How to Build a Tool Tote
We're not talking about a tool box or bucket organizer, nor kit boxes for power tools. This tote can be used to store the tools taken out of a tool box or organizer, keeping them nearby when needed.
Measure, measure and measure some more. Wasted Spaces host Karl Champley and contractor Matt Hill unload the truck and carefully measure the available space to help plan the storage unit. When measuring a truck bed, car trunk or trailer interior, make sure to measure and make notes on wheel wells, permanent tool boxes, spare tires and any other features that may extend into the storage space. You don’t want to build a great custom unit and have it not fit.
The custom truck bed doesn’t just have to fit the truck, it also needs to fit tools and other materials. Lay out all the tools and other items to be stored, and measure bulkier items. Use these measurements when designing the storage unit so everything will have a snug home and items won’t shift dramatically when the truck is in motion.
Sketch out a scale drawing of the truck storage unit, based on the measurements for the truck bed and the main items to be stored. Allow extra space to handle new tools and other acquisitions.
Build the shell and drawers for the storage unit, as well as wing boxes for additional storage. Assemble some small drawers to handle small items, then paint the entire system.
The truck box will feature long drawers separated and supported by vertical dividers, flanked by "wing boxes" with smaller drawers. Use a table saw to rip one sheet of plywood to the dimensions for the vertical dividers from the design sketch.
Cut sheets of plywood to the dimensions for the top and bottom of the box. Lay out one sheet, carefully measure and snap chalk lines as guides for the vertical supports. The dividers should be spaced apart by the width of the drawers plus 1/2 inch.
Line each vertical divider up with the chalk lines and attach using wood glue and 2-1/2" drywall screws.
When all four dividers are attached, lay out the structure so the dividers are sticking up. Carefully position another sheet of plywood on top of the dividers and secure it in place with 2-1/2" drywall screws. This creates the channels that will hold the drawers.
Again referring to the scale drawing, rip more plywood strips to form the bottom, sides and ends of the drawers. Also cut pieces of plywood to serve as dividers for the drawers.
Note: Karl and Matt cut the front end pieces slightly shorter so Matt could grab the drawer front to open.
Assemble the drawers with wood glue and 2-1/2" drywall screws. Start by attaching the sides to the bottom, then attach the ends. Once the outside of each drawer is built, use glue and screws to attach the divider pieces.
Use wood glue and nails to attach thin pieces of wood trim to the bottom of the drawers. This trim will lift the drawers up slightly and decrease friction between the drawers and the box, making the drawers slide more easily.
Use the table saw to rip smaller pieces of 1/2" plywood for the wing boxes that slip in next to the main truck box.
Assemble the wing boxes with wood glue, using a nail gun to tack the plywood into place.
After the boxes are built, assemble the drawers using wood and nails. Slide the drawers into the wing boxes to check their fit.
Choose a paint color that coordinates with the truck but also contrasts with the colors of the tools. This will make the tools easier to find in the drawers. Remove the drawers and use exterior-grade paint to paint the outer surfaces of the truck box and wing boxes.
Also paint the drawers, inside and out. Do not paint the wood trim runners along the bottoms of the drawers.
Let the paint dry completely.
The ultimate truck box is built, but it’s not ready to hit the road yet. Load the unit into the truck and fasten it down, then add finishing touches like wax for the drawers, brackets to keep the drawers in place and weatherproofing.
If the drawers are in the unit, remove them and set then aside before installation.
With help from a friend, set the completed box on the tailgate, lift it into the truck and slide it halfway in.
Use drywall screws to attach the wing boxes to the main box, and push the entire unit into place. Use galvanized L-brackets to screw the unit to the truck bed.
Rub paste wax along the runners on the bottoms of the drawers and slide the drawers into the storage unit (Image 1).
Screw small metal brackets to the ends of the vertical dividers so they overlap the drawers slightly. This will keep the drawers from sliding out when the tailgate is down; rotate the brackets out of the way to open the drawers (Image 2).
To help weatherproof the drawer unit, cut a wide strip of rubber liner to cover the drawers completely and overlap the top of the unit by about 1 foot.
Position the rubber liner and nail it to the unit using roofing nails. Drive a nail about every 6 inches. The liner will keep water and debris off the drawers, but will flip up for easy access. Lay a pre-purchased truck bed liner on top of the box. Choose a liner that covers the entire unit.
Note: Make sure the rubber liner is in the "down" position over the drawers before putting the truck bed liner in place. Otherwise, it could be trapped under the purchased liner.
Use L-brackets to attach the purchased truck bed liner to the truck.
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