I am wed and bred to the traditional tool chest. I’ve been working out of one since 1996 and have no plans to suddenly switch to storing my tools in stacking rubber boxes.
Sure, I’ve experimented with other systems (like when I experimented with lesbianism in college). But after giving them a year or two in parallel with my tool chest, I always went back to the warm embrace of of the big floor chest by my workbench.
If you hate tool chests, that’s cool with me. But you need to come up with a way to hold your tools that makes it easy to work at the bench. Since publishing “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” I’ve been asked about once a month to please, please, please design a wall-hung tool cabinet that is the equal of a floor chest.
Now that I’m juggling two book projects, I’m really not equipped to design a complicated piece of tool storage and give it a real-world test. But perhaps you are.
When I consider tool storage, here is a list of the things that are important to me. Other woodworkers at the extremes (French-fitting neat-nicks and those who are casual about tool care) will disagree. That’s cool. Write your own book.
1. Tools protected from rust, dust and damage. I spent a lot of time fixing up tools or saving up the money to buy my tools. So I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them rust or get cruddy. Good tool storage should keep the tools protected. Period. This is why I don’t like open tool racks (which I’ve experimented with a lot). The tools on the open racks are more likely to get rusty or (more important) go missing.
2. All tool can be grabbed instantly or by moving one sliding/swinging layer in front. Your tool system should not be a Chinese puzzle box. H.O. Studley’s toolbox is cool, but it is a tool-storage nightmare.
3. Tools aren’t obscured from view in drawers. When tools go into drawers, they seem to disappear from memory. I like tools in the open because of this simple fact: When you can see all your tools your memory about their location is much improved. I have to nudge my marking knife to grab my carpenter’s pencil, so it’s easy for me to remember where the knife is – I’ve seen it 100 times that day.
4. The storage is flexible without distinct spots for everything. I tried French-fitting my tools. It was a chore to make all the little racks and holder bits. Then I decided I wanted the shoulder plane somewhere else and so I had to change it all.
5. The tools should be in smallest space possible. When your tools are in a compact area you won’t have to walk across the shop to pick them off the rack across the room. It’s all right there, just within arm’s reach.
6. The storage should be inexpensive and movable. I’d rather buy more wood for furniture. And someday I might have a cooler shop on Russell Street.
This is a quick back-of-the-napkin list. But I think it’s pretty good.
Oh, and it should be black.
— Christopher Schwarz