Woodworking Adventures [Part 2] and the Workshop that Cannot Be!

Last year I wrote a series of three articles for Good Woodworking Magazine, called Woodworking Adventures. They appeared in the June, July, and August editions (GW319, GW320, GW321). Now that several months have past since those magazines were printed I’ve decided to offer the articles to you here over the next few weeks, and I’ll be including additional photos not featured in the magazines.

So, you’ve crossed the bridge, hopefully, and you’ve made a start. Perhaps you are working out of a toolbox of some kind. That’s exactly how I got moving, and as the momentum built up the time came to get serious, and to build a tool cabinet, though I like to call mine a toolshed! I spent many hours of many months scouring the internet, especially Pinterest, for ideas, and finally sketched out a design that I hoped would suit my needs.

Sourcing Materials

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The first step in building this cabinet was to source out suitable materials. At the local hardware store they sell planks of composite wood which I felt would be ideal for the main structure. I would then sheet it up with some of the recycled 3-ply that I have stored away. When determining the size I didn’t design the shed first and then hope that I could afford enough material to build it. I bought all the planks that I could afford at the time, and measured the cabinet to make the most use of the planks, which were 3m long.  When building your own cabinet you will need to determine a size that suits your needs, budget, and available space.

Pic1: Simple glue-and-screw joinery for the cabinet’s main body
Pic2: Cutting a plank into four strips of equal width to frame the doors

I started by cutting my material – I used the width of the planks to determine the depth of the cabinet – and simply drilled and screw all joints (Pic.1). I made the doors hollow so that I could use them as additional tool space. The depth of the doors was determined simply by cutting a plank into four strips (Pic.2). A single shelf was installed at standing height which gave the shed strength. The top was framed using leftover strips and a fake roof top fitted.

Pic3: Plywood encloses the cabinet and tools will hang from it

The back and doors were sheeted with the 3-ply, but this proved too weak to support the weight of the tools so I gave it all a second sheet to double the thickness and strength (Pic.3). 3cm strips of 3-ply were cut to decorate the doors, and a pair of old tools were used to create a crossed-swords motif. When painted up white with green highlights the tool shed looks fantastic, and best of all, it doesn’t take up so much space. It easily fits in our carport area against the side wall.

One idea I considered, but ignored, was the idea of fitting a hinged benchtop connected to the shelf and supported with a folding bracket – you might like to explore this if you are looking to make your your own cabinet.

For a while I used a normal folding table as a workbench, a reclaimed ironing board fitted with a new top as a side-table, and a converted fan as a power tool basket with built-in power supply (Pic.4). In time I almost completely reconfigured the cabinet as tools were added and needs changed. Additional shelves have been fitted into the main section, and into the doors (Pic.5). On the right-hand door you will see a mallet which I made myself.

Pic4: One of many steps taken on the journey from nothing to something. Even an old ironing board frame can be put to use as a side-table until something better comes along!
Pic5: Using it for a year resulted in a few redesigns of the interior, which makes it much better to use, and it conveniently houses most of my tools. Update: in recent months following another trip back to Australia I brought back more of Dad’s old woodworking tools which has meant yet another reconfiguration of the doors. That is the most successful aspect of this cabinet, the ease at which it can be reconfigured for changing needs.















With this setup I was able to make a cake stand, candle rack, bookshelf, desk, and a jewellery cabinet for my wife for Christmas, all of which you can see on my blog. So, don’t allow yourself to be limited by what you have – instead, let what you have open your mind to new possibilities.

Here’s a selection of projects, featured here on my blog, that I made using this setup:

Jewellery Cabinet

Aussie Back Shed Style Desk

Woodworking Follies – Ep1 – The Case of the Broken Tab

Projector Stand

Folding Table

Wooden Mallet


In the next and final part of this series I will offer advice on how to get started making your own tools which will save you money and add to the enjoyment of your woodworking.

This article was original published in Good Woodworking Magazine GW320, July 2017. I wish to thank the magazine for their interest in my work. Click here to find out more about the magazine. 

Please note that I am not receiving any ‘kick-backs’ from the magazine by supporting it here, I simply wish to recommend it to you.

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