Let’s Go Dutch (Tool Chest)


This fall I’ve been studying Dutch tool chests out of both necessity and desire.

I recently traded in my 10-year-old Acura RSX for a new car that has a smaller trunk, and I also had a generous offer from a reader to purchase my beat-up traveling tool chest. So I had to build a new tool chest that squeezes into my new car, holds all my tools and can be ready before the end of January.

Dutch tool chests fit that bill.

This is quite possibly the fastest tool chest I’ve built. After only two days in the shop, I’m about 80-percent done, and almost everything (save some long rip cuts) was done by hand. And while that time might sound spectacular, it’s not. I’ve spent almost 40 hours researching old Dutch chests and designing mine to fit a complete set of Western tools in the smallest space possible.

It fits a standard set of bench planes (fore, try and smoother), all the joinery planes (plow, rabbet, shoulder, routers), a half set of hollows and rounds (plus the support planes and beaders), three joinery saws (dovetail, carcase and tenon), and all the assorted small tools, from chisels to awls to hammers. It really is quite ingenious.

The other cool thing? The chest’s design uses all dimensional pine – 1x12s and 1x8s for the most part. So you can build this chest using home-center materials.

If all this sounds interesting, make sure to renew your subscription to Popular Woodworking Magazine because the editors purchased an article on this tool chest for an issue in 2013.

The chest will use strap hinges that can be purchased from Lee Valley, or from a blacksmith. I’ve asked blacksmith John Switzer at Black Bear Forge to make my strap hinges and hasp for this chest. And it will be painted, though I haven’t decided on the color.

Stay tuned – more details to follow.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Yes, all the screws are clocked.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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37 Responses to Let’s Go Dutch (Tool Chest)

  1. Thomas Priest says:

    Great choice on the hinges, despite my comment on a previous hinge post about making some cheap ones look a little more distressed with a few well placed hammer hits I still believe work from a true blacksmith such as John Switzer is the way to go, especially when it’s for yourself and not a customer. Can’t wait to see the finished project, next you need to come up with the saddlebag box so John Hoffman can put one on his bike.


  2. Looks pretty cool. With the ratio of height to footprint, and all that iron up top, it would seem to be top heavy for a traveling tool chest. Does it get it’s own seatbelt?


  3. Nice. The style has intrigued me since you wrote about the chest at Roy Underhill’s and I currently have no traveling chest. My subscription to PW is paid ’til 2014, so I guess I’ll wait patiently. 🙂


  4. Bob Jones says:

    Nice. It almost looks simple enough for the “I can do that” section. I really like that section.


  5. Patrick says:

    Was the traveling chest you sold the one you just built that was going to lead a double life as a coffee table?

    Also, if you add some beveled cleats to the back of that new chest and some mating ones on the wall, you would have a nice safe place to store it when not traveling. Just a thought.

    Finally Merry Chistmas to you and your family and thanks for hosting a blog that can go from intelligent to very silly to everywhere in-between. Keeps the brain nimble.


  6. Vincent says:

    Ziet we goed uit!, which is Dutch and means something like: “looks pretty good!”

    What is the source of the plans or where did you find the design? Is there a Dutch book with this kind of carpentry?

    Probably there will be some typical Dutch hinge to buy here: http://www.weijntjes.nl (since 1607). How old is the design your toolchest is based on?


  7. George J. says:

    “en bigamist’s gereedschapskist”?


    Oh man and I haven’t even finished the anarchist’s one!
    Chris & everyone contributing at LAP, thanks for coming up with worthwile reads and splendid new projects –
    Merry christmas to all


  8. handguitar says:

    Wow, nice. How will the chisels be stored? If they’ll go in the top, how will you stop them from moving about and getting the blades damaged?


  9. Kees says:

    Do you know something about the history of this type of chests? Is it Dutch as in an anglising of the word Deutsch, meaning German? Or does it mean it comes from The Netherlands?


  10. John Cashman says:

    I’m thinking two straps attached to the back of the chest, and then you’d have a rucksack. Then you could become an itinerant joiner.

    Happy holidays, and thanks for the constant window into your world.


  11. Vincent says:

    “Ziet er goed uit” which means something like “looks pretty good” in Dutch.

    Where did you find informations about Dutch tool chests? Are there some original plans? As a Dutch just curious to know.

    Merry Xmas!


    • lostartpress says:


      There is a photo of one in “The Toolbox book” by Jim Tolpin. The book on Dutch planes and planemakers has a nice (but small) section on Dutch chests and their construction. Plus, I have collected photos and measurements from the wild, readers and auction houses. I do not know of any plans — hence my research and forthcoming article.


  12. Arminius says:

    Sort of looks like you could put a French cleat on it and hang it at about waist height – really looking forward to that article.


  13. robert says:

    How do you plan put this tool chest to work?

    Does it hang off of a wall, as suggested above? Does it sit on the floor – it seems that this would necessitate more stooping than with a top opening tool chest. Does it have a stand – I picture something with flaired legs reminding one of James Krenov. Does is sit on the floor with a small block of wood under the front to tilt it back at a very slight angle – allowing one to see into the lower shelf like at some bookstores.

    Also – where will the stuff normally stored in tills be placed?

    Moving it – lift and carry? I imagine a cleverly designed extension handle, paired with a set of fixed, back mounted casters to allow it to be wheeled in the manner of carry-on luggage.

    As ever, it is fascinating to observe your experiments – If you don’t like change, imagine how you will feel about obsolescence.


    • lostartpress says:

      You can use it on the bench — sawhorses seem to be the perfect height. Its base will be two oak “rot strips” plus casters, as per some originals.

      I think it also could hang on the wall via French cleats.

      These chests usually have tool racks on the back wall to hold the small stuff – plus a “small tool bin.” The rack and bin will be in the top compartment. Some (not all) of these chests incorporated a drawer for small tools.

      Moving it — there will be stout oak handles on the ends and casters. I’ll weigh the sucker empty and full. The shell so far is remarkably lightweight.


  14. joemcglynn says:

    French cleats on a Dutch chest? Yikes.

    I just built a traditional style chest as a gift for my brother-in-law (we exchanged presents last night). It was a fun project, maybe I should build a Dutch chest for myself now?


  15. sawdustmaker says:

    Thomas Jefferson did a lot of woodwork. one of the things he designed and built was the first lap top desk so he could write while traveling if you are interested I will see if I can come up with an image


  16. mikehomer says:

    You beat me to it again. I’ve been planing on making a chest like this based on the one in Jim Toplin’s book but now that you’ve already started its gonna be another Schwarz effect and not a Homer effect, damn it.


  17. sablebadger says:

    “I’ve spent almost 40 hours researching old Dutch chests and designing mine”

    Looking forward to seeing the your research, I love seeing the work that goes into designing these tool chests, and the context for them in history.

    Thanks again!


  18. Dave Ring says:

    This looks like an ancestor of the familiar Gerstner machinist’s chest.


  19. sawdustmaker says:

    It looks like a great place to store planes, wher would a try plane fit? when screws are clocked does that mean they are all facing the same way? i.e all at 12:00/ 6:00 or 3:00/900


  20. Sylvain says:

    This looks like the tool chest painted by Maurice Pommier visible in your post dated 26th of August 2012 except there is no horizontal board at the top.


  21. gils says:

    Some interesting ones in a Dutch museum, description in Dutch but I think most will be understandable with google translate.


  22. That looks like a great design, but no space for a full-sized hand saw? That’s about the only feature I don’t like about it. Obviously the design could be made wider to accommodate longer tools, though. I am curious about all the little tools that normally go in drawers or sliding trays. Seems like they would get buried. But perhaps there’s an organizational scheme for them?

    I just finished building my own version of a travel tool chest, although it’s much smaller and built to hold tools for rough work and for house repairs, not full-on joinery. Here it is:


  23. And here I thought I was the only woodworker with an ol’ RSX (Maybe I am since this post is a year old). Great blog. I enjoy reading and living vicariously through your ww adventure.


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