Trimmings and Fixtures for a Tool Chest


From R.C., Carroll, Iowa.— In answer to the subscriber from Virden, Ill., in a former issue, as to where he can “secure” trimmings for a tool chest. I would say that they could be taken from another fellow’s chest late at night by the skillful manipulation of a crowbar and a screwdriver; but should he be willing to purchase them he can do so at a hardware store, a place where they keep for sale ten-penny nails, gimlets and gasoline stoves. Such an establishment can be found on the front street of any well regulated town, the entrance to which – the store not the town – is generally designated by a washing machine and a scoop shovel.

Or any school boy can locate the place for a nickel.

I would advise him to use iron handles, as crickets and grasshoppers often eat a rope handle. The hinges, which should also be of iron in preference to leather, as the contraction and expansion of the leather during dry and wet weather might seriously affect the working of the lock. Hinges should be placed on the opposite side of the lock, which ought to be a combination. As the correspondent failed to sign his name to his letter of inquiry, he is evidently absent minded, in which case it would be well to have the combination in large letters on the top of the chest, then wrap the whole thing well with a clothesline, securing both ends of the line – not the chest – in a Marquis of Queensberry knot sealed with green wax. Any further information desired by the subscriber will be cheerfully furnished. If other subscribers wish information of any kind, I hope they will make their wants known.

— From Carpentry and Building, October 1899 issue. This gem was dug up by Jeff Burks. Both Jeff and I would like to buy R.C. of Carroll, Iowa, a much-deserved beer. 

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20 Responses to Trimmings and Fixtures for a Tool Chest

  1. Julien Hardy says:

    Kidding was no joke, back then.

  2. Scott Meek says:

    If only online comments in the woodworking community were as enjoyable to read as these letters. That said, it is nice to see that snark has always been part of the woodworker’s communication tool chest.

  3. Robert Justiana says:

    Did you have ancestors in Carroll, Iowa in the 1800’s? 🙂

  4. tpobrienjr says:


  5. Mark Smith says:

    Some folks do not suffer fools well.
    Was there no Sears catalog back then for the rural folks?

  6. bawrytr says:

    There I was thinking snark was invented for the internet. One would think that anybody attempting to build a tool chest would know where one might buy hinges.

  7. Sam says:

    A toast, to R.C., Carroll

  8. Mattias says:

    Hilarious. Thanks for posting these letters.

  9. Tim says:

    Anybody have any idea what a Marquis of Queensberry knot is? Google didn’t know.

  10. Andrew says:

    Haha the architect and builder publications also on google books have whitty correspondence of old weird woodworkers

  11. John says:

    Somebody, somewhere along the line has commited a typo. The town should be “Virden, Ill.” not “Virder, Ill.”.

  12. bawrytr says:

    I couldn’t resist having a look at the etymology for snark, which has come to mean sarcastic, but since the early 1900s has meant irritably or sharply critical, and comes from German/Scandinavian roots for “snort”, essentially an onomatopoeia.

  13. Patrick says:

    Chris, do you believe in reincarnation?

  14. Brett says:

    I wonder what the poor subscriber from Virden, Ill. did–apart from forgetting to sign his name to his letter–to elicit such a sarcastic response from R.C.?

  15. andrae says:

    You can tell the quality of the woodworker by the quality of his snark. Actually I just like to say snark.

    You can tell the quality of the artist by the quality of his smock. Actually I just like to say smock.
    — Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes

    Someone asked about the Sears catalog. Although the catalog began in 1888, only in 1894 did it expand beyond watches and jewelry. So the now-famous big catalog of anything and everything was still fairly new in 1899. Have to figure a guy who didn’t know that the local hardware store sold hinges probably had never encountered the Sears catalog either.

  16. Tom Pier says:

    So this is probably not a good time to ask for recommendations of quality tool chest hardware sources.

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