I have a lot of hand tools, but if you were to tour my shop you would not see them. They were stored in a closed cabinet under a bench. Every time I needed a plane I had to fetch Wall hanging hand tool cabinet - closedit from one of these cabinets which is time consuming, not to mention tough on the legs and back. Similarly, my measuring and marking tools were stored in various drawers. I had promised myself for five years that I would build a wall hanging tool cabinet which could remain open for the day, located next to my hand tool bench, to provide me quick access to my hand tools. That promise has now come true with the completion of this project.

Wall hanging hand tool cabinet - openI started by drawing a shell of the cabinet in SketchUp. You can see the open and closed configurations in the pictures at right and left respectively. When closed the cabinet is 52" W x 41" H x 13 3/8" D. Open it has a width of nearly 8′ 8". I have saved a wall in my shop for this cabinet; my new Lie-Nielsen bench will sit immediately in front of it. (If you are wondering why I didn’t build my own bench, you only need to look at my honey-do furniture list.)

I plan for planes, saws, hammers, sanding blocks and other large heavy items to be stored in the cabinet. Files, chisels, screwdrivers, measuring and marking tools will be stored in the doors and drawers. The actual placement of each tool will be trial-and-error. Hence, my drawing doesn’t show internal shelves and hold-downs, but I may update it as I finalize them. When done I will put the SketchUp file on my Free Plans page so anyone can have access to it.

The joinery will be dovetail and mortise-and-tenon. The doors will be attached with heavy duty piano hinges. The back is ship-lapped random width pieces. Wood species are a mix of cherry knobs, tiger maple body and mahogany back.

Panels thicknessed and cut to rough dimension. As always my projects begin by selecting the rough lumber I will use. Then I join, plane, edge, glue, thickness and finally cut them to rough shape. At left is a stack of rough cut panels that represent the top, bottom, sides, shelf and divider. Each panel is marked with carpenters crayon with its name, face and front edge designated. This helps keep track of the intended use of each panel, which is important for a number of reasons, not to mention that I choose the best grained and figured boards for the surfaces that will show. Oh! Did I mention that I am using tiger maple for this cabinet?

Markedup tails with associated marking tools. The final thicknessing of the panels was done after they sat in my shop for a few days to let any final warp-age, bow, twist etc. settle out. (Thicknessing is a verb found only in the Woodworker’s Dictionary. Don’t look for it in Webster’s.) After thicknessing I cut each panel to exact final dimensions including any cutouts. At that point I am ready to begin cutting the joints, starting with the dovetails.

I am a “tails first” guy; I begin by marking up the tails on (in this case) the sides. The picture at right shows the tails marked up and the tools I use to accomplish this: a pencil, divider, Veritas marking gauge, measuring device (accurate to 1/64?), Lie-Nielsen dovetail marker and yes, a shop drawing with dimensions. If you are Frank Klausz and have already cut a lifetime of dovetails, you don’t bother to markup your board. You just cut by eye. I hope one day to master that. But in the mean time I markup, and since I draw all my plans in SketchUp, why not print out dimensioned drawings to keep myself on the straight and narrow?

Tails roughed out with dovetail and fret saw. Using a dovetail saw I make the vertical tail cuts followed by cleaning out the waste with a fret saw as shown in the picture at left. Note that when removing the waste in the area that will eventually be occupied by the pins I am careful to leave enough material to protect the scribe lines I will use to guide my chisel, which will clean up the remaining waste.

Lie-Nielsen, Marples and Japanese chisels left to right. A friend of mine recently bought a set of high end Japanese chisels. I wanted to try them out on this project and see how they did on tiger maple, a relatively hard, dense wood. I normally use my Lie-Nielsen or Marples chisels, and so I decided to do a comparison of all three. The picture at right shows them side by side with bevel up. While I did sharpen all three before using them I made no attempt to evaluate hardness, brittleness or longevity of the edge. That is an involved and long procedure well beyond the time I allotted for this short evaluation. What I was primarily concerned with was comfort, speed of cut, and crispness of cut.

