Traveling Anarchist’s Tool Chest

Megan Fitzpatrick

Aside from a workbench, a sturdy tool chest is one of the most important things to have in your shop. It organizes and protects your tools from damage, rust and loss. While many woodworkers have attempted to improve upon the traditional chest design that emerged 300 years ago, the old form has remained the absolute best way to keep the most tools in the smallest space. This “traveling” version has two tool trays, and will fit into the back of a car or truck (14-1/2” high, 19-1/2” front to back, 39-1/2” long), or rest on saw benches in your shop to hold your tools at a comfortable working height. And it holds most of the hand tools you need to build just about any type of furniture. Plus, you’ll be darn good at dovetails by the time you’re done!

  • 16 lessons
  • 457 min
  • $99.00

Here's what we'll cover:

  1. Intro and Tools

    Here’s you’ll get an overview of the Traveling “ATC” project, and an introduction to the tools used to build it (all of which will fit inside the new tool chest when you’re done).

  2. Stock Prep with Handtools

    Confession – I did not prep all the stock for this project by hand. But I did have to plane one side of the carcase panels flat, so I could run them through the 15″ planer for thickenessing (our jointer isn’t wide enough to handle the necessary width). So even if you don’t prep stock […]

  3. Dovetail Layout and Cut Tails

    In this lesson, you’ll learn how (and why) to use dividers to lay out dovetails, then, why a twin-screw vise is your friend for dovetailing – especially wide boards – and why I prefer a tails-first approach. We’ll then pick up our dovetail saws to cut the tails, and clear the majority of the waste […]

  4. Cutting Pins

    Now we’ll ready to mark our baselines and transfer the tail shape onto our pin boards – an all-important step in making nice, tight dovetails joints. And before we cut, we’ll warm up so we can make perfect 90° to the face of the board (the closer you can get to getting the join to […]

  5. Glue Up Case

    A glue-up buddy is always a boon – so if you can borrow a friend for this, do. But before you call them, if you’re using liquid hide glue (I think you should, and I’ll tell you why), plug in the glue pot so it’s ready and waiting. Arrange all your supplies (glue, a glue […]

  6. Case Clean-Up and Bottom Skirt

    Before dovetailing the skirts, we have to make sure all our pins and tails are flush. So here, we’ll nail on temporary blocks in the corners to help us properly locate the bottom skirt, then plane the surfaces flat to one another. Then it’s time for more dovetailing! First, we dovetail  opposite corners of the […]

  7. Tool Chest Bottom

    The bottom of the chest gets nailed on – so we’ll learn about cut nails vs. square nails, and how to use each (you can’t just drive them in, and different pilot holes are required!). We’re using “carsiding” for the bottom boards – it’s inexpensive, good looking (of you choose wisely), and comes with the […]

  8. Top Skirt

    You guessed it – more dovetails! The top skirt gets two tails at each corner, and just as on the bottom skirt, we join two opposing corners, then clamp the assemblies to the case to mark our baselines and final lengths. After cutting the boards to length, we’ll cut the last four joints on the […]

  9. Lid Grooves

    The lid for this tool chest features a “groove-and-groove joint” – that is, instead of a tongue meeting a groove, the mating pieces are both grooved, and they slide together. The extra meat under the joint makes for a stronger assembly. But the first task is to decides on your corner joinery (loose tenons, mortise-and-tenon […]

  10. Lid Frame Joinery

    With the grooves cut, we have a guide for our chisel as we cut the mortises in the rails. I’ll show you how to do that, then how to lay out and cut the tenons by hand on the ends of the stiles, then clean them up with a router plane for a perfect fit.

  11. Lid Panel

    Before we can glue up our M&T joints, we do a test-fit so that we can get the measurements for the lid panel (and to make sure our joints close). Then, cut the panel to size, and plane the grooves the panel, just as we did with the rails and stiles – the only difference […]

  12. The Tills

    At this point, we’ve basically made a blanket chest. What makes it into an efficient tool chest is the interior storage. Here, I’ll show you how to figure out where to locate the chisel rack and saw rack, which help to determine where the two tills will go, and discuss other possible interior fittings. Once […]

  13. Return of The Lid

    The lid assembly has now had plenty of time to dry, so we’re ready to cut our last two dovetails in this project – at the two front corners of the dust seal. The finished dust seal is nailed to the lid assembly, and meets up perfectly with the top of the top skirt to […]

  14. Painting and Hardware

    Before we can paint, it’s “make-pretty” time. We’ll check the joints again and clean up what needs it. Then it’s time to put on a first coat of paint (if you like – you could attached the hardware first, then take it off to paint). For this project, we’re using faux milk paint, and I’ll […]

