Painted Traveling Anarchist's Tool Chest

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Project by rivercitywoodworker posted 08-16-2013 01:06 PM 1710 views 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Prior to this project, I had no space to store tools inside. The tools I used frequently were kept in a canvas carpenter’s bag inside, but the rest were placed in practice drawers in my crawl space. This arrangement was adequate, if inconvenient, until Richmond, Virginia experienced the wettest summer I could recall.
My dismay came to a head when I reached for my jointer plane only to discover a fine coating of rust covering it along with the rest of my planes. I began reviewing different sketchup models for tool chests and went to work.

The chest’s sides are constructed out of white ash and red oak, with the front and back made out of eastern white pine. The joinery for the case and skirts are through dovetails. The bottom is 3/4” hardwood plywood screwed on to the case bottom. The skirts are simply fitted and glued onto the case sides and reinforced with no. 6 woodscrews. Eastern white pine battens are screwed into the bottom and then casters screwed onto the battens.

The finish used is two coats of Tavern Green milk paint from The Real Milk Paint Company. The scrolling vine pattern was done freehand with water based acrylic paint and camel hair artist brushes. Two coats of butcher block oil were applied to deepen the color and give a little more water protection than the milk paint alone.

If I had to build the chest again, I would use rabbets for the bottom and top skirts and apply a molding to hide any gaps. Since I needed this chest built quickly, I forwent the moldings. I like the painted vine pattern since it fills up empty space, but the acrylic paint was rather difficult to apply. As a result, the vines look sloppy to my eye with their thickness varying too much. Perhaps using a stiffer brush or oil based paint would have been a more appropriate choice. I’d be eternally grateful for any tips or instruction in painting patterns like this.

4 comments so far

View revwarguy's profile


132 posts in 2049 days

#1 posted 08-16-2013 03:52 PM

Look into a “liner” brush used by sign painters – they have very long bristles and hold a lot of paint. There are also several books on sign painting available that has good info about how to paint script lettering, which is similar to what you are doing. You also need to be able to thin the paint enough to get it to flow easily without running. In any event, it is something that takes practice, and a good prep and layout.

That being said, and I hope it may help, I like the hand made appearance of your box. Good job!

-- "72.6 per cent of all statistics are made up on the spot." - Steven Wright

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3394 days

#2 posted 08-17-2013 12:48 AM

Nice looking tool chest. Did you make the inside trays? Either way, pics of the inside would be nice.

+1 on revwarguy advice on thinning acrylic paint, actually most artists paints need thinning. The brushes in the pic 3 aren’t the best, but not the worst. You might think about using a stencil for part of your design, then add any ‘personal flourishes’ to make it your own.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View rivercitywoodworker's profile


4 posts in 1893 days

#3 posted 08-20-2013 12:48 AM

I’ve got a six board blanket chest in the works and I’ll take your advice on books detailing sign painting, and looking into stencils. I only made one of the inside trays; it’s all I need. I left enough room towards the top of the chest to install a shallower, smaller tool tray when the time comes, but I’m not at the point where I’m hurting for more storage space in the chest.

Thanks for the advice!

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2258 days

#4 posted 08-20-2013 12:55 AM

Very nice! It looks great in that shade of green.

Along with Rev’s brush suggestion, also consider looking for “One Shot” sign painter’s paints. One Shot is sold at many art stores, like Jerry’s Artarama and Blick. It’s a thin viscosity, but highly pigmented paint, specially designed to load up a long bristled brush, to paint each stroke in one pass.

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