Making My Tool Organiser

I enjoyed building this two or more decades ago. I’ve enjoyed using it. I’ve enjoyed the organisation it’s brought to my work but, making yet another, what I have enjoyed is that it’s perfect for teaching the basics of carcass construction including drawer making. It was never intended as a teaching project when I made the first one in Texas. I just needed a simple way of keeping my drawing and art equipment in a good and accessible way as much as anything. When I brought it over from the USA storage and to the UK I could see how people were interested in its construction, how I could improve its construction and modify it to make it a tutorial and so that’s what I spent this week doing.

Whether you need to learn how to make half-lap dovetails or reinforce your skills, this is inexpensive, compact, relatively easy and in the end you have great organisation. It may be that you do not need tool storage. It is versatile enough to suit many needs around any home or office. It’s also scaleable. Make it wider and deep, narrower and shorter and any combination of the above.

The nice thing about this too is you need only the basic hand tools to make it. Following one of the methods we’ve taught in this tutorial you can eliminate the use of a plough plane from the list if you don’t have one and even the router is not really essential at all. In fact not using them will help you to hone your hand skills all the more. What tools are left? The square, layout knife, pencil, marking gauge, chisels and chisel hammer, tape and rule, plane, tenon saw. Not too much beyond an ordinary tool kit really.

I know one or two who relish the idea that I might make a mistake now and then, well, here it is.

I had made the first drawer to camera during filming and it went fine. I waited a while before cutting the dovetails on my next drawer and they too went better than fine, they were so perfect. When I offered the drawer to the opening though I quickly realised my bad. The drawer was too wide! Calamities of calamities! What had I done? I had forgotten to cut the drawer front to length and the drawer was an inch wider than the opening. It was already past six o’clock but I couldn’t leave until I had put it right. The final dovetail was as perfect as all the others.

To watch and learn from this upcoming series you will need to be a member of woodworkingmasterclasses.com. I do hope you will join me with your fellow apprentices there. It’s a great group and we have a lot of fun learning together.

25 Comments

  1. Daniel on 16 February 2019 at 8:11 pm

    I’ve been eyeing that for a while now. How exactly do you make the leather drawer pulls? Is it as obvious as it appears or is there some secret to how they’re fastened?

    • Ted on 17 February 2019 at 2:14 am

      I too can’t wait to find out.

    • John2v on 18 February 2019 at 5:55 pm

      My brown belt has finally snapped. So my version will have a leather pull…..plus my Grandaughter has asked for a set of draws

  2. Bill Hall on 16 February 2019 at 8:21 pm

    I wouldn’t say that I relish the idea of you making mistakes but the reality is, those of us that follow you do tend to make mistakes.

    Seeing you get yourself out of some of these little mistakes that happens along the way is priceless in my opinion and really adds to our training.

    • Tom on 18 February 2019 at 1:55 pm

      There are few videos out there that include the mistakes and how to get out of them. I make lots of them, despite the excellent tutorials of Mr. Sellers and others.

      Some videos point out things to watch for, but others I have to figure out how to get out of them.

      I made my 1st dovetails for my 1st box last night using Mr. Sellers’ template and Rob Cosman’s marking technique. They came out nicely, not perfect. Then I put a grove on all for the top & bottom. And realized I put the groove on the tails on the wrong side. I’m glad I used pine to practice instead of the oak I want to use eventually!

  3. Mario Fusaro on 16 February 2019 at 8:22 pm

    Ha, ha! Paul, it’s nice to see that you are able to share your mistakes with us. Lord knows, we make enough of them (at least I still do). My last project, I made posts to hold the direction signs I made for my daughter’s upcoming wedding. I took the time to carve Celtic knots on both faces of the posts, stained them with a steel wool & vinegar solution then finished them off with yellow shellac. I proudly presented them to my daughter who then reminded me that one of the posts was to hold three signs. I only cut space for one sign and cutting the other two would cut into the carvings. When I went back to the garage and looked at my notes, there it was. One post for three signs and one post for one sign. Oh well, I still have time to do it correctly.

