In Shop Blog

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Drawings of early shops can
teach us and mislead us about pre-Industrial woodworking. But I don’t
want to get into a debate about how artists interpret or misinterpret a
scene. Please. Pretty please?

Instead, feast your eyes, peasants,
on that cool shelf and chisel rack behind the fine waistcoated
gentlemen in the foreground. That is the answer to the blank wall in my
shop at home. During my lunch hour (hour?) on Tuesday I dragged the
above engraving of a shop in the suburb of Saint-Antoine from the book
Les Rabots” into SketchUp and drew and drew until I got something I liked.

It’s not exactly like the rack in the engraving, but it
will do nicely. The shelf on top is 10″ deep and the rack itself is
about 24″ high. I designed it so I could build it out of dimensional
stock – probably poplar – that I can paint.

Then I just have to ask Thomas Lie-Nielsen if I can borrow one of his old vests and I’ll be all set to go full-on French.

— Christopher Schwarz

More Shop Stuff
• Taunton’s “The Workshop Classics”
by Scott Landis and Jim Tolpin contain three of the best books on
workbenches, shops and toolboxes in a nice slipcovered case. Every
woodworker should own this set. (I think I have two.)

• I’ve written two book on workbenches. The 2007 “Workbenches” book has been one of our best-selling titles for three years and is in its third printing. It’s companion volume, “The Workbench Design Book” just came out in September.

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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Showing 19 comments
  • What do you think that handled box is,over by the window left of the wine bottle.

  • Dave S

    Chris –

    Don’t those benches look a bit higher than most…right around waist height.


  • Hey Chris, isn’t this chisel rack a little over the top?

    Its massive.

    Seriously, those little carbide replacement tips for those M-Plane chisels your using couldn’t weigh very much and they certainly will be lost in a rack this size.

    Sheesh. Talk about overkill.

  • PAUL

    The chisel rack is great. I have something similar,
    however most all my chisels are sockets the rack is drilled and slotted, preventing tipping, (the slots could be turned to the rear)spacing is uniform allowing adding or rearranging them. french cleats are absolutely necassary.

  • Eric

    That poor guy in the back, no coffee break apparently, knee deep in shavings!

  • Gene

    Oops – I missed the earlier post, where Chris had already commented on the board-jack….

  • Justin Derx

    It might be nice to angle the bottom tool rack out to make it easier to pull the tools out.

  • Ryan M

    I have the same question as Wesley (stabbing theback board)

  • David Gendron

    If you want to solve the problem of having the chisels to stay in place when one or more tools are removed from the rack, you could, on the front peice, hollow some shalows, so the chisels wont be able to tip side to side!
    Just a thought!

  • MikeZ

    All I want to know is if Megan will be wearing her Green Fairy outfit at WIA 2011?


  • Tony

    +1 on ensuring adequate space to put chisels in.

    French cleat? all that bronze is heavy…

  • John Griffin-Wiesner

    I hold my chisels between two boards on the wall, similar to what’s shown in this plate. (Mine is much less charming though. Maybe if I get a vest.) And it annoys me when the chisels tip over when I remove a couple. I was thinking about how that could be remedied, maybe by tipping the narrow front board off vertical. Or how about lining the space between the two boards with leather?

  • David Cosby

    Don’t encourage him with the full on French thing. I envision a video of "Le Noir", as he will insist on being called, dressed in a smock and beret, chain smoking Gauloises as Megan, resplendent in her Green Fairy outfit, prepares his afternoon glass of absinthe.

    Zut alors!

  • tms

    Hey Chris,

    If you really want to go full on French, perhaps you should consider hanging your new shelf from a french cleat system. I have french cleats at four elevations around the perimeter of my shop, and they are very useful.


  • Gene

    Interesting (and simple) alternative to a deadman on the front bench…

  • Sean

    It’s a very nice shelf/rack, but I highly value the dust protection offered by a drawer or cabinet. This was less of a problem before I added a lathe to my shop. Now, not just preferable, but absolutely necessary.

  • Lloyd Parker

    Is that some kind of relief carving between the tops of the chisel handles and the plane shelf?


  • Wesley

    Nice idea. Will you have enough space over the chisel handles to comfortably return the tool without stabbing the backboard or knocking your knuckles on the shelf? You might want to try turning the unit upside-down.

  • Chris

    Looks good, Chris. How about some Shaker pegs along the front of the chisel rack, perhaps? Also, is that a cleat directly under the shelf in the original, with hooks or pegs on it? Hard to tell from the image.

    Love to see the Sketchup drawing, when you’re done.


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