The Wrong Idea About ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’

In the famous words of Westley: “Get used to disappointment.”

This week I am finishing the layout chores for “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” and we are on schedule to send it to the printer on April 15. Barring a plague of locusts, that means the book should be shipping the first week of June.

I’ve spent the last 14 months writing this book, and all I can say is that I cannot discern if it’s something worth reading or a stinking turd. I’m too close to it.

I can say that during the last couple months, I’ve given three presentations about the content of the book with mixed results. My favorite reaction to the content was at the Northeastern Woodworkers Association’s Showcase in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. It went something like this:

Him: Why would anyone want to use a tool chest when you can put your tools on the wall?

Me: A chest protects tools from dust.

Him: But having them on the wall is so much better. You can get them so much easier.

Me: But they will get dusty. Dust has salt in it, which attracts moisture.

Him: A chest is a dumb idea.

Me: OK.

Him: Really. A wall rack is better than a chest.

Me: OK.

Him: Really, a chest? Dumb.

The funny thing about the above conversation (and about a dozen more like it) is that “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” is not a book that is going to try to talk you into building a traditional tool chest. Yes, I cover the topic in great detail. I spent months studying traditional chests and have about 13 years experience using one.

Yes, there are complete plans for the chest. Yes, I really like my chest. And yes, I think that a proper tool chest is a great thing for your shop.

But I will be surprised if more than a handful of people actually build this chest. That’s because the tool chest is actually a metaphor for what this book is really about: Assembling a reasonable kit of tools so you can be a woodworker instead of a budding tool collector.

Oh, and it’s about cheese, craft beer and micro-farming.

But let’s say you just want to build a tool chest. Should you buy this book? Nah. In fact, I’ve boiled down the entire content of the book into a one-page .pdf that you can download by clicking here.

OK, now back to fixing typos.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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30 Responses to The Wrong Idea About ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’

  1. Neil Cronk says:

    Personally I think the idea of a chest is great. My girlfriend I moved from Ontario to Nova Scotia for her to goto school, we’ve moved apartments once already and will do so again before we end up where we end up. Being able to move all my tools at once, while having a place to store them would be perfect. Just one question tho. Where have you had your chest in relation to your bench?

    • lostartpress says:

      I have my chest near my end vise. That is where I prefer it. At work my chest is up by my face vise, which I don’t like. But I don’t have a choice in the matter.

  2. James "Chewy" Vroman says:

    The more I hear about the book – the more I want it.
    Any idea of a price and when you will start accepting preorders?

    • lostartpress says:

      We don’t have a price yet because we don’t have a final page count to submit to our printer. It’s a big book (more than 450 pages), so I imagine it will cost a bit more than “The Joiner & Cabinet Maker,” which is $29. The book will be printed in the U.S., hardcover, cloth, acid-free paper, Smyth sewn — like all our books.

      We’ll accept pre-orders once we have a price locked in and a firm on-sale date. Stay tuned.

  3. Kevin Anderson says:

    Chris since you started posting about the tool chest I have been building along with you based on the photos and I love my new Anarchist’s Tool Chest. I love that I can roll all my tools to the place I am working. Every thing in its place and accessable. then when I am done I roll it out of the way under my work bench filling a space I was not using before.

  4. Nate Hinkle says:

    I like chests. I also like craft beer and cheese.

    I plan to build it.

  5. Ron says:

    I have been looking forward to reading this book for a while. I am interested in your discussion on the philosophy of being tool users and not collectors. I dance back and forth over that delineation all the time. While this book may or not incite a revolution in everyone, it will be nice to have the discussion out there. Good luck with the book and presenting it too the public. It is evident that you’ve invested large amounts of physical and mental resources from your tool chest related posts on this blog.

    PS thanks for the Tool Chest One Sheet!

  6. robert says:

    Sounds like a tool chest works for you. I’ll get the book because I enjoy your writing style, which puts me to mind of the essays written by E.B. White, Jim Harrison and John Gierach.

