The New River Forge Council is a group of blacksmiths and other artisans that meet monthly at the shop of blacksmith Eugene Ratliff in Oak Hill West Virginia.  The NRFC is sanctioned by the Appalachian Blacksmith Association and while our focus is primarily on learning and promoting the ancient craft of blacksmithing, our members have a number of interest and talents including blacksmithing, cabinet making and other woodworking,  gunsmithing, leather working, bowl carving, and tool making.  I was recently asked to do a blacksmithing demo at our monthly meeting.  As I was putting together a list of the tools I wanted to take with me I realized that I did not have a dedicated “blacksmith toolbox”.  Well, I couldn’t just walk into the meeting with my tools in a soggy cardboard box held together with duct tape and twine…at least that’s my excuse for making the toolbox…

My inspiration for the overall “look” of the toolbox was the Mastermyr tool chest, a Viking-age tool chest unearthed in the 1930’s.  I had some scrap pieces of “1-by” white pine left over from other projects, so did not have to buy any additional stock.  The box is of glued and nailed rabbet and dado construction.  I used modern manufactured rose-head cut nails.  The hinges and hasp will be hand-forged.

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Start by cutting the ends from 1 inch x  8 inch stock.  I sized my toolbox to fit behind the seat of my standard-cab GMC Sierra pickup truck.  Therefore the bottom of the sides is 7 inches wide tapering to 6 inches at the top.  It should be noted that only the front is tapered (remember behind the truck seat?) with the back set at a 90 degree angle to the bottom.

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Cut a ½ inch by ½ inch rabbet at the front and back of the ends.  I wimped out and cut these rabbets on the pigtailed router, although the final fitting was done with a small rabbet plane.  Cut a 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch dado for the bottom to rest in  3/4 inches from the bottom of the sides.  I worked a little more traditionally here, marking the margins of the dados with a cutting gage, square and striking knife, sawing the margins with a backsaw, then removing the waste with a chisel and router plane.  Be careful here, the two ends are mirror images of one another…they are NOT duplicates.  By the way, I made both the marking gage and striking knife.

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Plane the front and back to 1/2 inch thick.  I planed it close with a pigtailed thickness planer, then finished up with my #406 Bedrock with the iron set for a whisper thin shaving.The sloped front should probably be just a little wider than the back, but because of the size of the stock I had on hand, I made both front and back 7 inches x 22 inches.

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For a traditional “toolbox look”, I decided to round or dome the top of the toolbox.  There are probably a number of ways to accomplish this.  I did it by scribing a pencil line 1/4 inch from the underside of the top to mark the limits of the curves.  A curved line was drawn freehand on the ends of the top to mark the limits of the curve there.  I then began planing the curve at the edges, tapering to the apex of the top where it is left at its full 3/4 inch thickness.

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Nail a 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch cleat to the bottom of the ends of the top…

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I had originally planned to house the bottom in grooves planed in the sides of the front and back.  As luck (or the lack therof) would have it, the 1/2 inch thick board I had planned to use for the bottom was just a little too narrow.  Good thing I had not planed the grooves yet!  No problem…so now the bottom is only housed in the dados cut in the two ends.  The long sides of the bottom are supported by two cleats glued and nailed to the inside bottoms of the front and back.

Assembly is fairly straight forward. First, glue and nail the back to the rabbets in the ends. Next, slip the bottom in the two dados in the ends. After that, glue and nail the front into the two remaining rabbets. Finally, drive a couple of nails through the ends into the bottom piece. By the way, I used rosehead square cut nails throughout. I had originally planned to forge all the nails myself, but my nailmaking is too slow. I thought the cut nails would be an appropriate alternative.

After assembly, I smoothed things up a bit with sandpaper and applied multiple coats of finish…first linseed oil thinned with terpentine, then full strength linseed oil and finally a couple coats of a linseed oil/beeswax mixture.

What’s next? Forging the hardware.

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