An occasional blog on woodworking by The Sniper, Barry Tucker
When I wanted to build a chisel box to transport and protect my chisels I ran into some unexpected problems. The identifying and solving of them might be of interest to some woodworkers.
I am an amateur, who is training himself by attempting various projects. I began with the simple design below, for which I planned to use 5-ply Pine (mainly due to the hinging requirement). I then decided to use 16mm Maple for the sides and ends, with 3-ply Pine for the bottom and the hinged lid.
You can see straight away, I think, that 3-ply is a bit thin for hinging, especially when the weight of four chisels will be bearing down on the hinge. A piano hinge may or may not be a better solution, but I have no experience with them.
This design would also mean the chisel box would tend to topple backwards when opened, or the lid would slam shut due to the weight of the chisels. I thought of adding a strap or a elbow bracket to hold the lid back at a slight angle, but the box would still topple backwards because the centre of gravity (mainly in the chisel handles) is too high.
My next thought was to provide space for more chisels, because my collection is sure to grow. This meant a design that was similar, but wider. That did not solve the problems of choosing 3-ply or the lid slamming shut or toppling the box backwards. A wider lid would also require a piano hinge, or more hinges, for stability and smooth operation.
The extra width is not drawn to scale in the picture above.
The picture above shows the hinges have been crossed out and a recessed channel has been drawn near the top edge of the box for a sliding lid. The chisels no longer appear on the lid. The re-design provides for them to be sitting in a regular chisel rack inside the box — so the box would be used for safe-keeping and transportation only. The chisel rack would be removed and hung on the wall above the workbench.
The idea of a sliding lid did not survive for long. I couldn’t imagine a large piece of 3-ply sliding easily in and out of a rebate or channel cut into the Maple sides of the box. I was also beginning to run out of space because the 3-ply floor was going to be rebated as well. A good glue job would hold the floor to the base, but I am anxious to try various rebating. At this stage a router is still on my shopping list.
Inside measurements are provided because the ends of the box will have mitered joints. When I first mitered end joints my project ended up a bit narrower and shorter than expected because I had measured as you would for simple butt joints — by measuring for the outside edges.
I should point out here that I don’t have a regular workshop. I use the open-ended garage, which is not secure, of course, so all my tools are housed in bookshelves in my large kitchen (just as well I live alone, eh). I’ve had to build a back door ramp to facilitate moving my portable table saw and a tool tote box to avoid numerous trips back and forth for more gear.
The little sketch above is an idea of mine that I haven’t yet put to use. The lug at the bottom end is an alternative to the metal hinge, which can be tricky to fit properly. A wooden or metal axle goes through the sides of a box, through the lugs, and replaces the metal hinge and the careful fitting of them. I was going to use a variation of the design on a mailbox lid.
The chisel rack mounted on this axle hinged board would be fitted to the lower end of the chisel box. The chisel box would be opened on site, the chisel rack lifted and secured at an angle by the lid coming down behind it. Alternatively, or additionally, the chisel rack could be unhinged by pulling the axle out and hung on the wall via keyholes at the top of the chisel rack mounting board.
I then thought I could remove all the alternatives and problems considered so far by designing a free standing chisel rack. That led to the odd-looking design below.
The sketch in the centre is a transparent view. It shows a chisel rack mounted on a board, supported by triangular sides and a backing board, with keyholes for wall mounting. For transportation and safe-keeping, a trapezium-sided lid fits over the chisel rack and its stand. This last design involves a lot more careful measuring, cutting and construction, but it is a simple design with a measure of flexibility: bench or wall positioning. To facilitate safe transportation and prevent accidental opening, the lid could be secured with clasp latches.
At this point I have identified some problems and considered some alternatives. An idea of what I should do has not yet been formed. I’ll update the blog when I have a final solution.
The design issues were easily resolved this morning when I decided to build the chisel rack first and mount it on a backing board with keyholes at the top for wall hanging. My axle hinge has been discarded for this project because it isn’t necessary. The chisel rack will be carried in an attaché-type case.
On site, the carry case will be opened, the chisel rack will be lifted at the top end and the lid will be brought down to support the rack at an angle (yet to be determined) by sitting under a bead near the top end of the chisel rack backing board. Removing and replacing chisels will be a two-handed operation, for stability.
I almost completed the chisel rack today. It still needs the keyholes and the supporting bead (or double beads) to be positioned. The sides and ends of the attaché case were cut and I completed dovetail joints for one corner of the case. The floor of the case will be 3-ply Pine, glued to the bottom edges, which will be lightly sanded for safe handling. Once again, the opportunity to practise routing to secure the floor has been abandoned.
I’m now planning to make the lid of the case from laminated strips of 60 mm Maple. I have fitted small hinges to the end “grain” of 3- and 5-ply. While the recesses are easy to chisel away, fixing screws into the end “grain” of plywood does not appeal to me. The Maple (also easy to carve with a sharp chisel) will provide for more secure hinging.
Finishing touches will be fitting a clasp to secure the lid and making and fitting a wooden handle to carry the attaché case.
Days 3, 4 & 5
The chisel rack is being used to determine fit and spacing inside the chisel box. One dovetail joint completed. The relatively soft Maple tended to chip easily when being sawn and chiseled. Probably due to poor technique, but I’ll choose a more dense wood next time I attempt to make dovetails.
Some of the pencil marks made inside the tails while marking the pins are off target. The side carrying the pins is off by about 1 mm. The sharper line below the curved pencil marks was made with a chisel — that’s where the saw cut should have been made. I’ll get better at dovetails with more practise and more care.
The chisel rack goes operational while its storage/carry case is being completed. I added another slotted 3-ply board at the bottom of the rack to prevent the chisels flopping from side to side.
I also made the toolbox, most of it from salvaged pallets. The carry handle is supposed to be reminiscent of an ox yoke.
Back to the chisel box.
I made a handle from a scrap of Maple. It’s screwed in place from the inside.
With the addition of plated hinges and clasps, the chisel box is complete. Despite appearances, the longer chisel narrowly clears the edge of the lid. The lid securely holds the chisel rack in place when removing and replacing chisels. The rack has keyholes near the top in case I want to hang it on a wall. I might lacquer the box to help keep it clean.
End of project.