July Sales
Making an American Chestnut Wood Tool Chest
posted on by
Dovetailed Chestnut Tool Chest When Chris Marshall got the chance to work with unused chestnut from Harry Kottke's shop, he jumped at the chance to make this tool chest.

A hundred years ago or so, when the chestnut for this project was still gracing the Ohio landscape, a tool chest was much more than a place to store chisels. It was a woodworker’s calling card. Journeymen were often required by their master teachers to build a tool chest before venturing out to start their own businesses. And when that time came, a finely crafted tool chest was proof to prospective clients that a craftsman’s skills could be trusted.

For the Chestnut Tool Chest Drawings and Materials List in PDF format, click here.

These days, you can buy a chest of metal drawers to store your hand tools, but what fun is there in that? It’s much more gratifying to build a custom chest, just like our forebears did. Yours may not help you hang out that woodworking “shingle,” but it definitely will remind you of all the things you love about this craft each time you open it.

Design Considerations
Chestnut tool chest drawer case The drawer case in the chest forms the floor of the top compartment, houses the drawers and acts as the bottom of the chest, making it the best starting point for making the chest.

My design is essentially a chest within a chest: an internal case houses three drawers and serves as the floor of a deep storage compartment on top. The drawer case is undersized to make room for three racks of hanging tools around the inside. You can outfit the rest of the top compartment any way you like with divider strips. It’s a perfect place to store tall-handled planes.

A handmade chest deserves fine joinery, so I chose variable-spaced through dovetails to bring the outer chest together and half-blind dovetails for the drawers. Top it all off with a coved lid and some brass hardware, and you’ve got a challenging project that will keep you plenty busy for a few weekends. Starting with the Drawer Case The best tactic for building this project is to work from the inside out, so we’ll start with the drawer case. Since the top of the drawer case (piece 1) will show when the chest lid is up, make that from a panel of solid wood. I chose Baltic birch plywood for the case sides, back and bottom (pieces 2 through 4) to eliminate any wood movement that might bind the tight-fitting drawers from season to season.

For the Second Set of Drawings for the Tool Chest Layout in PDF format, click here.

Notice in the Drawings that the drawer case bottom panel also serves as the chest bottom. It nests into grooves in the outer chest panels with a 5/16"-thick, 1/2"-long tongue. Make that tongue now on the bottom panel ends and back edge; the front edge will butt against the chest front, so leave it flat.

You’ll also discover in the Drawings that the drawer case “hangs” on the chest’s front panel with six pocket-screw joints. They form invisible, sturdy connections, but they also offer you the ability to position the drawer case precisely in the drawer opening. You’ll want that degree of control here, since the drawers are flush-fitting with only a sliver of clear space to spare around them. Bore the pocket-screw holes in the drawer case sides now.

Jig for cutting tool chest door runners The drawer runners are the most difficult part to make adjustments to once they're placed, so make sure they're accurate, the author used a simple jig to guide the cuts and installation.

The drawers slide on fixed runners (pieces 5) inside the drawer case. I experimented with self-lubricating plastic slides for my chest, but you could fashion yours from straight-grained, dimensionally stable stock, too. Prepare your drawer slides, rounding over their front ends to double as drawer stops.

Once the drawer case goes together, you won’t be able to tweak the position of the runners to improve drawer action, so it’s crucial to install them parallel and accurately from the start. Easiest solution? Build a simple jig to hold the runners in place on the case sides when you install them. I made mine from scrap and milled three dadoes that fit the runner strips snugly. A fence along the bottom of the jig made it easy to register the jig correctly when I drove the short attachment screws (pieces 26). Here’s another tip: the case sides are mirror opposites of one another. The rounded ends of the runners should face in opposite directions on the right and left side panels.

With all your drawer case parts machined, sand and pre-finish them, then assemble the drawer case with flathead wood screws (pieces 27).

Making the Chest Panels

The “show” faces of your chest panels (pieces 6 through 8) will make quite an impression on a project this large, so take time to choose your stock carefully. Plan your panel glue-ups for pleasing grain pattern and consistent wood tone. I made all four panels from one piece of thick, wormy chestnut, resawn into thinner stock.

For my front panel, I wanted the grain pattern to flow across the drawer faces, and I knew I’d need a precise cutout for the drawer opening. The easiest way to accomplish both goals was to start out with an overly wide panel and rip my drawer face blank from it. If you do the same, remember to make your drawer face blank wide enough to account for the kerfs you’ll need to split the blank into three drawer faces later. Once the drawer face blank was removed, I cut off its ends and glued them to the rest of the front panel to create the final drawer opening shape (see Drawings).

