Dutch Tool Chest: Painted, Handled and Waiting for Hinges


Between bouts of loading 6,000 pounds of books, several holiday dinners and shoveling snow, I managed to make some progress on the Dutch tool chest.

I added two coats of General Finishes Milk Paint – lamp black color. I have serious doubts how much “milk” is in this paint, but the stuff is easy to brush or spray when wet, and it is tough as heck when dry. Plus it has that chalky look in the end.

I added one tool rack in the top area of the chest (with another to come) and made some handles. I wanted to use oak for the handles, but I have so many mahogany scraps left from building Roorkhee chairs this year that I couldn’t imagine going out and buying a plank of 8/4 oak for this.

The handles aren’t really Dutch. I made mine to look like old bearing blocks or maybe a mantle clock. The ends were laid out using basic geometry and a compass. The round bits are scraps from Roorkhee chair stretchers that I turned down to size and added a couple details.

I’ll make the saw till for the lid tonight. Then I’ll set the project aside to wait for the hinges and hasp.

Next up: A portable workbench.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. The casters are NOS (new old stock) stuff from the 1940s that I found on eBay. They are made in America, move as smoothly as a goose on ex-lax and cost me less than $20.


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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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63 Responses to Dutch Tool Chest: Painted, Handled and Waiting for Hinges

  1. Jonas Jensen says:

    The handle looks a little bit bulky, the one on the ATC in the background looks more elegant, but that is just my impression.
    I am looking forward to the portable workbench (The milkmans bench?).

  2. Tim Henriksen says:

    I love the handles. That’s some serious “pop” against the black paint.

  3. FIG Woodworks says:

    I like the handles

  4. Shakey says:

    Looks great. A router, sander, and circular saw should fit in there nicely

  5. Matt says:

    Should be a good article; thought the bars to secure the front door were interesting.

    When you pack this up for a car trip, do you lay it on its back or does it fit upright?

    Also, how long have you had the ridgid sander? (got one this past summer myself)


    • lostartpress says:


      It will sit upright in the back seat.

      I’ve had the Ridgid for a year or so. I’ve been using one for many years at the magazine. I prefer to use a rasp, but there are some things I do that are definitely production – building squares and the like – where I’ll break out the OSS.

  6. reed robinson says:

    Chris – would you be able to comment on your process for the final phases of crafting the handle blocks? I’m especially interested in ow you did the cove along the curve and how you finish surfaced the profile? It wouldn’t both me if you said “router” and “spindle sander followed by hand sanding” – I would just love to know – they came out gorgeous!

    • Reed robinson says:

      Shoot, I didn’t realize my email address was going to show up – Wouldn’t want spam bots to collect it. . . Chris, could you please delete the post? Sorry!!!


    • lostartpress says:


      I won’t lie to you.

      I cut them on a band saw. Smoothed the curves with a cabinet rasp. Laid out the cove and tried making it with a rattail rasp. Then a gouge. Fail and fail.

      Then I clamped my router in my leg vise and routed the coves.

      Then finished everything with hand sanding up to 150 grit. Then garnet shellac.

      I dislike routers, but I will use them when backed into a corner.

      • Ben says:

        I was going to ask the same question. I’m sure it could be (and has been) done by hand, but it would have to be very difficult and time-consuming.
        But a router clamped in a leg vise? Gahh! Just the thought of that scares the crap outta me. Apparently you have larger cajones than I.

        • lostartpress says:


          It’s a prison trick. When I toured Kentucky’s death row about 10 years ago, the prisoners showed us how to do it. No lie.

          Once you do it the way they demonstrated it, it’s a piece of cake.

          I don’t have a router table, so it’s a better option than freehand routing.

      • Michael Doughty says:

        And the finish is?

      • Reed says:

        Thanks Chris. I’m loving Bickford’s book, and am looking forward to trying to make a half-set of H&Rs, but I’ve always wondered how the profiles were cut around curves without the spinning demon’s help. I figure it must always be master-level carving work on the originals. I’d think something like this would in a way be even harder because of it’s solitude on the side of the chest. Alan Breed once explained to me that perfection is only important when imperfection doesn’t have other details to blend into. That would be the case here. In any case, it came out beautiful – prison router or not!

  7. Niels says:

    That’s hot, I have been looking to built something relatively portable and something with a small footprint for my apartment (third floor walk up with narrow stairs) and can fit in a small hatchback. This fits the bill to a T.

    Also have been designing a small (relatively) portable workbench for the same purpose. I have been thinking along the lines of Roy’s petit-roubo: top in two parts with a 2″-3″ thick and 12″-14″ wide front board and instead of a tool tray a thinner detachable extension. Over all size maybe 60″L x 18″-24″W The Bottom would be a bolted breakdown situation with wooden leg vise, dead man et al.

  8. sawdustmaker says:

    i am curious to learn 1, why you painted it? and two what kind of wood you used. I think I remember you said you used poplar?

    • lostartpress says:

      1. Most tool chests are painted. And with good reason – they take a metric buttload of abuse.

      2. The wood is 40-year-old sugar pine. Wood of the gods. Completely stable.

  9. Ron says:

    Very nice tool chest and I love the handles. I have already started making one.

