My Japanese toolbox

As I said in my post about a leather case for my essential leatherworking tools, I’ll be doing some travelling soon, and I want to take some of my tools with me. For this, I made a lightweight, Japanese-inspired toolbox. It’s made out of tulipwood (or yellow poplar, liriodendron tulipiferia), which is not native to my area, but cheap as chips, lightweight, easy to work and still quite tough. I used it for my second lap steel as well. The darker wood I used for the little planks across the top are quartersawn English elm (ulmus procera) , which does grow locally. It was also quite cheap and it’s quite hard and I think it’s pretty. The joinery on the box is big dovetails on the corners, glued and nailed together with big forged nails. This thing won’t fall apart soon. The elm planks were glued and doweled onto the top with birch (darker) and ramin (gonystulus, lighter) dowels. The box locks by sliding a piece of wood between two of the elm planks. I made the thing without the use of power tools, hand tools only. I finished the box with a 50-50 mix of boiled linseed oil and natural turpentine.


Making the japanese tool box

I’m quite happy with the result. It’s really lightweight: fully loaded with planes, saws and even splitting wedges and hammers I can still carry the thing. Here are some pictures of the finished box.


Japanese tool box made of tulipwood and elm.


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2 replies on “My Japanese toolbox

  • Jim

    Hi, do you have plans for this box? I would like to build one with my 13 year son. I think it is wonderful that you used no power tools.


    • Lieuwe

      Hey Jim, thanks for your comment. I don’t have plans for the box, just made it up as I went along. It’s not hard if you just keep the logic of the box in mind: the bottom goes under the sides, sides are dovetailed, lid goes inside the sides. If you need the measurements of this box I could look up my notes for you. But I would just build the box the size you need if I were you. Hope your son will like the box!


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