Carpentry tool tote

  • Advertise with us
Project by Craig Ambrose posted 02-21-2013 11:13 PM 6174 views 6 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve got some timberframing projects coming up, and as I collected the tools I need for that, I decided I needed a tote to carry them around in. This one is modeled on the tote Roy Underhill used, and is described in one of his books. Rather than having all four sides lean outwards, I decided to give it one vertical side to make it easier to carry against your side, apparently this was done with some historical examples.

The tote is made from NZ grown english oak. It’s dovetailed together, and I glad it had that vertical side as the dovetails on the two corners which are a compound angle were rather frustrating to cut. I didn’t have any bits of wood long and wide enough to do the base out of a single piece, so I ran several pieces crossways for the base, held in a groove on the vertical side and resting on a ledge I cut into the sloping side and nailed down. These pieces are shiplapped together to allow for wood movement.

I’ve started using power tools again for dimensioning timber, so this one made use of the jointer, thicknesser and band saw, although all joinery was of course done galoot style.

13 comments so far

View matai's profile


32 posts in 2965 days

#1 posted 02-21-2013 11:19 PM

Looks great Craig. I wince when I imagine cutting dovetails into sides at a compound angle! What’s the finish?

-- Dave, Christchurch NZ

View Craig Ambrose's profile

Craig Ambrose

47 posts in 3721 days

#2 posted 02-21-2013 11:26 PM

The finish is one coat of boiled linseed oil. I’m lazy that way.

I was actually feeling pretty cocky about the dovetails. I’m pretty good at hand dovetailing, and since there are no jigs or anything, in theory doing it on an angle is no harder. That’s certainly true of the single angled dovetails where the vertical side meets the sloped ends. I’d also done a practice compound angle dovetail joint once before (a year or so ago, just on a couple of bits of scrap wood) with no trouble.

However, they didn’t come out quite right. It’s harder than it looks. You have to mark them out on both sides of the board, and you have to ensure that you have the end grain of the wood already planed at the correct angle. Then, you can’t really mark it out with a guage, you have to measure it against the edge. Mine ended up off the correct angle by a couple of degrees. Luckily they were both off fairly equaly, so I just bashed it together with a big mallet and it all bent a little to handle that error. For a tool tote, it didn’t really matter, and no one can spot the issue but me, but it does go to show that it’s harder than it looks. When I did a practice joint, I had an existing joint to measure off, that makes it much easier. If making a critical piece with compound angles, it might be worth mocking it up in cardboard or something first and measuring the angles off that.

View DouginVa's profile


490 posts in 2423 days

#3 posted 02-21-2013 11:35 PM

I’m soooo glad somebody made one of those. As I wait for Roy Underhill to schedule a compound angle dovetail class I’ve been searching and searching for some articles, vids, etc. on how to cut them. One I found was rather confusing to follow and very dated (not that this joint has changed over the years though). I tried to follow the instruction, but it wasn’t as simple as that. Like you I tried several times with limited success.

Where did you learn to cut them or where did you go to get the information on how to do it?

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

View Craig Ambrose's profile

Craig Ambrose

47 posts in 3721 days

#4 posted 02-21-2013 11:44 PM

@DouginVa, I did Roy’s regular dovetail class because I happened to be over there when it was done, but I found it a bit too basic and so tried a compound one when I was there. Roy had a great book (sorry, forgotten what it was) with instructions, but I found them a bit hard to follow, or rather, I wasn’t in the right headspace, so I just went ahead and cut it to see how it’d turn out.

In “the woodwright’s apprentice” book (I think), he has a sea-chest project cut with compound dovetails with some instructions.

To be honest, I think just doing a but-joint on the compound angle is most of the work. If you can get that right, and you’re certain that you’ve planed the endgrain of the pieces correctly, then you’re basically there. After that, I cut tails first, and I mark both sides by measuring off the intersection between the end grain and that face. I don’t normally use a bevel guage to mark out dovetails (I usually just draw them freehand on one face only), but you need to for this.

Your project here ( looks like you’re pretty comfortable with the compound angles.

View DouginVa's profile


490 posts in 2423 days

#5 posted 02-21-2013 11:47 PM

Hmmm…..his books have been on my wish list for a while. I’ll have to check em out. I’ve done several butt joint trays like yours with great success and I used the “template block” to cut the pieces, it’s just getting the dovetail angles correct that gives me fits. Because unlike squared dovetails where both sides of tail are at the same angle, compound tails are different.

Anyway, thanks.

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

View Craig Ambrose's profile

Craig Ambrose

47 posts in 3721 days

#6 posted 02-21-2013 11:50 PM

Ah, that makes sense. You don’t have to get those angles correct in my view. You have to get the angle on the end grain correct of course. I do it tails first, and then I draw a center line for the tail. Then, by eye, I do the sides of the tail. It doesn’t matter what they are, as long as it remains vaguely tail-shaped. I kind of like my work to look like it was clearly done by hand, uneven dovetails sure helps with that. :)

View DouginVa's profile


490 posts in 2423 days

#7 posted 02-22-2013 12:05 AM

I picked up on the “template block” (my word, not theirs) from the Rough Cut Woodworking show. It makes things much easier.

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

View a1Jim's profile


117243 posts in 3727 days

#8 posted 02-22-2013 12:40 AM

cool build and handy too

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View ChuckV's profile


3171 posts in 3677 days

#9 posted 02-22-2013 12:45 AM

Wow – that is really great. Compound dovetails are on my list of future challenges. It it somewhat daunting to me, but I will give it a try.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View Stephen Mines's profile

Stephen Mines

226 posts in 2840 days

#10 posted 02-22-2013 02:03 AM

That’s a great job of work…eye candy that’s hard to stop looking at!

-- Stephen Mines (

View Diggerjacks's profile


2270 posts in 3288 days

#11 posted 02-22-2013 10:41 AM

Hello Craig Ambrose

A great piece

You can also use it everyway in the house

A very nice idea and a great work
Thanks for sharing

-- Diggerjack-France ---The only limit is the limit of the mind and the mind has no limit

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1106 posts in 3123 days

#12 posted 02-23-2013 02:34 AM

Love it!!

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 3614 days

#13 posted 02-23-2013 10:01 PM

A piece of true craftsmanship. Congrats on a wonderful build!

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics