An Open and Shut Case


I received the greatest gift today – I was freed from the obligation to see “Les Miserables.” So while all the fallopian-tubed individuals left the house for three hours, I beavered away on this Dutch tool chest.

I got the removable front panel complete and filled the house with the luxurious smell of turpentine after I cut into my special stash of old-growth yellow pine.

Usually when I build a tool chest, I use a white pine for the carcase and white oak for the parts that see abrasive wear (drawer runners etc.). But for this chest I decided to use some old yellow pine I scored this year. The pine was old growth – at least 30 rings to the inch – that had been reclaimed for a house job. I got the scraps.

This stuff is nothing like the yellow pine at the home centers. It is heavier than most maples, incredibly stable and tough. If I could find enough of it, I’d build another workbench out of it – it’s that good.

For this tool chest, I used yellow pine for the battens on the front and the locking mechanism that secures the front tight. I also used yellow pine for the two strips on the bottom of the chest.

And now to cook dinner.

If I don’t drink too much Maudite, I might have time to dress the chest lid (it’s still in the rough) and add the thumbnail profile to its edges.

— Christopher Schwarz


About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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50 Responses to An Open and Shut Case

  1. David Gendron says:

    Nice, Look really good, and not to big nor small!!!

  2. Happy Holidays!
    And to many more great days in the shop in the new year!

  3. GaryH says:

    “So while all the fallopian-tubed individuals left the house…”

    I read that one aloud to my wife. She thinks your wife should smack you. I couldn’t complete the line without laughing.


  4. I enjoyed the way you refer to “She Who Must Be Obeyed” and the like offspring. Looking forward to seeing the progress and completion of the Dutch chest. Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year to you and your family.

  5. SteveR says:

    Maudite au lieu de Les Miserables. He, c’est une bonne vie ca!

  6. Merry Christmas Chris!
    Very neat method of securing the front of the chest! Looking forward to your article in Popular Woodworking.

  7. neilcronk says:

    If you run out of Maudite it’s not La Fin du Monde.
    Happy Holidays.

  8. Eric R says:

    Very, very nice my friend.
    And Merry Christmas.

  9. Wendy D. says:

    The Dutch chest looks great. My grandfather Vander Wagen would have been interested in making one. Also, Maudite is brilliant stuff. For myself, I’m drinking Killer Penguin, a barleywine from Boulder Beer Co. Cheers!

  10. neilcronk says:

    If you run out of Maudite it’s not La Fin du Monde.
    Happy Holidays.

  11. Ce que SteveR a dit. Careful with that Maudite. It’s not named that for nothing.

    Love the locking mechanisms. Cheers!

  12. sawdustmaker says:

    Ok Chris, That you are good at woodworking is a given The really important question is what are you cooking for dinner?

  13. sawdustmaker says:

    One last thing them I go off and eat my christmas dinner. Merry christmas to all the folks at LAP and tio other blog followers

  14. bobbollin says:

    “So while all the fallopian-tubed individuals left the house for three hours,”

    Having grown up awash in a sea of estrogen myself, I completely understand.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Chris.

  15. Patrick says:

    Sounds like a Chritmas miracle.
    1) You get out of going to a chick flick with your family on Christmas day.
    2) You get to work in the shop because you were able to get out of going to the chick flick with your family on Christmas day.
    3) A woodworking magazine is going to pay you to write an article about the project that you were able to work on because you got out of going to a chick flick with your family on Christmas day.
    4) You get to drink beer

    Did you wish really really hard?

  16. Anthony says:

    Would you really build a bench from old growth pine (heart pine)? It’s not too hard to come by around here in its reclaimed form, but but is it much harder to work than SYP? I’m determined to build a bench this year and had just assumed it would be in construction pine, but was a bit worried about getting it to acclimate to the house. Any thoughts?

    Thanks and Happy Holidays!

    • lostartpress says:


      Yeah, it’s harder to work than the modern yellow pine. There is a lot more of the hard latewood in every stroke. There is no empirical reason to use the old stuff — just sentimental ones. I grew up surrounded by the old stuff and have an affection for it — the way it looks and smells.

      Home center yellow pine is a perfect choice for a workbench. Don’t go overboard — that’s my job.

      • Anthony says:

        Ah, thank you for saving me from myself. Better to save the reclaimed pine for projects anyway!


      • Jason says:

        If one is OCD like myself and must check the lumber stash each time he darkens a big box store door, one might be able to find shockingly dense pine mixed in amongst the fast growing stuff. The last 2″x12″x12′ I found had 26 rings/inch. I don’t find one of these boards on each trip, but I find them often enough that it’s worth the walk through the lumber section.