  10. Michael Doughty says:

    Care to pass on the “prison trick” for clamping the router (maybe a photo). I will definitely not have a router table but for times as this it would be handy.

    • lostartpress says:

      I’ll do a video on it if you promise not to sue me.

    • John says:

      When I was younger and hadn’t a fear, and had never heard of a router table, I molded some picture frames from 1×3 stock by clamping my grandfather’s router upside down and using some little c-clamps to make a fence with a scrap. It worked great, despite everything I ~know~ now.

  11. Daniel Hartmann says:

    The handles look like really fancy toilet paper holders…

  12. Paul Crowe says:

    looks good.
    Have you put some thought into how this will be secured in the back seat? It could become a projectile, injuring yourself or someone you love in the unlikely event of an accident?
    Also how will you stop the castors from rubbing around on the backseat damaging it?

    • lostartpress says:

      Moving blanket and bungee cords hooked onto the child seat hooks.

      • robert says:


        Certain conservation of momentum physics dictate that bungee cord will not stop this thing in an accident. It will fly forward, crush the back of your head and then rebound to its former position, but now with a new paint job.

        Sew some 2 inch webbing (or seatbelting) into a harness that captures the toolbox that can then be hooked into the child seat hooks.

      • Paul Crowe says:

        Robert has a good idea here. Better than rope like objects (bungee cord)

  13. mikeandike says:


    Just thought I’d chime in about your milk paint comment. A finishing expert who works for a different magazine and visits their forums very frequently made a comment or two which led me to believe that there is NO milk in General Finishes’ milk paint. Rather, it is basically an acrylic latex which I would assume contains some sort of modifiers to give it that “chalky” look. Not saying that there’s anything wrong with this product, just a response. I’m a “go with what works” kinda guy and it sounds like it works quite well for a tool chest.

    BTW, how large, exactly, is a “metric buttload????” And, in what units is that measured????

    • lostartpress says:


      A metric buttload is 1.4 Imperial assloads.

      I think.

      • Randy Ewart says:

        I’ve been looking for a bucket in that size for some time now. Now I know what I need to ask for, the night next time I get to the home store (lol) . . . . That metric stuff always confused me anyway!

      • mikeandike says:


        Thanks! I’ll add that to my conversion chart. Though in the immortal words of Abe “Grandpa” Simpson…”the metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that’s how I like it!”


    • robert says:

      The MSDS for General Finishes Milk paint lists no milk protein, and does list acrylic polymer in a fairly high quantity. So, Mike, you are correct. Compare it to the MSDS from real milk paint from somebody like the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company.

  14. blowery says:

    Those handles are lovely. Now to find a lathe.

  15. Jim says:

    The handles look great but seem awful low on the sides. You must have to bend over quite a bit to pull or push ? Why not higher

    • lostartpress says:

      That is where the originals are located on the examples I’ve found. Very consistent.

      • John says:

        The handles need to be low enough that when you pick up the chest, with your arms hanging straight down, the bottom of it is above that annoying shin-whacking height when you carry the thing. The distance from my knuckles to my knees is about 14″, so if at all possible, you want the handles lower than about 16″ from the bottom. Probably lower for old-timey short people. The big caveat is if that puts the center of gravity above the handles. But you can always put a brick in the bottom of the chest to fix that.

        Those are some beautiful handles, Chris. And thanks for sharing how you made them.

  16. That is one sweet set of handles Chris. I like the narrow styling of the box. It should make it easier to load and unload through the side doors. Life on the road is tough enough and if you have to compromise on your tool load that is a good trade off.

  17. Tim Aldrich says:

    Those handles are gorgeous. I’m in desperate need of a tool chest and am very interested in this project.

  18. Ron Dennis says:

    Chris – In my 40-odd years of making sawdust, most of the materials I’ve read or learned in formal educational programs and seminars told me to secure the project hardware first. Yet it appears that the hardware is always somewhat of an after thought. What am I missing?

    • lostartpress says:


      I don’t disagree with that advice. And in some cases, I actually follow it.

      The problem is, no one makes the hardware I want for this chest. So I ordered the hinges and hasp from a blacksmith to fit my design.

      If someone had already manufactured the hardware and it was available, I would have ordered it beforehand.

  19. Eric R says:

    Dang, those handles rock the house.
    Now THAT is the way to use scraps.

  20. Patrick says:

    Hi Chris,
    Will your article give us a geometry lesson on laying out the handles using a divider?
    PS. make sure you reads robert’s comment on momentum and bungee cords above.

    • Mark Dorman says:

      Get some graph paper and a straight edge a divider and start drawing. Draw a base line go up a couple inches draw a ( maybe 1 1/2 to start with) circle in the middle then come up straight line an inch on each end. Then start playing with a 2″ radius to connect the top of the straight lime to the tangent of the center circle. Same way with the third radius; just start throwing arcs until it looks right ( key word here) to your eye. Just keep changing widths, height and radius until it’s right; you’ll know it when you see it. It’s a good exercise to find what looks good to your inner Anarchist.