Dovetail Cutting Jig from ChestMate To allow for some variety in how the dovetails were placed and cut, the author used a ChestMate Dovetail cutting jig.

Milling the through dovetail joinery was easy, thanks to my ChestMate™ Jig, which will cut through dovetails on panels of any size. I decided to configure the joinery so the pin geometry would show on the front of the chest. A pleasing pattern was my foremost goal, but the layout posed a minor challenge during assembly: I needed to nip the front corners off the drawer case bottom tongues so the side panel dovetails could slide correctly into their sockets in the front panel. If you choose a different dovetail layout, you may be able to avoid this step.

Once your dovetails are cut and the panels slip together with a nice friction fit, step to your router table and mill slots for the chest’s top panel and the drawer case bottom tongues. A 1/4" and 5/16" straight bit will get these jobs done. Again, depending on the spacing of your through-dovetail layout, these slots may need to be stopped drop cuts or run from one end of the panel to the other. Plan accordingly.

Securing chest drawer case with pocket screws. Once it's assembled and clamped, with the drawer case aligned with the drawer opening, then drive your 1-1/4" pocket screws into the joints.

Sand the inside faces of your panels up to 180-grit, and apply your finish now. Once the chest is glued up, these surfaces will be tough to reach. When the finish cures, line up the drawer case with the drawer opening on the chest front panel, and drive the pocket screws (pieces 28) home to attach these parts. Make sure the inside faces of the drawer case line up nicely with the opening. Be really picky here.

Bringing the Chest Together
Cutting cove in top panel of tool chest Add a gentle, sloping cove cut in the top panel, which makes an attractive shadow line and breaks up the blocky shape of this large chest.

One step stands between you and the big glue-up to come: making your chest top panel (piece 9). Mine came from one blank of 19"-wide wormy chestnut, ripped and reglued to flatten it during the surfacing process. I milled gentle, sloping coves all around the panel edges with a panel-raising bit on the router table. If you don’t have a big panel raiser, you could cut broad bevels around the top face using a table saw instead. Sand and finish your top panel before proceeding. That way, no bare wood will show if the panel shrinks slightly or shifts in its grooves over time.

Clamping and gluing chestnut tool chest Test your assembly before applying any clamps or glue, because you will only get one good shot at fixing these dovetails.

It’s imperative to carry out one final dry assembly to be absolutely sure everything fits together as it should. Once that glue hits the dovetails, there’s no turning back. Be sure to have plenty of clamps and cauls ready. Work quickly but carefully to make sure all the joints close properly and the chest is square before the glue sets.

Freeing, then Mounting the Lid
Making rip cuts on chestnut tool chest lid To separate the lid from the rest of the piece, make four rip cuts, bridging them with carpet tape and strips of scrap board to keep the lid from moving during the cut.

Your next order of business is to separate the lid from the chest carcass with four rip cuts on the table saw. I made the two shorter end cuts first, with my blade set just high enough to cut through the panel thickness. Then, I applied a couple of strips of double-sided tape and scraps of hardboard across these cuts to form “bridges” that would hold the lid securely during the next two long rip cuts. You don’t want the lid to shift even slightly during cutting. Make sure your rip fence is tuned up and your blade is square so all four of these cuts line up accurately when you’re though. Pop off the hardboard, clean up the cut surfaces with a block plane and mount your lid to the chest with a pair of quality brass butt hinges (pieces 10) set into mortises. I cut the mortises with a trim router, straight bit and guide collar, following a shop-made template.

Now make the chest’s block feet (pieces 12), chamfering their bottom edges. Install them with pairs of 2" screws driven into counterbores.

Assembling the Drawers

Set the chest aside for a spell, and turn to drawer construction. Rip the drawer faces (pieces 13 and 16) from the blank you created earlier, and make up your drawer sides, backs and bottoms as well. Here’s a fitting opportunity to choose an attractive secondary wood for the drawer sides — it will make those half-blind dovetails impossible to miss! I used ash, which creates a pleasing blonde contrast to the chestnut’s warm brown color.

Using a jig to make drawer dovetail cuts To add detail to the chest, create half-blind dovetails in the drawers, using a jig (like this one from Rockler) to guide the cuts.

Rockler’s new dovetail jig made quick work of cutting half blinds. Then, I routed the drawer bottom grooves in the sides and faces and plowed dadoes for the drawer backs.

Once the drawers are glued-up and dry, slide the bottoms into place and pin them to the drawer backs with a few brads. Next, take the drawers to your router table and mill a stopped dado in each side for the drawer runners. Use a 3/4" straight bit for this task. It’s sensible to refine the setup on scrap stock first to make sure the slots are centered on the drawer side widths and just wide enough to permit smooth sliding action. I found that two passes for each dado, flipping the the drawer in between, widened them just a hair to create the perfect fit over the runners. Sand and finish the drawers to complete them.

