Now that the sides, ends and bottom are cut I stain them, on the insides only, before putting the box of the tote together. It's much easier to stain before glueing because trying to reach your hand inside a box and stain it is very difficult.
With pine, I use flecto Varathane's Gel Stain. It does not require any undercoating and always give me a streak-proof finish. Not all stains work well on pine but I have had great success with this. I rub it on with a piece of old t-shirt material.
The stain is left on for a few minutes (it can look smeared and uneven as below) and then the excess is rubbed off, moving in the direction of the grain.
I put a coat of stain and three coats of polyurethane on all the sides, ends and bottom pieces.
What I should have done is taped off the inside of the end pieces where they will be glued to the sides so as not to stain nor put polyurethane on them. Instead I had to sand off the stain and clear coat where the glue will go as you can see below.
The pieces are glued and clamped and after drying I remove the clamps and put two finishing nails in each joint.
Because there is a continuous groove made on the tablesaw for the plywood to fit in, the groove runs out the side and can be seen as a small open square of wood. I make a small square dowel that will fit the opening exactly and put it in with a dab of glue.
When the glue dries I cut the dowel with a flush cutting knife.
The boxes are sanded on the outside and measured on the inside for the exact width of the handle that fits inside. The handle was not cut until this point in order to have a perfect fit.
I make a cardboard template (from the back of a cereal box) to get the correct sizes. The width is the width inside the box as stated above, the spot at where the handle begins to angle upwards is the height of the inside of the box. I felt I needed about a 3" wide handle opening and marked that on the template in order to figure out a proper slope on the handle to the top. The total height of the handle piece had to allow someone to hold the tote without their hand hitting a ketchup bottle that is placed inside it.
..to be continued...