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Working out of a tool chest?

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Forum topic by Brett posted 501 days ago 2130 views 1 time favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Brett

620 posts in 1267 days


501 days ago

Has anyone here built (or bought) a large toolchest for hand tools (the kind that sits on the floor, and which has been popularized recently by Chris Schwarz)? Do you have experience working out of it? If so, what do you think of it?

-- More tools, fewer machines.


29 replies so far

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sikrap

985 posts in 1943 days


#1 posted 501 days ago

I have a large tool chest that sits on the floor. I bought it because its solid white oak and I thought it was gorgeous (still do). The problems I have found are: (a) its REALLY heavy and is a royal PITA to move, and (b) bending down to get tools is not good for my back. That said, I’m 60 so these issues may not be a problem for the younger folks.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

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Tim

1125 posts in 545 days


#2 posted 501 days ago

I bought one complete with many of the tools that I was looking for, but I don’t have any experience working out of it since I’m still cleaning the tools and getting a bench made. I haven’t even gotten to doing much for the chest yet. I’m not sure if I’ll work out of it or not once I get everything set up. Even if it’s compartments were set up the way I’d like them to be, I’m not sure if I would work out of it, but I’m going to try it. If you watch Chris’s videos, it appears that what Chris means by working out of his chest is taking out the tools he plans on using for the day or the project he’s working on and laying them out on the bench, not literally getting each tool out of the chest and putting it back after each use.

Dave, would a pedestal work to bring it to the right height for you? And nice tag line Brett.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1523 posts in 1059 days


#3 posted 501 days ago

I don’t have a wood tool chest, for on site work I use Pelican cases with partitions made out of plywood. The only thing I dislike about them is the constant bending to get and put away tools. A1Jim posted a thread on the best tool box, in it there one with legs, which is the one I will be making soon.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

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VillaggioWoodworks

7 posts in 500 days


#4 posted 500 days ago

I built an Anarchist Tool Chest out of plywood, hardboard, pine, oak and poplar from Home Depot last summer. It took me a weekend, and it’s the best thing I ever built! All of my important tools fit in the chest, and it’s easy to move everything from one place to another. (My car is a Honda Element, so once I get the chest off the ground, it just rolls right in.)

My main reason for building the chest was because we were moving across the country. I wanted a way to make sure my tools were protected for the move as well as having a way to work as soon as I got a bench set up in our new house. What I didn’t want to do was unpack tools in their new shop and have them laying out everywhere or waste time building shelves and racks for storage. This forced me to learn to work out of the chest.

Well, it turns out, you need at least one rack and a shelf to work out of the chest efficiently. I built one of these…also in a weekend:

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/ToolRack1.pdf

I could have gotten by with just the rack part, but my current bench doesn’t have a shelf so this combo is really a great all in one solution.

The tricks to working out of a chest are:

- Unload what you think you need for the day from the most bottom part of the chest first. This should be the bench planes and panel/hand saws you use the most. You won’t want to have to go back to get these over and over anyway, so just take them out at the start of the day and leave them out. When you’re done, wipe them down and put them away. This system makes it automatic to regularly wipe your tools down.

- The chest needs to be on wheels. Those extra few inches getting the chest off the floor will make all the difference in the world when you need to get to something at the very bottom.

- The height of the chest needs to be at a point where you can use one hand to support you while you are reaching to the bottom of the chest. Just bending over to get to the bottom of the chest is murder on the back, but using one hand to support yourself makes this something you could do all day without any discomfort…not that you’d have to, because you got all the stuff out of the bottom of the chest first thing!!

- Where things are located in the tills needs to be flexible. There are some items that have to go in specific places. (My egg beater drill won’t fit any place but my bottom till, however just about everything else can move around depending on what I’m doing at the time.) If I don’t plan to dovetail anytime soon, there is no reason for my dovetail markers to be in the top till.

- Learn to work with the till’s fanned out the way Schwarz shows in his video this way you can dump things back where they belong when you are done with them. (I’ve tried to do this, but I made my till’s 9” wide. They are supposed to be 8”, but there is a misprint in the book, so I have to slide things back and forth a little more than I’d like. My next chest will have this fixed!

- Get over the fact that tools will rub against each other. For marking gauges, marking knives, dividers, scrapers, etc, it just won’t matter. There won’t be any damage to the cutting edges from just sitting in the chest. (Chisels, rasps, etc are a different story…those should be in tool rolls!)

- The biggest tip I can give is NOT to build Chris’ chest. His is set up for how he works and the tools he owns. Build a chest for what you have and what you want to build. The best example of this I have is how the ATC deals with back saws. Chris just slips his dovetail and carcass saw between other saws. I made sleeves for mine so they hug the front wall of my chest. For me, this is perfect because I seem to put the saw back as soon as I’m done with them rather than have to wait until the panel saws are put back. For me, this works. Christ might hate it.

I hope this helps! I love my tool chest. Someday I’ll build a nice dovetailed chest so I can paint over the dovetails and never see them, but I’ll know they are there and that’s what’s really most important!

