“One should place a drawer at the end of the bench so that the workers can close up their minor tools like gouges, compasses, etc. There are even shops where the benches are finished with planks/panels all around [a closed base] which is very convenient because that prevents shavings and dust from entering in the shelf and the tools which you put inside are less likely to be lost.”
— M. Roubo, “l’Art du menuisier” translated in “With All the Precision Possible”
I’ve built a few workbenches for customers who insisted on me adding a drawer under the benchtop as shown in Plate 11 of “l’Art du menuisier.” They also wanted a lock for the drawer, as shown in the plate.
At the time I built these drawers, I considered them superfluous. Plus they interfere with some clamping operations at the end of the workbench. As a result, I’ve never added a drawer to my personal workbench. I keep all my stuff in my tool chest, like a British dude.
Today I am reconsidering my position.
During the last year we’ve had hundreds of people through our shop. Some are students. Some are customers. Some are careless. All are curious. On Wednesday when I started dovetailing a series of seven drawers I played out a familiar scene.
“Have you seen my .7mm mechanical pencil?”
“Have you seen my Tite-Mark floating around?”
“Where’s my block plane?”
When you have other people in your shop, your stuff gets moved. Messed with. Even if you lock up your tool chest at night, during the day it’s open and people will poach a hammer, pencil or ruler if they are in a hurry and not thinking.
I’ve asked students, visitors and fellow woodworkers to please put things back. Doesn’t work.
During my panic on Wednesday I made a list of my stuff that has gone missing recently.
- Mechanical pencils (several of them)
- Starrett 6” rule
- Tite-Mark marking gauge
- Small Starrett dividers for dovetails
- Marking knife
- Paint can opener
- Starrett 6” combination square
- Diemakers square
Most (but not all) of these tools were located after I searched through the shop and the machine room. But after 20 minutes of looking for a rule, I start to feel like I’m losing money.
Hmmm, I thought, all of these things would fit in a small drawer under the benchtop. And if I locked it, then those tools would always be there when I needed them.
I feel a bit like a jerk for doing this. But I figure that building a drawer is a better idea than asking for anxiety medicine from my doctor.
— Christopher Schwarz