English Tool Chests in England

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The No. 1 question I get from students in my tool chest classes: “Aren’t you tired of building tool chests?”

That’s like asking a delivery-room doctor: “Aren’t you tired of delivering babies?”

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Helping woodworkers build a tool chest and workbench that will set them on a life of making things never gets old. Building a chest or a workbench in a classroom with 18 other people is a sometimes-grueling way to learn the basic joints of the craft and make mistakes in a place where they can easily be fixed.

And in only five days, it’s all over. You have a place for your tools and you know how to use them.

This week I’m teaching a particularly special Anarchist’s Tool Chest class at Warwickshire College in England. It’s a big deal for me for two reasons. First, it’s the first time I’ve ever taught in England. Second, I am the first instructor hired by The New English Workshop, a small company that has a lot of the same fundamental principles as Lost Art Press.

The two founders, Paul Mayon and Derek Jones, are committed to growing the hand-tool craft in England and supporting the existing structure of craft education in this country (more on that later in the week). They have a lot of interesting classes and events planned for 2015, so do sign up updates from their their blog.

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We are three days into the class right now, and things are going well. Except for the fact that I am having the occasional and strange attack of deja-vu. Here’s why: We are building these chests from yellow pine, which is almost certainly from the United States. So as I am surrounded by these tea-sipping, warm-beer-loving English woodworkers, I am occasionally overwhelmed by the familiar turpentine odor of yellow pine. It makes me feel like I’m back in Arkansas and in one of our unfinished houses on the farm. And all the turkeys and armadillos have English accents.

So yeah, it’s a bit weird.

But I love the weird, and so I’m off to a sports bar with the students in a few minutes. I wonder if Bud Light sponsors the local cricket league. I hope not.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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15 Responses to English Tool Chests in England

  1. Joe says:

    I’m up in Yorkshire and have been building a Dutch chest for the last few days.

  2. wortheffort says:

    That facility… Holy Freaking WOW! And am I the only one to notice all the cases appear to be grain matched on the side.

  3. willmyers17 says:

    In Arkansas did you pronounce it “yellow” or “yeller” pine? In NC the older folks would say “yeller”. I was trying to imagine an Englishman saying “yeller pine”, it’s not working out!

  4. Joe says:

    I’d call it “Yeller.” As in the US, such things vary by region.

  5. ianfraser23 says:

    haha, it almost certainly is Scot’s pine! Probably mugged, too!

  6. It sounds like a great adventure for you Chris. I am sure you will enjoy a pint or two with the boys.. Do have some fish and chips. The one thing I do miss about living in Australia. Americans do not know how to prepare a good fish and chips.. Enjoy your stay as I am sure they will invite you back.. Please do tell them one thing that you are not planning on moving over there as we need you here in the USA..
    Rich

  7. oldbaleine says:

    Man, those are going to be some heavy chests! I am impressed by the corner joinery. Sawing DTs in SYP is not the easiest thing to do well.

  8. Dave Hart says:

    Find a nice ale on cask at the sports bar. You won’t be disappointed.

  9. MattC says:

    If I ever get a workshop that isn’t in a basement, I can only hope that it has half the number of windows as that place. Looks amazing.

  10. I’m not so sure this yellow pine comes from the States. It looks exactly like the pine I used for my tool chest in color and figure. I’m 100% sure that “my” pine was harvested in the Netherlands. IIRC the UK imports a lot of its pine from Sweden. I can’t imagine they would import from the USA if they have a source so much closer.

    • I agree with you. It is impossible to tell, however, because this wood is clearly in the Pinus subspecies and indistinguishable from yellow pines from the U.S.

      Also, the economics of wood don’t always make sense. We import white pine from Sweden, even though we have plenty of it in our country.

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