I divided the work evenly among the three and alternated there use frequently. This carcass had plenty of dovetails and pins and I gave them all a good workout. In the end I was most satisfied with the Lie-Nielsen. The Lie-Nielsen was better balanced than either of the other two. The Marples was more top heavy and slightly harder to control. The Japanese chisel, with its triangular shape actually began to feel like it was cutting my fingers as I held it. The apex of the triangle on the bevel side approaches a point and after a while is very uncomfortable. This shape, I believe, is intended to do less harm to the internal corners of the pin socket. But I have never had any trouble with either the Marples or the Lie-Nielsen in that regard.

Horn Beam handles fit into socet. All three chisels cut quickly and cleanly, though I believe I noticed a slightly crisper cut with the Japanese chisel. I have read a number of articles that recommend flattening the top of the Marples handle to avoid the mallet blow sliding off, creating, in effect, a glancing blow. I never experienced this problem either. In fact it never occurred once with any of the chisels during this comparison. In the end I placed the Marples second and the Japanese chisel third, primarily on the basis of control and comfort. Comfort, I believe, is important, especially if you are chiseling all day long on a set of drawers.

Marking pins on a long board. There are a couple of other observations worth note. The Japanese chisel used here is in the $80 range (higher for a wider chisel and less for a narrower one). The Lie-Nielsen was about $50 and the Marples much less; I seem to recall they were about $15 for the narrower chisel. Marples now is Irwin and you can buy a set of four for $40, though I believe they are not the same quality as the original Marples. I think I can still justify buying the Lie-Nielsen based on overall comfort and control, even though it is $35 dollars more than the Marples. I can not justify the $80 price tag of the Japanese chisel, even though it is advertised as hand made. Its comfort alone is a killer in my mind.

I do have one small gripe about the Lie-Nielsen chisels. The picture at left shows how the Horn Beam handle fits in the socket. I have had several of the handles separate while working, even though I had previously seated them and woMarking pins on a long board close up.rked with them for some time. I asked Lie-Nielsen for replacement handles, which they graciously gave me, and eventually I got a set that remained seated without the use of a cement or other kludge fix. I recommend occasionally oiling the handles with Camilla oil to protect against water during the sharpening process.

Once the tails are completed I next transfer them to the pin boards, top and bottom in this case, by using the tails as a mask. However, the top and bottom of this carcass are 52? long, so I can not transfer the pins in the usual fashion. Instead I use a board tacked to my wall at 52? high that the tail board can rest on, the other end rests on the pin board. Metal squares and clamps are used to hold everything in place as show in the picture at right. A close up view can be seen at left. Now I can trace the tails onto the pin board with a pencil very accurately.

Cutting pins on a long board with the use of a stool. Cutting the pins still presents a problem because the pin board is still 52? long. Fortunately I have a table that can be raised, and with the aid of some wooden clamps and a stool I am in business. The picture at left shows me cutting the pins with a dovetail saw standing on the stool. You may recognize this stool from a previous post on this site. The stool is very stable but you do have to reposition it once or twice as you move across your cuts.

Removing waste on a long board with a fret saw.The same setup is used to cut the waste away with the fret saw, shown right. Long carcass panels always present a challenge, especially if it is a dovetailed carcass. But this adjustable bench combined with a stool or ladder and wooden clamps makes quick work of it.

Next I will complete the dadoes, sliding dovetail and notches that complete the joinery. Then I will dry fit everything and develop a glue-up strategy. I will need help with this one, so I will locate a friend to assist. Glue-ups are stressful and need to be completed quickly. Large carcasses like this one add to that stress. So I cultivate a few friends in the glue-up process. It’s an investment that pays off at times like this. You don’t want a novice helping you. That almost always ends up with someone’s feelings being hurt, or worse, the lose of a friend.

The top and bottom are clamped together to cut the sliding dovetail.Iill focus on the carcass – cutting all remaining joints, sanding, gluing up, adding the back and beginning the placement of tools. The divider attaches to the top and bottom with a sliding dovetail. I use the router to cut this joint. To be sure that the dovetails line up perfectly, and to minimize tear out, I clamp both the top and bottom together and make one cut as can be seen in the picture at left.

