(W)racked with Indescision on Tool Storage

(W)racked with Indecision

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

My two panel saws have a snug home on the underside of the lid.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t like the idea of a saw till on the floor of my tool chest full across the front, walled off from the rest of the floor space (like what Christopher Schwarz installed in his “Anarchist’s Tool Chest“). Instead, I put my panel saws on the underside of my lid (with custom toggles to hold them in place) – then spent weeks fussing with where to put my backsaws.

Initially, I made a rack that hung off the front wall of the chest, but I want to be able to store four backsaws in the chest, so a rack large enough to accommodate that juts far into the air space and severely limits the travel of the three sliding tills.


One half of the failed hanging sawtill.

I know that if it’s inconvenient to access stuff in the two lower tills, I’ll get frustrated, and things will end up all over my shop (as they are now) instead of neatly stored. Plus, having a saw rack on one side of the (yet-to-be-bought-and-installed) lock would limit how long of a tool rack I could install for chisels, drivers and the like. (Not to mention the lack of symmetry would bug me.)

And besides, when I was installing that hanging rack, I dropped one of the two parts and a finger snapped off. Clearly, it wasn’t meant to be. (And that’s why there’s but one part of it shown in the picture; I tossed the broken one in a fit of pique.)


A sawtill on the floor didn’t thrill me.

Following that failed experiment, I thought about building a rack like the one at the back of my workbench – slots into which the saws could slip. But I couldn’t fit four saws on one side of the lock, and again, I’d be limiting the length of my tool rack. (And again, there’s be that pesky lack of symmetry.) So, I experimented with a sawtill that sits on the chest floor. Because my panel saws don’t have to fit, it could be smaller than what Chris shows in his book, and take up less space. But I didn’t like it. (Had I gone with this arrangement, I’d have installed a wall to protect the saws from the other tools on the chest floor.)


Finally – a decision (and execution).

So I finally decided to build saw slots all along the front (with room for the lock in the middle, as denoted by blue tape), and attach a tool rack to the front of the slots, all the way across. The symmetry pleases me.There are six saw slots, but adjustable squares fit nicely into the extra spaces, and I’ve 29 holes in the tool rack. The slot spacers are 5/8″ thick x 2″ wide, and the front wall of the slot rack is 3/8″ thick x 2″ wide. The tool rack is 7/8″ thick x 1-1/8″ wide). So, the entire assembly, which was glued together flush at the top before installation, juts into airspace only 1-7/8″, and holds a lot of tools.

To attach it to the chest wall, I drilled countersunk holes at either end through the entire assembly, and in the middle to either side of where the lock will go through just the wider sawtill/spacer assembly. Then I simply screwed the assembly to the chest.

Now on to the three sliding tills – about which there will be no indecisiveness; the runners are already installed, so there’s no room for second-guessing. And no time – I’m ready to be done…so that I can build storage for the tools that I keep in the PWM shop.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. In most cases in our blog posts, you can click on the pictures to make them larger, should you wish to see more details.

• Looking for storage ideas for your own home or shop? In addition to “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” check out “The 100 Best Shelving & Storage Projects” from Popular Woodworking Magazine and Woodworking Magazine, a CD chock-full of great projects in a variety of styles, sizes and skill levels.

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Showing 26 comments
  • miathet


    This is an excellent post. The mix of photos and discussion are really good. I really like the saws up front like that freeing up more floor space and being really easy to grab.


  • griffithpark

    Now for the dumb question: when you fasten the internal elements (saw till, drawer runners, etc.) are they glued or nailed in place?

    The box part of my chest has been done for 10 weeks. I need to get moving on the build-out.

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Not a dumb question at all. And the answer is, it varies. I believe Chris nailed the cleats for all his partitions/saw tills in place. I screwed mine in, because I want to live them for a while before I decide they’re “right” (and what’s right for me may well be diff than what’s right for you, or Chris). Once I decide I like my choices, I may go back and glue and nail them in…or not.

      The drawer runners are glued and screwed, though – I don’t expect they’ll move (but I used hide glue, so if I _have_ to remove them, I can).

  • John Switzer

    Very nice. It seems so natural it’s a wonder you don’t see it more often.

  • pmcgee

    Are you left-handed Megan? Shutting my eyes I would have had them on the right-hand side … or at least with the handles to the right.
    But for the sake of symmetry, maybe you need two on each side – handles in opposite directions 🙂

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Nope – but when it comes to woodworking (and writing), I’m kinda ambidextrous – I broke my right wrist 10 years ago and was in a cast for 6 months; that does wonders for developing one’s offhand skills (though I don’t recommend that approach).

      For that picture, I just dropped tools into slots; I don’t yet know where each item will be stored on a regular basis.

  • doctor jim

    JPlidI am new at this posting stuff, but wanted to hopefully share with you a photo of a TOY box 24x 24x 34 that I remodelled into a TOOL chest complete with 2 sliding tills, and a saw rack in the front below the chisel holders.I ended up sending them separatelly to Megan, maybe she can share them. I enjoyed turning the handles as demonstrated by Roy Underhill.