Detailing the Top Compartment

As I mentioned initially, this chest has three tool racks (pieces 20 and 21) that surround the deep top compartment. They’re helpful for stowing your chisel set, measuring and marking tools, awls, screwdrivers and so forth. How you lay them out will depend on the tools you own and the sizes of openings they require. In my chest, the short left rack holds a set of chisels and a burnishing tool. To fit them, I drilled 5/8" holes that seat the tapered handle ferrules, ripped the rack down the middle, then added short spacers between the holes to create blade openings. I’m devoting the back long rack for flat-ruled tools. It started out as a single blank, ripped in two, then I cut shallow dadoes to create the narrow tool blade openings and glued it back together. The short rack on the right holds an awl, scribing gauge and a compass, each fitting into appropriately sized through holes for the tool shafts. Very simple, but effective, storage.

To install these racks, drive a pair of countersunk wood screws across the width of each and into the chest sides. That way, if a tool ever slips down inside accidentally, you can unscrew the rack and retrieve it without hassle.

For the rest of the top compartment, I divvied up the space with thin strips of stock (pieces 22) to separate five different hand planes, a pounding mallet, mortising gauge and a pair of bevel gauges. I tacked these strips in place with 23-gauge pin nails rather than using glue and screws. If I ever want to change the configuration or collection of my tools, the strips will be easy to remove and reposition or replace.

Finishing Up
Adding draw bolts to tool chest With the chest complete, add a liner and the exterior hardware to complete the construction of the chest.

With your tool racks installed, you can mount the brass lid support (piece 11) to the right-hand tool rack. See the Drawings for more information about positioning the lid support. Give the outer chest surfaces a thorough sanding, and ease the corners and sharp edges with a few swipes of a block plane. Apply your finish, and install the locking drawbolt, catches and drawer knobs. You might even want to line the drawer bottoms with dark green felt to give your chest a bit more color.

Virgin American chestnut isn’t a wood that will pass through my shop very often, so this was a special opportunity for me. I’m sure you have some prized stock that needs just the right project. I hope this chest will be a worthy candidate.

posted on June 1, 2008 by Chris Marshall
previous post next post

50 thoughts on “How to Choose The Right Hinges For Your Project”

  • John Gagnon

    Is there a euro style hinge for face frame overlay style cabinet doors that will allow the door to fully clear the face frame when open, to allow clearance for slide out shelves?


  • bruce blodget

    I have a knife rack mounted under my upper cabinet. I have a broken hinge and cannot find one anywhere, can you help?

  • Todd

    Is there a concealed 3/8" inset hinge, or better yet a soft-close, concealed 3/8" inset hinge available for face frame or frameless cabinets? I can't seem to find any. Thanks.

  • Justin Stokes

    You want something like this:

  • richard yager

    I have the same question as above. I need euro style face frame full and half overlay hinges for cabinets with slide out drawers.

  • Kevin

    Help, I need to replace a hinge on a cabinet that is in the corner. Where most hinges are in a straight line when the door is open this one would be in a straight line when the door is closed so it needs to swing in the opposite direction of most hinges. ( if that makes any sense). The cabinet is framless. Can anyone assist?

  • Jaime Cantu

    I have the same question: Is there a euro style hinge for face frame overlay style cabinet doors that will allow the door to fully clear the face frame when open, to allow clearance for slide out shelves?



  • Walter Stubbs
    Walter Stubbs May 2, 2014 at 7:18 am

    I am putting a 3/4x 18x69 inch door into a face frame opening. It will require a full inset hinge. The distance
    in the inside of the face frame is 1/2". Can I use a Blum hinge for this application? If so which one?

  • Greg

    My face frame is 1&3/4" wide and I'd like the door overlaid enough to cover as much of the face frame as possible. Is there a hinge that is wide enough to cover 1&1/2 inch of face frame?

  • Ken Schotsch

    I have a cabinet with a mirror mounted on it. So I can't fit the standard full overlay hinge on the door. It does not have the thickness for the cup of the hinge. So, my question is could I use a hinge for a full inset door mounted in reverse; with the cup end of the hinge mounted on the side and the long part mounted on the door?

  • Lillian Travers
    Lillian Travers June 17, 2014 at 2:34 am

    How do I adjust the hinges on my kitchen doors so they will close all the way. I do not know what screw to adjust so the doors will close all the way.


  • Neil Volk

    Have searched your website for replacement hinge I need.

    I do not see one.

