Chisel Box

Organized storage for protection of sharp edges

When it comes to hand tool storage, chisels present a special challenge. Their sharp edges can inflict damage as well as suffer it, so if your chisels are rattling around in a drawer, or still in flimsy original packaging, consider making a box to protect and organize them for easy retrieval. I based this design on a very old version that I once saw for carving tools. It’s simple, ingenious, and can be sized to suit any chisel set. The chisels slip neatly into dadoes in a separator block while a retaining strip attached to the box top keeps them in place when carrying the closed box around the shop or to a jobsite. The box requires just a few lengths of 3⁄4"-thick solid wood for the walls and some 1⁄4" hardwood plywood for the top and bottom. Construction is simple, because you assemble the box as a closed unit and then rip through its center to create the top and bottom.

Sizing the box

To determine the front-to-back interior length (IL) of the box, measure the length of your longest chisel and add 11⁄4". Next, lay out your chisels side by side in ascending length, with the bevels facing downward. (Work on a surface where you can leave the layout undisturbed while making the box.) Space them apart about 1⁄2". Measure the span of the set, and then add 1" to determine the box’s interior width (IW). To calculate the interior height (IH), lay a strip of wood atop the chisel butts and add 1⁄8" to that height. Now you can determine the finished lengths and widths of your box sides using the equations in Figure 1.

Build the box

1 From 3⁄4"-thick hardwood, cut the sides to size and miter both ends of each. Saw the 3⁄8"-deep panel grooves 1⁄8" in from each edge, making them just wide enough to snugly accept 1⁄4"-thick hardwood plywood (which is actually about 3⁄32" thick).

2 Dry-clamp the sides together with a band clamp, measure for the panels, and cut the two plywood pieces to size. Apply glue to the grooves and mitered ends, insert the panels, and then clamp the box together. Make sure the assembly is flat and square under clamp pressure.

3 Lay out and saw four spline slots in each corner, accounting for the kerf you’ll make when sawing the sides apart. Glue splines in the slots. When the glue dries, trim them flush.

4 Adjust your tablesaw blade height to 7⁄8", and set the fence to slice the sides down their center. Cut through three sides, and then clamp shims into the kerfs before making the final cut. The shims will keep the separated sides from collapsing onto the blade at the end of the cut.

5 Make the separator from a piece of 3⁄4 × 11⁄4" hardwood, crosscutting it to fit between the box sides. Then take the separator over to your organized chisels, place its edge against the chisel tips, and transfer their blade widths to the edge of the separator. Cut the dadoes, test the chisels for fit, and glue the separator to the box bottom. (You can slide the separator closer to the chisel handles to close up gaps above the chisel blades.)

6 Mortise the box bottom and top for two or three hinges and install them. Also, install the catches.

7 Finally, make the retainer from 3⁄4"-thick stock, crosscutting it about 1⁄2" shorter than the interior box width. Rip it to a width equal to the box interior height, and apply double-faced tape to one edge. Place it tape side up in the box bottom about 1⁄8" from the chisel butts, and press the lid against it. Open the lid, trace around the retainer, remove it, and rip 1⁄8" from one edge. Glue and clamp it in place within your traced lines. Done. 

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