Scratch-Built Rolling Tool Cabinet Is A Metalworking Skill-Builder

Yes, rolling tool cabinets in every conceivable shape, size, arrangement of drawers, and even color are readily available commercially, and you probably shouldn’t build your own. But as [Bob] from “Making Stuff” points out, where’s the fun in that?

Still, we can think of plenty of reasons to make your own rolling tool cabinets from scratch. Aside from the obvious benefits of practicing your metalworking skills and putting your tools to good use, rolling your own means you can get exactly what you want. Almost every tool cabinet we’ve purchased has ended up being just a bit sub-optimal in some way — too wide for the available space, or perhaps with drawers a touch too shallow to fit that one oddball tool. Being able to create your own cabinet means you can hit the specs exactly, and as [Bob] shows, it’s not even that hard if you have the right tools.

The build starts on [Bob]’s CNC plasma cutter, a shop-built machine that’s seen several upgrades over the years. The plasma cutter makes quick work of cutting the drawer blanks from sheet steel, complete with slots to make forming the sheets into drawers easy. The frame of the cabinet is steel tubing, which is welded up and filled in with more sheet steel. Full-extension ball-bearing slides are added to the sides to support the drawers; we have to admit that welding what appears to be zinc-coated steel makes us nervous, but we assume [Bob] took precautions against the potential for toxic fumes.

The video below shows the whole build process and shows off the very sharp-looking final product. It also puts us very much in the mood to build our own plasma cutter.

14 thoughts on “Scratch-Built Rolling Tool Cabinet Is A Metalworking Skill-Builder

  1. “we have to admit that welding what appears to be zinc-coated steel makes us nervous”.

    There is nothing to be nervous about. If there is sufficient ventilation for running that plasma cutter in the shop then a few small welds of some zinc plated slides isn’t even remotely a concern. If you are really into a large project with galvanized material then you can definitely get zinc fever but the effects are temporary and you will learn to avoid the fumes pretty quick!

    Be much more worried about what steel has been cleaned or painted with.

    1. In addition to that, when we had to weld zinc plated metal, we always used an angle grinder to clean the first few centimeters of each part before welding. Zinc platings/layers aren’t that thick…

    2. Good to hear, thanks for the feedback. As with any trade that’s been around long enough, there are plenty of mysteries and legends. I’ve heard both sides of the welding zinc argument, with effects ranging from instant painful death from inhaling a few wisps to stories from the old-timers about how they would filter zinc fumes through a cigarette and be just fine.

      I suspect the truth is somewhere in between. Maybe it’s time for a deep-dive on the health issues involved with welding and cutting operations.

      1. The biggest “get you dead” I know of in welding is using chlorinated cleaners. Brake cleaner is commonly used in many shops, but should never be used for welding prep, as it can decompose into Hydrogen Chloride and Phosgene gasses in the presence of high temperatures in welding.

        https://www.brewracingframes.com/safety-alert-brake-cleaner–phosgene-gas.html

        https://www.thefabricator.com/thewelder/article/arcwelding/cleaning-material-with-brake-cleaner-before-welding-a-risky-move-that-can-turn-deadly

        https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/phosgene/basics/facts.asp

  2. This is awesome, and makes me want to build a plasma cutter now. I have always had a serious fetish for Rhino Ironworks toolchests, and this looks like them a bit.

    I just don’t know what they color theirs with…hear bluing? black oxide?

    I want an entire house with furniture and kitchen made like this…unpainted. It would be glorious, truly glorious….

  3. The ball-bearing slides are zinc-coated, and welded to the “black steel” (=hot laminated sheet steel).
    Les glissières sont galvanisées, et soudées à l’ “acier noir” (=tôle laminé à chaud).

  4. Great work, the closest I got to a home made tool box was when I worked for an A/C company.
    Used sheet metal to make a truck bed tool box (like the aluminum diamond plate type)
    Still have it but not the truck lol

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