      • markdorman says:

        One way to start to figure height is to make a fist like your holding the size of dowel you will use for the handle. Then measure from center of dowel to the top of your knuckle and add some knuckle clearance. That will give the center point to the top radius from your base line.

  21. Kees says:

    I seriously enjoyed this serie of Dutch toolschest blogs. Made me looking all over museum websites overhere in The Netherlands to find similar chests.

    The piece turned out very nicely. The handles aren’t really my cup of tea, but they look well made and sturdy enough.

  22. Frank Ederveen says:

    Here’s another old dutch toolbox: for sale on a dutch ebay equivalent for 50 euro.

    “Groto foto’s” takes you to some larger images.

  23. Bernard Naish says:

    Is that half-witty or half-witted?

    You know to many of us English, the French and you Americans are like family members. We row with you; tease unmercifully; fight; shout and yell; make rude and prejudiced comments …..in fact all the things I do with my brothers and my woodwork mates at the shop we share. Of course when the chips are down we help each other and might even grudgingly and lightly praise but not too much and usually followed by an insult just to make sure we do not get too big for our boots.

    LAP is a wonderful idea that has been made to happen; the ATC is an important book and may just ensure we hand on our hand woodwork skills and knowledge to future generations. I do not have the same enthusiasm for this Dutch tool chest. To me it looks ugly and I wonder if it will do the job particularly keeping out dust and damp so keeping tools free of rust. True the handles give it some dignity being much more attractive than those on the ATC and their strength and smooth wide handles will be essential as it will take two people to lift such a heavy chest from the back seat of a car. Presumably the front will face the back of the seat so that the slanted top will follow the shape of the roof just as such chests would have followed the curve of the hull on board ship and I wonder if it will obstruct the rear view?

    I find my miniature traveling chest is so heavy that when placed in the boot (trunk) it noticeably affects the handling of the car so the back seat is a good decision particularly with American cars that I understand have softer suspension than in Europe. It also moves around even though it has no castors and I use a leather strap to hold it in place. I can just lift its 25 kilo (about 55lb for the metrically challenged) out single handed with the help of the said strap passing over my shoulders but then I am getting old and I am small framed. I use a folding sack barrow if I am moving it any distance and I find it better to travel with my saws in a separate case and I pack 14 (I know – some must go.) into the space taken by the saw till in the ATC.

    I hate painting wood so I used pale shellac so that I can revel in the cistern dovetails and the tight fit of the skirt to the carcase. However Chris is right, my traveling chest gets damaged really quickly no matter how careful I am. If it starts to look tatty instead of having an attractive patina I can paint it any time I like because the shellac is the best base coat. I may also add brass strips to protect the areas that get damaged most.

    Scaling down the ATC ,as I have, does start to give problems because the tools stay the same size, so getting the larger tools out of the lowest layer is not quite as easy as I would wish. I may make a matching chest to carry my green woodworking tools………………………..come to think of it perhaps I should go Dutch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! or perhaps an English carpenters case much as my Father and Grandfather used?

    • Patrick says:

      I’ve been thinking of doing this chest, but with stackable sections like campaign furniture. Assembled it would look (basically) the same and would be a whole lot easier to move. I’ve been thinking about this since Chris posted a picture of one from “Grandpa’s Workshop”. Solves the weight issue of moving a fully loaded chest. I’m getting old too. You could also just bring the sections you need for a given job.

  24. I have a question, but perhaps it is my eyesight, which I admit is growing weaker rapidly. The handle in the distance, looks like it has a much larger rebate on the far end, than does the one in the front. I know, I know, I’m nit picking Chris’s fine work again. But here it is on display, and I for one am interested in duplicating it, with my own twists. Personally though, the front looks good to me, as does the one on the rear. The one on the rear give the appearance of housing a longer handle within. What’s up? Is it the photography or my eyesight? I need to know whether to make an appointment.

  25. Paul says:

    I am trying to mentally invision you, toolbox in both hands trying to step into the backseat!
    Maybe CJ-5?
    IMHO chamfers would have been more appropriate

  26. joemcglynn says:

    Like everyone else, I love the handles. They look awesome. And the idea of LAP TP Roll Holders makes me smile. I may have to make a set for my house.

    Holding a router in a vise doesn’t seem particularly scary. I’ve used mine in the past to radius the edge of aluminum parts, there is something gratifying about spraying hot aluminum chips across the shop while the router scream it’s 10,000 RPM siren song. Preferably with the live version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” cranked up in the background and an ice cold Fitz’s root beer sitting nearby.

  27. Sawdust maker says:

    Why is whenever I look at other people’s work I see generally nice pieces of woodworking,but whenever I look at my work all I see are my mistakes -go figure

  28. Just one question: why the small casters? (I understand the 40’s era appeal, but for a portable tool chest I’d go with something bigger for ease of the wieght and terrian… or am I over engineering it?)

    • lostartpress says:

      I’ve used 2″ casters on all my chests and am pleased with them.

      But I haven’t gone four-wheeling with them in the swamp.

      The original had 2″ casters, too. If you want bigger, knobbier casters, I say go for it.

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