The Tool Chest Factory


When I wrote “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” I didn’t think a single person would actually build the chest shown in the book. That’s why I greatly condensed my construction instructions, and I eliminated chapters for a traveling version and a Dutch chest.

Six years later, building these tool chests comprises a significant portion of my income. This is both surprising and heartening. Yes, wall-hung tool cabinets and racks are great – no argument. But there is something about a tool chest that appeals to certain woodworkers.

I have been working out of a tool chest since 1997 and – after using racks and cabinets – am deeply satisfied with my choice.

This week I have launched into building two full-size chests for special customers. Both chests will have a full suite of hardware from blacksmith Peter Ross. Plus lots of details I’ve been itching to try, and some new ideas from the customers that I’m quite excited about.

I’ll document their construction here – not so much to generate additional business (I have 14 commissions lined up for 2018), but to make up for the lightweight instructions in the book.

First up: Choosing lumber and gluing up the panels. Look for it soon.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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31 Responses to The Tool Chest Factory

  1. Salko Safic says:

    Wow 14 commissions at $2000 a pop! Your laughing all the way to the bank. Good for you, I’m glad someone is making a quid.

    • SSteve says:

      That’s not really enough that he can sit around doing nothing the rest of the year, though, is it? At first blush it might sound like a significant chunk of change but if you do some math (materials, supplies, overhead, taxes) it’s not going to keep a person in champagne and lobster all of its own.

    • Mike says:

      general rule of thumb – commenting on other peoples’ money (or lack thereof) is like school in the summer.

  2. fatfrogdecoys says:

    looking forward to this!

  3. Looking forward to the ‘traveling chest’ details.

  4. Jeff Hanna says:

    I am just finishing mine up…I’m not one to stray from tradition, but I am thinking about putting part of the tool rack in the front of the chest with my chisels in it on a french cleat. I would then put a corresponding french cleat on the back of my bench, so I can remove the whole set and put it near where I’m working. Other than that, the only thing I did different was shift the saw till to one side of the chest (I only have my 3 backsaws in there) and wall it off on the side. I did that mainly because it is the only way my wooden plow plane would fit in the chest (those take up a lot of space).

  5. Sam says:

    Good for you Christopher. I’m happy to follow your lead in preserving the craft.

  6. I have a small shop and don’t have the real estate on the floor for a tool chest so I use wall hung cabinet behind my bench. I do really like the tool chest and reading TATC I decided to build one and it now sits in my living room. The wife had one stipulation, it had to be a pretty wood so I made it from walnut.

  7. The instructions were actually crystal-clear, I would never guess they were “condensed”. The cumbersome nature of this big unmovable object is offset by the protection it offers to the tools, I am very pleased with the outcome. I do combine it with a very useful wall cabinet, where the chisels and the marking/measurements tools are kept in racks.

  8. Nathan B. says:

    Hi Chris, would you ever consider publishing said information that you left out of your original book, or do you think between the blog, other books, are articles, most of it has already been covered?

  9. Mark Hawkins says:

    Do you have an updated version of Anarchist’s Tool Chest in the digestive tract of LAP?

  10. Out of curiosity, will a future version of the book have these details (that were omitted) added back into the book?

  11. Paul Fickes says:

    However, your video the “Traditional English Tool Chest” seems anything but Lightweight, it seems quite detailed to me. I’ll be interested in seeing what deviations you are doing compared with the video. I am taking a “Travelling Tool Chest Class” which I understand you and Megan co-designed for teaching purposes, but will be prepping my own stock and with permission of the school and the instructor, and building a full size chest in parallel with the smaller travelling. I already built a traveler with Mike Siemsen and it does not fit my needs for the shop. Particularly the part about finding the three point brace to be high enough to allow us old guys to get into the chest with little effort that you point out.

