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toolchestDVDWhen I first mentioned the topic of my latest DVD, my e-mail inbox filled up with messages such as: “This project is beneath you. Beneath all of us. You traitor.”

And that’s the G-rated version.

The DVD, “A Traditional Tool Chest in Two Days,” takes a home-center approach to building an 18th-century-style tool chest with plywood, screws, nails and low-rent power tools. It’s a fast way to build a chest that does everything a dovetailed chest will do, but without the 40 to 80 hours required to get to the finish line.

Why the uproar?

My 2011 book, “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” advocated building a tool chest with zero joinery compromises. Solid wood. Dovetail it into the dirt. Through-tenons. Beaded tongue-and-groove. And etc. That’s the approach I’ve taken with all my tool chests for me, my friends and customers.

So I can understand the consternation when I built a chest using none of the principles discussed in my book. Did I have a cheap plywood religions conversion? Did Georgia-Pacific offer to send my kids to private school? Do I need a third kidney plus a second liver?

The real story is actually much more mundane.

F+W Media approached me about building a tool chest for a DVD, and after discussing the traditional joinery approach, we realized it would be an extremely long DVD and would simply repeat what I wrote in the book. I hate to repeat myself.

So I noodled the idea for a couple days and came up with the idea for “A Traditional Tool Chest in Two Days.” Not everyone can spend every waking hour in the shop to make a tool chest with 104 dovetails plus the craziness of fitting the skirts around the carcase. Some of us (not me) have real lives. Families. Jobs. Friends.

“A Traditional Tool Chest in Two Days” represents the best way to get the best tool chest in the shortest amount of time. It might not be the H.O. Studley tool chest, but it will probably outlive you. And if you decide to build an old-school dovetailed chest someday, this quickie version will be a great blanket chest at the foot of your bed.

The chest shown in the DVD is built solidly with home center materials only (including the hardware) and tools that are readily available – a benchtop table saw, a miter saw and a drill/driver. It’s a great first project and looks every bit as cool as an old-school chest.

“A Traditional Tool Chest in Two Days” is now available at You can order yours here for $24.99 for the DVD. Or download it for $14.99 here.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 33 comments
  • Bapakleo

    Chris there?

    I just finished your book. Where can I find plans for campaign furniture?

  • JJohnston


    At 1:20:24 in the video (this is where you’re marking the hinge locations on the lid) and again at 1:46:20 (when you stand the lid up on its rear edge to put on the glue for the dust seal) you can clearly see a strip of poplar about 3/8″ thick along the rear edge of the lid. There’s no mention of it in the video. Is this “something”, or is it a repair for a miscut?

    Also, with the dust seal in place, how can you tell whether or not the lid is resting fully down on the edges of the case (should it be?) I.e, if the dust seal pieces are too wide, and they’re holding the lid up off the edges.

  • rpmorell

    The DVD (Chapter 2 – The Materials) says we need 3d and 10d finish nails; however, the Cutting List & Materials.doc file on the disk lists the following: “Box of 6d finish nails, a handful of 4d finish nails”. So which is it?

  • Albert Rasch

    And I was contemplating a plywood carcase for my first campaign chests!

    And people wonder why I carry a 1911 on the hip…


  • pilotanthony

    I’ve read just about all of the replies to Mr. Schwarz ‘ blog on The Traditional Tool Chest Video. Some are too critical some I am sure need rethinking. I am not a professional nor novice woodworker. I consider myself “still learning ” the craft of woodworking. Mr. Schwarz has a way of demonstrating a process which is as entertaining as it is informative. Sort of like ‘dinner and a show’ . I’ve seen him on episodes of the Woodwright’s Shop and more recently on his video Super-Tune a Handplane. The video has been replayed a dozen times for both it’s great demonstration/illustration and it’s carefully worded dialogue; which is at times funny. If this much talked about video is anything like Christophers’ other appearances—it becomes a worthwhile entertainment purchase. I like to learn & if Mr. Schwarz entertains while doing so then I feel it helps me as a person, a woodworker and the woodworking community at the same time.

  • russkay42

    On the basis of experience with Chris Schwarz’s teaching (observed at Woodworking in America I, I opted to buy the tool chest DVD, as it seemed just what I wanted. I have just finished watching the entire DVD and find that it DOES NOT meet my needs at all. Yes the explanations are good, and I like the quick construction. But when I watched the preview, chapter 12, it was clear to me that I wanted to build the Dutch tool chest — that one clearly met my needs better than the traditional. Now that I’ve watched the DVD, it’s clear that while there’s all the information you need to build the chest, there are no plans, dimensions, or other helps to build the Dutch model — and that’s the one I thought I was spending $25 to get! I’m very disappointed. That was, after all, the major thrust of Chapter 12, which you folks at F&W dangled in front of us as a “preview.” If I wanted to design a Dutch chest and work out all the dimensions, I’d do so — but I wanted to buy the information as the “Master” has already done the heavy lifting. Grrrrrr.

    — Russell Kay

  • bsrlee

    What Bill T said. They are Ingoranuses too.

    If I had posted a comment to the original announcement, it would have been more in the line of ‘Get you #$&^ lazy butt in front of the cameras and give me the video asap’.

    I have started several ‘make a tool box’ type projects over the last decade and a half, and their various ruins still litter the landscape of my shed. None of them have tools in them. I had aspirations of building an Anarchist’s Tool Chest but I found various obstacles, like needing a decent bench (I have the books, the hardware and half the timber), the need to travel to the other side of the city to find timber other than Crappiata or MDF, and finding the right tools all at the same time. Which comes first – the chest or the bench?

