Build a Tool Tote With Your Kids: Part 1

On top of the daytime woodworking classes, my school offers to our students the opportunity to stay later for an hour and half of “extended day” classes. My woodworking class is one of the after-hour programs. Together with other subjects such as languages, chess, cooking, felt art, knitting and fencing, our students have quite a variety to choose from. This year is the second time that I have offered a class. Last year my pupils built a tool tote or tray (which I am about to show below). This year they are building a clock.

The tote is a great little project to introduce beginner woodworkers to the importance of carefully laying out, cutting and assembling parts together. It is made of six parts: A floor, two side walls, two tall end-walls and a handle. The children received a board and had to cut from it all of their parts.

I will explain using the drawing above.

Cross cut the board twice, to create the tote’s tall ends (A, B). Then cross cut the remaining length again to separate the floor board (C) from the side walls segment (D). If you rip the side walls segment in the middle you will get two walls (D1, D2) . If you rip it two times you will end up with three parts (D3, D4, D5) – two side walls and the handle.  Some of my students decided to rip (D) only once, and make a handle from another board or a branch, but others ripped twice and were able to harvest all the parts for their tote from one board.

tool tote

After cross cutting all her parts, Ashna is preparing to rip the last segment (D) into two, to make the long side walls of her tote.

Tool Tote

tool tote

Sophie has decided to use a branch as her tote handle. After finishing all the tote parts including tapering the tall ends she begun forming tenons at the ends of her stick.

Tool Tote

Tool Tote

Next time I will show how my students finished their projects.

 — Yoav Liberman

ICDT-S1-P2Interested in making your own tool tote? Check out “I Can Do That!” season 1, part 2 at to see how you can make one from big box retailer materials.

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Yoav Liberman

About Yoav Liberman

Yoav S. Liberman is a woodworker and a teacher. His pieces have been featured in several woodworking books, most recently in Robin Wood’s CORES Recycled. Yoav teaches woodworking at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, and also frequently guest teaches in craft schools across the country.  Between 2003 and 2011 Yoav  headed the woodworking program at Harvard University's Eliot House. Yoav’s articles have appeared in American Woodworker and Woodwork Magazine. He frequently contributes woodworking web content to a number of digital publications   Yoav has a degree in architecture and later held two competitive residency programs: at The Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, and the Windgate Foundation Fellowship at Purchase College, New York. He lives in Chestnut Ridge NY.

9 thoughts on “Build a Tool Tote With Your Kids: Part 1

  1. ThomasP

    By chance was the tote handle made from a branch of a “Burning Bush”? The wood of this “bush” is very strong and a very clear off white color (no notable grain). Good wood for a variety of handles/knobs etc.

    1. Yoav LibermanYoav Liberman Post author

      Honestly I don’t know. We have a big collection of branches of all sizes and shapes and allow our student to use them for their projects.

      1. MCamaleri37

        I had to prune an Osage tree in my yard over the weekend, got some nice straight/slightly curved lengths that would be PERFECT handles for a tool/garden tote. Any advice on drying these out and/or using them green? They’re just about 1-2″ diameter.

        1. Yoav LibermanYoav Liberman Post author

          I would suggest letting them dry first. You can give them a few month, and if you have a moisture meter you can even check periodically to see if their moisture content have reached 12%, then you can incorporate them in the tote without any significant shrinking down the road. Yet, you can also connect the handle to the tote in its green state. Surely it will keep shrinking, but since it is locked in a mortise the worst that can happen is that it will rattle a bit. By the way, if you incorporate a wedge element to secure the handle’s tenons, you will be able to tighten it further once the handle completed its acclimation period to make sure that the additional shrinkage is dealt with.

  2. tpobrienjr

    My daughter and son (now 43 and 41 respectively) still have their little tool totes that we made many years ago. Not furniture quality, but certainly little-kid quality. I was surprised to learn that they still owned them.

    1. Yoav LibermanYoav Liberman Post author

      It is nice to hear that your children totes have become a family heirloom objects. Some of the kids in my class decided to gift their totes to their parents, which is very endearing.

  3. jimballew

    A tool tote was the first project my granddaughter and I did together, next we are building a workbench her size.

      1. jimballew

        Yes the bench will have adjustable legs. You know it is so great when grand-kids start to take interest in things we like to do.

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