  12. Simon says:

    I’m glad you stop short of putting a monetary value on the commissions. None of our business and more importantly it’s very easy to cheapen craftsmanship. I perhaps have been guilty of it myself. I would love a pair of crucible dividers but can’t justify the price in terms of utility to me. Similarly with the lump hammer, which grows on me every time I see it! I’ll just have to try and make one myself.
    As for the chests I’m torn, the large chest would occupy too much floor space sadly, so it might have to be a Dutch. Could this be adapted to,hang on the wall when not in use? I have to get my boat in the workshop occasionally and even a 14ft dinghy while small for a boat takes up a lot of floor space when working on it.

  13. Rachael Boyd says:

    I got my great grandfathers traveling chest. I had to make a till for it, but love it. then I built the full size chest and I have worked out of it for the last 5 years. I have also made 4 Dutch chest and have taught two classes on making the Dutch chest and it still amazes me on how many tools you can fit in that chest and still pick it up to move it. All of them I mite add were done with out power tools. I know first hand the work it takes to build a chest so the people that get the one you have made are getting a real treasure.

    • tsstahl says:

      Did you source the hardware for the Dutch chests commercially, or go the custom blacksmith route?
      Lee valley used to carry a suitable strap hinge, but it has been out of stock for quite a while now.

      • Rachael Boyd says:

        I found it at home depot of all places, if you check out my page you can see the hinge I found. search (the country woodwright) to my facebook page go through the pics and you will find the long hinges

  14. studioffm says:

    Power to your elbow Chris

  15. Stump says:

    Best thing I ever did was build the Dutch Tool Chest. I was not sure I wanted to tackle the ATC or that I wanted one that big so I didn’t build it. When the DTC came out I knew it would work for me. The best thing about it was my twin 6 yr olds helped me make it and painted it themselves.

  16. E. Fahle says:

    I’m not going to follow this series. I’ll probably end up with a second toolchest which has to be filled with even more tools. It already amazes me how many (expensive) tools fit into the small version of the Dutch Toolchest I built last year.

  17. Jacob M. says:

    I love my tool chest. It makes going to workshops so easy. Just load it in the back of the SUV and away I go with almost everything I need neatly arranged. I based mine off your PWW August 2015 issue plans.

  18. DR_Woodshop says:

    Two special customers … shall we begin to speculate who they are? I am guessing Megan and Brendan are getting their own chests at the LAP storefront. Not sure if that is true or not, but I kind of hope it is.

  19. rons54 says:

    Do you plan any Dutch (or English) toolchest classes at the storefront this year? I want to take one and build a chest for myself and I think my niece would be up for a weekend class like the one Megan just did, if I were to nudge her. As a young pup I don’t think she could get enough time off for a weekday class but I bet she could take home a finished Dutch chest at the end of a weekend.

  20. manitario says:

    I don’t really have a place for a tool chest; have all my tools on a wall hanging chest (and floor space is a premium). However, enough of these posts is slowly convincing me that I should build one. Not sure what I’d do with it, prob. make a great gift.

  21. Greg N says:

    Looking forward to following the construction process. It happens that I just installed the saw till on my ATC today, as the final step in building it. I’ve been using the partially-completed tool chest for several months. It’s amazingly functional. The ATC build was fun, satisfying, and a tremendously valuable learning experience. I’m certainly not afraid to cut dovetails or deep mortise and tenon joints now!

  22. Mark says:

    I built the ATC, but I made it smaller. I have about 150 square feet of work space and all of my power tools are on wheels and get rolled out to a covered patio when I work. I also built one of Chris’ work benches using southern yellow pine and Douglas fir. Again, I made it smaller, about 5 feet in length. The ATC is identical to the video except the final dimensions and I built 2 tills instead of 3. It holds all of my tools and I have never regretted building it to fit my shop.

  23. drjohn1963 says:

    I found the instructions quite clear and sufficient. I made a full size chest for my shop, and a slightly smaller one for my son for a dorm chest; worked out great for both uses (the two layer milk paint worked well for his college colors). I set mine up on a board with wheels, so it is off the floor and easy to move around the shop, but lifts off to put in the truck as needed. Happy with that part as well. Very grateful for the practicality promoted through All Things Schwarz!

  24. Brian G Miller says:

    Waiting for the traveler.

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