    I’m not going to knock another man’s program, but for me, wall racks and shelves work really well. I can find damn near anything I want, quickly, with my system. All except the mechanic’s tool box that I keep to hold wrenches, pliers, side cutters, sockets, drives etc. to keep the machinery running. There I have to search for what I want – doesn’t seem to matter if I conscientiously put those things away – they disappear from plain view (only to re-appear exactly where I have been looking for them for 5 minutes).

  7. Derek says:

    Hi Chris,

    I, too, enjoyed the running construction of your chest on these pages…..and I’ll buy the book and build the chest. Probably I’ll go hybrid and use the chest for my “good” tools that don’t get used/abused daily, and keep the wall/peg board open for every day big box store tools that inevitably get “borrowed” by the wife or used around the house, in the yard, etc.

    I’m in the military, so move to new locations every couple years. A decent, well organized chest will help greatly in those moves, as opposed to the current method of pulling all the tools off the wall, stuffing into black plastic footlockers, and seeing what shows up on the distant end of the move!

    Of course, I could also ask myself why it took 18 years of moves and one book to finally get around to actually building a chest…..probably something to do with the cheese crackers and micro brews!


  8. lostartpress says:

    I’ve read the book in its current form, and (I’m not sucking up here) it’s great. Even though I’ve worked with Chris for 6 years, there was stuff in the book I didn’t know. But the tool chest he says has all kinds of problems? He sold that to me. Thanks Chris!

    • lostartpress says:


      Actually the chest that gave me so many troubles was not yours (boy that sentence sounds like a harassment lawsuit waiting to happen). It actually was the Seaton chest. The chest I sold you I actually prefer to my Seaton chest and is closer to what I built. It’s only defect: It’s a little short.


  9. Aaron says:

    I was lucky enough to be present at the Altanta debut of your Anarchist’s Tool Chest presentation. The insight and humor of your writing always pleases, and I am looking forward to learning more about traditional chests. I decided months ago to snap up a copy of the new book when they become available.

    So really, there was no need to withhold rules #4 and #12 from the PDF handout. Sneaky!

  10. Casey says:

    That’s quite a conversation. Do you get in lots of arguments with seven year olds???
    You inspired me to build my own tool chest and I really like it so far. I just need to figure out a good way to organize my tools in it.
    Can’t wait for the book!!! Hurry up, already!!!!

  11. Chuck Nickerson says:

    Why a tool chest? So my brother-in-law and his son can’t easily get to tools that cost more than they earn in a year. (That’s a comment on their earnings, not my tools.)

  12. Francisco Castro says:

    I look forward to reading your book. I do plan on building the tool chest, as well. My current shop is in a shared space and having one location for my tools will help me to keep organized. This will also help me to develop my skills.

  13. Steve S. says:

    I first built a small tool chest when I began working wood a few years ago. Now my arsenal of tools has completely outgrown that little chest, and many of them have migrated out of tool chests and onto wall racks. However, wall space in my shop is severely limited, due largely to the big windows on two sides (yes, a gloat), and the fact that my workbench occupies one end of my dining room. So many of my tools must still be stored in tool boxes. I have been planning to make a proper joiner’s tool box for a year or more. I’ve been sketching tentative plans, but now I think I’ll wait until this book comes out. I’m curious to see what insights it can give me on construction and layout.

  14. Jonathan P. Szczepanski says:

    Chris –

    I enjoy your writing thoroughly – whether it’s about tools or beer – so I am going to read it for what it is, a man’s take on woodworking.

    As to the utility of a tool chest, I think they are great. I had to make a simple one when my wife and I were moving from a shared house to our own condo. There wasn’t going to be a workshop, but at least my tools still had there small place in my world. I didn’t have a man cave then, I had a man “chest” I guess. Once we moved to a house where I could have a workshop, my tools were all ready to go right in the shop. Now my tools are on the wall and in a toolbox, but the chest now houses my kids outdoor equipment. It’s first assignment might have been for tools, but it’s purpose of protecting our things remains.


  15. Alex Stockdale says:

    I inherited my grandfather’s tool chest, along with some of the tools he kept after retiring from pattern-making. While it has done a great job of looking after his tools over the years, it’s too small to use for the tools I have added to his kit (like the various bevel-up planes that I’ve bought after reading your other work). I have been thinking about building a bigger chest, so I was excited when I saw you were working on this book (I loved both the workbench books). Definitely planning to buy the book, and build the chest.

