Making a tool chest that works (The Tool Chest Part 2)

Yesterday, I made up my plan on just how to proceed with my tool chest project. While the Dutch tool chest is still enticing, even today, I just don’t think I’d have much room to grow with that chest. I’d eventually have to build another, and I’m just not sure that’s a great idea.

So I plan on building something that looks like Christopher Schwarz’s Anarchist tool chest, a classic tool chest that would look at home in the 1800s.

But that’s where the intentional similarities will end.

This chest has to work for me and fit not just my needs, but my sense of aesthetics inside and out. So let’s see what that needs to be, shall we?

First, it needs to hold all my hand tools. I have no problems keeping the monstrosity around to hold things like routers and circular saws, but all my hand tools need to fit in this chest right now.

Further, it has to have space for my tool collection to grow, but only to a point. As it is, I have three smoothing planes and two jack planes. I have more than I need of a couple of tools, which can be moved inside if need be. However, that’s not exactly plan “A”. I don’t want to have to do that, I just want it to have that as an option. I don’t want my tool chest to look empty.

Chisel Rack?

I like being able to just look and grab whatever chisel I need. While I suspect I can probably plan a bit and avoid this need, I also see people needing chisels in the middle of their work for various things that may not have been planned.  As such, I prefer to have ready access to my chisel collection.

But does that mean a hanging rack, or should I simply dedicate a top till to chisels?

Honestly, either could work just fine for me from where I stand right now. The question is how to make it fit not just with how I work–especially since I don’t really know how I just at the moment–but also with how the tool chest should work.

I’m really inclined toward having a chisel rack, though. Especially since I can also dispense with a…

Saw Till

I don’t really care for the idea of saw tills. They just look really cramped. Plus, as you put your tools in them, the teeth may well rub against the sides of the slot that’s already been cut by that saw. I can’t help but believe it’ll dull them.

But if I have a three-foot long or so chest with a decent depth, I should be able to hang all of my backsaws in the tool rack along with my chisels, perhaps a couple of screwdrivers, and maybe some marking tools. This is especially true if I build it to the floor chest dimensions similar to the Anarchist’s tool chest, as described in this article. (For the record, I could probably get away with the traveling chest, but I wouldn’t really have room to grow, and the tallboy is intriguing, but that’s not a chest for where I’m at right now.)

By hanging the tools, that frees up more of the tool chest floor space for other stuff like planes or whatever else I feel the need to keep in there.

Now, here’s one important thing, though. I don’t need a 40″ long chest.

While I have two saws, they’re both panel saws. Their total length is about 26″. I don’t need a 40″ chest to store them, even if I use a till. I’ve thought about mounting them to the lid, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to upgrade the lid at some point since I know I can’t build the lid as Schwarz outlines.

However, even if those two saws are in the till and maybe space for a fine crosscut saw, it’ll still leave a fair bit of room on the chest floor.


I’m going to have to have a couple of tills. Even with chisels hanging up along with some of the marking tools, not all of them will fit in a tool rack. My marking gauge, for example, is a bit too wide for what kind of rack I’m envisioning. Neither will my sliding bevel much less my protractor. Those will need to go into something.

What I’m leaning toward building are, at first, a couple of butt-joint-and-nail tills that will hold what they hold. This will let me put all that stuff in it that won’t fit elsewhere.

They’ll also be open-topped like the Anarchist’s Tool Chest describes. I like the idea of just sliding them over and seeing everything with a glance.

The problem is making sure I have enough tills.

The thing is, because of the design I’m picturing in my mind, I can get away with adding a bit of width to the chest.

After all, you need to be able to reach the back panel of the chest, but if part of that chest is an inch or so that I won’t actually need to reach if I put it on that back panel. That means I can probably build the three tills, slid them as needed, and still access both my chisels and saws.

That might just be a plan.

Difficulties To Be Dealt With

One of the problems will be figuring out what to do with my bit brace. It’s a Stanley No. 919 with a 10″ sweep. It’s a big damn brace, and it’s got to go in there somewhere.

Schwarz apparently had his brace in one of this tills, but for mine to fit, the till will have to be big. I might be able to fit the brace in a fairly deep till, such as the one Schwarz has at the bottom of his stack of tills, but then again, I might not. (I probably will, though.)

That means I need to figure out a plan “B” on this. With a much reduced saw till there may be a way to put this at the bottom of the chest, but I’m not thrilled with that. I need to get out there and measure the footprint of the brace to see.

Another difficulty is just where my Stanley No. 45 will go. I’m thinking that since I don’t have the molding planes Schwarz does, that shouldn’t be a problem, but I’ll have to play with the dimensions and see.

What I do know is that this chest shouldn’t have any problem holding what I have, considering what they all fit in now.  What I’m worried about is building it so it doesn’t fall apart.

But that’s another topic for another day.

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