Tool Cabinet #1: Requesting input on my plans...

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Blog entry by Sgt_Lobo posted 12-07-2007 03:04 AM 7900 reads 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Tool Cabinet series Part 2: Respect to all cabinet builders... »

One of the good things about being in the Air Force is that, if you aren’t deployed, most of us can expect to get a good amount of time off around the holidays. I’m expecting a little over a week off between Christmas and New Years, so I though I’d better start another project to keep me busy and out of trouble.

While working on my Xmas projects I needed a nail punch. I spent 3 hours looking around my garage before I finally found it conveniently placed underneath one of my shop gloves. It was after this and many similar frustrations that I decided I needed a good tool cabinet.

I searched all the stores (sears, home depot, lowes) looking for a good sturdy tool cabinet with features I could use at a price I could afford. Well, nothing was perfect…they were all too expensive, cheaply built, or lacking usable features. This is when I came to the conclusion that I could probably build a better, more useful, and less expensive tool cabinet and learn a lot from the project at the same time.

Below are my plans for my tool cabinet as they stand right now. I scoured the web looking at different ones and finding features I liked in each one, I then took everything I liked and came up with these unique plans. Now mind you, I’m not the best with creating plans. I wing a lot of stuff. I can’t use google’s sketchup on my windows vista box, so I just use powerpoint. I converted my slides to pictures, and hopefully they won’t get chopped when I post them here…If they are chopped, you can click on the picture to open the full size picture.

This first picture is just kind of a general overview with varying dimensions.
General Overview

This second picture is a closer look at the base of the cabinet with some details.
Cabinet Base

This third picture shows an exploded view of the upper “hutch” portion of the cabinet.
Hutch Exploded

This fourth picture shows an exploded view of one of the drawers. The method I’m going to use for the drawers can be found on a tool cabinet plans found at American Woodworkers website. Here is a link to the PDF file.
Drawer Exploded

This fifth picture is an exploded view of the cabinet base.
Cabinet Base Exploded

Some details I’ve left out of the plans: I plan on using 1/2” plywood for the majority of the project. I’m trying to save money, yet still build a strong cabinet that will last for a long time. I might try solid wood edging on the plywood, though I’ve never done that before. Certain parts of the project may get solid wood (like drawer fronts) for the sole purpose of looks. I don’t need this to look like it belongs in my living room, yet I don’t want it to look like my 11 y/o built it either…

I have never done a project like this before. I’ve never built drawers or even a cabinet of any type before. So what I’m hoping to get on this blog is some critical thinking. Please, study my plans, ask me questions, and let me know if there are better ways of doing things. I’m still in the planning stages here and probably won’t start this project for another 2 weeks, so it is a lot easier for me to make changes now. I thank you all in advance for guiding and teaching me this wonderful art.

And, as I suspected, LJs cropped the right side of all my pictures, so you’ll have to click each one to see all the details…

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

16 comments so far

View Don Niermann  's profile

Don Niermann

219 posts in 3998 days

#1 posted 12-07-2007 03:31 AM

If it works for you do it. It looks good to me.

-- WOOD/DON ( has the right to ones opinion but not the right to ones own facts...)

View rpmurphy509's profile


288 posts in 3880 days

#2 posted 12-07-2007 04:36 AM

I’d recommend getting your casters prior to locking in the
final dimensions, primarily the height. You may find that
32.5” plus the wheels may be a bit high for comfortable work.
It’s a personal preference though, so if you’re good with it, so am I :)

I like the design, looks like it’ll keep a lot of tools organized and close at hand.

The power strip will be on the inside of the cabinet?

-- Still learning everything

View Sgt_Lobo's profile


87 posts in 3884 days

#3 posted 12-07-2007 04:41 AM

The height of the cabinet is including the wheels. Yeah, it would have been uncomfortably high with the wheels plus the height I have listed…

I never really considered the power strip much before. It probably would be better on the outside of the of the cabinet.

Thanks for the idea..

