Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Dutch Tool Chest - From Engineered Hardwood Flooring? - Part I

Last summer we renovated our bedroom. 
Bedroom with new flooring.

We knew we wanted a nice wooden floor, but since it was our bedroom, there was also no need to go crazy with any kind of expensive exotic wood, so we chose beech.

We are very happy with how the floor turned out.

We ordered the flooring from a local big box store, and they delivered it on a pallet to our front door for free! Because this product was such good quality, I wound up with practically no waste, even though we ordered plenty of extra just in case. Naturally, we called the company up to tell them we had extra we would like to return. They refunded us for the extra package of flooring, and told us to dispose of it however we wanted to.

Naturally, I needed a woodworking project for our time in quarantine because of traveling back from Spain, and since I wasn't allowed to go to the lumberyard, my eye turned to the extra flooring as material to make a tool chest for my leather working tools.

Here are the first two floor boards I used for this project.

Here are what I think are the advantages of using this stuff for a tool chest:

  • It is easy to glue up large panels.
  • One side already has a durable finish.
  • It's extremely dimensionally stable.
  • It's very lightweight.
  • The price - in this case, free.
The underside. I wonder if it would work to turn this to the outside?

Perhaps it is also prudent to list the disadvantages:

  • The "show" face made of beech is only 3mm (~1/8") thick,
  • and the underside made of some mysterious "white wood" (probably fir) is only 1.5mm (~1/16").
  • The rest (a strong 1/4") is probably pine and runs perpendicular to the grain of the inside ply and outside ply.

This last part is what makes this product such a great flooring product, but a Dutch tool chest takes advantage of the grain direction of solid wood for strength. More on this later.

The different layers of wood and their orientation.

Taking in the pros and the cons,  I decided to give this a go. I might have to make a few alterations to the plan, but I think this material will work.

First up, I cut a couple of the pieces to length and glued them up. When installing this as a floor, they just click together - no glue needed. I thought it wouldn't hurt anything to use some glue just to keep the pieces from sliding or shifting at all during the build, so I added plenty of PVA glue.

Clamps probably weren't necessary, but I had them, so I used them.

After they sat overnight in the clamps, I "ripped" them to length and jointed the edges to final width with my Record #7. I used quotations around my verb, "ripped" because just like plywood, this material has no real grain direction. I found a cross cut saw worked the best for cutting in either direction.
A freshly jointed edge. Notice all of the end grain visible.

Planing this stuff is a bit of a challenge. I decided to keep the finish intact, so no planing the beech faces, and planing the underside is dangerous because it is so thin and knotty. Care has to be taken when edge planing, as there always will be some cross grain to blow out. Sharp tools seem to work well enough.

Next up I'll decide how to orient everything and decide if dovetails are possible.


  1. Thanks for the great post, and Merry Christmas! An interesting project. It will be educational to see how you deal with the plywood layers. Keep up the good work! Stan

  2. Thanks for blogging this one, and all the pics on Instagram. This is like Hayward writes about during the war years when materials were scarce- find what you can and keep making!

    1. Thanks, Jeff! I appreciate being lumped in with Hayward, but I have a ways to go, yet. I enjoyed putting this up on IG, but decided this blog would be a better forum to discuss my thinking.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Sylvain! Same to you! And Happy New Year!

  4. Merry Christmas Brian. Now that you started your second chest, I really need to finish my fist one. I had to remake the lid this week since my first attempt at bread boards came out with a twist I couldn't plane out very well. I've been using your first build posts for tips. Thank you for all the help.

    Take Care,

    Chris from Florida

    1. Hey Chris! Merry Christmas! I'm flattered you're using my posts for tips. I might have to go back and read them again to figure out why you have twist! Haha! Good luck, and send pics.