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As regular blog readers know, I have too many tools with no home – so I’ve been building an “Anarchist’s Tool Chest” – a traditional English chest – a la Christopher Schwarz’s book on the subject. And as regular readers know, I’ve been building it since…oh…since many months ago (I’m almost done – really! Just three tills to go…).

It turns out, if I’d just waited a few months, I could have watched Chris’ new video, “A Traditional Tool Chest in Two Days” and be done by now. (Or not; life would likely have still gotten in the way.)

Now don’t get me wrong – I like my dovetailed chest a lot, and I’m rather pleased to have finally built a major project just for myself; that is, one not destined for the magazine (we should all make time for ourselves). But if you want a chest that looks darn near the same (see above) but goes together a lot more quickly, I strongly recommend the simpler (and less expensive) approach that Chris details on the new DVD.

This “Two-day Chest” uses plywood and other home-center materials rather than 7/8″ thick stock – so right there is a lot of time saved in processing the stock. But the more significant difference in terms of start-to-finish time is that instead of many dovetails, this chest uses many screws. Plus, instead of a raised panel that fits into grooves in the rails and stiles of the lid, the panel is simply applied. (And, you don’t need as many tools to build it.) When you’re done, you’ll have a solid tool chest with the look, feel and strength of a traditional chest – along with the convenience of easy-to-find materials and the alacrity of mechanical joinery.

chris2Will this screwed-together version last as long as my dovetailed version? Well, I don’t rightly know – but I do know the screwed-together plywood cabinets in my kitchen have been there since the 1970s, and they’re (unfortunately) still in pretty good shape (I’m still looking for a good excuse to rip them out, though).

A Traditional Tool Chest in Two Days” begins with a discussion of why a tool chest is still a good tool-storage choice in modern times (after all, dust and rust haven’t changed over the years).

Then, Chris introduces the tools you need for this build: a benchtop table saw, a miter saw or circular saw, a drill (and bits), a hammer and nailset, a block plane (or sanding block), a chisel and mallet for inset hinges (or save more time and tools by using a piano hinge), a backsaw (if you want to dovetail the dust seal…but you don’t have to), wood glue, and a combination square. The materials are equally common and easy to find: plywood, softwood for the skirt and dust seal, screws, nails, putty or plugs (if you want to fill the screw holes), and butt hinges or a piano hinge.

Next, you get step-by-step instruction on the build: constructing the carcase, applying the bottom, making the skirts and lid, adding the dust seal and building quick sliding trays –plus a discussion of other ways to arrange tool storage to meet your needs (such as where to store your saws and chisels).

And then there’s paint – a traditional finish. (I can’t recall if he says it on the DVD, but I know he always prefers to paint his chests black. On that point, he’s incorrect – blue is by far the superior choice.)

The shoot for the video took three days – and that was with a lot of starting and stopping (I hope to soon have a blooper video to share with you…probably NSFW). So I know the chest can easily be built over two days.

u7264_500px_72dpi_1“A Traditional Tool Chest in Two Days” also includes a SketchUp model of the two-day tool chest. Bonus: Order from and you’ll also get a free video on which Chris discusses the tools he suggests to fill your new tool chest.

I need to build a tool chest for the shop at work…because I can’t take six months to finish it, for that, I think I’ll take this simpler and quicker route.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. If you missed any of the posts about my “Anarchist’s Tool Chest” build, you’ll find them listed below in the order that I like them (which is to say, the lifts, from Black Bear Forge, are far and away my favorite thing about the project…followed by my custom cat-shaped keepers for handsaw storage). Note: a till post with all my tools stored happily away should be coming soon…just as soon as I finish a build for the next issue.

A Cool Cat of a Blacksmith
Tool Chest Handsaw Storage
(W)racked with Indecision
Milk Paint Primer – No Cause for Panic
Use Dividers for Quick & Easy Dovetail Layout – No Measuring
Don’t Bring a Fretsaw to a Coping Saw Fight
Sometimes, One Marking Gauge Doesn’t Cut It





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Showing 13 comments
  • Sneed

    I am a little confused, not unusual, but the photo shows the traditional chest like Chris built in the ATC book, but the video segment for the DVD shows Chris with the Dutch chest highlighted in last months magazine. Which chest is he building in the DVD? Thanks.

  • Ed Furlong


    Re: the Kitchen cabinets from the seventies..

    Should you decide to replace them take the advice above and buy them. Building kitchen cabinets from scratch is straightforward, a great way to learn skills, acquire tools, and feel a real substantial sense of accomplishment….BUT, the time commitment, esp. while trying to work around the need for a useable kitchen, while juggling job, family, work, dogs, cats, paying for said tool purchases will make your current tool chest build look like it was completed in an instant–don’t ask how I know this!!


  • Tim

    I just received the shipping notice and am patiently (ok, almost patiently) awaiting its arrival. I have too many projects for this summer and can’t afford the time to go down the dovetail route, so this version of the ATC is just what I’m looking for. The two “Underhill” tool boxes I made (a good “I can do that” project I might add) filled much too quickly.

  • Bill

    “blue is by far the superior choice”
    I completely agree. 🙂


  • jmaichel

    I purchased the downloadable version of this project. I have been waiting for this release since it was announced in February! I really enjoyed it and this is by far my favorite F + W media product. Over 2 hours worth of quality content, can’t be that for $15. I would love the build the traditional chest but don’t have the time. It was funny watching Chris use power tools, screws and plywood. I wonder if he enjoyed make the chest and this video.

  • pmac

    “the screwed-together plywood cabinets in my kitchen have been there since the 1970s, and they’re (unfortunately) still in pretty good shape (I’m still looking for a good excuse to rip them out, though).”

    Good excuse: Buy new ones, then you’ll have to rip out the old ones. (because you’ll have too many cabinets..see how that works?)

  • 7-Thumbs

    When will the various PW authors just write an article that doesn’t include hawking some F+W Media product either in the article or at the end? Once in a while sure, but it seems of late every single article you publish online.

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