Many types of joinery are used in this design.In the picture at right you can see there are many types of joinery employed in this design. The top, bottom and sides are joined with hand cut dovetails. The divider connects to the top and bottom with a sliding dovetail. The shelf attaches to the sides and divider with 1/8? dadoes. In addition there are a number of stopped notches. In some places I used counter sunk screws.

Dry fitting each joint and the entire carcase.With this many joints and joinery types, dry fitting and developing a glue up strategy is very important. I never bypass these two important steps for expediency sake. This design, in particular, will trip you up for sure if you do because it fits together much like a jig saw puzzle. In the picture at left you can see a test fit of the stopped notch in the shelf and the 1/8? dadoes in the divider. In this way each piece is incrementally added and a glue up strategy developed.

All inside surfaces are sanded to 220 grit before glue up.Before beginning glue up I sand all inside faces to 220 grit shown right. Doing this after clue up would be very difficult and time consuming. I will have to lightly sand each inside surface after glue up to remove any raised grain caused by cleaning up glue squeeze out, but that can be done very quickly.

The bottom, top and shelf are glued up in that order.For this design I chose to begin the glue up by attaching the divider to the bottom via sliding dovetail first. Using metal right angle brackets and clamps I allow the assembly to set up before moving on. Next I add the top and shelf in that order as shown in the picture at left. This allows the ends tails to slide into the top and bottom pins, and the shelf’s notches to slide into the sides dadoes when adding the ends.

One end glued up at a time to reduce stress on the cabinetmaker.The day I glued up the ends I was unable to enlist any help. Glue ups can be stressful. To minimize the stress, especially since I was alone and dovetails take longer than most joints to assemble, I chose to attach one end at a time, and leave it to set up. Dovetail joints, once seated, are self holding and require no clamping. The dado joints, on the other hand, require clamps to be sure they are completely joined and remain that way throughout set up. This is shown right.

Completed carcase structure.Shown at left is the assembled structure after set up. This is the best time to lightly sand the inside surfaces, before the back is added and makes it more difficult. The carcass structure is shown left. The outside surfaces can also be sanded to 220 grit at this time as can the slats and cross members for the back.

The back is added next. It just so happens that I have had, laying around in my storage, mahogany bevel edged tongue & grove, 5/16? thick, 4? wide slats. Several years ago my brother-in-law was able to acquire them as leftovers from a job he was working on and gave them to me. I have a lot of such things. When I get gifts like this I never know how I will use them, but I know that in time I will. These worked out perfectly on this project, adding just the right amount of contrast to the tiger maple. See the picture at right.

The mahogany and tiger maple create a pleasing contrast.This is a particularly fun part of this project; placing the individual tools. Placing the tools is a very personal thing. Each person who would start with the same carcass design would end up with a vastly different arrangement of tools. I am finding this phase to take more time than I initially thought, including a lot of place-and-replace. Getting the tool placement right, that is, placed in a way that is natural for the cabinetmaker to access and use, is critical to work efficiency, so it deserves the attention to detail required.

The cabinet is hung first and then the finish applied.I found it easier to apply the finish with the cabinet hung on the wall. Using blue painter’s tape as a mask I wiped on two coats of finish. Since this is essentially a tool box which will receive a lot of heavy and harsh use compared to a piece of furniture, I decided two coats was enough. Normally, for a furniture piece, I would have applied five to seven coats.

In the right half of the cabinet I placed the bench (smooth, jack, fore and jointer) and shoulder planes. Block and rabbet planes are smaller and are placed in the left side. Since most of my files, chisels, squares, measurement and construction tools will be placed in the doors I fitted the left side cabinet with shelf pins. This will allow me to place frequently used materials, such as pocket screws, in the left side where they will be close by and easily accessed. I also decided on two wide drawers versus four narrow ones for miscellaneous tools. This will allow me to place items in the draws that are longer than 12?.

Partially completed cabinet with the LN bench in front.My new Lie-Nielsen workbench is shown in the picture at right, in front of my tool cabinet. Together these two pieces will provide a hand tool work area that will make for efficient working of wood, especially dovetailing, edging and smooth planing. Though shown so that the vices can be seen in the picture, in reality I will turn the bench around so that I will be positioned between the tool cabinet and the bench vises, making all tools within arms reach.