  4. Kurt Schultz on 16 February 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Guilty! 😉 Shows us you are also susceptible to such things. Nothing wrong with that and happy that you would share. To posthumously quote Bob Ross, “there are no mistakes…only happy accidents”! I look forward to seeing your steps in correcting.

    • Kurt Schultz on 16 February 2019 at 10:00 pm

      Actually look forward to seeing your expression upon discovery! Correcting seems easy enough…cutting to length and redo…just observered that seeing the half lap cut off pic.

  5. Tom on 16 February 2019 at 9:41 pm

    They say you learn by making mistakes…..I have to be one of the most learnered people in Woodworking!

  6. Bob Easton on 16 February 2019 at 10:18 pm

    Long ago, while struggling with many loose dovetails, I wrote to Joseph suggesting that we should see a video of you botching a dovetail so you could show us how to recover. He answered that you never do a bad dovetail, so that suggestion wasn’t reasonable. 🙂

    And I’m sure your dovetails are still perfect … just on a piece of wood that’s too long. Which brings two points:

    1. Measuring implements (rulers) always have too many marks on them and it’s far too easy to use the wrong one. They should have only the single mark we need at the time, or (yeah: impossible) we should measure from the place where the piece is supposed to fit, which is what you usually teach. I know part of the recovery you will show is fitting that drawer front into the opening, making a careful knife nick, and cutting the front to the correct length.

    2. Woodcarvers learn that when making a mistake, such as botching the eyes in a face, that there’s always another set of eyes underneath the ones done in error. Well, there’s another set of dovetail sockets in that drawer front. You just haven’t gotten to them yet. 🙂

    All to the point that I believe true mastery comes from knowing how to recover from simple, and inevitable mistakes … not from never making them, but knowing what to do when they happen. That’s why this lesson will perhaps be more important than the perfect example.

    I still think we need a lesson on how to fix the several things that cause loose dovetails. The more mistake recovery, the more we can learn!

    • Paul Sellers on 17 February 2019 at 9:41 am

      The answer of course is not to make the mistakes if possible. Whereas I admit to this silly mistake, 99% of my dovetails always work just fine and it’s to this level of confidence that I want students to both aspire to and get to. I am not a particularly good woodworker. It has never come naturally to me. I have always had to work at it, but once I arrived it was mine.

    • Joe on 17 February 2019 at 5:46 pm

      I think it was on the video Paul did for his work bench drawer that he needed to fix one of the dovetails for taking out a bit too much wood.

    • Joe on 17 February 2019 at 5:50 pm

      I’ve often felt the same way. Something I’ve considered doing is buying one of those inexpensive yardstick rules that you can get at the big box stores. For the initial cuts it might solve the problem.

  7. Sylvain on 16 February 2019 at 10:55 pm

    Among other things I am looking forward at how to make a clean cut for the leather strap.
    Sylvain

  8. nemo on 16 February 2019 at 11:11 pm

    When I began toying with wood I used to make a lot of such mistakes, which mostly disappeared when I made it a conscious habit to check, check again, and check for a 3rd time. Most of the time the checks check out to the point I wonder why I’m even bothering with it. But every once in a while I catch an error before it happens and I’m reminded of why I so obstinately check. That seriously reduced my error rate (emphasis on ‘reduce’…)

    I agree with the ‘too many marks’ on measuring sticks….I shan’t delve into how often I’ve used a vernier-micrometer to measure something down to 0.001mm (1um), say, 9.238mm… only to realize later that I was out by an entire 0.500 mm and it was really 9.738mm. But you learn eventually, the hard way. Some learn from books, some from other people’s mistakes, yet others have to pee against the electric fence for themselves.

    (w.r.t. cutting leather straps: I just cut leather straps today (to sew around bicycle handlebars) using a steel ruler and a sharp knife. Perfect straight cuts. Scissors don’t work nearly as well.)