        The house I’m currently renovating was built in 1870 and is full of amazingly dense pine. I’ve kept every single off-cut of useable size. Love that smell.

  17. Mike Dyer says:

    OK, it’s brilliant!
    But, a TRAVELING tool chest?
    Geez, how are you going to pick that monster UP when it’s filled with tools? It’l weigh what- 65-75 lbs? All the beer you drink must make you strong, by golly!

    • lostartpress says:


      Traveling with a full kit of tools requires a strong back, strong friends and a strong wife.

      I think it will weigh about 75 pounds fully loaded. Wooden-bodied planes help…

      • Mike Dyer says:

        If you have time, let us know what it weighs empty when finished.

        The reason I ask is that last summer I made up a new tool tote for the odd job around the house from salvaged 3/4″ old-growth yellow pine and made it BIG enough to carry ALL the tools I wind up needing for the simplest job.
        I made it 30 inches long, 12 inches wide, 6 inches tall at the sides, and a foot high at the ends. A 1″ dowel for the carry handle finished it up. It was so pretty, I painted it.
        If I’d made it from iron it might have weighed less. It is so heavy empty that it now resides proudly in my wife’s garden as a “quaint” planter box.

        • lostartpress says:


          I’ll definitely weigh it when I’m done. This isn’t a toolbox for around the house, however. This is what you carry when you are working inside a house, outfitting it with trim, windows and doors. So it’s for an extended stay. It will be perfect for traveling and teaching.

          I think it also could be a chest for a home shop — as long as you don’t have too many tools.

          The subject of tool totes is a great one. And if someone else doesn’t start researching them, I’m going to have to.

          Hint: The Dutch have a cool tote that you carry on your shoulder. Smart.

      • Ian Wigle says:

        At one point a few months back, you suggested your loaded traveling ATC weighed about 175 pounds, easy enough for two to manage. I’m surprised to read that the Dutch travelling tool chest might weigh a full hundred pounds less when loaded.
        Am I missing something here?

        • lostartpress says:


          I’m just guessing. I can lift a traveling chest fully loaded. This one will be a lot lighter for several reasons:

          1. Sugar pine instead of poplar (that’s a significant difference).
          2. No “layers” of skirts — which add weight (and fantastic protection).
          3. No tills — which add weight and convenience.
          4. Thinner material — 3/4″ instead of 7/8″.
          5. No metal banding, which adds weight and protection.

          We will let the scale be the final arbiter.

  18. ScottV says:

    Happy holidays to you.

    This chest is appealing. Seems like a quick, unfussy way to protect ones tools. Any precautions taken with all the cross-grained wide-board joinery?

    I am curious to see how you build the lid. The few examples of dutch tool chests that I have seen use battened boards for the lid. The lid was typically used to hold saws?

    I am using Google Translate to find more source material… I need better research tools…

  19. TJ says:

    Funny! I had to corral a few hop infused In-laws while pretending to be amused with over appreciated fleece socks and Bath & Body Works gift cards.

  20. bawrytr says:

    You gonna make paint with the leftover Maudite?

    • lostartpress says:

      I’ve never seen those two words put together – “leftover Maudite.” Is that a French expression?

      • bawrytr says:

        Should be said that I was half-joking. But it is true that if you google oxymoron examples, leftover maudite is up there in the results. And leftover non-alcoholic beer is eminently suited to paint making.

    • lostartpress says:


      Someone left some non-alcoholic “beer” here. I might try that. I also have some lime, Borax and pigment lined up. Just have to get the timing right.

  21. Bob Demers says:

    No Chris, the expression left over maudite is an anachronist, for there could be no such thing as left over of this aptly named nectar 🙂 Bob, surprised to hear that Unibroue beers are available outside my native Quebec. Enjoy responsibly, its strong stuff, as im sure you know by now he he

  22. This may seem an odd thought, but I’m in the completion stage of my ATC and am having a horrible time fitting all my tools in it. (No, I won’t sell any, no, I won’t do it, you can’t make me!)

    But I’m thinking of this Dutch chest in a larger version that seen here, maybe by as much as 75% larger, on the same casters I have the ATC on. It seems like it could be outfitted with a drawer bank for the smaller tools, drills, etc. Take the size up to the point where the bottom of the lid is waste high. I know, unless you opened the drawers all tools would not be visible, but with just a little memory, this isn’t such a problem.

    I also ought to build one of these, of course, because I am of Dutch decent.