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canadianchips

1831 posts in 1581 days


#5 posted 500 days ago

Hi Brett. I use 2 storage cabinets. The lower portion is built similar to a mechanics tool chest. I have made “pigeon hole ” cubicles for my tools. I suggest layout the tools you want to be in this storage. Allow a little more space for each one, when you change the tool this space is still usable. My bottom portion is on 3” heavy duty castors. 2 doors in front, screw driver and drill bit compartments on inside of each door. The top of cabinet is another box, 3 drawers from front and 1 lid on top. (similar to an “Gerstner tool chest” the craftsman made years ago.) I am still using the top portion I made 35 years ago.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

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helluvawreck

15247 posts in 1451 days


#6 posted 500 days ago

I’ve worked out of this tool chest in my shop for a good long while and it works for me. However, it’s heavy with all of the tools in it. If you built a smaller version of it with less tools you might be able to use this type of chest.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

3747 posts in 964 days


#7 posted 500 days ago

Well, it turns out, you need at least one rack and a shelf to work out of the chest efficiently.

Do you put the shelf rack on the wall behind or next to your bench? It would be nice to have those built into your bench.

-- |Statistics show that 100% of people bitten by a snake were close to it.|

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helluvawreck

15247 posts in 1451 days


#8 posted 500 days ago

Rick, I also have about 46 drawers full of hand tools as well on two roll around carts and two roll around work benches. My portable power tools are stored on wall shelves or in roll around carts with shelves.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

14476 posts in 1151 days


#9 posted 500 days ago

I have one. I don’t care for it for tools I use all the time. When the top is shut, I wind up using it as a shelf, then I need something in it. I put wheels on it so I could roll it around, but if you work in a shop, on a bench, doing woodworking, why do you need to roll stuff around. I now use it for tools I only use occasionally.

If you move from place to place then a tool box or small chest makes sense. If you work from a single location, I don’t think it does.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

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VillaggioWoodworks

7 posts in 500 days


#10 posted 500 days ago

Rick,

In a perfect world, I would have that rack at the tail vice end of my bench right above my tool chest, but that’s isn’t an option. Right now, it’s behind me on the wall. That works ok, but it’s not as convenient as it would be if it were on the same wall as my bench.

Really, a perfect world would be not having that shelf/rack at all. A shelf at the bottom of my bench and a rack above the bench would be all I’d really need. However, my last bench had a shelf and I seemed to pile crap on it rather than keep a spot clear for my bench planes so I have a feeling I’ll always need some kind of shelf near by.

I also agree with Don, if you have a climate controlled shop and you never leave it, racks and shelves are probably worth a look. My last shop was an un-climate controlled garage in south Florida…3 miles from the beach…yes, it was a tough life! That shop was a rust magnet. Our HOA said our truck had to be parked in the garage at night. Many times that meant the truck had to come into the garage soaking wet. For me, a chest was the only option to prevent rust.

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VillaggioWoodworks

7 posts in 500 days


#11 posted 500 days ago

Oh…and one more thing…I never shut the lid when I’m working….if I did, I’d stack crap on top of the chest left and right!!! :-)

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

14476 posts in 1151 days


#12 posted 500 days ago

and if you don’t close it, it fills up with all kind of sawdust and crap. Pull a box next to your bench when your working and see how much crap goes in it. I am amazed there is anything on the floor. But do that with a garbage can, and its empty at the end of the day!!

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

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Rick M.

3747 posts in 964 days


#13 posted 500 days ago

I also have about 46 drawers full of hand tools

I would stop woodworking before dealing with that. I have 3 drawers in my shop and that’s 2 too many. One is a junk drawer for pens, pencils, notepads, manuals, small things I don’t want to lose and stuff I rarely use. The other 2 drawers hold tools but I don’t like them for that and will eventually rearrange. Sometimes drawers make sense but rarely in woodworking.

If you move from place to place then a tool box or small chest makes sense. If you work from a single location, I don’t think it does.

I plan on building one and trying it out. I’ve come to realize that I spend too much time walking back and forth between wall racks and a rolling cart, it doesn’t seem like much but really it adds up.

-- |Statistics show that 100% of people bitten by a snake were close to it.|

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

14476 posts in 1151 days


#14 posted 500 days ago

everybody works different. I wasn’t insinuating its wrong, just wrong for me.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View VillaggioWoodworks's profile

VillaggioWoodworks

7 posts in 500 days


#15 posted 500 days ago

You ain’t kiddin’, Don! I have a garbage can at the face vice end of my bench and I’ve had to train myself to brush the bench top off in THAT direction rather than over the sides or worse yet, right into my chest! After I filled the chest full of shavings a few times, I learned to pay a little more attention to what I’m doing!

For me, leaving the lid open all the time works fine. I don’t use any power tools except a lunchbox planner and every now and then a Festtool tracksaw. I also don’t have a tail vice so all my planing is done against stops at the face vice end of my bench. If I had a tail vice or I sawed against a flip up stop at the tail of the bench, I would be much more concerned about crap falling in the chest.

No matter what, there is always something that gets into the box, but it’s minor and I just vac the box out every now and then.

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