    • Sylvain on 17 February 2019 at 11:37 am

      I was meaning a clear cut in the drawer front.
      Sylvain

  9. Anthony on 17 February 2019 at 1:38 am

    Really like the look. I need to make one of these. I need more practice with half blinds.

  10. Jim Thornton on 17 February 2019 at 4:17 am

    I like this tool organizer. It’ll be fun to figure out the dimensions I want to use, so it fits where I want it to fit. Also another good project for my 30 year old stash of clear pine.

  11. Tom Angle on 17 February 2019 at 4:19 am

    I would be more interested in seeing how you fix mistakes. My grandfather was a machinist and I feel a craftsman. He made all kinds of things. From Fire place implements, to kitchen cabinets to a tow behind camper. He once said it is not that a craftsman never makes a mistake, they just know how to correct them.

  12. Steve on 17 February 2019 at 4:34 am

    Hmmm, the question is do i make one for the garage for tools? Or do i scale it for sheets of paper and use it as a desk organizer for bills and printer paper?

    • Tim Berezowsky on 19 February 2019 at 12:49 am

      Both! 🙂

  13. Lee Arthur on 17 February 2019 at 1:03 pm

    I recall once when I was first learning to cut dovetails…
    I (finally) cut the first corner of pins just right. I was so focused on cutting the second corner perfectly that I completely forgot about the orientation. The joint came out perfect, but when I put the three pieces together, instead of a ‘U’, I had made a ‘Z”, with the two long pieces going off in opposite directions. It was then I realized that one has to always be aware of more than just the joint you are currently making. Good learning experience. Watching Paul’s videos, he seems to have a second sense of such things, as well as grain, and reference faces and such. Perhaps (hopefully) that comes with experience. Many times I have re-watched Paul’s videos just to see the ‘little’ details of what he is doing, and back at the bench, suddenly the purpose becomes clear. An invaluable resource, as well as a legacy for the ages.
    Thank you again Mr. Sellers!

  14. Andrew on 18 February 2019 at 6:53 am

    Looking forward to this one!

    This project seems like an ideal stepping stone between the dovetail boxes and the two-drawer tool chest. I’ve been wanting to build the latter for a while now and have been putting it off as it feels too big and complex for my current time availability and skills.

  15. Mike Towndrow on 22 February 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Looking forward to this. I’ve been wanting to make a small drawer unit to go under my computer desk and hopefully this project will help me with the design for the carcass.

  16. Michael on 26 February 2019 at 4:31 pm

    “I am not a particularly good woodworker. It has never come naturally to me. I have always had to work at it, but once I arrived it was mine.”

    You sound like me. I’ve been a trim carpenter and kitchen cabinet maker most of my life. I thought I was good. Then I found your videos. I made it my life’s goal to become as good as you, only working with hand tools. But, as you so aptly put it, I soon realized that without my machines, I am not a particularly good woodworker…..

    What I do have is family-owned tenacity. We don’t give up. In less than a year, I’ve all but mastered through dovetails, thanks to you and a few other dedicated “hand tool” woodworkers. Next, I will master M & T Joints, followed by housing dados, and work my way on down the line.

    I’m 60 yrs young, retired from working for a living, and I’m teaching myself “hand tool” woodworking at my bench, in the back end of my 35’ 5th wheel camper, as I travel the US with my dog, and my fishing gear. Life is great!

    I’m not that good, but once I get it, it’s mine.

    Please don’t stop teaching and sharing your knowledge. I built your hanging wall, shelf, I patterned my workbench after yours, I have numerous dovetail boxes for my tools, and I’m anxiously looking forward to building the two-drawer organizer with you. Can hardly wait to discover what’s next on your list. Oh, and I will be ordering your book and I’m anxious to discover the treasures therein, and work my way through them, advancing my knowledge and skills.

    Take care,
    Michael

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