Hardware for ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’

There isn’t a lot of hardware for “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” but I definitely don’t recommend you buy the poorly made brasses at the home center. Unless, of course, you want to.

I purchased almost all my hardware from Horton Brasses Inc. with the exception of the chain and the casters. I bought the casters, somewhat ironically, from Home Depot.

Let’s talk about each element of the hardware for the chest and why I did what I did.

The Hinges
The hinges are the most important bit of hardware. I hate cheap hinges, and so I knew before I even began building the chest that I was going to use the Horton PB-409 brass hinges with slotted screws and a “dark antique” finish. These hinges swing without any of the annoying slop in cheap hinges. I use them all the time.

At first I thought that two hinges would be enough to keep the lid secure, and I was probably right. But after installing two hinges on the lid, I looked at the chest and decided to add a third. I don’t regret the extra purchase.

The Lock & Escutcheon
I ordered a lock from Horton and had second thoughts about installing it (I have an aversion to locks). But the chest looks wrong without a lock and an escutcheon. I used the CL-5 Chest Lock from Horton, which is a half-mortise lock. After installing some full-mortise locks in chests, I’m a half-mortise guy. The Horton example is nice. The only disappointment is the finish on the key. My key is shinier than the one shown in the photos and looks too shiny.

So I’m gonna sandblast the sucker. Some day.

The escutcheon is the FE-8 Keyhole Escutcheon in “dark antique” from Horton. It’s sweet. I love it so much I put it on the dedication page of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”

Ring Pulls
A minority of tool chests use ring pulls on the sliding trays, but I really wanted them on mine. I’m glad I added them. For the top two trays I used the 1-5/16” RP-4 ring pull in “dark antique.” For the bottom tray, I used the 1-7/8” RP-6 ring pull in the same color.

The Lid Stay
I agonized over this for a few weeks. Ultimately I bought a couple brass eyelets and some brass chain from some jewelry supplier. I stripped them of their lacquer and dyed them to match the other hardware. It was a pain. One internet blogger called my chain “too twee.” I’d like to see a better alternative that really works and is as simple.

And the Casters
I didn’t want to buy rubber casters. Why? I don’t know. Sometimes I make these decisions after a couple beers. So I searched and searched and finally found the casters of my dreams at Home Depot. They are somewhat crude, but they look right.

So there you have it. The only other metal bits are cut nails from Tremont Nail Co. and slotted pyramid-head screws from Lee Valley Tools.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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26 Responses to Hardware for ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’

  1. Tom H says:

    Thanks for the update and links. Watch those beers, they’ll ‘make’ you buy stuff!


  2. Dean says:

    How long is the chain stay on your tool chest?


  3. John Cashman says:

    Do you have a preference for a brand of rubber casters? When I get around to building a chest, I’ll use it on a finished hardwood floor, and I’d be afraid of steel casters?


    • lostartpress says:

      Steel casters (or pot metal casters, as the case may be) do fine on hardwood floors. They have yet to mark the floor in a year of hard use.

      If you want soft rubber casters, we have had tremendous success with Grizzly casters.


      • J. Pierce says:

        Hrm – what about the steel casters on a finished softwood floor? The sap has probably set in these floors a hundred years ago, but they’re still easy to scuff . . .


  4. Steve says:

    Any thought on where to get two handles for the sides?



  5. Rob says:

    Chris, I’m not convinced an old-time tool chest had a stay (at least among apprentice dockyard shipwrights/ joiners, who made thousands of these things), which is maybe why you haven’t found anything better. I believe the chest would sit near a wall or other fixed upright and the open lid would rest against that. If parked in the middle of the shop floor, someone brushing by might knock the lid shut on you.

    Might 24 inches of chain each side get tangled up in your tools?



    • lostartpress says:


      The chain has never caused any problem.

      You are correct that chains/stays are uncommon. Some chests might have used a wall to hold the lid open. Others had a built-in stay that used the skirting around the lid. Seaton’s chest did this. My current chest has a simple version as a backup. These wooden stays are clever, but they do tend to pull the hinges up off the case in time.


  6. Eric says:

    Thanks Chris, for this link. I have always hated the slop of home center hinges. Also my wife and I have been wanting to find replacement hinges for an antique cabinet. This is perfect!


  7. joemcglynn says:

    I can’t even see the twee in the photo.

    Another option might be a leather strap, it has the advantage of not scratching your tools (unlikely as that is) and you could emboss it with your nifty caliper logo or other tooling.

