Believe it or not, I started this project about three years ago. I know; me, procrastinate?
As I remember it, I was puttering around with something in the shop when the idea of compound angle dovetails popped into my head. Sometimes things pop into my head like that when I’m bored or doing something that requires no thought.
Anyway, I had no idea how to lay them out, but in a brief flash of insight, it occurred to me that the dovetail angles don’t change; just the angle of the corner of the box.
Well, that was it. Now I had to build something.
I started out by making a full-scale drawing to help me better understand what I thought I wanted to do. I actually saw a small tote like this in an article on design and proportions. It was really pretty; I think Jim Tolpin built it.
It turns out, as I’ve read, that a full scale drawing is immensely helpful. These are drawn on some large pieces of cardboard that I have stockpiles of in the shed. Truly helpful for setting your bevel gauge, getting real-world measurements and scaling.
Once I realized that you lay out your dovetails from a line square with your box, the rest was easy.
This was the first iteration. Walnut, good size, great proportions. Alas, this was as far as I got. I cut the dovetails, dry-fitted, and hung it up. The dovetails were O.K., I might have had to patch a few. I just never got back to it.
This was number two. Look at the curl in that cherry. I’d been looking at the walnut one for a few years now, moving it here and there when it was in the way, and finally decided to finish one. A bigger one that could actually be used as a tool tote. In the grand (read: cheap) tradition of the Bronze Oak Leaf Workshops, I went with whatever I had lying around. In this case, cherry. You’re supposed to build these things from pine; it’s cheap, light, and you don’t have to worry about banging it up a little.
However, I didn’t have any. I would have had to drive somewhere and buy some.
This particular box, however, was a product of my notoriously bad memory. As in; I had no idea how I laid out the compound angles in the first one.
So, I laid out and cut the dovetails, went to dry fit and couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t go together. Turns out I neglected to make the compound cut on the ends of the boards. Sheesh, what a moron.
Well, after toying with it a bit (it was ruined, there was no saving it), I did a quick search on Roy Underhill’s tool tote. You know, the one he carries at the beginning of his show. I wanted a better idea on size and shape.
That actually helped me design a better tote. One with better proportions, and big enough to be useful.
However, I had to dress it up a little. I couldn’t help myself.
I didn’t want to cut the tops of my boards straight. It just looked too boxy and boring. So I decided to add some curves, and boy did that dress it up.
I also rounded over the tops of all the sides and the handle. It’s the little touches that make a small, understated piece like this pop.
It turns out I’m much happier with this design and its proportions. Hated to waste that cherry on a mindless foul-up, but, as they say, there are no mistakes, just opportunities to reevaluate your design.
Unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to load this up with tools and bang it around the shop.