Photographing the Tools in the Studley Tool Chest – and a Repair

Most of this trip to visit the H.O. Studley chest has been about documenting every tool in the chest. Not just the tools, but counting every single thing in every single drawer.

As we took the tools out and Don Williams was documenting the panel arrangement, he found that one of the ebony supports was damaged. “Damaged” ain’t the right word. In Arkansas, we would have said “it done blowed up.”

A quick review of our photo record from the last three years confirmed that this damage had occurred before our first encounter with the chest (cue the “whew,” and we all changed our underwear). With the permission of the owner of the chest, Don repaired the damage.

Some details for Studley nerds. The ebony support had been repaired twice before with PVA glue. PVA doesn’t adhere to ebony well because of its density, so it’s no surprise that the glue failed. Twice.

Don carefully removed the PVA by scraping and picking at it.

To re-glue the part, he prepared a solution of nine parts of liquid hide glue and one part glycerine from the drugstore. It did two things: increased the glue’s stickiness and reduced its tendency to fracture.

After applying the glue, he clamped the part together using teflon tape, wrapping and tying it around the part. Then he allowed it to dry overnight.

Yesterday, we also shot this short video on how Narayan Nayar goes about photographing every object in the chest. Good stuff.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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23 Responses to Photographing the Tools in the Studley Tool Chest – and a Repair

  1. Derek Carter says:

    What an honor to repair such an amazing piece of woodworking history.

  2. tsstahl says:

    Tedious squared. Maybe playing the banjos in the background would elevate the mood. 🙂

    I’m glad to see you folks putting in the effort to do it right.

  3. Steve K. says:

    Shut up and take my money (again)!

  4. Dean says:

    How did Narayan get the job of doing the photography of the Studley tool chest? I’d also like to know why Narayan chose the Olympus OM-D DSLR over other brands? I ask that last question because I’m looking for a replacement DSLR for my Nikon D200 (I don’t do sports or action photography).

    Thank you, Dean

  5. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for the sausage making tour. Great melding of tools and photography, my weaknesses. I really like that Mr. Nayar is using “off-beat” cameras for his work, Leica and Olympus vs Canon and Nikon. While I know that all makers make wonderful cameras these days, some companies (Oly, Fuji, Pentax) seem to really connect with the ATC spirit.

    I hope that if you make it back one more time, Narayan can capture Studley with some sort of white light scanning set-up & put these tools into a 3D museum. Given the number of shots taken and the consistency of Studley’s work (I’m thinking of the dots around the edge) this may be possible from what’s already gathered.
    Also loved the image earlier of the kids being able to be “in person” with such a treasure. I hope they come to appreciate that opportunity.

    • David Pickett says:

      Leica offbeat? They’re getting close to Hasselblad quality.

      • Jeremy says:

        Off-beat isn’t the right word, but Leica M’s and Hasselblad aren’t the popular brands/models you will see walking around Disney World. Nothing wrong with Rebels and D3100’s for sure, but they don’t connect with the user like an OM-D,K-5, or X-Pro1.

  6. David Pickett says:

    Funny how things go, isn’t it?

    Repair to Studley tool chest – pains to get permission, great care, special glue, as much time as it takes.

    Repair to Schwarz tool chest – bang a nail in it, or sling it on the fire and make a new one.

  7. Bengt says:

    Great work as always, Narayan!

  8. abouna2 says:


    OM-D? Have you been following Ming Thein’s blog?
    Are focus stacking all the macors? Lots of work!

  9. How lucky can you get? If I was to pick one person on the planet to repair my furniture, it would be Don.

  10. mitchwilson says:

    Wow, teflon tape. What an extraordinary idea. Thanks, once again, Don.

  11. Tom says:

    The story about the vailed PVA glue reminds me of a tale told to me by an old friend who once restored tracker-action pipe organs. He tried some hi-tech beryllium copper wire in a restoration, only to find that it didn’t hold position as well as the old annealed copper. He found out a few weeks later when the weather changed. Oops. Back to the old rule of thumb – don’t use any technology less than 400 years old!

  12. FIG Woodworks says:

    I would have thought that the Smithsonian would have documented the chest whilst in their care. Who is the custodian of the chest now? Is it still at the Smithsonian?

  13. rwdawson says:

    The video of Narayan photographing Studley was both informative and interesting; left me wanting more. Stuff like focal length of the macro lens, or lenses, f stop, ISO used, etc. In maximizing depth of field, did he use any particular software when processing? Did he use any special techniques when setting up lighting, or simply rely on experience?

    His results are spectacular, and knowledge clearly extensive. This could be a very worthwhile topic for a presentation at WIA and more than worth the price of admission.

    As for the choice of camera, many photographers are fiercely loyal to the brand they have used for years and chose a body based on the lenses they own. In my opinion, it’s more of what you are accustomed to using, subject matter knowledge, and experience than equipment,

    If one wants to be true to the spirit of ATC, the only photographic equipment choice possible is an 8 by 10 view camera, with glass plates and flash powder.


  14. abtuser says:

    Great discussion on the repairs and shooting. The repair tip is something to keep handy. As for cameras, I shoot Oly’s myself. I like the construction vs.weight, as I’ve hauled mine though mountains on several occasions. Like the other brands, they take stunning photos when used correctly. I’ve shot with other brands, they’re nice of course, but the Oly’s have worked well for me. I’ll echo a little of what rwdawson said, if you like what you’ve got, an you know it, you may want to stick with it. I do admit though, that I’m saving up to maybe add a used Leica to the collection. We’ll see…

  15. raney says:

    Narayan – itz my hero!!!!!

    nowz all youre accouttermonts are belong to meeeeee?

  16. Bob Jones says:

    The biggest question to me is design and timing. Did he design it from the beginning to be what it is, or did he add and modify the cabinet over a few years. I hope y’all can answer that one.

  17. Mike D. says:

    Is that Studleys bench peeking out from under a moving blanket?!?!?
    It’s at the 2:30 to 2:33 mark in the video.

  18. Harlan Barnhart says:

    Am I the only one who is bothered by the fact that this thing is not in a museum where is belongs? For two reasons, accessibility and long term security. I’m sure the current owner is taking good care of it but what of his heirs? Will it be sold to the highest bidder, disassembled and sold piece by piece? Mr. Williams, please use your influence to encourage a transition of ownership to a reputable museum.

    • FIG Woodworks says:

      I agree this is a part of woodworking history/culture works like this should be in a museum to think of it being broken up by future generations ……….just is not worth thinking about.

    • lostartpress says:

      The patron is very responsible and is no slouch when it comes to preserving great works. I have no doubt about the future of the chest.

      And remember, a museum might not put it on display. Most museums have a huge collection that never sees the light of day. The Smithsonian had it off display many times. And their restoration of at least one piece in the chest was pathetic.

      So it’s not a simple thing.

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