    After I finish the bench I’m building a workbench is probably next. That of keep piling tools on every horizontal surface.


  8. Janet Brewer says:

    What a beautiful photo! I love the lighting.


  9. David says:

    Chris (and anyone else wanting to dull down the look of highly-polished new steel keys and other items):

    Sandblasting your key is not necessary, and -might- affect its fit and function in your lock. If you’d like the look of antique gray steel, that’s pretty easy to accomplish. Simply dissolve some solid citric acid at about one teaspoon per pint of warm water. Dunk your key in this solution and leave it for about 30 minutes. While the acid isn’t strong enough to actually eat into the steel the way something like hydrocholoric, sulfuric or phosphoric acid will, it is strong enough to patinate the surface of the steel. The result is a dull gray steel finish that is a dead ringer for steel that’s 100 years old but was never rusty. For a more convincing antique effect, coat the result out of the citric acid bath with a mixture of beeswax, shellac (in solid form) and lampblack. You can pretty easily make this mixture by using a double boiler to melt the shellac & beeswax.

    Once the metal object is coated with the warm/hot shellac, beeswax and lampblack mixture, wipe it thoroughly with a rag – do this with vigor; the objective is to get the mixture to “fill in” the arrises on the metal piece with what looks like dull black crud, and leave the smooth surfaces a dull, patinated gray.


    • Bubba Squirrel says:

      Or, you could try going over it with a propane torch.


    • Dean says:

      Bob Rozaieski soaked his zinc coated hinges (and screws) in white vinegar for 24 hours to take the zinc off. He did remark that one could do some further processing with ammonia or lye to patinate the metal even more. He didn’t and it looked pretty good after the vinegar soak.


  10. andrae says:

    I used three cheap (relatively, ahem) brass hinges from a hardware store and they don’t seem sloppy to me. Maybe I got lucky, or maybe I just don’t notice. I replaced the phillips screws with slotted ones at the same store.

    For the lid stay I bought some “jack chain” from Home Depot. It has some kind of black paint or other coating on it, which would probably be too tacky for The Schwarz but doesn’t bother me. It’s more substantial than the chain Chris used, not “twee” in other words. Rather than eyelets (hm, wish I’d thought of that) I used two #12 brass pan-head screws.


  11. Reeve says:

    My dad’s toolchest has a pair of very thick sewn linen strips, about 1/2″ in width, supporting the lid. They’re so old now they fall readily into the chest without getting trapped on the way down. I guess braided rope (hemp, even) might be OK, too…? HTH


  12. Ed Clarke says:

    If you’re looking for an alternative to rubber or plain steel then you might be interested in polyurethane casters. They are strong and tough but rounded enough to avoid damaging flooring. I just built a cart with four of these to move a twelve hundred pound generator around.

    http://www.mscdirect.com and do a search for polyurethane caster. I prefer the kind that swivel around and that have brakes. You don’t want to watch your tools go sailing down the stairs if your floor is not quite level…


  13. Dean says:

    I’ve always liked the look of the wheels on the dock and factory carts used in the early 1900’s. I’ve even seen these carts at train stations in the past. I think they would look great on the Anarchist Tool Chest. Restoration Hardware sells restored carts (first link), which seem to be popular for use as a coffee table. Click on the third picture to see a better perspective of the wheel and castor arrangement and the last picture to see an in situ example. I remember seeing a woodworking article somewhere, where they showed how to build your own.

    The second link (2 pages) is to Northern Tool & Equipment which sells steel castors / wheels up to 8 inches. It would be nice to find an original factory / dock cart and use the castor / wheel hardware off of one of those. Not sure where you would find them however.




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  15. harperron@comcast.net says:

    Last week I bought Anarchists Tool Chest for my nook color. I read half of it this weekend. I am really puzzled. I had read a couple of pretty negative reviews on a popular woodworkers site. I had a suspicion that there might be something personal in the negative review. Now I am convinced of it. It is a delightful read and not very dogmatic at all. Christopher states several times that these are his opinions and we are free to disagree with him based on what works for us. I love the book. Can I get the hand place book in e pub?

    ron in kokomo


  16. Probably should have gotten this done a few days ago, but we have now assembled all of the hardware pieces from the tool chest onto our homepage:
    We don’t have a mechanism at this time to allow you to simply enter the items as a single kit, but we are working on that.

    Horton Brasses


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