Studley Tool Chest: La Aritmetica non e Epinione

While seeing the completed toolbox of Henry O. Studley is a drool-inducing experience, the real excitement has been taking out each tool, photographing it from every angle and then measuring and documenting everything.

This is where the real questions and answers come from. Which tools did Studley make himself? Was he left-handed? What sort of joinery and moulding profiles did he favor? How did he treat his tools?

It might seem like a brutal slog, but we are having a ton of fun measuring every drill bit, peering into each ferrule and counting every rivet. We get only one chance to do this right the first time.

I have pages and pages of notes and small revelations. My head hurts. But we are going to keep measuring, micing and recording everything we can find.

Anytime I get to examine a piece of work this closely I feel like I know a bit about the builder by the end. This is no exception. This guy was one of the greats.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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26 Responses to Studley Tool Chest: La Aritmetica non e Epinione

  1. Jeff Burks says:

    I always found it interesting that Studley oriented his wall hung cabinet with the tail boards on top and bottom. The Smithsonian photograph in Tolpin’s Toolbox Book shows the mounting rails screwed through the back of the cabinet and into the sides of the carcass. So all of the weight is being held by the cabinet sides. I would like to see how the metal studs on the ebony paneled front are holding the weight of the tool holders on the swinging door (if that is the case).

    I also noticed that a sliding bevel from the St. Johnsbury Tool Co. has been found to fit the blank spot below the brace in the time since the poster reissue photo. I can’t wait for the book!

    • John Cashman says:

      I found that remarkable as well. When open, the left side of the chest is supported by the french cleat. The entire right half seems to be supported only by the hinges. That seems an awful lot, but obviously it works.

  2. Leo says:

    La matematica non è un’opinione.

    • Auguste Gusteau says:

      Leave him alone: he does not write well either English, you can not pretend that he knows even the Italian or French…

  3. Chuck Beck says:

    I’m excited about this project because I’m hoping that some of the tools are going to be piano regulating, and action adjustment tools. Fantastic man.

  4. John Cashman says:

    You are a horrible man, a shameful tease, and flagrant exhibitionist. A man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition.

    More please.

    You should beat the rush and start a panic on particular tools on ebay now. Why wait two years? I’m sure Prentiss vises are already going through the roof.

    Also, you should get some of those crime scene rulers to use when you photograph tools. CSI Fort Mitchell.

  5. Tom Knighton says:

    I get it. This isn’t really a tease about the book. Nope, it’s something far more nefarious.

    You’re just rubbing our noses in the fact that you get to see the real thing and we’re stuck watching videos that YOU shoot to remind us that we’re not there. And yet, we’ll keep watching them because it’s the only way we get to see anything about the chest until 2013. Oh, you’re a mean one.

    Well played sir, well played. 😉

  6. Jason Chestnut says:

    I’m insanely jealous of you, much like all the sour grapes before me (and likely after). Please make sure that camera of yours is shooting good clear video. I’m not too worried about the Leica — cameras that cost 3X what my tool kit cost _should_ take good pictures. I just need some stunningly clear hi-def video if I’m to properly live vicariously.

    Again, more, please.

  7. John Cashman says:

    I think the proper music for these videos should be from 70s porn soundtracks. Then again, I might have an accident if you did.

    One of the engineer types reading this blog must be retasking a satellite to find that motel you were in. Just stay put for a while. We’ll find you.

    • Jonathan says:

      John –
      Ha ha!
      I was thinking that some piano music would have been appropriate, considering Mr. Studley’s craft.


  8. Jonas Jensen says:

    I would like to thank the owner of the tool chest for letting you document it, so that we can all read a book about it later.
    Thumbs up for not keeping the tool chest secret.
    Just imagine if it was owned by someone who didn’t care if other people were interested in seeing it, because this person had bought it, so he was the only one that could see it.
    So Chris, please say thank you to the owner on behalf of the woodworking part of mankind.

    • Carlos Zenteno says:

      I don’t think that the owner was 100% altruistic on letting Chris et al. document the tool chest. He/she knows that after 2013 the chest will be worth 3-10 times more!!

      • Jonas Jensen says:

        Hi Carlos
        Maybe not, but I still hope that the owner will wan’t to keep it even if the value increases. Actually it might not prove to be to his advantage. If he wants to keep it, and the value is suddenly 10 times greater, then he might have to pay a higher insurance, get more security etc.
        But all that aside, it is a magnificent piece of work.
        Brgds Jonas

  9. Chris says:

    I agree with Jonas. Please send all of our gratitude to the owner of this chest for letting us experience it vicariously through you.

  10. David Nordrum says:

    …there was one shot that it so reminded me of a Louise Nevelson sculpture. Can’t wait for more…

  11. Gene says:

    Just out of curiosity… Are there any pianos extant on which Mr. Studley worked? Seems like that would be the other half of the puzzle in figuring out how he worked. Tool marks, construction idiosyncrasies, etc…..

  12. Doug Crews says:

    I’m so glad you’ve taken on this project. This cabinet is a true treasure, and were all grateful for this opportunity. Let me know when I can reserve a copy.

  13. joecrafted says:

    It’s a hanging layer cake of tools. I’m hoping this is going to be a coffee table book with big pictures. Once I get around to building my coffee table (heh), I’d then have to make a Roubo book stand for it. Well, I guess I have two years. I think I can finish in time.

    • Chuck Nickerson says:

      joecrafted – excellent thoughts. I also hope it’s a large-format book.

      Building the book its own Roubo book stand is an excellent idea, and will start as soon as I know the book’s dimensions. I knew I bought that 26″ wide 10/4 piece of Honduran Mahogany for some reason. (But did it have to be 16′ long? Not cheap.)

  14. rc says:

    Such great, great work. Thanks for making it happen!

  15. Tim Henriksen says:

    After talking with and listening to Don Williams at WIA I found him to be a man of great passion and respect for the craft of woodworking. It pleases me to see him treat the cabinet that mesmerized me for decades with that respect and passion. I too agree with Jonas, thank you to the owner. Thank you to you three for documenting a work so important to this art form.

  16. Robert C says:

    I cannot wait till 2013!

    On a side note, maybe a quick photo with scale like the one in the link below as a reference after the fact. You know, just in case.

  17. Mark in the Desert says:

    That the man was a virtuoso of the highest magnitude, and his magnum opus a genuine tour de force, is a given. But I have an honest, yet nagging, question:

    What do we expect to learn after Chris completes his rigorous examination and analysis of the chest? And how will this knowledge improve our skills?

    I’d really appreciate some thoughtful discourse on this.

    Mark in the desert

  18. David Cockey says:

    I recall an earlier article about the Studley chest mentioned that some of the tools in it had been replaced since it first appeared on the Fine Woodworking back cover. Do you know or have a way of determing which tools are replacements?

  19. Don McConnell says:

    I believe this close study of the Studley tool chest and tools will be quite interesting when published, but as someone more interested in furniture-making (cabinet-making) what I would really like to see is a similar “forensic” study of Duncan Phyffe’s tool chest and tools. I doubt I’ll ever build a piano and have no interest in attempting to reproduce Studley’s tool chest, but think detailed information about Phyffe’s tool chest and its contents has the possibility of providing insights into the tools and, possibly the techniques, which he found useful as a cabinet-maker in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

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