Why You Should Work With a Blacksmith


Yesterday I put the finishing touches on my traveling Dutch tool chest: strap hinges and a hasp made by John Switzer of Black Bear Forge.

Of course, the metalwork looks fantastic and correct on this old-style piece. But beyond the outward appearance, these hinges reminded me of why it’s always nice to work with a blacksmith on a furniture project.

First, I was able to get straps and a hasp that were perfectly scaled to the piece. I couldn’t find manufactured straps that had leaves where both were the lengths I wanted.

Also, Switzer was able to make the hinges and hasp so they worked perfectly with my lid, which is at a 30° slope. The hasp comes down at 30° and stops just where it should. The hinges lift up just past 90° and stop – I don’t need a chain or leather strap to prevent the lid from flipping back.

Switzer also supplies slot-head screws that are exactly the same color as the hardware. So installing all the hardware on this chest took about 30 minutes – instead of a whole day of stripping, cleaning, grinding, filing and tweaking to get commercial stuff to fit and suit my (admittedly) picky tastes.

And the price was fair for this level of work – $260 delivered for the two hinges and hasp.

Having this chest complete is a huge relief – I drive to Highland Hardware in Atlanta on Thursday for the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event and to teach a one-day class. If you’re in the area, come by and check out the chest and hardware – plus I’ll bring my Milkman’s Workbench.

And if you need some custom iron hardware, I can highly recommend Switzer. I’ll be knocking on his digital door again real soon.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Before I forget: This Dutch chest – fully loaded – tips the scales at 98 pounds, or about 44-1/2 kilograms for our metric friends.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Woodworking Classes. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Why You Should Work With a Blacksmith

  1. Thomas Priest says:

    Very nice! Has John built any holdfast’s for customers? With the excellent detail on the hinges and hasp I know he could but was curious if he has them in his line or would do them as a custom order? I know he always sees the post so John if you read this curious if you do? Great work as always Chris and John….

  2. rjusty says:

    Beautiful metal work. Outside my current budget, but really nice. The chest looks great.
    Question: what’s holding the chest up in the first pic? I finished my Moravian stool and have been considering a slightly scaled-up pair for use around the shop as sawbenches, etc.

    Robert Justiana

  3. Julien Hardy says:

    How heavy is the thing once loaded with tools ?

  4. Kees says:

    Hmmm, non too shabby.

  5. Patrick says:

    Hi Chris,
    Nice chest. Perfect size.
    Speaking of LN events, I just checked the calandar at LN and they have you attending Jeff Miller’s at the same time you are in Perth Ontario (per your post). So, can we count on someone else to rep LAP in your absense and sell some books? Also, will the poor-man’s Roubo be out then? (mid April).
    Thanks in advance.

  6. billlattpa says:

    Those hinges may be a little pricey, but you can’t deny the results. Nothing like smith made hardware, anywhere.

  7. jonathanszczepanski says:

    I hired a local blacksmith to make a hasp for my ATC this past Fall. I found a cool antique padlock on eBay that I wanted to use. It worked out very well. I will need him to make some handles to go along with it. Now I also have a local craftsman to work with on mixed media projects.

  8. David Cockey says:

    Do you anticipate moving the traveling tools to the “anarchist’s” tool chest and working from that one when you are at home, leaving the traveling tools in the Dutch tool chest and working from both tool chests at home, or eventually outfitting the Dutch tool chest with a separate set of traveling tools?

    • lostartpress says:


      I don’t want two sets of tools. So I will be moving the tools from the small Dutch to the full-size chest when I’m home. Takes less than 10 minutes and it allows me to examine all the tools for damage, to wipe them down with an oily woobie and to see if they need sharpening.

      The large Dutch chest has a new home in Chicago.

      I have visitation rights.

  9. bendur says:

    Did you use glue on the nailed joints?

  10. John Switzer says:

    Thank you so much for the kind words. I have to admit that some of those things where just a lucky guess. I look forward to reading the article in PW.


  11. Greg Gregoire says:

    I don’t see one of your essencial tools. Where do you pack your SuperWoobie?

  12. Dave says:

    This hits home with me so much. I started forging just to get the hardware I want. I also love the ability it gives me to make my holdfasts, stop dogs and any other tool I want. I enjoyed reading this so much. Keep up the good work!

    • John Switzer says:

      Making things for wood working is also what got me started in blacksmithing. Nearly 30 years later I am just getting to that point. I have spent most of my time working for re enactors, making knives, small household items and simple harware. I have only made a few chisels. I hope to do much more of this type of hardware along with simple hand forged tools. (holdfasts, froes, chisels, slicks, and axes to name a few)

    • John Switzer says:

      By the way Dave, thats some great stuff on you blog

  13. Brian Hotham says:

    The chest and the hardware both look great, excellent job Chris and John.

  14. Eric Bushèe says:

    Wow, that metalwork looks just great.
    Chris, have you been able to find any good local blacksmiths?

  15. wesleytanner says:

    Recently I had Dave Fisher at Fisher Forge make me a pair of Offset Strap Hinges for a blanket chest. We had a great email exchange, and I’m very happy with his hinges, his price, and his service. You can find him at http://www.fisherforge.com

  16. Are you going to be at Highland Woodworking on Friday, or just Saturday and Sunday?

  17. Are you going to be at Highland Hardware on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday?

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