Wall Hanging Hand Tool Cabinet - Doors ClosedFinally finished except for hanging chisels, screwdrivers, measuring devices, coping saws etc. in the doors. The tiger maple really shows itself, especially the door panels. The panels were originally from one very wide board, but owing to the tangential curvature of the plain cut, the center of the board didn’t have much figure. It all appeared on the outside of the board. So I ripped the boards down the middle, turned the two pieces so that all the figure was in the middle and glued them back together. Then I used my band saw to re-saw the boards to achieve 1/4 inch thick panels. Finally, I cut the panels to width keeping the glue line in the center. The result is a highly figured panel that shimmers in the light.

Wall Hanging Hand Tool Cabinet - Doors OpenThe is one significant change from the original SketchUp model. I made the drawers twice as wide reducing the number from four to two. This allows me to place things that are over one foot long in the drawers. In the picture at right you can see that I have yet to hang any tools in the doors. Placing tools is a very personal task and is best done over time as you understand how you will use the cabinet and the tools inside. It may take me six months or more to fully utilize the cabinet space. You can see that I have made room for planes I intend to buy in the future. Also there are shelves for some consumable materials that are frequently used and need to be close by, such as pocket joinery wood screws.

Wall Hanging Hand Tool Cabinet - Drawer OpenThe drawers currently contain my measuring devices, marking gauges, marking knives etc. Much of these things will also end up in the doors. It is unclear what the final use of the drawers will be. Originally the design had no drawers, but I was convinced by many woodworkers who had built their own chests to include a few. I generally find them a catch all, and hence difficult to organize. We will see.

Believe it or not, I paid about $1 a bd ft for the material. I almost never pay more than $2 bd ft for any of my wood. I have cultivated local sources and even cut my own on occasion. See http://www.srww.com/blog/?p=28 for a better explanation.

Wall Hanging Hand Tool Cabinet - Drawer FullThe project requires approximately 70 bd ft depending on your estimate of waste.

I never keep track of my hours since this is a hobby and this project dragged on due to other family events and trips. Also, there is a lot of hand dovetailing, hand planing and hand sanding in this project, which takes quite a while. If I were to estimate the time it spent it would be a pure guess. That said, maybe 60 hours. But that is 60 hours of pure joy!

Leave a Reply

31 Responses to “Crafting A Wall Hanging Hand Tool Cabinet”

  1. volker blaschke says:

    Hello Joe,

    Thank you for posting the project plan for the wall hanging tool cabinet. A tool cabinet is urgently needed in my 1 car garage tool shop and this is next on my project list. Your cabinet is exactly what I was looking for, i.e. dove tails, nice wood etc. I was wondering if you could make available a plan with detailed step by step instructions with dimensions etc?

    Thanks a lot and great website, Volker

  2. Joe Zeh says:


    Done! How is that for service?

    And thanks for the compliment on the website.


  3. WD Elliott says:

    Helpful and thanks. A few questions:
    1. Your technique for building the slanted back for the upright planes would be helpful to understand. Also, your horizontal internal shelving for the planes is attached to the vertical ends and divider how? Glue I assume, but no joinery. Would this be correct?
    2. The left side uprights appears to have shelf holes for adjustable shelves. Am I viewing this correctly?
    I suppose you can tell I’m focused on your side compartments at this point. Further details on the internal compartments would be helpful.

    Thanks so much.

    Bill Elliott

  4. Joe says:

    Hi Bill,

    The insides of the tool cabinet I left out of the drawing because the organization of a tool chest is a very personal thing. Everyone likes their own arrangement. I started out with two horizontal members in both sides of the cabinet. You can see them in the left side. I then cut four right triangles of 3/4″ stock with the appropriate angle to allow the planes to lean stably. In the top half I nailed 1/4″ mahogany tongue and grove boards vertically. In the bottom half I nailed the same type material horizontally.

    The plane shelves I built as one piece before securing them to the carcass. Again I cused two right triangles with the same angles as before to make the front vertical again. The side and shelves are simply screwed together (I wanted to be able to change the configuration at any time so no glue.

    I also secured the shelf assembly to the carcass with screws for the same reason. And yes there are holes in the sides for adjustable shelves. Each hole has a sleeve to receive a shelf pin.

