Turning Accessory Cart

A sharpening “stooge” with tons of storage

I needed to bring order to my burgeoning collection of turning tools and accessories. As I was thinking about how to do this, I recalled Jim Tolpin talking about his three shop “stooges” in the book Working at Woodworking (Taunton Press, 1991). These were a series of mobile carts and helpers that he used to make efficient use of his limited shop space. It occurred to me I could do something similar for my turning set up. At the top of the list was a stand for my sharpening system followed by plenty of storage space for chucks, chisels, and the like. Finally, I wanted a panel for hanging calipers and other tools and supplies and a tray for the three or four chisels I’m actively turning with. The whole thing had to be mobile and not take up too much valuable real estate. A roll-around chest of drawers with a lift-up back panel seemed to fit the requirements. I sized the drawers to fit my chucks and chisels, with the top of the case at a good height for sharpening. Then I designed the back panel so it could be raised when needed, but collapsed quickly to get it out of the way. So far, my turning stooge has been a tremendous addition to the shop.

A sturdy cabinet houses dovetailed drawers

The plywood cabinet is assembled with tongue and groove joinery. Mortise-and-tenoned face frames fore and aft along with the intermediate back panel prevent racking. The tool panel slides up and down in the space behind the plastic-laminated MDF countertop. Inside, dovetailed drawers glide in and out on heavy-duty, full-extension drawer slides (see page 52 for drawer details). The entire unit rolls around on 4" swiveling casters.

Order of Work

  • Make case
  • Make face frames
  • Make drawers
  • Make tool panel
  • Laminate countertop
  • Finish and assemble

Make the case

Cut the plywood for the sides and bottom to size. Also cut a piece for the top spacers to length, but leave it about 9" wide until after you cut the tongues on its ends. Set up a 1/4" dado blade and cut grooves in the side pieces for the top and bottom joints as well as for the back. Also cut a matching groove in the bottom to receive the back. Increase the width of the dado to 5/8" and lower the cutting height a touch (<1/16") to guarantee the tongues aren’t too long to seat properly. Cut tongues on the ends of the bottom and top spacers. Then lower the blade to 1/4" and cut tongues on the front and back edges of the sides to mate with the face frames. Support the pieces with a tall auxiliary fence added to the saw’s rip fence. Rip the top spacers to width before gluing up the case. Cut the back to fit and fasten it in place.

Cut the grooves. Set a 1⁄4" dado to saw halfway through your plywood pieces. No need to measure, simply use the plywood’s laminations as a gauge. 

Cut the matching tongues. With a tall auxiliary fence in place, run the pieces vertically past the blade to cut the tongues. Start cutting them too thick, then bump the fence in to fine-tune the fit. 

Assemble the case. Working alone, I found it easier to assemble the case on its side, clamping the bottom in place before turning everything upright to clamp across the top spacers. Shop-made braces clamped in the corners help to keep the assembly square.

Make the face frames and tool panel tracks

Mill the stiles and rails for the face frames to size—the dimensions given include the length of the tenons. Cut mortises in the stiles where shown in the drawing on page 49. I used a PantoRouter (see page 12), but there are many other methods. Cut the mating tenons on the ends of the rails. Glue the frames together. Then cut 1/4 × 1/4" grooves in the inside face of the stiles to match the tongues you cut on the case sides. Glue the frames to the case. Cut the panel spacers to size and screw them to the case sides as shown.

Cut the mortises. Attach a 11⁄2" mortise template to the PantoRouter. Clamp the stiles to the table and rout the mortises with a 3⁄8" spiral bit. Because the bit is smaller than the inside of the template, the mortise will be shorter than the nominal size of the template. 

Cut the tenons. Switch to a 1⁄2" bit to cut the tenons. Set the rear carriage stop so you can use the end of the bit to register the rails on the table before clamping them in place. Cut the tenons. For more information, see page 12.

Add the panel spacers. Hold a scrap of the plywood you’ll be using for the tool panel between the back of the face frame and the panel spacer as you screw the spacer in place. 

Make and hang the drawers

Mill the drawer sides and fronts to size and cut the corner joints. I used a router and a dovetail jig. Groove the pieces and install the drawer bottoms before gluing the drawers up. Mill drawer spacers to sit flush with the inside of the face frame and screw them to the case sides. Attach the drawer runners to the sides of the drawer boxes. Instead of centering them, I mount them flush with the bottom of the box meaning I can simply rest everything on my bench top as I screw the pieces together. Mount the other sides for the slides to the inside of the case using a spacer as shown.

Install the slides. To position the slides inside the case, cut a scrap of plywood to use as a spacer. Start with the top drawer then cut the spacer down for the second drawer and so on.

Make the tool panel, trays, and tool holders

Cut the plywood for the tool panel and tray bottoms to size. I used 3/4" Baltic birch for both strength and looks—no need to edge band, just roundover and sand the edges. Cut and attach the tool holders to one of the trays and add sides to the other. Drill both trays for their hanging dowels. Position the tool panel in its slot and drill for the barrel bolts that will hold it up.

Mark for the barrel bolt. With the tool panel propped up by two 24" long scraps, temporarily clamp 1⁄4 × 2 × 5" spacers to its bottom edge and use the barrel bolts to mark the inside of the face frame for the support holes.

Make the counter top and finish up

Laminate two pieces of 3/4" MDF to form the counter. Attach the edging and trim it flush with the surfaces before covering the counter with plastic laminate. Cut the drawer faces to size and fit them to the opening in the face frame before screwing them to their respective drawer boxes. Sand everything before finishing. I used a satin polyurethane for durability. Install the drawer pulls and screw the counter in place. Slip the tool panel in place and add the 1/4" spacers before screwing the barrel bolts in place. Bolt the casters to the caster pads and screw them to the underside of the case. Hang your preferred selection of tools from the panel before taking your new stooge for a spin.

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