  15. Tool Rack and Saw Till

    The final bits of interior fitting are the tool rack and saw till. After layout with dividers, turn to the drill press (mea culpa) for the tool rack. (You can drill the holes by hand if you’re a purist). Use French curves to lay out a pleasing arc for the two saw till pieces, and […]

  16. Fit Lid and Attach Hardware

    With the paint dry, it’s time to re-attach the hinges and adjust the lid for a perfect fit. Then we’ll put the forged handles in place, and attach the pulls to the fronts of the tills. With that done, you’re ready to load up your chest and put it to use!


What Will I Receive?

  • Detailed cut list and plans including a PDF and a SketchUp file (Metric and Imperial).
  • Hours of detailed video instruction (16 Lessons)  showing every step of Traveling Anarchist’s Tool Chest Build.
  • All videos and plans are digital and will be available for download upon purchase.

What Will I Learn?

  • How (and why) to lay out of dovetails with dividers
  • How to efficiently wield handplanes for surface prep, and for cutting simple mouldings
  • How to cut dovetails by hand (enough that you’ll be well-practiced by the time you’re done!) and why I like a tails-first approach
  • The benefits of hide glue
  • How clamps like to misbehave on camera (and how to use clamping blocks to pull your dovetails tight if need be)
  • How to cut mortise-and-tenon joints by hand (and fine-tuning the fit)
  • How to cut a groove-and-groove joint (it’s like a tongue-and-groove joint, but stronger)
  • How to install handmade hinges and chest lifts
  • How to outfit the chest interior with sliding trays (yes – more dovetails!), a tool rack for chisels and other pointy tools, and a saw rack
  • How and why I like to paint tool chests.
  • A look inside a finished chest for storage ideas.
  • The basics of surfacing lumber by hand (with the caveat that I do that only if I _have_ to!)

What Will I Need?


For the wood I recommend a lightweight and relatively inexpensive wood that accepts paint well: Eastern white pine, Sugar pine, and basswood are good choices. For the interior fittings, a hard-wearing wood will serve longer: hard maple or oak are good choices for the till runners. The tills themselves (and the tool rack and saw till) can be anything you like (I like walnut for the till sides and harp maple for the till bottoms, simply because the combination looks nice).

Note that for some operations, I mention power-tool alternatives.

  • Smoothing plane
  • Jack plane
  • Block plane
  • Marking or cutting gauge
  • Marking knife
  • .5mm mechanical pencil
  • Dividers (2 pair if you’ve got ‘em)
  • 6” combo square
  • Dovetail marking gauge or sliding bevel
  • Dovetail saw
  • Bench chisels 1”, ½” and 1/4” (If you don’t have a 1” chisel, you can use a plane blade where it’s needed)
  • Mallet
  • Rabbeting plane, moving fillister or a large shoulder plane
  • Plow plane (1/4” cutter) – If you want to cut the grooves on the tablesaw, you won’t need this.
  • Tenon saw (or other ripsaw – a backsaw will make it easier to get a good cut)
    1/4” mortising chisel
  • Hammer
  • Coping saw or fret saw with extra blades (I recommend Pegas blades)
  • Flush-cut saw
  • Drill and bits
  • Cabinet clamps, 40” or longer (at least 4)
  • Optional: Machinist’s square, double square or diemaker’s square; slöjd knife, Router Plans

Hardware: You’ll need three butt hinges, or two chest hinges. Chest lifts and ring pulls for the tills are optional.

Paint: I like General Finishes faux milk paint. It has a flat finish, close to that of traditional milk paint, but is easier (and faster) to use without practice.
General Finishes Milk Paint (Persian Blue)


Fantastic project, and a lot of fun to watch!

Casey Anderson
Guild Member
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About Your Instructor:

Megan Fitzpatrick

Megan Fitzpatrick, a.k.a. @1snugthejoiner, is a woodworker and the editor at Lost Art Press. She is short one dissertation of a Ph.D. in English literature (focused on early modern drama), and a former editor of The Chronicle and of Popular Woodworking Magazine. When she’s not at the computer or teaching, you’ll find her building furniture (mostly tool chests) or at the bar alongside, Christopher Schwarz, publisher at Lost Art Press.
In addition to woodworking teaching woodworking, writing about woodworking, and editing writing about woodworking, Megan is restoring a circa-1905 four square in Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood, and living amidst the chaos with her cat, Olivia the Greyt. Her personal blog is