    I really like this cabinet. But if I were to build it again I would cut down the depth of the front doors to allow more room in the cabinet so the planes could lean at a steeper angle.

    Hope this helps. Joe…..

  5. tony says:

    Hi Joe
    i enjoyed your tool chest design and construction. I have couple of questions:
    1) how did you cut the L shaped sides and middle divider?
    2) how is the back attached to the tool chest?
    thank you

  6. Joe says:

    Hi Tony,

    The L-shaped divider is a little bit of a tricky cut. I cut the long edge on a table saw using the fence but stopped short of cutting into the L-extension on either face. Then I used my Dubby (a commercially purchased, very accurate panel sled – see http://www.in-lineindustries.com/ ) to cut the L-extension, again stopping short of cutting the long side on either face. Be careful because now you have a piece still attached and its weight alone can cause it to break off ruining the whole piece. You can reverse the order of these cuts if you like.

    Next I finished both cuts by hand with a panel saw (cross-cut and rip). Finally I cleaned it up with a sharp chisel.

    If I remember correctly (the chest is screwed to my wall and I can’t look to check) I used nails (air gun) in most cases to attach the back. I had this idea that at some time down the road I would want to reconfigure the chest and pulling nails is easy. Glue not so much.


  7. tony says:

    Thank you joe for the reply> how do you like the Dubby sled

  8. Joe says:


    I love the Dubby sled. In fact I have both a right and left one. Checkout http://www.srww.com/blog/?p=882 to see them in action.


  9. Jeff Peters says:

    This is a great looking cabinet. Do you have any tutorials on how to design this,or how to design case goods.
    I want to learn how to design case good cabinets.

  10. Joe says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the kind words. I don’t have any tutorials on designing case furniture. I have lots of tutorials on SketchUp.

    I have never had formal training in case design or architecture. Mostly I learned it from reading the better woodworking magazines like Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking and watching Norm Abram’s New Yankee Workshop for about 20 years.

    Is there a specific project you want to start with? Maybe I could help you develop a SketchUp model and then create a blog post of the design.


  11. Eugene says:

    Hello Joe
    I have been surfing the net and this is a fantastic tool cabinet. i am new to the woodworking scene and would like to build a cabinet like this
    Is it possible that i can get a complete plan from you for this cabinet
    best regrds

  12. Joe says:

    Hi Eugene,

    If you know how to use SketchUp (it’s free from Google) then the SketchUp model can be downloaded from this hyperlink.


    Good luck and send some pictures if you build it.


  13. Arthur Thompson says:

    Hi there, Mr Chief Woodworker.
    Please could you let me know if it is possible to buy these plans from you, as I have have trouble with download your Plans, and of all the Cabinets Ive done my research on Yours is the Very Best!!! I am with Paypal & eBay UK.
    ( treasures_2_you )and can make immediate payment to you.
    It will be able to Hold all my Chair Making tools Ive accumulated over the past few years.
    So my Computer experience is very limited but I have the ADOBE READER INSTALL ONLY, AND CANNOT GET THE OTHER THING TO WORK. Many thanks for any advice. Kind regards To You All.

  14. Joe says:

    Hi Arthur,

    Are you a knowledgeable SketchUp user? If so I will email you a SketchUp dimensioned model. However, it is not in Metric units.

    If you are not a SketchUp user, and you need the dimensions in Metric, I will convert them and put the model in PDF format. However, the Metric dimensions will be rounded from imperial dimensions.

    Let me know via email (jpz@srww.com) and I will email a file to you on Monday. No charge. My plans are free.


  15. Ron Bergin says:

    Hello Joe,

    I’m just getting back into wooodworking after 20+ years of time off and my first project is going to be a wall cabinet to hold my new LV and LN planes and assorted tools.

    I originally decided on using the design from thewoodwhisperer.com, but then found yours, which I like better and is more inline with what I really wanted. I downloaded your SketchUp file, but decided to create my own instead in order to learn SketchUp.

    I will be adding a second row of drawers and will be adjusting the scaling slightly to better align with the “golden ratio”.

