

Mark centerlines
on both ends
of the box’s handle, a
large dowel. Guide the
pencil with a board
whose thickness is
half the dowel’s diameter.
Saw the line to
make a kerf that will
receive wedges.

Taper both
of a
long, thin piece
of wood to make
two wedges.


Glue and
clamp one
handle support
the box. The next
step is a bit tricky:
Slide the dowel
through the other
support so that
its end sticks past
the hole. Slide the
support into the
box, then push the
dowel back into
the hole on the far
side. Clamp the
second support.

Tap the
The wedge
must run at a right
angle to the support.
If it were to
run the other way,
following the support’s
grain, the
wedge’s force could
split the wood.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker November 2006, issue #125.

November 2006, issue #125

Purchase this back issue.


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