|Project by Greg In Maryland||posted 03-30-2012 11:30 PM||10796 views||40 times favorited||35 comments|
233 days ago, Mafe wrote this thought provoking review of the The Anarchist’s Tool Chest by Christopher Schwartz: http://lumberjocks.com/reviews/2291. The review and the ensuing “discussion” prompted me to go buy the book and actually read it. While overall I agree with Mafe’s review, I did enjoy the book and the concept Christopher Schwartz was trying to convey. This is not a review of Christopher Schwartz’s book, it is a comparison of the two concepts for tool storage: tool chests and tool walls.
Prior to the reading the book, I kept all my hand tools in their original box on a shelf somewhere in my shop or in one of several catchall plastic containers. Obviously, not a good solution.
When I purchased my home, I was given some woodworking tools (saws, vise, etc) and as luck would have it, this chest:
The chest is about 36 inches long, 18 inches wide and 12 inches deep on the inside. There are three tool trays that slide front to back on rails. I think it is made of pine and from what I can tell is painted black then battleship grey. There is some sort of finish in the inside, varnish, shellac, etc. Based on the age of the gentleman who sold it to me and the description, I believe it to be early 1900s. It is really in good shape all things considered, though the construction is completely counter to what Mr. Schwartz promotes: simple butt joints (with nails?), 45 degree miter joints.
so, I crack the chest open and in go the tools. The trays are just the right size for the smaller planes and miscellaneous tools and all the planes fit in the bottom just fine. Well sorta. The saws didn’t fit so well. I didn’t want to modify the chest at all, mostly out of laziness, so they just went in on top of the planes. Not ideal, but ok.
Everything fits in and the chest can be locked up to keep grubby little hands away from my tools. I am cruising along and all is well. Ok, well not quite. A few things popped up right away, which I believe unique to this particular tool chest:
• The handplanes had to be fit into the bottom laying on their sides, or the trays could not slide back and forth. Because of this, in order for me to get out say, the Stanley number 7, I first had to remove the number 4, 5, and 6. Not good.
• I have a menagerie of planes: Lee Valley/Veritas, Stanley and Lie-Nielsen planes. Obviously the condition and fit and finish of the Lee Valley/Veritas, and Lie-Nielsen planes is much better than the Stanleys. And I would like to keep it that way. As a result of all the gyrations I had to go though to get planes in and out, I was always very aware that inevitably there would be scratches, gouges and dings on the plane handles and the planes themselves.
• Even though I could fit everything in there, the Lee Valley Plough Plane and Router Plane continued to present a problem. they were just too big to fit into the chest and permit the trays to fully slide back and forth or the lid to safely close. I wasn’t about to risk a 25-30 pound lid to close on the Plough Plane.
The final issues I have with a tool chest is these, and ones I think that cannot be avoided:
• It is too easy to pile junk on top of it. No place to put the taper jig while you use the cross cut sled? Hey, put it on top of the chest. No place to put the circular saw, put it on top of the chest. you get the idea. I was constantly taking something of the top of the chest in order to get into it.
• I do not have the largest workshop and because of this, floor space is at a premium. the tool chest had to fit under something else in order for me to have it in the workshop. For me, it was the extension wing of the table saw. Pretty much perfect, except it needs to be constantly rolled out in order to even lift the lid (presuming that something isn’t on it in the first place).
So I quickly came to the conclusion that this tool chest wasn’t for me. ost of the problems that I encountered are probably unique to this chest and its design. If you look at the tool chest Christopher Schwartz promotes, it is much deeper and obviously one can tailor it to suit the tools you have and perhaps avoid the above issues. Or until you purchase or make a tool that does not fit, or put something on it or try and find a place to store it out of the way.
At the same time I ran across a “Hold-Everything Tool Rack” first published in the American Wooodworker in October/November 2008 (Issue 138) and thought it perfect. I especially like the clear visibility to all my tools and the flexibility it offers.
Here is my version:
The overall dimensions are 4×8 feet. The slats are 1×3, planed down to approximately 1/2 inch thick. The rails and stiles were cut and finished to 2×2. I first made the frame on the floor, connecting the rails and stiles via screws. Next, I added the individual slats, using a 3/4ths inch spacer to keep the space between the slats consistent. I started at the bottom and worked my way up to the top. I attached the entire frame to the concrete walls via a Ramset fastener. Fortunately, the rest of the family was out of the house when this occurred. I don’t think my wife would have appreciated the sound of gunshots and smell of powder, for some odd reason.
The next step was making the trays.
Using 1×6 pine ripped in half, I cut dados 1/2 inch wide by 7/16ths deep approximately by 7/16ths from the edge. Most of the trays have lipped edges that were created using 1/2×1 inch pine glued to three of the sides. It took me a week or so to make all the trays. There was a bit of adjusting using various hand planes to get the perfect fit.
Here is a close-up of one of the trays and how it is attached to the slats:
I really like being able to see all my tools and easily reach for them and put them away. Other than the Stanley Number 7 in the top left, I can reach everything without having to stand on anything greater than my toes.
My suggestion to anyone considering building a tool chest: plan, plan, plan. The tools you have and your method of working are going drive the design of the tool chest. Do it right, I think that a tool chest can be a good solution to tool storage. Do it wrong, you’ll have a lot of frustration.
Ps so sorry for the length. Brevity isn’t my strong suit :)