Loading the Studley Tool Chest (And Settling Old Scores)

The first time I helped load up the H.O. Studley tool chest with all its tools, I thought the task would be easy. I thought it would take less than an hour.

More than four hours later, we were still trying to thread all the little drill bits into all the little holes. And somewhere, H.O. Studley was laughing.

This year, during our fourth visit to this iconic tool chest, we had a plan. Plus, I have been doing finger exercises for months (mostly picking the noses of our five cats) in order to be able to thread my sausages through the latticework of mahogany, ebony and mother-of-pearl.

Today we loaded the chest in less than 45 minutes.

We shot this video, which has been sped up to 20x normal speed, to demonstrate our extreme dexterity.

I know you will watch this in awe.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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18 Responses to Loading the Studley Tool Chest (And Settling Old Scores)

  1. Quite the choreography guys.


  2. I try to leave my guess on the right post. But I guess it full. For the heck of it 39 lbs… An that was a great job on the chest.I cannot wait till the book comes out. Thank you and your team for a great job…


  3. Tim Henriksen says:

    Not to mention how great all that time in gloves is for your cuticles.


  4. jonathanszczepanski says:

    Piano music for Studley’s toolchest. Nicely done!
    (… Jazz hands…)


  5. Jesse Decker says:

    I hope you made a stop motion of this process.


  6. After more than a century the soul of Scott Joplin’s “Fig Leaf Rag”:is revealed. Bouncy, yet dark and mysterious, as only Studley cognoscenti can ever know. Great work guys. You’ve given new meaning to dexterity. Messrs. Studley and Joplin, piano builder and composer alike, are enjoying the show no doubt.


  7. johncashman73 says:

    Banjo music would be more appropriate for Studley.


  8. Mathieu says:

    It makes me wonder how long it takes too get to any of the less accesible tools and the ease of use or efficiency of this amazing chest? Besides the fact that it is so beautifully made I can’t help to wonder about it’s practicality.


  9. gburbank says:

    After viewing this I am under the firm impression that this was a “display chest”, and I suspect the majority of his daily working tools were kept in the drawers of the bench. Wear marks on the chest might serve to disprove this theory, but if the tools are that difficult to place and remove it would be an intolerable waste of time in the professional enviroment of the Poole Piano Co.


    • tsstahl says:

      I’m not so sure. They’ve pawed through it on four occasions whereas Studley lived with it. I have two Craftsmen tool chests that have been with me for nearly two decades. I can pick the right tools out of them in the dark and get darn close on the sockets.

      (I kid when I say ‘pawed’)


    • berfal says:

      If Studley was of the same practical mindset as my New England ancestors who inhabited the same area (one of whom may actually have worked for the Poole Piano Company, although I am very unsure of that) it seems unlikely that he would have built something just for show or that he would have gone to the trouble of building a tool case that made his job harder.

      The thing is, Studley had a very specific job within the realm of woodworking: building pianos. Within that, it seems he specialized in the working parts of the instrument, i.e., the sounding board, wires and key/hammer mechanisms. I don’t see the gouges and other carving tools that would be involved in making the sometimes very ornate cases. Furthermore, reading between the lines of various blog posts to date, it seems that his particular job was to develop the methods and work instructions for the making of those parts to be given to craftsmen on the factory floor. If that is correct then a fair amount of his time was spent writing down what he did and how he did it. He was not being paid by the piece and so there wasn’t the time pressure of production.

      The process of building a piano’s innards was probably fairly well defined and certain things happened before others. Looking through that lens, particularly Studley’s mental map of the process to the extent he made it known, I wonder if logic and patterns to the arrangement of the chest would emerge that aren’t apparent viewing it from the standpoint of a “general purpose” woodworker.


  10. bdormer says:

    If this was a race, looks like Chris won – so he had time for another donut. Also, it’s nice to see the bevel gauge (right side, just below the brace) back where it should be. It’s missing on some of the most widely published images (like, the Studley Chest poster). Lastly, I for one would enjoy seeing the “actual speed” version of this – still pictures are fine – but to really see how things move relative to one another you need moving pictures (if not the actual article). I can’t wait for the book.


  11. fitz says:

    Thanks N – the ending made me spit coffee on my keyboard


  12. hughjengine says:

    I’m sure there’s a letter out there documenting how Studley would strip and re-pack his chest in 12 minutes flat during the Poole christmas party…


  13. More useful than socks on a squirrel…


  14. I wish you two had held up each tool to the camera before placing it in its place.


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