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View Muzhik's profile


173 posts in 4164 days

#4 posted 12-07-2007 07:17 AM

I’d consider maybe using some heavy duty drawer slides instead of wooden runners. Then again, I’ve never used wooden runners, but I’m just afraid I’ll botch something. Therefore, my opinion in this area may or may not be worth a damn. Other than that, it looks like a great plan – something I’d build for my own tool storage if I had the time and ambition.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4125 days

#5 posted 12-07-2007 01:45 PM

Rpmurphy509 brings up a good point about the casters and make sure you get good ones.

I am with Muzhik on the drawer glides. The big benefit of drawer glides is that you can get 3/4 or full extension glides. That means you can pull the drawer all the way out to expose it’s contents and it is always well supported. The wooden glides you make will only allow you to pull drawers out so far and they will not be supported as much.

This can be a benefit though. If you have a drawer box that holds things like chisels and a combo square, you can just pull the box all the way out and set it on the workbench to work out of. I have a drawer box in the shop that I use this way. I keep all the tools at reach and contained. Then I just slide the box back on the shelf when done. It has a lot of the tools that I use all the time. Maybe you should have a mix of these drawers and removable boxes.

Here is a reality check: The benefit of making it yourself is this, enjoying the fruits of your labor and making exactly what fits your needs. You may find that it does not cost less than store bought.

The benefit of shop projects is that they are great for honing your woodworking skills.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4125 days

#6 posted 12-07-2007 01:49 PM

I would lean toward 3/4 material for strength and durability. This thing is going to get pushed around a lot in your garage shop and it will suffer racking forces. It costs too much in material and labor to have it start coming apart.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4016 days

#7 posted 12-07-2007 02:23 PM

Here’s some ideas for you to consider:

A counter top height formula from the DIY Network: A comfortable working height will be 4” below your elbow, be it workbench or kitchen counters.

Casters come in all shapes and sizes. Buy the ones with polyurethane tires as they will last longer and not develope “flat” spots over time. Two of them should be a locking swivel type for ease of positioning and a firm base to work on when locked. Rpmurphy is right on that. Caster heights vary from one to the other. Buy all four at the same time.

The most sturdy benches are the heavy ones and some plans call for adding sand to the bottom shelf as a ballast!

I found that a simple 1 1/2” thick plywood table top works great and can be flipped for a new surface. Make it a full 48” by 24” and you’ll have less cutting to do. Also be sure to allow a 2” overhang on all sides as this gives you places to “clamp” your projects to. I would also suggest having a 4’x2’ sheet metal top made which would allow you to work on that greasy lawnmower without ruining your wood surface! You could hang it off the backside when not needed.

The drawers are a great place to store all your hand tools and add weight to the unit. Use only heavy duty, full extension slides as well. Keep your heaviest tools in the bottom drawer to keep the center of gravity low. Otherwise it’ll be prone to tipping.

Todd offers great advice on using 3/4” sheet stock to build the carcass. With mine though, I also used 3/4” sheet for the drawers. You don’t need to. 1/2” thickness will work quite well. And don’t even think of using MDF. You’ll definately hate it. You could also add 1/4” hardboard or luann to the inside of the drawers for parts bins. There may even be a way to make bins that are removable so you could take your screws directly to the job.

Give me a little more time and I’ll figger out a way to motorize it so you can ride it around the base too!

But don’t buy one. You’ll grow to hate it. You can build it better! Don’t forget to post it so we can see either!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 3983 days

#8 posted 12-07-2007 02:48 PM

All great advice, so I won’t repeat you guys! I would third the suggestion that you use 3/4” material for the carcass. And I would definitely go with some full extension, heavy duty draw slides. They allow you to use the entire draw without having to dig through to the back, and I think they just work and feel nicer than wooden guides. As far as casters go I really like the Woodcraft double locking ones…they are expensive, but great quality and if you want to save a little dough you could go with 2 full swivel and 2 fixed. They go on sale all the time, so keep your eyes open. And Murphy’s suggestion to get them first is right on. You need to get a real measurement to make sure the finished height is what you want. Ok I guess I should stop repeating everyone!

