Working on a Work Vest


Geologists know the value of a good vest. No, Chris won’t be modeling ours sans shirt. Don’t get your hopes up.

Our Chore Coat has been popular so far, so Chris and I wanted to follow it up with another garment that would be useful, not just merchandise. His idea was a work vest that’d layer over a shirt or under a coat, with plenty of pockets and a low collar. Sounds good, I said, and we were off to the races.


Tatra Mountain guides wore leather vests. 

We kept it simple, with three outside patch pockets, a low band collar for ease of layering and an inside divided pocket for a pencil, marking knife, 6″ ruler, Sharpie, lumber crayon, paintbrush, tire pressure gauge, Slim Jim, asparagus stalk, Timberlok, cigarillo, chopsticks and other workbench essentials.


Dick Proenneke made a cut-off vest to be layered under his overalls. 

We’ll be producing a limited run of these vests – probably no more than 100 pieces – out of a beautiful English-woven moleskin fabric. More on moleskin later. (It’s not made out of dead moles. But it is awesome.) Later versions of the vest will be made using a cloth that is easier to get.


Furniture builders wear vests too.

We’re glad to be working with Sew Valley in Cincinnati again. They’re growing and improving every month and we’re delighted to support them as best we can.


Russian firewood haulers? Yep. Vests. 

Expect to see our final prototype later this month.

— Tom Bonamici

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27 Responses to Working on a Work Vest

  1. denver80203 says:

    Nice. I’ve been wearing overalls more and more often so I have someplace to put the bare essentials I have a ‘heavy duty military-type’ vest that is better at holding sharp bulkier things like the 6 inch combo square… but it’s heavy. There’s a happy medium that I havn’t yet found

  2. Thomas Peters Blamey says:

    There is no better material for a Waistcoat than Moleskin. No matter how many Moles it takes. I’ll take one. It will compliment my french Chore Coat.

  3. Richard Byrne says:

    Curious comment on people wearing vests while working. You show two,, probably English, woodworkers, wearing vests. The reason a vest may well have added some warmth in a shop. However, the reason a vest was worn,, and at times still is, is that one’s white shirt was considered an “undergarment” to be appropriately covered. Until “underpants came along, the long shirt tail provided the same function. Kennen Sie Ihr Undercladen!.
    Richard O. Byrne

  4. Dave Polaschek says:

    You’re going to be making vests out of hipster notebooks? Sounds scratchy.

  5. Andrew Turner says:

    In my opinion ye olde vest is a classic piece of working kit where the interior heating is a bit lacking. I have photos of relatives wearing waistcoats in Yorkshire mines. I think the vest bridges the gap between sweater and coat — perfect for times when you’re not sure whether you’re hot or cold. But I also notice they aren’t really worn in cold (-10C or lower) temps.

  6. wb8nbs says:

    I has to hold at least one block plane.

  7. jbgcr says:

    I’ve been looking for a good shop vest for many years
    Don’t go overboard on the number of pockets

  8. “We’ll be producing a limited run of these vests – probably no more than 100 pieces.”
    Challenge accepted. I got the first run of scrapers. I finally got a lump hammer. The vest shall be mine!

  9. alexpacin says:

    I understand why you don’t make these out of dead moles, but that begs the question: what do you feed the live moles to keep the vest looking its best?

    • Gerald Yungling says:

      No dead moles–well that should make PETA folks happy. At least it’s not made out of naugahyde, With no naugas left in the wild they’re on the verge of extinction.

  10. Barron says:

    I am very interested, being a die hard vest wearer. For those that miss out on the first 100, the Filson vest in the top photo is a great piece. I still have and wear the one I used for field work managing public lands. After 30 years and numerous tree marking paint stains, it is better than ever.

  11. jayedcoins says:

    Tom and Chris, how about some shorts like the first picture!?

  12. warren says:

    Look at the Duluth Trading Catalog. They have a great vest that I use in place of an apron. Plenty of LARGE pockets to put a small square, measuring tape, marking knife, block plane, etc. It is rugged and adjustable for both cool or warm weather wear. Unless you can beat their price, I wouldn’t bother with this effort. How about sticking with woodworking?

    • Gerald Yungling says:

      At the risk of being snarky or speaking out of turn: LAP is more of a publishing company than a woodworking company. Regardless, luckily they haven’t let the fact that we can get books and other items just about anywhere else for less stop them from offering their own. I’ve never bought anything from LAP based on price. Only on quality. I have yet to be disappointed. If you don’t want the vest, don’t buy it. As far as giving LAP business advice, I think you nailed it: “I wouldn’t bother with the effort. How about sticking with woodworking?”

    • oltexasboy says:

      All of Duluth’s stuff is cheap Chinese junk. A cloth my Mama “brown duck” is great for workwear.

  13. John says:

    Really excited about this. I have a ratty oxford for my shop shirt, but the solo pocket bums me out. My shop apron pockets seem ever filled with sawdust. Perhaps a hardy vest then…

  14. Pete says:

    Check out the plethora of fly fishing vests. You will no doubt find lots of design ideas particularly in closures, fasteners and attachments. Please keep in mind venting please. It gets warm in my shop.

  15. Are these as useful as the vest Lowe’s associates wear?

  16. Al says:

    The vest in the first photo is a Filson timber cruiser vest. I have one just like it, they still make it. Its got a huge map pocket in the back.

    • Al says:

      Well I guess they don’t still make it, the did for years. The one in the picture appears to be the dry version. Oiled ones look like leatherish when worn in.

  17. A moleskin vest goes very nicely with a kilt. Just tossing that out there…

  18. edfurlong says:

    Like Al, I have a filson timber cruiser vest, the dry version, happen to be wearing it now, have had it for forty years, wears like iron. It is a near perfect vest: the right number of pockets (you can have too many), fits really well. One minor minus-no side (aka handwarmer) pockets, which I like to have when I am just standing slack jawed looking at a woodworking mistake I made and trying to figure out how to fix it; having my hands in those pockets keeps me from too quickly responding and making things worse.

    I saw some disparaging response about Duluth trading but I can say that in an earlier incarnation they produced a really good vest with a good number of pockets: 3 patch pockets on the front, and side pockets for your hands. It was made of moleskin as well. I have one a friend gave me that he picked up in a thrift shop and that is my other favorite vest. It could be a model for what you all are thinking of producing. Minuses from my perspective: a little too long (has a kidney flap), no pencil pocket, and the label indicates dry clean only. It is lined with rayon or something similar. I would be happy to send photos if interested. I have yet to see this vest in an online image search so I suspect the design predates Duluth’s web presence.

    My friends and family know me as a vest wearing kinda guy so I have had and worn dozens. For everyday wear for us tool-using mammals, these two are near perfect, and should be closely studied for any would be work vest design.

    Interesting wood note: a timber cruiser assesses quantity and quality of timber available for a timber lease. They spend a lot of time walking the woods making calculations, assessing board feet, fractions of harvestable timber, terrain, all the variables necessary for a bid, and the Filson vests can hold up to the tasks, and carry enough tools get you through a long hard day. Very popular among folk who work in the woods and know quality. That’s why geologists, biologists and others like me use them as well. Sad to hear that the Filson dry timber cruiser is gone out of production, especially since their motto has been “Might as well have the best”.

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