Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

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Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

Simple joinery creates a compact closet with standard-sized storage space.

When I spied the chest of an old train driver loaded with tight drawers in my neighbor’s garage, I knew my little tools would finally have a permanent home. My version isn’t that great, but it’s just as useful and it only took a couple of weekends to build.

Simple joinery is the key. Everything is assembled with stops and nut, glue and nails. The drawers have applied bottoms with integrated pullers. The upper drawers slide on sawed grooves in the cabinet. The lower drawers work traditionally: they are not so “groovy”. The cabinet shown here requires a half sheet (30 “x 60”) of 1/2 “Baltic birch plywood, a half sheet of 1/4” toughened hardboard, and approximately 8 bd. solid wood feet. The design is easily editable, so feel free to make changes based on your collection of tools or the space available.

Build the closet

1. Cut the top, bottom, ends and divider to the final size (A to D, Fig. A and Cutting List below).

2. Cut 1/4 “deep grooves at the ends of the top and bottom for the sides. Baltic birch plywood is undersized, so use a scrap piece to determine the exact width of the grooves.

3. Use the same configuration to cut the grooves for the back at the top, bottom and ends.

4. Cut the nuts at the top and bottom for the divider. Size the nut according to the thickness of the plywood and make sure they are aligned.

5. Cut a nut 1/8 “deep by 1/4” wide into a piece of scrap plywood. Then try your hardboard, which is usually less thick, to make sure it fits and slides easily. If your hardboard binds, spread out the nut slightly. When you are satisfied with the measurement, cut the nuts for the hardboard drawer bottoms in the ends and divider (Fig. B).

6. Fasten the box together without glue. Then cut the back (E) to fit.

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

1. Make sure the box is square. There aren’t many parts to this project and the joinery is simple, just beats and nut. But if the box is not square, the drawers will be difficult to assemble.

7. Assemble the box with glue and nails (Photo 1). This assembly must be square. Remove any crushed glue, including the corners inside the cabinet, between the bottom, sides and divider. Hardened glue left in these corners can affect the operation of the lower drawers.

8. Cut the sides and ends of the base (F and G) to the final size.

9. Use the table saw or band saw to cut the tenons on the sides and match the open mortises at the ends. Glue and secure the base together.

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

2. Secure the base with glue and nails. The base raises the cabinet to provide extra space for the lower drawers.

10. Fasten the base to the cabinet (Photo 2). To center the base, just line up the center lines marked on the base and on the cabinet.

Build the drawers

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

3. Test the bottom of the drawers in the dice. Each should slide smoothly and protrude 1 “when it hits the back of the box.

11. Start by cutting the bottom of the hardboard drawers (H and J) to fit the nut to the cabinet (Photo 3). The side-to-side space should measure 1/16 inch or less; 1/32 ″ is optimal. If necessary, bevel the edges of the hardboard to make each bottom slide well.

12. The two lower drawer bottoms slide directly onto the cabinet – cut them exactly 1/32 “narrower than the drawer openings.

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

4. Cut shallow grooves on both ends of the bottom of each drawer. These grooves precisely position the drawer front and back.

13. Make deep grooves 1/32 “by 3/4” wide in the bottom of each drawer, one 1-1 / 8 “from the front edge and one 3/8” from the rear edge (Photo 4).

14. Draw a center line on the bottom of each drawer and drill a stop hole for the washer (Fig. C).

15. To cut the straight front edges of the drawer bottom, install a guide on the bandsaw and cut from both ends, stopping at the pull profile. Saw the profile separately, after cutting the front edges. Refine profile curves, if necessary, with an abrasive drum mounted on a pillar drill or oscillating spindle sander.

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

5. Complete each drawer extraction. After having band-sawed the profile on the front of each drawer bottom, drill a firm hole and glue a washer. The washer makes the shot easy to grip.

16. Glue in the washing machine (Photo 5).

17. Rout the drawer fronts and backs (K to N) to fit the grooves on the bottom of the drawer and cut them to the final width. Next, carefully cut the drawer fronts to length, 1/32 “shorter than the drawer openings. Finally, cut the drawer back to length, 3/32” shorter than the drawer opening. This will make the assembled drawer shorter on the back for easier entry into the closet. As the drawer slides inward, the fit will gradually improve and, when the drawer is fully closed, the gaps between the cabinet and the drawer front will be negligible.

