Thursday, September 5, 2013

A tool chest for the sea

Just after I finished the sea chest, I was made redundant at my old company due to a sell out of tonnage.
I have got a new job at another company now, but on this vessel there is even less possibilities for working wood in the spare time.

Therefore I have decided that I need to make a small tool chest, that can accompany me on my adventures on the high seas.

I re-read my post concerning what I had learned about building the sea chest since it covered some of the tool aspects.

I am definitely going to need the following tools:

  1. A plane, probably a wooden smoother perhaps with an extra iron ground like a scrub plane.
  2. A sharpening stone, preferably a combination stone.
  3. 2-3 chisels.
  4. A mallet.
  5. Some glue.
  6. A block of cork for sanding.
  7. Sandpaper in various grades.
  8. Some brass screws.
  9. Some small brads / nails.
  10. Small hinges.
  11. A pencil.
If I find there will be room for it, I would like to bring the following:
  1. A marking gauge.
  2. A rabbet plane.
  3. A router plane.
Tools like a hack saw, various hammers, screw drivers and drills etc. are on board all ships with a workshop in the engine room (At least the type of ships I am working on). 

My thought on the chest itself is to make it out of 6 mm (1/4") birch plywood. I imagine that I can keep the size limited to approximately 45 x 25 x 10 cm (18" x 10" x 4"). But I will have to check up on the actual size of spare wooden planes I have got at home, since the plane will be the largest component.

Weight is going to be a major concern.

An inspiration is the Nefab PlyPak 20010. It is the smallest suitcase model as seen on this link. 

The weight of this case is 2.1 kg, and the size is 10" x 14" x 4". The prize seems to be around 100$, which is kind of in the high end.

According to my calculations, I should be able to make a box out of 6 mm (1/4")plywood that would end up weighing about 1.6 kg + the weight of hinges etc.

I guess the tools are going to add about 3-4 kg extra depending on how many I will be able to fit in the chest.


  1. You might also think about a Ryoba. Very versatile saw, and if you get the kind with the replaceable blade, it should fit in your tool chest nicely.

    1. You are right. That one won't add much weight, so that could be an idea.

      The worst thing is that we haven't even got any wood out here. Otherwise I would have started carving something.

  2. What weight do you have to keep everything under?

    1. My goal is to keep it under 5 kg. It has to be so light that I can still get my clothes etc. to fit in a bag and stay below the 20 kg limit by most airlines.
      If I get sent to one of the ships where there is crew change by helicopter, I also have to keep the weight low (below 25 kg)
      As a seaman you used to be entitled to 40 kg of baggage, but I don't know if that is still valid.

  3. I remember you building the last sea chest. How are you planning on joining the corners of the plywood?

    1. I am not quite sure yet.
      -One of the plans is to glue it together and reinforce the glued joint with a small triangular piece of wood.

      -The other plan is to dovetail it together. I have been inspired by an article in an old Fine Woodworking Magazine that someone has left out here. The idea is that you double the thickness of the boards to be dovetailed by gluing say an extra 2 inches of the same wood on the inside of the boards. Then you make the dovetails so the corner is actually 12 mm instead of 6 mm. Then you make a smooth transition of the extra wood so you get a radius'ed inside corner.
      I'll have to try it when I get back home. The problem is that I still need to fix the inside of all the windows on the first floor, so I might go for the quick solution.

  4. I once made a "traditional" tool tote, which in America may be called a carpenters tool box that also had a removable lid. It was light and held a very nice amount of tools. I gave it to my father-in-law as a Christmas gift. It was 18" long and 6" wide, made of pine with a 1" oak dowel as the handle. It could hold a few small backsaws, a smooth plane or a jack plane, and most of your assorted small items i.e. chisels, a marking gauge, pencils. etc. The box itself probably only weighed 4 or 5 lbs, though obviously the tools will make the big difference.

    1. I am still in the sketching part of the planning, so all ideas are welcome. I would like to make the box as small as possible, also to prevent the stuff from banging around when the bag is being handled by the airlines.
      I think that I will find the tools I want to bring along, and organize them in various ways to assert which arrangement will work best.
      A tool roll or a small rucksack could also be an option, but I am afraid that it won't offer enough protection for the tools from luggage handlers.

  5. A couple of other woodworker's tool chests came to mind when I read your post. They probably won't meet your weight requirements, but have some nice work holding features that you might be able to incorporate into your design for times when a workbench is not available.

    1. Thanks for the links, but due to the unimaginable slowness of our Internet connection, I have only been able to open the link from theunpluggedwoodshop.
      Watching a video is sadly beyond the capabilities of our system, so I'll have to wait for the renaissancewoodworker till I get home , or at maybe if I am lucky it will be possible next time we are in port.

      Workholding is not so much an issue, since there is always a work table ususally a welded constructiop, fitted with a vice (for metal working). I adapted some OK work holding techniques when I built the sea chest, so I should be able to work like that again.