Just a heads up, the reason your pics are cut off is the image size is too big. You are limited to 640×480 size. You can re size pictures in tons of different applications, including MS paint. Also, allot of the photo sharing sites like Photobucket have re sizing tools.


View Sgt_Lobo's profile


87 posts in 3884 days

#9 posted 12-07-2007 03:42 PM

Okay, so far this is what I have:
1. Use polyurethane tires so they don’t develop “flat” spots.
2. Use heavy duty, full extension drawer slides instead of wooden runners.
3. Use 3/4” ply instead of 1/2”.
4. Give Dadoo more time to figure out how to motorize this thing…

Now, with all this in mind, I have a question about the drawer slides. How hard are they to line up and install? Are there any hints/advice you all can provide? Do you install cabinet side first or drawer side and then how do you line up the other side? I really don’t want crooked drawers and that is why I was going with runners originally.

Thanks to all of you who have given me advice so far! I’m getting pretty excited about building this beast…

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3988 days

#10 posted 12-07-2007 04:55 PM

In your profession, be sure to add handles and some way to lock the drawers so it is portable. Remember the old British campaign furniture? The drawer slides are easy, you’ll learn quick. I use side mount Accuride for this type application. Get the 110 pound full extension. I can’t remember the number. Call Joann at McKillican, that’s what I do.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4125 days

#11 posted 12-07-2007 06:28 PM

Dadoo brought up a great point about the overhang on the table. The overhang on my work tables appears a little large because I sized it to accommodate clamps just as he mentioned.

I can vouch for the value of a better wheel too. The metal sheet for the top is a good idea. I covered mine with laminate because it is durable and will wipe clean with lacquer (check me Thos.) thinner or mineral spirits. I end up working on the chainsaw and mower too on these tables.

Working with the laminate would be a good experience too.

The cheapest table I have made in my shop was the infeed table for about $375. The big ones cost about $575 each. They have plywood and laminate for durability, not melamine.

Gotta get back to the shop-

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Harold's profile


310 posts in 3873 days

#12 posted 12-07-2007 06:41 PM

The drawer slides are very easy to line up, use the dimensions from your face frame and cut one piece of scrap for each drawer(hieght), you will rest the back of the slide on this stick as you install the screws. keep in mind that the slides commonly have a small lip at the front of the slide that will rest upon your face frame, this lip on the slides I use is apx. 3/16”. Your slides can be flush to the front of the face frame, but I will set mine back apx. a 1/16” just in case they shift as the screws go in. The piece that attatches to the drawer is very simple, just slide it up to your drawer front and screw it on. their will be one elongated hole at the back of the carcass slide I install this screw and one at the front and then test the drawer, if the drawer front fits flush your done, if you need to adjust just loosen the rear screw and slide up or down. once your happy install the rest on the screws and tighten it up. you can get interference between the drawer slides and a crooked screw, so make sure you screws go in as straight as possible. Oh I am not sure what slides you will be using, but make sure you account for the width of the slides when you determine your overall drawer width.

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4016 days

#13 posted 12-07-2007 06:51 PM

You got an Airbase nearby? I need a few parts for this jet engine…and pick up a really strong seatbelt too.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Sgt_Lobo's profile


87 posts in 3884 days

#14 posted 12-07-2007 08:23 PM

Harold: Thanks for the tips for installing the slides. Doesn’t sound too difficult. Now I just need to find some that fit in budget…

Dadoo: I’m in the AF, jet engine parts shouldn’t be too hard to come by… Now do you recommend a normal seatbelt or the 3 point harness? ;-)

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4016 days

#15 posted 12-07-2007 11:30 PM

5 point with 2 1/2” strapping. You might want a parachute to in case one of the doors comes open and launches you into orbit. Hell, I might even win the X-prize with this. LOL!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

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