Time spent in the garden can be precious, so make the most of it by always being able to put your hands on the tool you need as and when you need it with this handmade garden-tool caddy.
Does it ever feel like you spend more time looking for where you left your tools than actually achieving what you set out to do in the garden? This time of year when we’re pulling out the last of the winter crops and prepping beds for summer plantings, it’s easy to move between various jobs throughout the garden, leaving a trail of misplaced tools behind you as you go.
A simple but effective homemade solution is a basic timber box with a handle, and by always knowing where everything is, you’ll maximise your time in the garden. Before you head out, pack it with all the things you might need – trowel, seeds, string, scissors, secateurs – all the tools you use most often, and carry it with you. Once you get into the habit of ‘putting things down’ back into the box, and picking it up as you move between tasks, you’ll always know where everything is and have tools at hand whenever you need them.
This garden caddy is really easy to make with a few basic power tools, but is also simple enough to complete if you’ve only got access to hand tools. Before you start, it’s a good idea to measure the length of the tools you use most often to make sure they’ll fit within the included measurements (see breakout box). These measurements can be used a guide and can be easily adjusted to fit your requirements, or to accomodate whatever lengths of timber you have available.
What You’ll Need
A power drill for screwing together or pre-drilling pilot holes, or a hammer and nails or screws and a screwdriver. A tape measure and pencil, a saw of any description, some wood glue, plywood (we’re using 15 mm-thick ply) or scraps of timber – just make sure your screws are much narrower than the thickness of the timber so it doesn’t split – and for strength, the screws or nails will need to be at least 25 millimetres in length. And to finish it off, you’ll need some sandpaper and some varnish or paint to protect it from the weather.
Measure out your six individual pieces of timber and cut to size. The quickest and most accurate way is to do it with a bench or power saw, but if you’re using a hand saw, be careful to make clean and straight cuts so the pieces of timber sit flush against the base.
Stand the end pieces on their edges and and run a thin line of glue along the top edge before placing the base on top and aligning. Nail or screw through the base and into the end pieces – if you’re using screws, it’s a good idea to pre-drill a pilot hole to avoid splitting the timber – and place a screw in each corner. Don’t be tempted to put a screw in the middle of the edge piece at this point, or else it will inhibit the process later on.
Wipe off any excess glue with a damp cloth.
Following the same process, fit the side pieces in place and secure. As it’s the longer edge of the box, you can add another screw (or nail) along the join. Flip the box on its edge and screw the top corners of the edge pieces into the sides, and rotate and repeat on the opposite edge.
Adding The Handle
Now you’ve got a basic box, measure and mark the centre of each of the internal sides, so you know where to secure your centre piece. But before attaching it, you’ll need to create a hole for your handle.
Sketching or using a template, mark out both the curved top edge of the centre piece and a hole wide enough for the width of your fingers which will form the handle.
These cuts are best made with a powered jigsaw, but a coping saw will also do the trick. Another option is to drill holes around the outline to make the ‘cut’, and then clean up the rough edges using a rasp and sandpaper.
Run a line of glue along the three straight edges before aligning them with the centre marks you’ve made. From the outside, screw through the side edges of the box and into the upright edges of the centre piece. Place a screw at the top and the bottom – this last screw is the reason why we didn’t screw the centre of the base during the initial assembly, because this screw would now hit it and you wouldn’t be unable to secure the centre piece at the base of the box. Turn the box around and repeat the process on the other side.
Clockwise from top left A power saw makes this a quick project; Sand pieces before they’re screwed together; Cut all your pieces before assembling; Gluing your pieces together before fastening will make for a stronger join; The result is lightweight and practical; Pre-drilling a pilot hole for your screw will ensure your timber won’t split. Photos by Robyn Rosenfeldt
Depending on the size of the box you’ve made and the weight of the tools you’re intending to carry in it, you may want to add an extra couple of screws for strength. It’s not a bad idea to add a couple of screws through the base and into the bottom edge of the centre piece, especially if you decided to increase the overall length of the box.
While it’s upside down, you can add an extra screw or two into side and edge pieces to be sure. If you’re an all- weather gardener, you can even drill a couple of drainage holes in the bottom, so it doesn’t fill up with water and create the perfect haven for your tools to rust.
Once you’re happy, give all of the edges of the box a good sand to remove any splinters or rough edges and finish with a coat of paint or clear varnish.