Projects - Preparing for the Tool Chest

Pine Panels
It has been over a month since I finished gluing together and planing the Pine panels for my tool chest project. The stack of panels continues to sit below my workbench primarily because I do not feel confident enough to go ahead with the project. I want to make the tool chest carcass with dovetails but I feel I lack the expertise to make the many dovetails required.

Instead I have been practising hand cutting dovetails for the past couple of weeks and as it often happens this became a project in itself.

Marking Pins

Instead of practising on scrap, I thought I would make dovetail boxes. I had some rubber wood pieces left from a previous project which I used.

The toughest part was to accurately mark the pins on the ends of the pieces that would form the pins. Even a slight shake can lead to disaster as the cuts need to perfectly match the dimensions of the tails. I tried to copy a design for a jig to hold the pins piece in place but could not make one accurately. I will try to make the jig again and in the meanwhile tried to do the marking without the jig.

Fitting the Dovetails
No matter how hard I tried, I could not get the dovetails to fit the first time and had to carefully pare their sides with a chisel to make them fit. Even after that I was left with unseemly gap in some of the dovetails. I fixed these with slivers of wood and filling.

Dovetail box with lid

I suppose the gaps are tolerable but I am not fully satisfied. More practice is called for.

In the meanwhile, I have built two boxes which I intend to fine tune and finish over the next weekend.

Dovetail Box with open top

I made one of the boxes with an open top to which I intend to fit a lid with a quarter inch or so overhang. The first box has been made with the lid attached; the top will have to be sawed off to make the lid.

Lid for Box with Inlay

I do not plan to go ahead with the tool chest project until I feel more confident about cutting a whole lot of dovetails for the carcass.

Indranil Banerjie
12 March 2014


  1. You seem to have done a great job with the dovetail, Indranil. That box is looking real cool. When Large dovetails are to be cut, I use the table saw and chisels. We could buy some kind of dovetail jig. But those available are from the American market where Imperial measurement is the norm. Our router are Metric. And it is difficult find Imperial router bits too. Of course the cost too is way too expensive. Best is hand cut dovetail. If you have the patience you can slowly cut away the dovetails for you chest. All the best to you.

  2. Bala: Many thanks for your comments. I cut the dovetails by hand. By the way, most of my tools, bits (both router and drill) are imperial as I find inches and feet more intuitive to work with. I will start on the pine tool chest soon and your best wishes will surely help! Thanks again.

  3. Hello Indranil,
    Those are really good looking dovetails. Looking at those boxes, I can imagine the quest for perfection you are aiming for. But the rubber wood boxes have come out really well. How do you usually finish such boxes? As an aside, do you think making a chopping board out of rubber wood is a good idea? If so, any suggestions on finishing the chopping board before it can be used for cutting in the kitchen? Any inputs will be helpful. Thanks,

  4. Sridhar: Thanks for your wonderful comments! I am glad you liked them. Yes, wish to reach the point one day when my dovetails fit perfectly without any tweaking.
    As for the finish, I usually colour the wood with dye which works better than stain. Then I usually apply a Shellac finish. In this case, I might apply a very light pecan oil stain and finish with water based Polyurethane.
    Bubber wood would make a fine chopping board. Try using the one inch thick board available. Those are thick and solid. For finish, I applied groundnut oil on one small chopping board I had made of teak. I let each coat dry and applied a total of 3 coats. Came out rather well. And oil can be reapplied every once in a while and it is food safe.
    Best wishes

  5. Hello Indranil,
    Thank you very much for the suggestion to use groundnut oil. I will definitely try it out. I am unable to find 1 inch thick rubber wood boards here in Bangalore local plywood shops although they might be available in the main market area; I am going to give a shot with the 18mm rubber wood board I recently purchased. Thanks again for the prompt response. I am very glad I can turn to someone like you for tips and tricks. I must confess I have now become a regular reader of your blog and it is a pleasure to see that you put as much effort into your well-written blog posts as you do in your woodworking projects. I look forward to learning a lot from you. - Sridhar


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