  16. Dave Halter says:

    I’m a little confused by the “one page boiled down version”. What are Rules 4 and 12? Are they secret rules known only by the Masters that are revealed through the consumption of craft beer?


  17. Lyle Bush says:


    The chest is a great idea. I live in Seattle and keeping tools enclosed, where I can better control moisture, would be a big positive.


  18. Niels says:

    Hi Chris,
    you should make video for each of your “hilarious” exchanges:

    I am really looking forward to reading the new book. Your spiel at WIA was definitely the highlight of the weekend (although watching Follanbee hack up some pee-smelling oak was pretty wicked too).
    I am still processing some of the implications of your chest building manifesto and struck with the profound relevance of this sort of thinking in our short-sighted trophy-driven disposable culture. I think you are plugged into some big medicine with this one.

  19. Ryan says:

    The best reason for a chest: noone every got choked up when they inherited their grandfather’s shelves. Chests are for tools, shelves are for books.

  20. Pingback: Woodworking Show By Woodworkers for Woodworkers | The Renaissance Woodworker

  21. Swanz says:

    I’m not sure traditional tool chests are that practical for my style of working wood. But they sure look cool. Looking forward to the book.

  22. Mark Schreiber says:

    Like many of the other guys, I have my great-grandfather’s tool chest with what remains of his woodworking tools. He built it around 1890-1895 when he was a cabinetmaker in Chicago. My uncles gave it to me about 13 years ago. It looks mysteriously like the chest I built 25 years ago. In fact, my lid shrunk too much shortly after I built it but I was able to make a permanent repair. Oddly, my great-grandfathers chest suffered the same problem–and he fixed it the same way I did! Both chests sit in my shop and hold my most valuable tools. It may sound a little sappy, but I like having my great-grandfather in my shop with me.

    I look forward to your book Chris. I plan on making another chest for my grandson. Hopefully, he will want “me” in his shop too.

  23. Mark D. says:

    I think the tool chest is a great idea. My great grandfather had built one for his tools (saws, planes, braces, bits, chisels, etc) out of what must have been some of the first plywood ever made (it was more or less like 1/8th inch pieces of wood in alternating directions) unfortunately a majority of the tools were taken by a family “friend” who we allowed to stay at my great grandmother’s house after her passing and the tool chest was left in such disrepair after it’s forceful opening that it wasn’t salvageable. As I collect tools and get closer to an age where passing them on becomes in the realm of possibility it is my intention to build them a proper chest that can be used to pass them down through the generations (much like my other great grandfather’s machinist tool chest) I agree with Ryan on that point… I do however think a tool chest is a very practical idea for people like yourself who travel frequently with your tools, but I suspect you’re also right in that a vast majority of people will more likely opt for shelves and racks… Perhaps your next great idea besides workbenches and dinosaurs (hopefully before dinosaurs) will be a hybrid tool chest that works as well on the wall as it does as a benchtop/traveling heirloom filled with our collections of sharpened steel…

  24. Darrin N. says:

    Hi Chris;
    I too am looking forward to reading your new book as is my Wife, you know, the one that was happy to hear that I only need to buy 40 tools at the NWA show in Saratoga Springs, NY.
    Is everything on track with the publishers and has a price been set yet?

    I enjoyed the presentation you did and I think my Wife and I may build a chest of our own in the future.

    Thanks again…

  25. Paul Fowler says:

    Excuse if I ramble. Been following ATC, read all I could about it. In all honesty the first chapter & table of contents did not leave me wanting to buy the book.
    My great Grandfathers tool chest was stolen from a moving van in a move across the country. It was trussed more than to protect it from pilfering, They took the entire thing!
    I have tried for many years to recreate it, when finished it will never leave my sight….

    “But I’m Much Better Now”

  26. Steve Massie says:

    Hi Chris……. I just ordered the book and looking forward to another fantastic read. I to am wanting and will build a tool chest for my hand tools. I like what I am seeing here and may make a slight modification here and there. Your books and DVD’s I have really enjoyed keep up the good work.


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