Chris Schwarz's Blog

The Tools in the Second Till of my Tool Chest

The second till of my tool chest sits right below the top till and is almost exactly the same size. My trips to this till are infrequent. This till holds the small items I don’t use every day, including the spare bits and blades, a few specialty chisels and a bunch of tools for dealing with nails and screws.

There are also a few specialty layout tools here that I simply don’t have room for in the top till.

I don’t mean to sound dismissive of the tools in this till, many of them are “magic bullets” that have saved my butt many times. Let’s start with the spares.

The Backup Stuff
I am paranoid about running out of essential items. My father was the same way. He dealt with this by hoarding tuna fish, Tostitos and toilet paper. I hoard bits and blades.

I keep about 100 spare blades for my coping saw and fretsaw. These are all made by Pegas, which makes the best dang blades I’ve ever used. I use the 18 tpi skip-tooth coping saw blades and the No. 7 skip-tooth blades for fretsaws. They are incredibly cheap and are the best. Why not buy a lifetime supply?

I keep at least a half-dozen blades for my beloved Tite-Mark cutting gauges. These can shatter when dropped (or when casually looked upon by students). This gauge is the foundation of my marking system.

Speaking of insanity, I also keep a lifetime supply of pencil leads for my lead holder and all my mechanical pencils. Plus extra erasers. These are stored in little tins (neatly labeled) to keep them from wandering all over the till.

I also keep my cork sanding block here, a flexible plastic protractor and my Starrett compasses. And an extra Tite-Mark. I have four but I wish I had four more.

Next all this stuff is my Starrett 819 centerpunch. If you install lots of hardware (I do, thanks to campaign furniture), this tool is a lifesaver. Under all this stuff is a plastic box with drill bits I use for installing hardware.

The Middle Section
Here I keep my 5/16” mortise chisel from Ray Iles. They are the best. Why is mine covered in friction tape and wire? The beech handle had some grain runout. It split, and I haven’t had time to replace it.

You’ll also see my file card for cleaning rasps and files. And my Skraper from Benchcrafted. It’s a carbide scraper that is ideal for removing dried glue and even scraping rust from cast iron surfaces.

There’s my small Elemen’tary screwdriver (the large one is in my tool rack). Why are these not in everyone’s chest? They are incredible, especially the large one. Here I also have a tin filled with the hex inserts for the screwdrivers in all configurations. Mostly I use slotted screws so I bought ground gunsmith hex inserts. You can find these at sporting goods websites.

There’s also a swan neck chisel from Henry Taylor that I use infrequently and (for now) one of those spring-loaded corner chisels for cleaning out routed corners. I used it a lot when making some doors for the shop. But it now sits idle. Ah, and there is one of my Blue Spruce Toolworks drawbore pins (where is the other one hiding?). They are things of utility and beauty.

Tools for Nails
You need more than a hammer to drive nails. You also need nippers for removing nails that have gone astray. You need nail punches (sometimes called “nail sets”) for sinking nail heads or all sizes. Plus a variety of cheap punches that you can file and grind to specialty shapes for one-off operations.

I also have an odd cast-iron tool handle that converts any object into a tool with a clever clamping system. It turns a nail into an awl. A drill bit becomes a gimlet. I put wire in it and file it to make odd marking knives.

I also have an odd pair of Japanese scissors (I own about 10 pairs of these) that has migrated to this end of the tool chest.

Next up, the third till – the biggest of them all.

— Christopher Schwarz

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