  • villaggiowoodworks

    This is the same idea I was thinking of, but your execution is much simpler and cleaner that what I would have done. You’ve also future proofed your chest since a wider joinery saw will still fit in the saw rack. I’m totally going to steal this idea. 🙂

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      But I didn’t future proof any new panel saw purchases…those will have to be custom.

  • AL

    Great post. I enjoyed the tool chest tool placement design analysis.


  • Bill

    I like the idea of having dedicated space for the combo squares. I also like the idea of the chisel rack in the chest. How do you and Chris deal with flash rust and the like? In all the photos the planes are always just out — is that just for the photographs and periods of heavy use? I’m assuming OH is at least as humid as the northeast.
    In my own chest I have all my planes in their own plane socks and all my chisels in rolls made of metal appropriate fabrics to keep them free from rust and also as added protection from banging around in travel though I dislike how much space all the tool rolls take up in the free spaces, but the engineer in me figures they also work like airbags in packing boxes. 🙂 I also include a small container with those little desiccant bags hoping they will absorb some moisture in the air in the box before my tools do.

    • Bill

      And regular oiling after use of course..

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      They do sit in the bottom of the chest when not in use (though if I were going to be working at my bench doing stock prep for an extended period, I’d pull them out). I guess I just use them enough (and wipe them down after every use) that I don’t really need to worry about rust. But I know Chris has plane socks, into which he slips his planes if the chest is going for a drive. But he uses his tools every day – so again, no need to worry about rust.

      I can’t speak for Chris, but in my case, tools that don’t get used as often (my fishtail chisel, for example) still get some attention. Every two weeks or so I pull them out wipe them down.

      • Bill

        Seems like we do the same things — no secret I was missing; my only complaint with the socks is that they can be a sawdust magnet when left on the bench — now I just leave them in the drawer where the tool normally lives when in use. The only other downside is sometimes I have to feel them to figure out which plane is which for block planes and the like but I’m generally not in such a hurry that a few extra seconds really hurts anything. When my chest is open my wife says it looks like a very expensive sock drawer with all the little green socks from Lee Valley and Lie Nielsen etc

      • woodworkjay

        how will you be sealing the interior to prevent the sap (from the knots visible in the photos) from getting onto the plane soles and other contents over time?

        • Megan Fitzpatrick
          Megan Fitzpatrick

          I’m not. The sap will dry (and before it does, it won’t hurt the tools, because I use them enough and wipe them down enough that it’s not a problem).

  • BLZeebub

    In the classic response of Wayne and Garth, “Excellennnnnnt!”


  • Sawduster

    OUTSTANDING! Your thought processes and trials, attempts and mock-ups really resulted it a fine solution. I understand that the chest will be transportable and will have its normal place adjacent to the work bench, but will it be equipped with a caster/roller platform to allow it to be easily moved once loaded with all your tools plus its tare weight?

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Thank you.

      I have furniture slides attached to the bottom to move it around in my shop as needed (though it will be mostly stationary). We found out the hard way that a full-sized ATC with casters doesn’t fit in my car. I helped Chris move his to his home shop when he was still on staff full time, before it had casters attached. No problem fitting it in my Outback. Then, he asked my help carrying it to our shop for a Lie-Nielsen show, and with the casters on it, it didn’t quite go in. That was a scary drive on the highway with the chest hanging out the back of my car, filled with thousands of dollars worth of tools.

      My chest won’t travel – it’s on my second floor, and I can’t really move it without tools in it. There’s no chance in Hades I can get it down my stairs by myself – or even with help once it’s fully loaded. I’ll be making a smaller chest for my travels.

      • Dave Ring

        I can heartily recommend those 4-wheel furniture dollies from Harbor Freight, usually on sale for way under twenty bucks. They work great and save a lot of wear and tear on the back, both when moving the chest and when pulling things off the floor of the chest. Oh, did I mention that they’re cheap, too?

  • Jonathan Szczepanski

    *stands up. slow claps.* Well done.

  • woodworkjay

    Excellent solution for the small saws and small up front tools!
    I have a question though regarding wood concerns from the images of the chest’s floor: I don’t recall a discussion on the woods that would be suitable for long term tool storage from a corrosive standpoint, only from a weight standpoint. Elsewhere I read of a concern for storing tools in an oak case; but so far it appears that both Chris and you have stuck with pines. Are you concerned with sap from the knots sticking to your planes’ soles (or getting on the other tools), or are you going to be sealing the chest’s interior in some manner? Would one of the perforated gripper-type of cabinet liners offer both a cushioned substrate as well as separation, or would it bring its own troubles?
    Thanks for your insights.

  • pmac

    VERY nice solution, Grasshopper.

  • muthrie

    I like that idea .. a lot! Hmmmmm .. now you’ve got me thinking.

  • jborgschulte

    That’s a very nice solution. Kinda like the same principle as the rack on the back of a bench. The tools that you use the most often should be the most accessible. Good work!

  • dyfhid

    Beautiful, just like the maker!

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