    I am looking forwards to the arrival of the DVD (and Roy Vol 12) in the mail, and for me it looks like being the (quick) chest first, then bench, then the dovetailed chest when I don’t spend half the work day trying to find tools and get organised. Oh, and maybe a bigger shed too.

  • svendsen

    I just took the download-route and finished watching it – and I’m quite happy – have to admit that thought after about 15 min. was – how would Ana White look with a beard and longer arms, but as it progressed it made more sense to me, building a chest for storage whereafter you could actually build furniture in the time you saved not making 1000 dovetails, but something in aspires to try the 1000 dovetails – just seeing it as skillbuilding would probably help me – but I can’t stop thinking about the things I could create, when I have somewhere to store my tools other than my closet and my workbench… I should probably just choose:-)

    Thanks for 2 some hours of good entertainment.


    Ps. In regards to the bonus video (which tools for the chest) why wasn’t the chest (or even the chest-type) we just saw you build in over 2 hours used in this video?

  • pskvorc

    Just this year I let lapse my subscription to “Fine Woodworking”. I was a charter subscriber. If I remember correctly, FWW started in 1972. I have all of the issues. I stuck with them through “thick and thin” over the years partly because I am not inclined to “quit”, anything, and partly because they were among the first of the “good” woodworking magazines. However, for about the past 10 years, I have felt no ‘connection’ to the publishers or readers of FWW. As a whole, they are an effete bunch of snobs.

    This tendency to snobbery seems to be a fundamental flaw of humans. As soon as they form a “group”, especially of like-skilled people, the first step is the formation of the priesthood of “experts”. Following close behind is the army of snobby sycophants. Based on decades of observation of such groups from firearms enthusiasts to woodworkers, I am sadly convinced that it is an inescapable “progression”. I have seen no exceptions. Unfortunately, this de-evolution is in full swing here at PW. It hasn’t yet reached it’s zenith, (an oxymoron since this behavior is hardly “elevated”), but it is certainly flourishing. All of the howls of protest regarding this project is unambiguous proof.

    I am inclined to make this chest just to metaphorically spit in the face of the tiny-minded snobs.

    Cranky old Paul

  • BillT

    Chris: illegitimi non carborundum. That is the politest way I can say what I would really like to say about the jerks who, for some incomprehensible (to me) reason, feel the need to berate you anonymously, long distance.

  • Toby S

    Will this title be available as a download?

  • 1966stang

    I feel much better. I am planning on a middle of the road approach, real wood, some hand work, but a Keller dovetail jig will cut the through dovetails. Thanks, Chris, for all your fine work…you keep me motivated to head to the shop at the end of a long day!

  • JackRich

    What a hoot! Subversive joinery.

  • ondablade

    I hope you haven’t been getting abusive stuff Chris.

    Each to his/her own. There’s a time it’ll feel right to choose the shortest line between two points, and a time to enjoy the scenery – but there’s nothing that says that one route is inherently superior to the other…

  • David Randall

    The fun of woodwork – is working with wood. You can enjoy building a Louis 15th style desk over seven years, and enjoy building the base for a bed from 2 by lumber with commercial hardware in a day, and everything in between. I’m ordering my copy of this DVD today.

  • Jstafford

    I built plywood version of Chris’ wall cabinet just to get me going and clear off my bench. I’m not against designing to fit your own needs. Sometimes though you need something to focus what those needs are, and a test run project fits that bill.

    Maybe the next DVD will be. “Have half a day? Go Dutch (Toolbox)”

  • Tim

    DVD is in my grubby hands and will be watched as soon as I finish typing this. I think some woodworkers lose sight of what’s important. It’s not so much whether we’re burning electrons or calories, it’s that we’re building our own stuff. Enough typing, there’s a DVD to be watched. Thanks for doing this video, Mr. Schwarz!

  • ffhyatt

    I built my prototype out of plywood so I could experiment with dimensions & tool placement. Several coats of marine grade varnish later, the finished product now resides in the back of my truck & holds all my daily-use carpentry tools. I always get compliments from colleagues & clients alike on it’s beauty & intricacy. Because it’s just plywood, I don’t mind when a compressor or drywall puts a ding in the side in fact, the plywood probably holds up best. The puritans need to take a pill & realize there are multiple worlds beyond theirs.

  • AHArndts

    I guess I am just going to have to get the DVD. Far as I have seen via You Tube, initially I thought it was for the Dutch Traveling tool box.
    Regardless I would have to say that what is on this DVD, would cost a helluva lot more in one of the clinics to put one together.

  • pmac

    You still planning on the worbench video you mentioned a while back? (or has the thought of more hate mail put you off?)

  • Jason

    While I’d love to build the chest as outlined in ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’, I currently lack the budget and skills for such a project. I also don’t know if I’ll even enjoy working out of a tool chest. This version gives me a wonderful solution to both problems – I can afford to build it and it gives me a chance to try working out of a tool chest. I’ve even got the hardware soaking in a citric acid bath right now. If I find I like the chest approach I’ll definitely tackle one with traditional joinery and methods at some point.

    If this project is beneath anyone then those people have their noses in the air. We all have different budgets, different skill sets, different amounts of time and on and on and on. If this project isn’t to your taste don’t build it.

    You make woodworking approachable, personable and more fun. Keep up the good work Chris.

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