When researching and writing “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” I had to leave a lot of material on the virtual cutting-room floor.
Much of that discarded stuff should never see the light of day, especially the autobiographical junk about how we used to trick buzzards into thinking we were dead and how to pass off cat food as “taco meat.”
But still, there was lots of research and notes that I wish I could have included. So because this blog is almost-free to me, I’m going to dump some of my background research here for you to enjoy, ignore or poop upon.
Small, Medium and Large
The first thing to get out in the open is that chests tend to come in three basic sizes: small, medium and large. Small tool chests (17″ x 10″ x 7″) were intended for “gentlemen” woodworkers, or fancy handymen. These chests could fit a jack plane and a basic set of tools that would allow you to fix stuff around the house or build a birdhouse.
Next up are the “medium” tool chests (35″ x 20″ x 15″ or thereabouts), which were used by professional craftsmen on the move or the serious home handyman. These chests could hold full-size handsaws, a jointer plane if necessary and enough tools to install cabinetry on a jobsite. These chests might have one or two sliding trays for tools, plus space for moulding and bench planes. For a good example, see Paul N. Hasluck’s “The Handyman’s Book” (Senate). There was another form – much like a clamshell – that I want to discuss separately.
And then there are the full-size chests, the ones that I deal with in “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” These chests are more like 40″ x 24″ x 24″ and are designed to hold all the tools that a hand-tool joiner or cabinetmaker would need in his or her shop.
I have examples of all three chests in my house (sorry Lucy), and I think the large chest is the most efficient for the way I work. I rarely need to take my tools to another home to install cabinets. And the small chest is too small for even a half-serious tool set.
And that’s why I dealt with the largest-size chest in “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”
So let’s explore some other forms. One of the other forms of large chests is from Hasluck. Instead of three sliding trays, it has four trays and the saws are affixed to the underside of the lid.
In truth, this chest might be more space-efficient than the one I built, but I wanted to build a chest with a sawtill in the bottom of the chest – I already have one with the saws on the lid.
Some interesting data points about the Hasluck chest:
1. The lid and chest carcase are each rabbeted to mate together. This improves the dust seal, and I think it is quite clever.
2. While the chest has four sliding trays, Hasluck encourages woodworkers to French-fit each tool – especially chisels and gouges – into individual slots so you don’t nick yourself. One of the trays in Hasluck contains only 12 tools. That wasted space won’t fly in my shop.
3. The bottom of the Hasluck chest is captured in a groove in the carcase. As someone who has done this and has had to deal with repairs, I’m glad I chose the nailed-on bottom instead.
4. The top tray in the chest is covered by a hinged lid. This is a common feature on chests. It looks nice, but I’d rather have one less hand motion between me and my tools.
5. One last detail: The Hasluck chest has an ingenious way of locking the trays in place if the chest is turned upside-down in transit. Cool, but that is a rare concern for me these days. I hope.
More chests to come in the following weeks.
— Christopher Schwarz