With the weather finally turning favorable (my shop is currently unheated) and the addition of a drawknife and spokeshave to my tool kit, I did some long-overdue woodworking this week.
I've used a little dovetailed box for a few years to hold my benchtop essentials: marking knife, marking gauges, square, folding ruler, dividers, lead holder + sharpener, shims (for stabilizing a not-yet flat board during planing), and paraffin. Maybe a bench dog or two will hang out in there. The problem is that my box is too deep, stuff just piles up, and it is always feeling possible to stab myself on divider points or marking knife if not careful.
And so whenever I watch Jim Tolpin work, putting his marking knife back into his little benchtop tote, never needing to dig to pick it up again, I am always a little envious. It is one of those projects that probably everyone needs to do, but it never really rises to the top of the list. While doing some Spring cleaning, I decided enough was enough and put one together.
It's a fun little project, and does not take long. It is also a good exercise in harmonic design. I have no idea how many inches long or high or deep it is, the members were all sized relative to each other using whole-number ratios and stepping out onto a story stick using dividers. The base module was my handspan, which, more often than not, is agreeable to hand tools and other objects intended to be held in a hand. I did not want to make it too large, or it would be tempting to really fill it up... this is just for the essentials.
The handle (mildly figured maple in my case) was fun to shape with the drawknife, and pretty quick, too. I always need more practice making fair curves and doing symmetrical work, and I learn a great deal each time. This was no exception... Slowing down and creating a good template out of the right material is, for me, mandatory.
One design detail if you do decide to build one of these, is that ideally the short ends-- which the divider is rabbeted into-- should have their lap-fingers on the bottom. In this way, as the tote is lifted, the fingers will then lift the sideboards. With something this small and light it probably does not matter, but Jim did notice that in his book he shows a version with them oriented the less-ideal way.
I'm looking forward to seeing the cherry sides and ends darken and contrast more with the maple as time goes on. The bottom is pine, which was beveled just enough to fit into a groove which travels along the lower inside faces of the side and end boards.