Custom Tool Cabinet

The finished product:


A few years ago, I just hung my tools on a set of old boards that had been mounted to the wall by the house’s previous owner. This was a big step up from not having any system at all:

But after about three years, and accumulating more tools that had no home, it was time to upgrade (chisels were being stored in a cup!). So I set about making a proper tool cabinet.

There are a million tool cabinets online. Ultimately I modeled the construction of mine after Tom McLaughlin’s tool cabinet in this episode of Rough Cut. His was completely enclosed, though, and I knew I wanted a mixture of closed and open space to retain the easy access of my former tool wall. Here was the basic design:

I began by constructing the case, which is made of solid cherry with a 1/2″ cherry ply back. The sides are rabbeted into the top and bottom, and the fixed shelves are dado’ed into the vertical parts. Here are some tools for scale:

For an additional detail, I added walnut pegs at the rabbet joint:

Then onto the doors. I wanted these to be simple frame and panel, for a Shaker look overall. The bottom rail is wider than the middle and top, and I sketched two versions of where the middle rail should go (settling on, well, the middle):

I then built these with solid cherry and plywood panels:

The joinery on the doors is half-lap.  I also added a walnut peg through the half-laps. Finally, I added a cove molding around the top:

I cut the cove molding using the table-saw trick, and was very pleased with the result:

Once the bones were done, it was time to load it up with custom tool holders – for chisels:

and saws, with room to grow:

and the narrow coping saw on the inside of the door:


And combination squares:

I thought a lot about ways to keep the cabinet completely flexible (e.g., adding a french cleat system within the center panel, or using an additional temporary piece of plywood), but in the end, decided to go for something fairly fixed. None of the holders is glued in place, though.

I mounted it to the wall using a french cleat:

In the end, I’m happy with how it turned out.

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