Though you might find this odd, a sizable chunk of my commission work is building tool chests and workbenches for people.
When customers first approached me with these jobs, I resisted. My response was: You’re a woodworker; you can build your own for much less money. But after further discussions, I realized that I could say this to almost any aspect of the craft.
Don’t have a shop? You’re a woodworker – build one.
Don’t have a handplane? You’re a woodworker – build one.
Don’t have a wooden floor?
Don’t have a dovetail saw?
When it comes to the great Time Vs. Money Scale, some of us have more time. Others have more money. (Few of us have both or neither.) And so I started making workbenches and tool chests for customers. This also conveniently drained my supply of half-built tool chests and workbenches in my garden shed that were left over from classes.
For woodworkers who can’t afford a tool chest from me (they cost $2,000 to $3,500 depending on the options), I encourage them to buy a vintage tool chest. In the Midwest, South and East, almost every antique store has a chest to sell. You just have to tune your eyes to see them. Typically they are holding other items – plates, glassware or creepy dolls – and so they are easy to miss.
They often show up in local auctions – an Amish auction near me usually has a dozen chests each year.
And the price is right. About $200 to $400.
Most of them need to be cleaned up. The tills are worn out and need to be repaired. Mouse holes are common. Rot in the bottom boards is a frequent feature. Dislocated hinges and a pink paint job round out the list of things you’ll want to remedy.
But it is a great alternative. Most chests can be fixed up with a day of work in the shop. And you will get a gold star in woodworker heaven for saving a tool chest from its doom as another plant stand.
— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com