    Can I email you a picture of the hinge I have, so you might sell me the right one?



  • James Losey

    I am adding an additional cabinet to my kitchen but can not seem to find the same Blum overlay hinges. The cup piece has '110' and the frame has '1 5/8'. Do you have these? Also, do you have a soft close version of this hinge? Do I need 2 soft close hinges for each door or one plus a regular hinge?
    Thank you for your help.
    James Losey

  • pinkle

    The best comprehensive, instructional, simply written, understandable piece of information, I had just about ever read. Thank you so much. With your guide in my hand. I got exactly what I needed for the job I was going to do!
    Brilliant!! A Very Happy Bunny

  • Pravina Patel

    I want to replace hinges on cabinet door. Can I email a picture of hinges to get right one.

  • Sheila nichols

    I have inset kitchen cabinets with a lip around is their a hidden hinge that can be used on these type doors

  • Rob

    My cabinet doors look just like your face frame Partial-inset, 3/8 overlay pic. Is there a auto self close hinge for this application? "Shown in a face frame application (Choose 49513 or 47967)
    Blum® 100° Overlay Clip Top Hinges 3/8" - 5/8" Overlay for Face Frame Applications (Pair)
    $11.59" seems like it should've the one I need but the pic looks like it's not an overlay door just an inset

  • Ed Smith

    I am refinishing a secretary's desk with the fold down writing table which, when opened ;the support boards extend out of the sides of the desk structure. I need the hinges that lowers the writing platform. these hinges are flat 180 degs. when opened 3-4 inches long. No similar hinges found in your wed site. I also need 2 hinge like mechanisms that drive the support extensions when the writing surface is lowered In Mass. this desk is called a "Governor Winthrop" desk.

  • Penny Bryan

    My earlier email was wrong measurements. My ottoman lid is oak weighs 15 lbs. 22"x26" and is 1" deep. I need hardware hinges to make sure it doesn't smash fingers. I want to be able to open fully and soft close. Thank you so much for your help!

    Penny B.

  • Grant

    I am looking to use a blum hinge but was wondering if there was a hinge that could handle a 2 inch overlay or larger? Or if not what is the largest overlay I can have?

  • Karen Entwistle
    Karen Entwistle March 10, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    I am looking for a hinge that can be attached to a secretary with non-flush inset doors. The doors are actually about 1/2" inside the cabinet from the side rails. Would prefer to have the hinges mounted to inner sidewalls of lower cabinet (which are flush with the 2" wide side rails of cabinet.) Would also like possibly to have the right-handed door fold back around the outside of the secretary. I need a way to remove the left-handed door, (or better yet both doors instead of wrapping around the right-handed one) with a lift off hinge, take-apart hinge, or a clip hinge, that is, if any of these are an easy process that could be done on a daily basis. Any hinge suggestions?

  • Tina

    Can you recommend a hinge for my project, please. I am retrofitting a 3 door armoire to a media cabinet and need hinges to attach 2 of the doors together (bifold) but they are both very heavy, 60 inches tall 3/4 thick.


    2doors hinge together in corner where lazy susan is what 2hinges door to door would i use what 2 hinges from door to cabinet would i use want doors to open as much as possible thank you

  • Genell Renshaw
    Genell Renshaw March 26, 2015 at 2:07 am

    Don, it sounds like you need some corner hinges. You can find some at this URL: http://www.rockler.com/search/go?w=corner%20hinge&asug=&sli_uuid=&sli_sid=

    Or you can enter "Corner Hinge" in the Rockler website search bar to go to them. If you have further questions please don't hesitate to contact a product specialist at support@rockler.com or you can also use the "Live Chat" tool on this page to get in contact with us.

    Best of luck on your project!

  • Melissa

    I have refinished my cabinets but never thought to number my hinges so I could put them back in exactly the right places. Who knew hinges were so complicated? My hinges are the semi-concealed and are the exact same as the ones pictured on your oak cabinets above. Stamped on the back I noticed a 1 and a 2. Does this mean anything? Should the #2 both be on the same side when replacing facing cabinets? It's time to put things back and things could be getting ugly. :(

  • Debbie

    I have just had a new kitchen fitted with an integrated washing machine quite is near the corner so when the door on the washing machine is opened it bashes into the door of the unit on the other side is there anyway to adjust the hinges on the washing machine - this is also happens on another cupboard which has soft close hinges can either of these be adjusted so that they can be restricted how far they open?

  • Kathy

    I need a 3/8 inch overlay hinge for a cabinet door. I lost the original hinges because I started this project ten years ago and they are whereabouts unknown now. I have discovered they discontinued this size hinge. What do I use now.

