On-The-Go Carving Desk

eNews: Strop Talk

On-The-Go Carving Desk

Quick & easy plywood box protects your tools and contains your chips

By Tom Noller 

I like to take small projects with me when I travel, so I designed and built this combination travel tool carrier and lapboard. It not only holds projects, tools, and reference material, but also collects chips. Once your desk is done, use it to carve a happy tree caricature.

Selecting the Wood

I made my box from regular 1/2″ (13mm)-thick plywood, but you could use Baltic birch for a nicer look. The project can be made from a single 24″ by 24″ (610mm by 610mm) sheet of plywood, a piece of lauan plywood, and an Altoids® mints tin. The only critical dimensions are the inside length, width, and height of the space for the can. If you use a different can, add 1/8″ (3mm) to all of the can’s dimensions to provide enough room to remove it easily.

Because we’re using plywood and the bottom covers the edges of the sides, the joints are pretty strong. But this project is made to be used and abused, so you may consider reinforcing the joints with brads or screws.



Getting Started

Mark and cut the sides. It looks nicer if the visible grain runs in the long direction. Rip all of the sides at the same time to ensure they are all the same width. 


Assembling the Box

Step 1:Glue and clamp the sides together to make the box frame. Leave the internal pieces out for now. Assemble the sides on a flat surface to ensure they are even on the bottom. Measure diagonally from corner to corner to make sure the frame is square. 

Step 2:Get the long partition. Cut the shortest partition piece and an additional one to use as a spacer. Place them at the front and back of the frame to locate the position for the longer internal partition. Glue and clamp the longer partition in place. 

Step 3:Get the short partition. Place the shorter partition in place and check for clearance using the mint tin, and then glue and clamp the short partition in place.


Carving the Desk Assembly Drawing


Step 4: Determine and mark the center for the top hole. Drill a 1/8″ (3mm) pilot hole on the mark. Drill about halfway through at the hole with a 1 3/8″ (35mm)-diameter Forstner bit. Turn the top over and use the pilot hole as a guide to drill the rest of the way through with the Forstner bit. This will reduce tear-out on both sides of the top.

Step 5:Attach the hinges. Cut slots for the hinges so the top can lay flat. Use a chisel. Drill pilot holes for the screws, if desired. Make sure the hole in the top lines up with the opening for the mint tin. Screw the hinges to the top and the back frame.

Step 6:Use the frame as a guide to verify the size of the bottom piece. Mark and cut the bottom. Glue and clamp it in place, and allow the glue to dry. Round the sharp outside corners of the top, bottom, and frame with sandpaper.

Step 7:Install the clasp in the center of the front of the frame. I used glue on the screw because it is going into the edge of the top, but do not get any glue on the clasp. Apply your favorite finish or leave bare.



• Wood, such as plywood, 1/2″ (1.3cm) thick: 24″ x 24″ (61cm x 61cm)

• Wood, such as lauan plywood, 1/8″ (3mm) thick: optional for bottom, cut the exact size, 12″ x 18″ (30.5cm x 45.7cm)

• Altoids® mints tin

• Hinges: 2 each 1 1/2″ (38mm)

• Clasp

• Wood glue

• Sandpaper


• Drill with bits: 1/8″ (3mm) dia. twist; 1 3/8″ (35mm) dia. Forstner bit

• Chisel

• Hammer

• Screwdriver

• Clamps

About the Author

Tom Noller started carving in 2009 after retiring as an engineer. He is the president and newsletter editor for the Lake Ray Hubbard Woodcarving Club located in Rowlett, Texas.


Get the Winter 2022 Issue

Purchase the Issue

For more articles like this, subscribe to Woodcarving Illustrated magazine.

Magazine Subscription
Plus! Get digital mini magazines in your e-mail between printed issues.

Comments are closed.