OK, You Can Stay


Anyone who has read “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” or worked in my shop knows that I dislike French-fitted cubbyholes for tools. I prefer my tools to roam free and migrate amongst my tills as they rise and fall in importance to the job at hand.

I still think this way, but this morning I took a small step to both corral my pencils and tip my hat to my Lie-Nielsen 60-1/2 block plane. I added a small oak divider to keep my pencils, knives and 6” rules in one spot. And I added a smaller divider for my block plane at the other end of the till.


The pencil divider has been a long time coming. I hoard my mechanical pencils, rules and erasers and the like (you have to in a group shop or you will end up pencil-less). And like Nesquik or Tang, they soon dissolve into the rest of the till, hiding under the other tools and becoming invisible.

The divider for the block plane is simply an admission that this block plane has been with me for 23 years and isn’t going anywhere.


The dividers are oak scraps that I secured with headless brads only. So if this turns out to be a bad idea, it’s reversible.


One other small tip: to restrain and protect valuable tools, such as my sliding bevels, I keep them in small cardboard boxes. The boxes can migrate (a good thing) but they never become invisible (also a good thing).

OK, now to work.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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26 Responses to OK, You Can Stay

  1. wb8nbs says:

    Would it be too great a concession to modernity to embed a magnet to keep that square in place?


  2. Rachael Boyd says:

    I disobeyed you when I built my chest and put dividers in the top tray, Because that is were all my little thing live. Plus some of the real delicate things live. you don’t want a hammer banging on your marking knife.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. thomas c eno says:

    I am not a grammar nazi but it is a pleasure to read your prose after spending a little time on the internet.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. clarke hambley says:

    I like this as a diary entry – reckoning in a new way with old habits and friends (tools) but still holding on tightly! Thanks for these very pleasant, human posts.


    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ronny says:

    The really interesting are the cardboard boxes on the last picture. Are they home made? And are the metal corner pieces somewhere available.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pascal Teste says:

    Great upgrades! A small partition for my pencils is on my to do list. For now my six inch combo square somewhat keeps them together, when I’m not using the square that is…


  7. Steve Southwood says:

    That’s how it starts. Down the rabbit hole to total organization soon


  8. Robert Keeling says:

    What can you tell us about that unusual looking hammer? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one like that.


  9. What are those little metal corner reinforcers on the cardboard boxes?


  10. Andy Paul says:

    I install dividers to keep tools in the box from suddenly shifting to one side while loading in the truck. When that happens the sudden weight shift can make it hard to handle. Nothing fancy but enough to keep the weight distribution the way I want it. Maybe I am the only one who has this problem.


  11. I made French-fitted trays for my pencils and erasers. I get frustrated though. Every couple of months I have to redo the spots for the erasers.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sydney says:

    The Staedler-Mars white eraser! An essential tool, if ther ever was one.


  13. Danno says:

    I appreciate that all the pencils and pens are oriented in the correct direction.


  14. janders says:

    I am a fellow Northern Kentuckian who is looking to embark on building his Anarchist Tool chest. Any tips on sourcing the lumber for this in our area?


  15. DR_Woodshop says:

    Chris – On the reversible nature of this change … Given these are headless brads I assume that you do not reverse by pulling them back out. I further assume you just drive them through if you want to remove the dividers in the future. Is that correct, or is there a better way to remove them that is less destructive than driving the brads completely through?


  16. Bernard Naish says:

    I do not like any oak in my chests. It is acid and causes corrosion.

    I am 100% fitted because I take my chest back and forward every day. This was causing rubbing marks and scratching – fitting has entirely halted this. I also find I no longer lose any tools.


  17. Larry Wiesner says:

    I have a tool chest that I built during a 15 month carpentry class that I took after college in 1975. It’s a hybrid of hardwood and plywood and still intact and serviceable. I’ve subsequently retrofitted it for tools acquired since. It holds mostly only what is necessary for an appointed task. It will outlive me.


  18. Simon Honing says:

    It’s very pleasurable to read about small-scale modifications and alterations like these.It keeps everyone a bit more grounded. I’d also echo the other guy’s comments: what a pleasure it is to read your erudite and always grammatical commentary.Long may you continue.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. parkermccoy says:

    I like thse organizing tips. Organization is key to getting work done. Great post!


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