18. Mill the sides of the drawer (P and Q) to thickness.

19. Cut 1/2 “x 1/2” slots for drawer sides at the ends of drawer fronts and backs.

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

6. Center the drawer front and back when gluing them to the bottom.

20. Mark the center line of each drawer front and back. Then center them carefully when you glue them to the drawer bottoms (Photo 6). Note that the edges of the two lower drawer fronts should be flush with the edges of their hardwood bottoms.

21. Cut the sides of the drawer to width, so that they are flush with the top of the drawer fronts and backs.

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

7. Secure the drawer sides with glue and nails. Cut the slightly narrower sides of the front and back of the drawer so that the top edges of the drawer are flush.

22. Cut the sides of the drawer to size to fit between the grooved fronts and backs. Then glue them and nail them in place to complete the drawers (Photo 7).

Small Tool Cabinet Cutting List

Overall dimensions: 30 “L x 11-3 / 4” D x 9-1 / 4 “H


First name



Th x W x L




Baltic birch plywood

1/2 ″ x 11-3 / 4 ″ x 30 ″ (a, b)




Baltic birch plywood

1/2 ″ x 11-3 / 4 ″ x 30 ″ (ab)




Baltic birch plywood

1/2 ″ x 8-3 / 4 ″ x 11-3 / 4 ″ (a, c, d)




Baltic birch plywood

1/2 ″ x 8-3 / 4 ″ x 11-1 / 4 ″ (a, d)




Baltic birch plywood

1/2 ″ x 8-3 / 4 ″ x 29-1 / 2 ″ (a)


Base side


Solid wood

3/4 ″ x 1 ″ x 29 ″


Base end


Solid wood

3/4 ″ x 1 ″ x 10-3 / 4 ″


Short drawer bottom


Rigid panel

1/4 ″ x 11-15 / 32 ″ x 12-1 / 4 ″ (e, f)


Long drawer bottom


Rigid panel

1/4 ″ x 17-15 / 32 ″ x 12-1 / 4 ″ (e, f)


Short drawer front


Solid wood

3/4 “x 2-1 / 2” x 11-7 / 32 “(g)


Short drawer back


Solid wood

3/4 ″ x 2-1 / 2 ″ x 11-5 / 32 ″ (g)


Long drawer front


Solid wood

3/4 “x 1-13 / 16” x 17-7 / 32 “(g)


Long drawer back


Solid wood

3/4 ″ x 1-13 / 16 ″ x 17-5 / 32 ″ (g)


Short side


Solid wood

1/2 “x 2-15 / 32” x 10-1 / 4 “


Long drawer


Solid wood

1/2 “x 1-25.32” x 10-1 / 4 “

(a) The thickness is nominal; all dimensions are based on actual 1/2 ″ plywood thickness.
(b) Cut 1/4 “D x 1/2” W (nominal) grooves at both ends and back.
(c) Cut the 1/4 “D x 1/2” W (nominal) beat on the back.
(d) Cut 1/8 “D x 1/4” W nuts for drawer bottoms.
(e) Cut the bottom of the lower drawer 1/32 ″ narrower than the drawer opening.
(f) Cut the 1/16 “D x 3/4” W nuts for the front and back of the drawer.
(g) Cut 1/2 “D x 1/2” W grooves on both ends.

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

Fig. A) Exploded view

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

Fig. B) Details of the drawer nut

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips

Fig. C) Drawer extraction profile

Final assembly

23. Test each drawer and make any necessary changes. To make drawers slide like glass, rub a little wax on the edges of the drawer bottoms and into the grooves of the cabinet. You can adjust the fit of the drawers from front to back by cutting or shimming the back edge of their hardboard bottoms.

Small Tools Cabinet | Home Decor Online Tips24. Finishing Sand the cabinet and drawers. Then apply your favorite finish. For this type of project, I prefer shellac.

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