I examined lots of tool chests when researching “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” and found that their designs fell into two broad categories:
1. The plain and simple pine boxes with trays.
2. The pre-industrial monster truck chest with scantily clad tarts, parquetry, secret compartments and a bottle opener.
You don’t see a lot of chests that tread the middle ground between Country Mouse and Louis XIV Mouse. So I was quite pleased to get these photos from reader Matthew Sullenbrand. He took the basic design from “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” and added some furniture-like woods and details that make the chest something I would build and something I actually could build.
“I broke every one of your rules, at least a little bit, but it would not be anarchical if I did not go against the grain,” Matthew wrote. “It all started with some walnut scraps that I was given, including an 18″-wide plank that became the panel for the lid. Slippery slope from there. But, I do think that much of the bling I added will be quite functional.”
What Matthew means by “bling” includes the lid to the top tray that is attached to the carcase of the chest and not the till itself. I’ve seen many chests that sport a lid attached to the top sliding tray, but I don’t think I’ve seen one that was attached to the carcase. Its primary advantage is that it will protect the tools when the top tray is slid all the way back. The secondary advantage, as I see it, is that the open lid will not interfere with the woodworker’s ability to snatch a tool from the sliding trays or drawers.
I’ll be interested to see how he likes it in the long term.
One of the other modifications Matthew made was to incorporate three drawers into the middle till. I dislike drawers for tool storage because they conceal their contents and end up creating several strata of tools in each drawers. This dislike is based in my own failings as a user of drawers.
“I know, drawers can be a bad idea,” Matthew writes. “But, only three, and one is dedicated for carving tools, one for chisels, and one for small things like nailsets and the like that can tend to get lost. Plus, when I want to carve, I just take out the carving drawer and set it on the bench. We will see.”
Tool chests have a lot of lessons to teach us, both about tool selection and tool storage. They also are good way to learn dovetailing without having to pull your pants down for a customer.
“It was a ton of fun to build and I learned an immense amount,” Matthew wrote. “By the end, I was dovetailing the drawers without marking the slopes, and they were the best fitting dovetails I have made to date.”
— Christopher Schwarz