Chris Schwarz's Blog

11 Tools, 1 Cabinet and a Craving for Pork

I’m off to the airport in a few minutes to head to Metten, Germany, the headquarters of Dick GmbH. I’ll be teaching a class called “Classic Joinery” and we’ll be building a small Shaker cabinet using only hand joinery.

I’ve built a few of these cabinets and they are great fun. If you mess something up, replacement parts are always available in the scrap bin because the cabinet is so small (only 432mm high). The challenge of the cabinet is you really have to get the details right. On small projects, even small errors are noticeable.

The class itself is going to offer new challenges for me. This will be the first time I’ve had to work in the metric system, I can only bring a few tools with me, and I don’t speak a lick of German.

I only had room in my luggage for 11 hand tools and the little cabinet. I wanted to bring tools that I couldn’t work without, and I was surprised by my choices.

The first thing I put in my bag was my Tite-Mark gauge. Then my Starrett 6″ square, small dividers, my Lie-Nielsen 60-1/2 block plane, my small router plane, my Blue Spruce marking knife, my Bridge City shoulder plane, a mechanical pencil, and a couple chisels (1/4″ and 3/4″).

Then I chose one final tool. And I’ve forgotten what it was.

After packing things up, Megan and I continued to work on one of the benches for Woodworking in America, and it was a real pain without those 11 tools.

I’ll be back Sept. 20. I wouldn’t recommend robbing my house while I’m gone. My wife and her coterie of attack cats will mess you up.

– Christopher Schwarz

26 thoughts on “11 Tools, 1 Cabinet and a Craving for Pork

  1. Richard Dawson


    You are correct. However, staying up ’till ten is enough of a challenge, let alone dawn. Being a non-smoker, I heartily agree with the implied hazards, from the standpoint of both health and fire.

    Thanks for the thoughts, and for not mentioning "I’ve nothing to do."


  2. Vaclav Benedikt

    You should be playing it ’till dawn, to be correct 🙂
    Capitain Kangaroo should also do the trick, I suppose; smoking cigarettes in the shop, on the other hand, could turn out to be a really bad idea.
    And remember, Zed’s dead!

  3. Tom's Shed Plans

    "The challenge of the cabinet is you really have to get the details right. On small projects, even small errors are noticeable." Man, you couldn’t be more right with that statement! I’ve def found it is crucial to be as detailed as possible with hand joinery. Enjoy your trip!

  4. Richard Dawson


    Your new approach is valid, but this is Saturday night and what could be more fun than downloading zip files and opening them with SketchUp? Maybe playing Solitaire ’till one with a deck of 51.

    Now don’t tell me I ain’t got nothing to do.


  5. Richard Dawson


    I went to the web page I provided and clicked on the Shaker Hanging Cabinet zip file. When I attempted to open with SketchUp, I got a message to the effect it wasn’t a SketchUp file. Darn!

    So, I tried again, this time saving the file instead of trying to open it. I then went to the Downloads window (BTW, I am using Windows 7), right clicked on the file, and selected Open. A new window opened with a list of files in the Zip file. There was one — HangingShakerCabinet.skp. I double clicked on the file and SketchUp started.

    There was a message telling me that the file is read only, so I clicked on OK. As an act of defiance, I made a small box using the Rectangle and Push/Pull tools and saved the file with a new name. SketchUp (Version 8, if that matters) let me save the file.

    The problem you had was that initially SketchUp was trying to open a Zip file. I had the same problem until I realized what was happening.

    I hope the above helps. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s easy and there are a lot of eDrawings that have been converted or redrawn for SketchUp.

    Good luck, let me know if there are any problems. It’s Saturday night and this beats counting flowers on the wall (that don’t bother me at all). Now, don’t tell me I ain’t got nothing to do.


  6. Dean

    I think Richard may have intended to include a different web address. I went to the web page via the URL provided, scrolled down to the Shaker Hanging Cabinet, and found the same thing that Megan provided via her link. That is the EASM file. So, I downloaded the SolidWorks program (without the advanced feature switched on), installed it and was able to view the file.

  7. Richard Dawson

    Perhaps a more useful location for the Shaker cabinet, as well as other drawings from early Woodworking Magazine issues would be here:

    There are several other SketchUp drawings listed, so you will have to scroll down to the one you want.

    The reference that Megan gave is for the eDrawing version of the cabinet, which can’t be opened with SketchUp.

    I offer this little correction fully aware of the fact that I am contradicting the estimable Queen of the Workshop, and am willing to face the inevitable consequences, but that’s life.


  8. Megan


    I inherited those chisels from Chris, and I’m afraid I don’t know who made them. I’ll ask Chris when he returns.

    Richard, you have, of course, given a better suggestion for where to find the plan. I was in a hurry and didn’t think to check the (outdated) file type on my link. So thank you.

  9. Thomas J. Hamernik

    Regarding woring in metric – just pretend you are building a very large shaker cabinet, and that every mm = one inch.

  10. John

    Nice looking pictures of your work!
    You don’t need to worry about speaking German while you are over there as every German speaks English (or at least everyone I’ve ever met)

  11. Mark Maleski

    Jeff Jones – the cabinet pictured above looks just like one in Kerry Pierce’s book on Shaker furniture(the one on storage & shelving). Since that book is published by Popular Woodworking, that’s probably not a coincidence. IIRC there’s a plan in the book.


  12. Mike Siemsen

    I would think an imperial story stick and a metric one would be exactly the same. If you lay out using whole number ratios and dividers that also is the same.
    "Dick" means fat in German.
    Have a good trip. You already know how to say bier (beer).

  13. Megan

    Drive by,

    You are correct. Cutting as much of the joinery as possible using power tools before the top is glued up is far quicker than cutting/bashing out the waste with hand tools (unlike CS, I’m not a masochist…and my mortise chisel needs to be reground…and I’m comparatively lacking in hand-tool skills). The four beams that will make up the top, are 5" wide and the legs are 5"x5"; I plan to have the joints fit before Chris returns.

    Steve, the tilting floor explains why my dovetail cuts are always wacky.

  14. Steve

    Looking at that photo of Megan, I can understand how tilting the shop on its gimbal so that the cut is vertical makes it easier to keep the sides of the mortise aligned, but how does she manage to avoid sliding down to the low corner of the shop?

    Those horse stall mats must really be high-friction.

  15. Dean

    Well “Drive-by”, I’m guessing the tool Chris forgot is Chris’ other router plane. You know, the one with the power cord on it.

  16. Bob

    Have fun Chris! Was hoping I could attent the course but work dictates otherwise. Should you forget anything, I’m sure there is a decent woodworking store overthere in Metten…

  17. Drive-by

    I would guess its a bit easier to make that through tenon with the back side open, instead of waiting for it to be a part of a massive glued up top?

    Is the reason you can’t remember what the other tool is, is because its a new super secret widget that hasn’t been released to the public?

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