After many delays and much anticipation, here’s the final installment of my tool chest adventure. When we left off last time, we had finished the assembly of the lid, which was the Thursday morning of my class. The case had been assembled the day before and was awaiting finish.
Late that afternoon, our milk paint mixes arrived. I chose Federal Blue, and I’m happy with it. Apparently blue was a traditionally American color for a tool chest, which works out well since I happen to like blue and live in the good old US of A. Milk paint (mix – the pre-mixed stuff available isn’t really milk paint) is actually fairly straightforward to mix up, if somewhat time-consuming. Don’t follow the manufacturer’s instructions, though! Take two parts hot water to one part paint mix and mix with a paint mixer in a power drill for 10 minutes. Then let it rest for 15 minutes and strain it through a cheese cloth to strain out any clumps. Roll it on with a sponge roller and let it dry. It just so happened that our painting day was a cool, dry, breezy day, so our paint was drying remarkably fast – as in we were only getting halfway around the chest before the first side was dry. The milk paint left a bit of a rough finish once it dried, which I wasn’t thrilled about. Just the other day, though, I read a tip in Chris’ blog at Popular Woodworking to rub over the top layer of finish with a brown paper grocery bag to smooth out the finish. I haven’t tried it yet, only because I’ve been preoccupied with other projects in the shop since reading it, but I have confidence that it will work just fine.
Friday focused on the interior of the chest and attaching the lid. We used a shooting board and shooting plane to cut the till runners down to a precise fit, and then used a spacer to locate them the proper height from the bottom of the chest. More hide glue attached these to the walls.
The tills themselves were simple enough to assemble. We were given a choice between dovetailing the tills and simply using a butt joint reinforced with brad nails. In the interest of time, I chose to use the butt joint and walk away with a finished chest at the end of the day, but a big part of that was having already built a box with dovetails in the last class that I took with Chris. The only “trick” to that operation was using something to keep the corner square as it was glued and nailed (we used the small granite surface plates we’d used on Monday to flatten our tools).
The really good hinges for tool chests are also really expensive. Instead of breaking the bank, several of us bought some much more affordable hinges from Lee Valley, and one of the guys in the class made a jig to bend the right angle on them and then pinch them so they would close tight.
When I left the school Friday afternoon, the only thing I hadn’t done was to attach the hinges. I was able to steal another half hour in the shop right after I got home, during which I notched the back of the chest to accept the hinges and screwed them on. Now I have a complete tool chest that’s only lacking handles. That will probably be a turning project down the road a bit. I’ve started moving in some of my tools, but I keep finding myself fussing about the “perfect” way to arrange them. Thanks to my 8-year-old for reminding me that it doesn’t matter how other people arrange their chests, it’s up to me to arrange it the way I want. So the next time I’m in the shop, I’ll be putting the rest of my tools away in their new home. Then I can tell all of you wonderful people how amazing it is to be able to work out of a tool chest! Until next time, stay safe and keep those blades sharp!