You can now get both Dutch tool chest plans – both the big one and the little one – in the October 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, which recently shipped to subscribers.
If you don’t have this issue, check it out in the store here.
I’ve been traveling with these chests all year and can vouch for them as a fantastic way to carry your tools to a woodworking class and protect them in the shop. Despite the chests’ small size and simple construction, they are remarkably efficient. The big Dutch chest can hold as many tools as a full-size English floor chest and requires less space and fewer materials.
The other nice feature about the chests is that they are nice to work from. They hold all your tools in a way that you don’t have to dig around or move trays to get to the tool you want.
What’s the disadvantage? Well I don’t think they look as nice as the traditional English floor chest, and the joinery on the Dutch chests is more “rough and ready.”
If you are contemplating building one of these chests, here are some resources for you and some thoughts from readers who have already built theirs.
DIY Tool Chest Tours
For a closer look at each chest, take a look at these two short videos I shot in January. You can see how the interiors are set up and then loaded with tools.
There are lots of options for hardware for these chests. For the large chest, I used strap hinges from Lee Valley Tools and made my own lifts.
The Lee Valley hinges can be found here. I used the 7-1/2” x 3-1/2” ones. (Don’t forget that you’ll need to buy screws.) The hinges come pre-rusted; I stripped off the rust to get to the raw iron. Nice.
For the small Dutch chest, I went overboard and bought blacksmith-made straps and a hasp from John Switzer of Black Bear Forge. They are excellent, and I recommend them.
One of my students had built the Dutch chest using strap hinges from Nathan’s Forge. I ordered some a couple weeks ago, but I haven’t received them yet.
The lifts on my small chest were – at first – iron ones that I bought off eBay. Similar iron ones can be purchased from Lee Valley here. Since then, I replaced them with cast brass ones.
During the last eight months I have fielded a lot of questions about these chests, both from students and blog readers. Here are some common ones:
1. Do I have to use pine?
Nope. Just use the cheapest, lightest wood that is available to you. As with all tool chests, weight is a primary concern. If you are ever going to move the chest, choose a lightweight species.
2. Can I use a frame-and-panel back instead of the tongue-and-groove or shiplap back?
Absolutely. However, I would make the panel as thick as the frame members. The back of this chest takes a lot of abuse.
3. Do I have to use screws?
No. You can use nails (I recommend cut nails) or even wooden pegs. I used screws because I found them commonly used on these chests.
I finished both of my chests with General Finishes black “milk” paint. I put “milk” in quotes because I don’t think it has any casein in the mix. The stuff looks nice and is easy to apply – plus, no mixing.
If you want a chalkier finish, consider using a milk paint from Old Fashioned Milk Paint or Real Milk Paint. As to color, the most common color of these chests is blue, historically. I chose black, which is more of an English color.
After applying one of the chalkier finishes, consider adding a coat of boiled linseed oil, wax or varnish over the paint to add some sheen.
— Christopher Schwarz
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