    I love my ATC, but putting my tools in is worse than trying to solve a rubics cube problem, (I never could).

    • Kevin Costa says:

      I’ve yet to fill my ATC and I have a full set of bench planes, joint planes, three braces. three drills, mortice chisels, bench chisels, layout tools, seven saws, and so on. So what are you filling the chest with?
      As to a larger version of the Dutch chest, at some point I would think stability will become an issue judging by the volume of tools you are putting in there.

  23. Chris,
    I have been digging into the world of tool totes for a bit actually. So far Walter Rose of “The Village Carpenter” fame has shed the most light on it. Eric Sloane has lent a few insights too. I found myself constantly carting my tools back and forth to the museum where I volunteer during the summer months and needed a solution. After using my ubiquitous “Underhill” tote for a bit I found it surprising just how little space was needed to carry a lot of tools. Moreover, since I wasn’t walking miles like Rose describes, I could get away with loading it down even more for the short trip from hatchback to workbench. For the countryman style of job where a bench was no where to be found however, I found the tote lacking. Perhaps my Roubo has spoiled me but I wanted more from my tool tote/box. So I recently finished a toolbox/mobile workbench that uses a shoulder strap instead of handle and employs a thick top with dog holes and a moxon style front vise. I have used it in one built in installation and it worked like a dream. It is a heavy bugger when loaded down however and I have more storage space than I could possibly lift.

  24. Kevin, your list seems to start off similar to my own. I already had enlarged the ATC to 46″ long and 27″ high, the width to accommodate a trammel set I wanted to store and I added three inches of height to the lid, because that is where I decided to store the handsaws. I have more than I need, but I hope to fit three of the handsaws, maybe only two, along with a pretty complete compliment of LN backsaws. Planes alone, not counting block planes, consume the bottom of the chest, no way around it, not easier way to lay it out. Both long sides are consumed by 1/2 set of H&R’s, beading, rabbet, plough, and other wooden planes. That leaves a 15″ strip down the middle for the metal bodies. I have a 55, but haven’t used it much since becoming more comfortable with the H&R’s, but truthfully, I’d love to find a place for it. I have four trays planned, and I know it is against advice, I have made each tray half the depth of the chest. I’ve laid all other tools on “fake” tray bottoms. Allowing anything but edge tools to overlap where possible. I’ve not included carving tools into the mix, because I’m still a beginner in that field, and a not requested to do it much, so they will stay in a cloth roll and lay between metal planes in the bottom. But between chisels, mortise, paring, I like a few butt chisels, multiple marking gauges. Sharpening stones, etc. etc. I don’t want to get into a game of who has the most tools, I would surely lose and get busted pawning my wife’s shoes tomorrow morning. But Drill bits, most are already in nice wooden boxes, and they are hard to store. I could abandon the boxes, but making smaller boxes to hold the sets would just add to the project, and I’m not done with the trays yet.

    I feel like I made it plenty big, I’m a bit anxious because I more than stretched the “golden ratio” so I’m a bad boy for doing that.

    I was just thinking that the Dutch chest offered some different ways to address some of the storage problems, admittedly drawers limit visibility. But I’ve got a huge mechanic’ s tool chest as well, and if you name a tool, I will promptly open the correct drawer. (When working alone, all bets are off if friends or others have been over to help). There are always ways to stabilize a higher piece. Well placed weight. Heavy things low, light things high, flare the legs a bit.

    I’m not preaching that I know the answer more than anyone else, certainly not Mr. Schwarz, I just said it had my curiosity and mind wondering on what might be achieved. And I LIKE tool boxes, so that’s as good a reason as any to start planning another. same as workbenches. I already have the 10′ fir top laid out for another workbench. They’re fun to build.

    Didn’t mean to ramble or offend.


  25. Sam Cappo says:

    I am also looking at building a bench from reclaimed pine.

    I talked to these guys, because they are local

    They said it would be no problem to get a 12″x12″x16′ beam. That would build an entire bench. I need to find someone with a biiiig bandsaw. I really wouldn’t want to resaw it by hand.

  26. Sam Cappo says:

    I talked to these guys and another company a few months back – new bench is a want not need. I just had so much fun building it.

    I want to say they were about $6 / board foot for the big beams.

    If you are looking for reclaimed pine – look in south LA and New Orleans Craigslist. They always have pine and big cypress.

    This guy is always on Craigslist with $4 / board ft reclaimed pine / cypress.

  27. mikehomer says:

    Do you have to open the lid to the chest before you can open the front panel ?

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