Way back in issue 91 of Shopnotes Magazine I designed a tote that featured tab and slot construction. Each part locked into the next making for a sturdy assembly that didn’t use glue. That tote was a fun project, and the prototypes are still in use at my house, so I thought it was time to revisit tab and slot construction and totes.
I chose to make my totes from ¼” Baltic Birch plywood. It is strong, reasonably consistent in thickness and more or less flat. One option that I think would be really fun to try is to make custom veneered panels using Baltic Birch. Glamourous veneer and the strength of Baltic Birch – that’s a winning combination. Solid wood or MDF plywood will work but you may want to change the through-mortises to blind ones with the tenon being 3/16” long. Using a blind mortise and tenon will work with the inherent weakness in the material that wide tenons can produce.
The handles are either two pieces of plywood glued together or solid wood. Use a wood that provides a nice accent to the plywood of the tote. Handle grips are a good place to customize your tote. The grip can be made of wrapped cord, leather, shaped wood or any material that will distribute the weight of the tote gently on your hand.
To keep your tote looking good as it keeps your tools and supplies organized it is a good idea to apply a couple of coats of finish. Clear lacquer is my choice. If you would like to add a little pizzazz to your tote, think about painting the edges of the plywood parts, black or a bright color creates a strong look. Begin by sealing the faces of the plywood with a clear finish before you cut the parts out. Once the parts are cut paint the edges wiping off any excess, once dry sand the any remaining paint off the plywood and reapply the clear coat.
Fun to build, easy to make, and super handy CNC totes from CNC Basecamp.