  • Will

    I love hinges from Rockler.

  • Dawn

    I took out a wall to open up my stairwell. I now have a small space under my stairs that would accommodate a 24" door about 2.5' high. I would like the door to blend with my existing wall that has picture-frame wainscoting, shoe mold and baseboard. I'd like to be able to put baseboard and shoe mold on the door to match the existing baseboard and shoe mold on the wall (to essentially create an invisible door). I can build whatever frame I'd like under the stairs to accommodate the door. What kind of hinge should I get that would give me the ability to open and close the door without having the baseboard and shoe mold run into each other along the edge of the door? Thanks for any suggestions!

  • derek willis

    What can I hang a shelved library hidden door on , 9 feet high, and 3 feet wide all shelved carrying books, built in Oak, this door will be almost invisible in the length and room of library shelving, I will fit a supporting wheel at floor level to help with the weight.
    Your help will be appreciated.


  • Bob Price

    I have a bunch of semi-concealed, double demountable hinges. I need the two(2) router bits to cut the slots for the inside ajustable part of the hinge to slide into the door and the face frame. Any ideas where I could find these router bits ??

  • Janet

    I built a triangular shaped raised bed to fit under a metal tripod trellis. The raised bed is an equilateral triangle made out of PVC boards. I used large butt hinges at each of the corners to hold each side together and to prevent planting soil from coming out where the boards meet at the corners. I had no problem installing the hinges in two of the corners but could not get my drill into the last corner because of the 60 degree angle. All the angle adapters I have looked at are right angle adapters and claim to be able to allow drilling in tight spaces. The DeWalt adapter I bought is too large for this small space. Any recommendations for the correct tool to use would be of great help.

  • kollurusundaram
    kollurusundaram July 21, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    it is quite informative but parliament hinges lift off hinges double action hinges single action hinges flat door springs were not covered under this subject i request u to update the information

  • Kerina

    I have the same question: Is there a euro style hinge for face frame overlay style cabinet doors that will allow the door to fully clear the face frame when open, to allow clearance for slide out shelves?

  • Barbara

    my previous hinges were not self closing. Im trying, unsuccessful, to determine the correct hinges to use. Can I send one of the old hinges and a picture of the cabinets for your help and advice?

  • Conroy

    I want to install doors over frameless cabinets that have gaps between the cabinets so that the doors fully conceal the gaps. These cabinets go wall to wall. I don't want any reveal. Do you have hinges that can accomplish this?

  • Mark

    I am building some cabinets for my garage out of 3/4" MDF. I am building frameless cabinet with 2X4s being my support structure and will act as the cabinet side panels. I want the hinges to be hidden so I assume I will need Half overlay (for 8 doors). I want the 2X4 frame hidden as much as possible but I can only find Half Overlay with 3/8". Is there a hinge that has a Half Overlay with 3/4". Will a 2X4 (3 1/2") deep be large enough to act as the Cabinet Side

  • Annette

    Not all partial inset doors are 3/8". Some older homes were built with thicker cabinet doors and have a 1/2" inset. Does anyone have a source for replacement hinges with both a 1/2" inset and 1/2" lip?

  • randy

    Lots of great questions but very few responses. Are the responses hidden somewhere ?

  • Gene

    I have a face frame cabinet with 1 1/2 wide stiles. I want to use those euro style concealed hinges. I also want a 15/16 inch "reveal" around the doors when closed. I do want the outside door edge flush with the outside edge of the face frame. What hinge will work for this? I tried 1 1/4 inch overlay hinges but that did not work, the outside door edge ended up about 1/8 inch in from the outside edge of the face frame.

  • Avis Cowan

    I have a large dining room table. Both ends have a large drop leaf that has hinges to hold it up or let it down. 2 of them broke. it is a old table and I have not been able to find any of these hinges as yet I know the hardware stores used to carry them but I have not been able to find them any more can you tell me where I might purchase them thank you avis

  • Jamie F

    I have a chest lid that is 3/4" thick and is 39in X 27.5in. What type of hinge should I use for it? I'm having trouble calculating the inch/lbs of these dimensions.

  • April

    I have kitchen cabinets that are 20 years old. For the past few years a few of them do not stay closed. Do hinges wear out or need replaced? They are brass no mortise and semi concealed. I didn't know if I could adjust something or If the hinge is just shot. Brackets appear tight. These are not self closing. Thanks!

  • Rick Albright

    I'm constructing a wooden locker and would there be a good hinge that can be installed on the inside, so no one would see it? Trying to build it without much hardware showing, just the pull handle. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank-You and HAVE a GREAT DAY/EVENING

Leave a comment