The editor of Popular Mechanics magazine once asked if Today’s Homeowner would be interested in writing about building a traditional-style carpenter’s toolbox.

    We said sure but suggested that rather than building it entirely out of wood, we’d use a more unusual, cooler-looking material.

    So we found a source for precut sheets of polished aluminum diamond plate. It quickly became our new favorite building material. The surface of the aluminum is embossed with a traditional diamond-plate pattern — the kind you might see on a bulldozer or dump truck — only it’s highly polished to a mirror-like sheen.

    We ordered a 24″ x 24″ piece of .080′′-thick diamond plate and then bought an inexpensive sheet metal brake so we could bend the aluminum. We made the ends of the toolbox out of red oak and used a brushed nickel pipe for the handle.

    To see the instructions for building it on the Popular Mechanics website, go to “How to Build a Tough Toolbox.”

    Why Use Aluminum Diamond Plate?

    Aluminum diamond plate offers several advantages over traditional wood or metal for building a toolbox:

    • It’s extremely durable yet lighter than steel, making the toolbox easier to carry. The diamond plate pattern also provides extra grip.
    • The polished, mirrored surface gives the toolbox a unique, eye-catching aesthetic unlike anything made of wood.
    • Aluminum resists corrosion and rust, so it will hold up better than steel when exposed to water and moisture.
    • Diamond plate aluminum sheets can be purchased precut to size, avoiding the need to cut your own sheet metal.
    • The material takes bends and folds easily with the right brake, enabling custom shaping.

    Acquiring the Materials

    The key tools and materials you’ll need to build your own aluminum diamond plate toolbox are an aluminum sheet, a sheet metal brake, wood boards for the ends, a handle pipe, and various fasteners and adhesives.

    To build your own aluminum diamond plate toolbox similar to ours, you’ll need to purchase:

    • One 24″ x 24″ sheet of 0.80″-thick polished aluminum diamond plate. This can be ordered from online suppliers.
    • A sheet metal brake for bending and folding the aluminum. We used an inexpensive brake, but higher-quality tools like those in our DIY tool guides will produce better results.
    • Red oak boards for constructing the toolbox ends. Poplar or pine would also work well.
    • A brushed nickel handle, pipe, and fittings to attach it.
    • Various screws, bolts, and adhesives for assembly. Stainless steel hardware is best for aluminum.
    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    Be sure to measure your sheet metal carefully and order the right size for your desired toolbox dimensions. Allow extra for folded sides and ends.

    Constructing the Toolbox Body

    With the prepared diamond plate sheet:

    Measure and mark the sheet for cutting to the exact size based on the toolbox width you want. Cutting metal requires caution — use proper protective gear.

    Use the sheet metal brake to fold the edges of the bottom panel upward to form the sides. Several test bends on scrap may be needed to set the brake properly.

    Cut the oak end panels to size and shape with a jigsaw. Sand and finish the wood before assembly.

    Cut the oak end panels to size and shape with a jigsaw. Sand and finish the wood before assembly.

    Drill pilot holes in the aluminum and fasten the end panels with stainless screws and construction adhesive.

    Fold the aluminum top panel downwards over the end panels and secure it with adhesive and screws.

    Attach corner braces or angle stock if you want some additional strength. The folded sides should make a rigid body.

    Adding the Handle

    The handle consists of a length of 1-1/4″ diameter brushed nickel pipe with end caps. To attach the handle, follow these steps:

    • Cut the pipe to the desired length with a pipe cutter. Deburr the cut edges.
    • Measure and drill screw holes in the end panels for mounting the pipe caps.
    • Fasten the end caps through the pre-drilled holes using stainless screws.
    • Apply adhesive inside the end caps and insert the pipe. Allow to cure fully before use.

    The handle gives the toolbox a clean, finished look and a sturdy grip point for carrying.

    Finishing Touches

    With basic construction complete, consider custom touches like:

    • Applying adhesive-backed foam weatherstripping to the lid underside to cushion contents.
    • Installing hasps on the front and back for padlocking shut.
    • Adding small rubber feet to prevent sliding and scratching of surfaces.
    • Using spray adhesive and outdoor carpet to line the bottom.
    • Installing dividers and trays inside to organize tools, hardware, and other items

    Get creative with hooks, magnets, labels, and other accessories to customize your aluminum DIY tool storage.

    So, Is Building Your Own Aluminum Toolbox Worth It?

    Constructing a toolbox from aluminum diamond plates is an ambitious but rewarding project. While buying a premade toolbox is easier and cheaper, building your own allows you to create a heavy-duty, one-of-a-kind organizer perfect for your needs.

    The process requires careful planning, precision metalworking, and solid woodworking skills. But the end result is a conversation piece that will outlast any hardware store toolbox. Just be prepared to invest significant time and effort.

    If you love working with metal and wood, have the right DIY tools, and want a custom toolbox that looks great while holding everything securely, then making your own is absolutely worth it. Follow safe practices and get assistance bending the aluminum if required.

    FAQs About Building an Aluminum Toolbox

    What tools do I need for this project?

    At a minimum, you’ll need a jigsaw, drill, sheet metal brake, tape measure, carpenter’s square, clamps, protective gear, sanders, wrenches, and a pipe cutter.

    What size aluminum diamond plate should I buy?

    Calculate your desired interior dimensions and add about 3″ on each side to allow for folding the sides and ends. A 24″x24″ sheet of 0.80″ thickness should be enough for a medium-sized toolbox. Go bigger if you need more capacity.

    What's the best way to cut the aluminum cleanly?

    A jigsaw with a fine-tooth metal blade is easiest. Take it slow and steady. You can also use tin snips or score the line with a utility knife and snap it over a straight edge. File down any rough edges afterwards.

    Can I make my own sheet metal brake tool?

    It’s challenging but possible to use wood or steel. However, investing in a basic brake will produce far better results than an improvised one.

    How do I make a strong, watertight toolbox?

    Use adhesive sealant when assembling, caulk all interior seams, follow careful bending and folding, and securely fasten the handle and hardware. Adding weatherstripping to the lid also helps keep contents dry.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Jonathon Jachura

    Jonathon Jachura


    Jonathon Jachura is a two-time homeowner with hands-on experience with HVAC, gutters, plumbing, lawn care, pest control, and other aspects of owning a home. He is passionate about home maintenance and finding the best services. His main goal is to educate others with crisp, concise descriptions that any homeowner can use. Jon uses his strong technical background to create engaging, easy-to-read, and informative guides. He does most of his home and lawn projects himself but hires professional companies for the “big things.” He knows what goes into finding the best service providers and contractors. Jon studied mechanical engineering at Purdue University in Indiana and worked in the HVAC industry for 12 years. Between his various home improvement projects, he enjoys the outdoors, a good cup of coffee, and spending time with his family.

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    Lee Ann Merrill

    Chicago-based Lee Ann Merrill has decades of experience writing and editing across a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. Her love of DIY, gardening, and making led her to the realm of creating and honing quality content for homeowners. When she's not working on her craft, you can find her exploring her city by bike and plotting international adventures.

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