There is no Waste Room


From C.E.W., Kansas. City, Mo.— I inclose sketches of a tool box in reply to the correspondent recently making inquiry in regard to work of this kind. This box has, in my opinion, one advantage over all others, as a man can get any tool from it without moving any other. There is no waste room; the chest is light and strong and can, therefore, be readily moved about. The drawers can have faces made of hard wood and carved, if desired, as they are protected by the sliding panel in front. When the lid is raised the panel can be pulled up so that the drawers will open. A pin in the top of the panel flush with the top of the box securely locks the panel down when the box is closed. The box should be made of trunk stuff – that is, three pieces of wood glued together with the grain running different ways. Each piece should be 1/8 inch thick, thus making a total of 3/8 inch, which is sufficiently heavy. Slides for the drawers are glued to them on the inside, and the corners, of 1-1/8-inch oak, are plowed so as to let the front panel slide. The top cap is cut in 1/2 inch and glued.


Fig. 1 shows a general view of the box with the lid raised and the front panel partially broken away, showing the front of the drawers. Fig. 2 is a vertical cross section taken through the middle of the box, while Fig. 3 is a top view of one of the front corners.


From D.F.M., Syracuse, Neb.—I am interested in tool chest construction just now, and send my plan, shown in Fig. 4. for the boys to comment on. It rests on casters and the bottom drawer is 9-1/2 inches deep inside. Under the lid at the front is a saw rack, while at the back is a similar space for plans, details, &c. In the center is a solid tray, with two of the same size beneath, which slide out at the ends each way and can be made full length or cut in two. The ends are made with rail and stile like a door. The drawers are held solid with flush bolts. A strap of iron or brass extends through to the outside and catches the bolt. The lid can be made deep enough for a drop leaf and makes a nice place for paper, T square, &c. The owner of a chest can put as much work on it as he desires.

— Carpentry and Building, March 1901. Thanks to Jeff Burks for digging up these two letters. Much more from this series on chests to come.

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11 Responses to There is no Waste Room

  1. GregM says:

    I stumbled accross this gem in the 1895 Chas. A. Strelinger & Co catalog (, pg. 544 [pg 518 of the catalog]):

    We have had a good many inquiries from certain localities for Trunk Trimmings and understand that some railroads do not allow tool chests to go as baggage, unless fitted out to look like trunks. We can now furish these trimmings in sets ….”

    I know you have examined many vintage tool chests in your research; I don’t know if this factoid might help you answer any lingering questions or not.

    • Jeff Burks says:

      One of the tool chests in this series is in fact disguised as a trunk. The author mentions having previous fancy chests damaged by luggage handlers.

  2. Rich says:

    I like the idea of the saw till as lift out in the space when the drawers are on one side and have more planes standing on end in the bottom.


  3. Bernard Naish says:

    I can do half witted fairly readily but not good with humor. I see Christopher launching into these “machinsts” chests at some point. Who made them first wood workers or tool room metal workers? Did the wood workers make them for the toolmakers?

  4. Sam says:

    Bernard has actually hit upon the heart of the matter here, The dimensions of these “chests” are small. I had to read through the posts several times, to grasp the fact that these are more what we would refer to as a tool box, or “machinsts chests” not a standard carpenter/joiner’s chest from the 1900’s.

    • lostartpress says:


      Indeed. These chests are tiny in comparison to a full-size. You also have to consider the time and how these letters were written at the time that handwork was all but abandoned in an active shop.

      If I didn’t need to store a jointer plane, or a 30″ rip, my chest would be smaller, too.

  5. Sam says:

    Thanks Jeff, interesting stuff.

  6. Sam says:

    Excellent point Chris, I always learn something from the blog.



  7. Peter Rhodes says:

    So if I read this right, the “trunk stuff” the first author refers to as being used for the sides is actually home made three-layer plywood, with the sheets glued cross-grained for strength … is that right?

  8. Samuel Cappo says:

    I like this idea of the drawers beneath the plane/ saw compartment but it seems like it may be unstable. Do you think it would rack over time because of the lack of a rigid front panel? I realize many case pieces don’t have panels on all sides – but they typically don’t get moved daily. Also, there is no protection around the bottom, skirt. Seems like it would get beat up easily.

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