The One in Which I am Slapped by Someone


Please don’t let your children (or your fetal acetates) read this blog entry.

I’m finishing up the interior of a traveling tool chest this weekend and put in the tool rack that’s affixed to the back wall of this particular chest.

The rack is on the back wall because the front wall will be consumed by a large crab lock. But that’s not what this entry is about. It’s about the details of building the rack.

Normally, the tool racks I make are a single piece of 1” x 1” stock that I pierce with 1/2” holes on 1-1/8” centers. This sort of rack appeals to my desire to keep my tools all upright and evenly spaced – I have a lot of German blood don’t you know.

But this rack does limit the ability of the rack to hold a lot of tools.

Two years ago when Megan Fitzpatrick built her chest, she didn’t care much for my arrangement and so she decided to do something different. One night when I dropped off some manuscripts for editing she showed me her rack. I was impressed.

It might be the most thoughtful and capacious rack I’ve encountered.

Instead of plunging a 1/2” bit into a stick of wood, Megan took a “negative space” approach to her rack. There’s a single wooden bar that is offset from the wall of her chest with small bits of wood. And the whole thing is screwed to the wall.

I took some measurements, filed the information away and went home.


This morning I started playing with the variables to make a rack that would hold the maximum number of tools and place them at the right height so you could easily grab them, without stressing the parts of the rack and loosening the screws that hold it together.

So I gathered all the handled tools I could and started measuring them. I wanted the tools to wedge into the rack and keep their tops at a certain height so you could reach in there and finger them without too much fuss.

Here’s what I came up with: The wooden bar is 1/4” thick x 7/8” wide. The wooden bits that offset the bar are 9/16” thick x 7/8” wide. The 9/16” space between the wall and the bar was one magic dimension. The other important dimension was putting about 7” between the wooden bits. Any more than 7” and the wooden wall flexed in a way that made me uncomfortable and put a strain on my screws.

Then I positioned the rack so it was 5-1/2” from the top rim of the chest. I screwed it to the wall.

This setup accommodated every tool I could find. They dropped into the space without any trouble and the tops of the handles ended up in a grabbable place.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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27 Responses to The One in Which I am Slapped by Someone

  1. Thank you for the research. I am almost at the interior design part of a chest I’m building, and I am dissatisfied with the tool rack in my current chest. This looks like it will work out great for my new chest!

  2. jonathanszczepanski says:

    My tool rack is almost the same. I have a wooden bar against the wall of the chest. This extra spacer centers the tools so that they hang straight up and down. I also made some wooden “T” shaped spacers to put in between tools that I don’t want touching, for example rasps.

  3. Wesley Beal says:

    So is Megan’s rack firm and pliant?

    I could see the narrow stock flexing a little to accommodate the tools, while still holding them firm.

  4. ejcampbell says:

    I have a similar rack above my bench for chisels and rasps. It’s worked well for 6 yrs.

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. sean3047 says:

    How well do the tools travel in this rack? I’d be worried they’d all tip sideways and bang against each other. Saying that though, as someone with a growing set of tools I really like this design.

    • jonathanszczepanski says:

      If you are going to travel with a toolcehst with this type of toolrack, and you are worried about things moving in the toolrack, I’d recommend putting them in a tool wrap before transport.

  6. Joe Eberle says:

    My first thought is that putting this either on the front or back wall .maybe interferes with retrieval of what’s below. I’m thinking of the AT C where either the saw till or the molding planes are directly below. Am I overly complicating this?

  7. g2-87cc707f0aa4e62f4a92f77f89ccba9d says:

    That’s quite the description lad. Someone might have another go at you for it.

  8. freonguy says:

    I will veer away from the parts of your post that the ribald part of my brain comments ‘ I says pardon?’
    Rather, I can see several merits to Meagan’s design; the concern I have is that in transport, the chisels may swing back and forth and chip or maim the delicate, perfectly honed 90 degree corners.
    As usual, your bringing forward different ways to ‘ skin the cat ‘ are always appreciated. I look forward to an informational 2015!!

  9. I just did something similar on the front wall of my ATC the other day. I made a sandwich with a 1/2″ gap in the middle. It works great for my larger chisels, but for the narrow ones, the blade isn’t heavy enough to hold them upright. I’m going to solve this by gluing in some spacers as I figure out which chisels I want to keep around.

    Anyway, I’m really happy with the general approach so far.

  10. obewank says:

    meagan’s rack………….please lord forgive us for we have sinned………….or are about to??????????????sorry chris……

  11. stradlad68 says:

    You better hope Megan doesn’t have another rack in her basement–one that involves ropes, a windlass and pointy objects!

  12. Rachael Boyd says:

    I did something similar in my chest for the chisels, I set all my chisels on a board marked them out so the distant between the handles were the same then dadoed them out, then put a slat across to hold them in place. that way the cutting edge is safe. I couple of screws to make fast to the inside of the front of the chest. seems to work great.

  13. As much as we should all enjoy discussing Megan’s rack…

    Let’s here more about the crab lock!

  14. paul6000000 says:

    Looks like an good excuse for a couple more beads.

  15. I did the same thing with my tools chest but took it a step further by adding smaller blocks glued in between the chisels so they don’t knock into each other. I’ve also used a 6/4 block and notched it out for each tool, but that’s a pain. With scraps you can easily add spacers in where needed to keep things in place.

  16. Now measure the center-to-center distance between the tops of the tool handles and see if its different from the drilled version 🙂

  17. davelouw says:

    I realize I can’t ask this question without sounding lewd, but in all seriousness, do you have a picture of Megan’s rack for comparison purposes? I can’t tell from your description what you did differently.

  18. mikeneves says:

    I’ve never seen Megan’s rack in person, but after this detailed description I feel as though I have.

    I remember once in college I saw a wooden wall flex in a way that also put a strain in my screws. I can’t remember if it was more or less than 7″.

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