Truckbed Toolbox - Fine Homebuilding

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Truckbed Toolbox

comments (7) December 7th, 2008 in Project Gallery
Huck Huck, member

My tools are handy when I need em.
The side boxes under construction. 
Here you can see where Ive cut out to fit them around the wheel wells.  You can also see the cleats that mate the sides to the center box when it slides in place.
The center carcase.  If you look closely, you can see the pocket hole construction. 
The top is a sheet of 3/4 plywood, but the bottom is open, with just enough wood for the drawers to sit on.
Smaller drawers on the sides behind the wheel wells.
Three big drawers in the middle section can be almost fully extended.  Here they are in use on a jobsite.
My tools are handy when I need em.Click To Enlarge

My tools are handy when I need 'em.

Back in 1989 I was working as a carpenter in the Ventura / Ojai area of Southern California, and my boss, Bob Thurman, and my co-worker, Brent Coffey, both had work trucks set up with pull-out tool drawers. 

I had experienced some break-in and theft from my camper shell, so I wanted a means of concealing my tools from inquiring eyes, and yet keeping them handy.  I liked the drawer systems that I saw at work, and designed a similar setup for my little Toyota pickup. 

Those tool drawers lasted me almost 20 years, eventually moving from my truck to my pull-along trailer.  Finally in '07 I decided to build a bigger system for my Ford F-150.  

Of course, what I really I needed was a shiny new work truck with those cool utility-bed locking boxes, a high-security shop/garage to park it in, and a fat bank account to finance the whole shebang. Unfortunately, what I had was an ageing half-ton pickup, an unprotected driveway to park it in, and a budget as lean as a Victoria's Secret runway model.  So I took what I had, and went to work.

I wasn’t asking for much, really. Just wanted my tools handy, and yet hidden from passersby – while still allowing me to use my truck bed for hauling stuff. This was the best solution I could come up with.

This unit would have to withstand the weather, as it was not protected in a trailer, or under a camper shell, like my previous unit was. It was important to me that my toolbox make a statement about my work, and my commitment to craftsmanship. My problem here was that my carpentry skills were developed in the field, not in a shop. While tight miters and even reveals made for good work on the jobsite, I needed some shop skills to build the kind of functional furniture I envisioned for this project.

Hence it was my good fortune to find some evening woodshop classes in my local community college.  These took my skills to the level required to complete this project satisfactorily.

The carcase was built in three separate sections. The two side boxes slide in the truck bed between the wheel wells, and then push over to the sides, and the center section slides in between them, with interlocking cleats. Finally, the top was covered with diamond plate sheet aluminum.

This protects the plywood platform from the wear & tear of cargo and weather, and provides a rugged industrial look that masks the presence of the tool storage below.

Reinforcing wood strips (glued and screwed) along the top and bottom of the sides make a pretty beefy anchor for the tie-down hooks.

The big drawer ends are set-in from the oversized handles as a protection from moisture – any water that might work its way into the tool area (as it turns out, none does) stays out of the drawer interiors, and drains out the truck bed as it normally would.

The top of the platform edge along the tailgate was sealed with sponge-foam compression-type weatherstripping, keeping water out pretty effectively. The other (front) end of the carcase is isn't open, so there's little danger of water getting into the drawer area as it drains down between the case and the front of the bed.

The big question seems to be, Yeah, Do they slide easily? These boxes are heavy when full, no doubt about it. I installed some plastic furniture glides on the bottom front of the openings where the sides of the big drawers slide, and on the bottom of the big box drawers at the very back. Everyone who's tried them out finds them easier to slide than expected. In fact, don't take off with the tailgate down, or they'll slide right out (don't ask how I know that!).

The open tailgate supports the extended drawers, so there's no need for any supporting drawer hardware.  I added a tailgate lock by Pop & Lock.

I have to admit, the whole time I was working on this project I kept asking myself, is this really gonna be worth the time and trouble it’s costing me? Now that it's in daily use, the obvious question I ask myself is - Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?

My custom toolbox system has been featured in Fine Homebuilding Magazine and Journal of Light Construction.

Design or Plan used: My own design - HP Construction
posted in: Project Gallery, business, measuring and marking tools, drills and drivers, storage, circular saw, handsaws

Comments (7)

user-2860078 user-2860078 writes:
Posted: 8:21 pm on September 4th

mrevan mrevan writes: This is really great! Although, I do have one question: Where does the water go when it rains?

Posted: 12:07 pm on August 4th

urbancarpenter urbancarpenter writes: Great job. efficient. If I had a pick up I'd build a set.

Posted: 6:18 pm on September 14th

urbancarpenter urbancarpenter writes: Great stuff. They also sell then for about $800-1000. and they are strong enough to put a 1000-2000lbs load on.
I have a set in my Land Cruiser and keep the basics in them.

Efficiency is profit.

Good luck on your build
Posted: 2:43 pm on November 13th

free2surf free2surf writes: hey Huck, This is a fine box, I was looking for something i could sore my tools in since i lost all of them some months ago, thank you for the outa sight outa mind carcase, is the anyway you will be doing plans soon, Thanks Paul.
Posted: 1:38 pm on August 8th

Huck Huck writes: Thanks Davo. I've had a lot of requests for more details, so one of these days I'm gonna put together a detailed graphic how-to scrapbook. Meanwhile, I try to answer any questions I receive by email

Posted: 12:55 pm on August 12th

Davo304 Davo304 writes:

I am so delighted to see this article mentioned in the opening page of your website. I have on several occaisions searched thru the archives to find Huck's postings and photos concerning this project. I am in the preliminary stages of building a set for my 1998 F-150.

In my opinion, Huck has given terrific insight to the problem that most remodeling carpenters like myself face everyday...tool storage for a pick-up truck. I enjoyed his postings and his photos immensly.

I know that JLC did a magazine article a while back featuring Huck and his system. I believe with FHB's great Graphics Dept, they could run a more indepth and detaileded article...which I think would do a lot of good for anyone owning a pick-up and wanting to build a similar tool storage long as Huck doesn't mind.


Posted: 12:39 am on January 22nd

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