Tool Chest: Changes to the Sawtill


One of the significant changes to the interior of the tool chests I build for customers is how the sawtill is constructed. The original from “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” was built like a few chests I had observed with a solid wall between the sawtill and the area for the bench planes.

I have replaced that solid wall with two horizontal rails. This change allows more light to enter the sawtill so you can find objects that have fallen down there or you have stashed there. And it reduces the overall weight of the chest.


I’ve also reduced the height of the sawtill to 9-1/2” so the three sliding tills float above it without interference.

Finally, I now add a bit of moulding to the components for the sawtill and the moulding plane till. In this case, I used a 1/2” square ovolo. These are decorative – spats on a sloth.


All of these components are merely nailed and screwed together so they can be removed for repair or when your heirs decide to store blankets instead of tools in your precious tool chest.

— Christopher Schwarz


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14 Responses to Tool Chest: Changes to the Sawtill

  1. Apart from maybe the ovolos on the slats, you usually seem to have a reason for everything you do. In the chest, as much as anywhere else, so therefore: the bottom boards – why are they chamfered on the long edges inside the chest? Ease of cleaning? To prevent items getting stuck? Or is there another secret to the madness? Good looks does not qualify as a valid answer. Or maybe it does?

    • Hi Travin,

      The bevels are there because I use a stock tongue-and-groove board from the lumber yard (called a car side – weird name) for the bottoms. The bevel is there to strengthen the long edges of the boards so they are not splintered over time. But that bevel is overkill for a tool chest. So they are there to add durability, but they are not really needed.

      • Matthew Holbrook says:

        Chris and Travis:

        The,type of lumber called “car side” in this post is so called after its use as siding boards for wood-sideD railroad cars (whether passenger or freight).

    • Christian says:

      I think I remember him saying in a post somewhere he was buying premade tongue and groove from the home store because it was good quality and cheaper then what he could buy the boards for and do himself. If that’s right, then this is probably the profile they come with.

  2. Robert Kirkby says:

    Chris, I like the changes, which make sense. The ovolos are a nice touch. Who says the tool chest just has to be functional without decoration. I have one question, what is the best method of cutting the kerfs in the till. Do you set them out and then cut them with a rip set handsaw or do you use some other method?

    • Robert,

      I have done it many ways. For this chest (where time is money and I have a lot to do) I used a table saw.

      • Robert Kirkby says:

        Thanks Chris, we don’t yet have the luxury of a table saw, we may have to make do with either a handsaw or we can fire up the bandsaw which could be an alternative.

  3. Rachael Boyd says:

    I for one really like the open saw till idea, I store a lot of stuff under the saws so when I need something I need to remove the saws to get to it. that would make getting it out much faster. heck just finding it will be faster.

  4. karlfife says:

    Have you seen this open design in the historical record? If not, I wonder if men moving their tools around frequently earning their living would be concerned with some of the “heavy iron” on the plane-side finding its way to the delicate saw blades in the till-side (when some fat-fingered apprentice drops the chest, or it falls til-side down from the wagon etc). I see that the floor cleat in your design would certainly keep a big #8 jointer up against the til acting act as “cast iron goalie”, but wonder if saw protection informed the historical design. I’m 100% confident that you already thought of this, so… what your thoughts on protection?

  5. Steve Gossage says:

    Please describe the hinges on the tool chest lid and how they are installed. These look much more robust than the earlier hinges. Where can these hinges be found?

  6. gregla2 says:

    In the practical woodworker scan and in the ATC (pretty sure), the slots for the saws don’t all begin at the top. The slots for the toe stop short of the top. Could you comment on your choosing one design over the other?
    Thank you.

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