    Rough Measurements:
    Overall Size: 42x42x16
    Main Cabinet: 42x26x10 (21x26x10 each side)
    Doors: 21x26x6
    Drawer Cabinet: 42x16x16
    Drawer Row 1: 42x6x16 (consisting of 3 drawers)
    Drawer Row 2: 42x10x16 (consisting of 2 drawers for power tools)

    I’m hoping that mine will come out as nice as yours, but it probably won’t because my skills are so rusty.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  16. Joe says:

    Hi Ron,

    Welcome back to woodworking. The tool cabinet is a great project to get back into it. One thing I would do differently if I were to make my cabinet again is to make the doors about 2 inches less deep and add that 2 inches to the depth of the main cabinet. This is to allow a steeper lean angle for the planes. If you are going to have planes leaning into the cabinet, be sure to model that accurately so you can be sure they will be secure. Mine are, but I would like more margin.


  17. Ray says:

    WOW! What Great work. I have just started perfecting my hand cut dove tail and yours are fantastic. The overall design is wonderful and the contrast between the figured maple and mahogany is beautiful. That is something I hope to borrow in my plan. Is there any way that I can get a copy of your plan. It truly meets all the things I am looking for in terms of style, beauty, and functionality. Thank you for any help you can render. Ray

  18. Joe says:

    Hi Ray,

    Thank you for the kind words. There is nothing as enjoyable as admiring the hand cut dovetails you have just completed, so keep on dovetailing. I am currently working on two identical chests with five drawers each which means lots of dovetailing.

    My plans are in SketchUp form. Hopefully you are a SketchUp user. I’ll send them to you via email.


  19. Tim Scott says:

    You have designed and built a great looking and functional tool cabinet. Thank you for taking the time to take and share pictures. Your workmanship is very good.

  20. Joe says:

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the kind words. And Happy Holidays.


  21. William says:

    Excellent article. I am in need of such a cabinet thanks for the inspiration I may copy your design. Hope you don’t mind.

  22. Joe says:

    Hi William,

    Go right ahead and copy it. Not a problem.


  23. Dave says:

    I have been looking for a cabinet to store hand planes, and found your blog. Thank you for the inspiration! In Australia many native timbers are hard or have high silica content but look fantastic, so tomorrow I will be off to a timber merchant to begin my cabinet using you excellent plans, and making the plane board deeper as you suggest. Thanks again

  24. Joe says:

    Hi Dave,

    Glad you find this cabinet useful and have fun building it. By the way, the reason I recommend a slightly deeper cabinet is so the planes rest on a steeper angle to better protect them.


  25. Michael Naiman says:

    Just came across this nice looking cabinet. Moved to Mexico about 3 months ago and had to leave many of my beloved tools behind because if weight and size. I did manage to bring hand tools and wonder if plans are still available ?

    Thanks mi Amigo


  26. Joe says:

    Hi Michael,

    If you are a SketchUp user you will find the plans on my website http://www.srww.com. Choose the SkechUp/Free Plans menu. Towards the bottom under Miscellaneous you will find Wall Hanging Tool Cabinet. Click on the smiley face icon. I developed this model years ago when I was first learning SketchUp, so please forgive me for its presentation. Have fun.


  27. Greg says:

    Hi Joe,

    Well thank you again for posting this wonderful Hanging Wall tool Cabinet article, I enjoyed it very much. I was wondering if you could also post your plans as a PDF, I’m not a 3D SketchUp user and I tend to use my cell phone in my shop (it’s dust proof) to reference drawings?

    I am looking forward to my 60 hour journey toward a cleaner and more organized wood shop – and styling as well.

  28. Joe says:

    Hi Greg,

    I don’t have that model in PDF format, but if you give me a week or so I will create it for you. Thanks for your kind words and interest.


  29. Greg says:

    Hi Joe,

    Thank you again for the kind offer to help, I’m extremely excited and motivated to start in on a version of your stellar tool chest.


  30. Amy says:

    Hi Joe – in the comment from March 2009, Volker asked about a detailed step-by-step instructions with dimensions. Would it be possible for you to send that to me as well? It would be so helpful! I’m new to SketchUp 🙂 Thanks for a great site. Cheers from Canada!

  31. Joe says:

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks for your post. It reminded me that I promised this to Greg too and haven’t finished it yet. Working on it at this moment.