DIY Japanese Toolbox




About: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check out my site @

This is a simple take on the classic Japanese toolbox which features a wedge to close the lid together. It has a two tone design, parts of it stained and a rope handle in the lid so you could carry the box with one hand if you wanted to, in addition to the two handles on the sides. Overall this is a very simple and straightforward project which could be made in any wood, any size, and style.

Step 1: Cutting the Wood

For this project I'm using 1x10 inch pine and I began with cutting all the pieces to size. This is the cut list that I used:

A) 1 @ 15 x 9 1/4 inches (bottom)
B) 2 @ 15 x 6 inches (long sides)

C) 2 @ 9 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches (short sides)

D) 2 @ 10 3/4 x 2 1/2 inches (top sides)

E) 1 @ 10 3/4 x 1 1/2 inches (lid side)

F) 1 @ 10 3/4 x 2 1/2 inches (wedge & wedge fitting, cut in the middle at an angle)

G) 1 @ 9 1/4 x 11 inches (lid)

H) 2 @ 2 x 9 1/4 inches (handles)

I) 2 @ 4 1/2 X 2 1 4 inches (feet)

Step 2: Handles & Wedge

I cut a curve for the handles on the bandsaw, as well as cut the wedge piece at an angle.

Step 3: Handtools

To clean up the angled wedge cut, I used a handplane. To smooth out the inside of the handles, I used a spokeshave.

Step 4: Holes

Next, I marked out where all the screw holes would go to put the box together. I decided to add quite a few holes to the box, because I'm planning to add plugs and I figured it would lend a nice decorative touch. However there obviously isn't necessary to add as many as I did. I countersank each hole to make room for the plug.

Step 5: Assembly

Once the holes were drilled it was time to assemble the box together using screws. The traditional method of joining a Japanese toolbox is nails, however screws provides the opportunity for plugs, and are also easier to use.

Step 6: Feet

To bring the box up from the ground a little, I decided to add four feet, however that isn't a necessary step.

Step 7: Handle

To make the box a little more practical to carry, and to lift the lid off, I decided to drill two holes in the lid that were large enough for some rope to fit through.

Step 8: Sanding

Next up sanding to make the box nice and smooth!

Step 9: Staining

I decided to stain part of the box a weather grey stain, so first I removed the parts I didn't want to stain to leave them natural.

Step 10: Plugs

To fill in the holes with the screws, I first measured the depth of the countersink, and then I sat up a stop block on the bandsaw to cut all the plugs at once. After that I secured each plug with a little glue and used a mallet to bang them in.

Step 11: Touch-up

To make the plugs nice and even, I brought out the sander again. and then touched up parts of the box with some more stained where it was removed by the sander.

Step 12: Rope Handle

At this point I added the rope for the handle, simply by tying two knots on the underside of the lid to keep the handle in place.

Step 13: Finish

For a final finish, I put shellac all over the outside of the box to provide some protection.

Step 14: Conclusion - Watch the Video

For a much better perspective of the process, make sure to watch the video that goes over each step in much more detail.



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    23 Discussions


    9 months ago

    I love it, Linn! You inspired me to make a similar one. I noticed that the length/width ratio of this box is close to the golden ratio. Is this a coincidence? Or do you try to approximate it for all your boxes, so it is pleasing to the eye?


    10 months ago

    First instructables followed and really enjoyed making this design :) Thanks!

    Great Lakes Makes

    10 months ago

    Love this box, Linn. Such an elegant storage solution!


    11 months ago

    Thanks for the video, I enjoyed it. One thing that might be fun for you in the future is to include the braiding of rope into your projects. It is quite simple and could have been used in place of tying knots under the lid. Basically you take two pieces of three strand rope and go over and under three times. A braid is almost as strong as the rope itself.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 months ago

    like the braiding idea, braid on top would make handle larger in diameter, good especially if loaded box is a little heavy


    11 months ago

    Very nice project! Please, what is the metal piece used in your table saw, just after the riving knife? Best, Paulo

    2 replies

    Reply 11 months ago

    It is an anti kickback device In this case not being used....


    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks for the help! Paulo


    11 months ago

    Great use of planes, especially for rounding edges. Looking forward to doing your project as soon as I get my work room back together. Keep Posting!


    11 months ago

    Nice project. Liked the fact that you did not paint the plugs to show off the work there. Please excuse my carpentry ignorance, what is the purpose of the wedge piece? is it to keep lid attached to side pieces via friction?


    11 months ago

    and retired 60 year woodworker and English major...

    Enjoyed your 'ible, except for the misuse of a term...

    Sank is the past tense of the word sink.

    The ship sank last week.

    Sunk is the past participle for of the word sink.

    The submarine has sunk before

    The past participle always requires the helping verb "has"
    or "been"


    one needed to countersink the holes

    one is countersinking the holes, but when completed, one would
    have countersunk the holes

    Countersank would need a helping verb which would change the
    meaning of the term

    counter-has-sank… but your counter... didn’t sink... it was sunken. ;-)


    11 months ago on Introduction

    Excellent take on the idea. I like everything and I may try a version. Maybe thinner wood for me. My pet hate is tool bags or boxes that are black inside where small pieces can hide in the dark. This certainly solves that. Maybe some small holes to allow my tools some air and more light. They hate the dark.

    I think for the colour I may try an idea that occurred while watching the video of a pale stain, each piece of wood a different colour and then a shellac of maybe just bare as it won’t be going outside.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


    11 months ago

    40 years ago I made my kids a crayola and coloring book boxes .they were a little bigger than your box . I only used 1/4 dowel no screws glued them in boxes looked great,as does yours thanks for the memories .


    11 months ago

    very nice project and very good exposition of phases and steps... Thank you very much.

    Very nice mask too... what about wearing something else instead of a wool sweater. If do not breathe dust ... it does! Then you have to spend very much time cleaning it otherwise you do breathe dust... just a little bit later... very elegant anyway... ;-)


    11 months ago

    Very nice project excellently executed and outstandingly produced (video'd) I think I will make one myself with a few minor changes, I'll would angle cut (dovetail as it where) the locking parts for the lid, and I would definitely glue the knot under the lid in the rope, (they always seem to get undone at the most inopportune moments!!!! ).

    I was taught to cut plugs from the same material with a plug cutter (cheap and readily available) then you plug the whole with those as they are full length and cut them flush, then use the rest in the next hole and so on. They are only 1 to 3 inches long as you cut them but you can cut as many from scrap pieces for pennies once you have the cutter.

    Hmmmm. yes I am a wood worker, sort of professional furniture maker.......



    11 months ago

    I could sit and watch U make things all day :)


    11 months ago

    Great job!!... Thanks for sharing!....


    11 months ago on Step 14

    Worth watching for the very simple but effective lid latch design alone. A very well produced video. Thanks for putting in so much effort.