Many critics of tool chests (on either the wall or the floor) say they prefer to have all their tools mounted on the walls where they can see them (and if they are missing) and be able to easily get them as they work.
When I see these shops I think the same thing when I see a wall of Hummel figurines: What a lot of crap to keep clean and safe.
One of the advantages of a tool chest is it protects your tools from dust and, if you are smart, rust. But a tool chest can’t do this job if you don’t close its lid (or doors) every night as you leave the shop.
If you need an extreme example of why this is important, take the case of Ryan Bowen, the guy whose Roubo workbench and workshop were destroyed by a tree. In his shop was his great grandfather’s tool chest, which is circa 1936.
Before the catastrophe, Ryan closed his chest. And he’s glad he did.
“Always, ALWAYS close your tool chest before leaving the shop,” Ryan wrote in an email. “Thankfully I did, and the contents were bone dry, despite being rained on for hours.”
So though Ryan lost his workbench to the storm, it could have been a lot worse. His tool chest could have been converted into a rusty bathtub.
— Christopher Schwarz
21 thoughts on “A Little-discussed Feature of Tool Chests”
Good solid advice!
This just makes me happy.
Long live the tool chest!
What are the odds of a huge oak tree falling in the exact middle of your shop?
Good thing his tool chest wasn’t on the tool bench shelf!
I built a Dutch tool chest and then a stout table, with one drawer, to put it on. Seems very good to me. I have no need to move any of it around.
Thanks! I’ve been struggling with tool storage in my “new” shop for years. It’s humid and rust is a constant battle. I’ve wanted to make a closing tool cabinet for the wall, but I’m out of usable wall space. In very rare cases water will come in an inch or so over the floor. The answer is now bleedingly obvious – a tool chest on casters that puts it 4 inches off the floor. Brilliant! DAS
Guess I’ll go close my chests, my garage shop has blue oaks on three sides!
I think I just decided to build an Anarchist tool chest. I’ve resisted for a long time, but this is a testament. Good hand tools are expensive. They are worth their own home.
This is something that I can attest to. About a year ago I built a pair of open, wall mounted saw and plane tills in my workshop/shed. Most of my other tools were on a peg board above my workbench and a few were kept in drawers. I live in a dry climate and never have rust problems.
But only 2 weeks after building the tills a fire that started in a neighbour’s yard and took out my shed. The firefighters put out the fire reasonably quickly, but not before dumping a tonne of water into the shed and all over my tools.
The tools on the pegboard were almost all complete write offs, the saws and planes in the tills were water and smoke damaged and the few tools in drawers (chisels, auger bits) were untouched. My workbench (Roubo made from construction pine) survived, I had made a cover from Masonite for messy work and had actually remembered to put it on.
I managed to salvage the saws and planes after hours of scrubbing, Evaporust and refinishing. The tills themselves were badly smoke damaged but surprisingly otherwise sound.
A chest would have likely saved more tools from water and smoke damage.
Unfortunately I don’t think I have the floor space for one, my workshop is small and is shared with bikes, lawnmowers etc. So after the shed was rebuilt I painted the tills, put them up on the wall again and hope the neighbours don’t repeat their mistake. I haven’t put up another peg board, I have a few more drawers instead.
I think happens more commonly than one might imagine. My dad did have a huge tree fall on his shop. His tools on the wall damaged as well as three classic cars. Thank God for insurance.
There is a special place in hell for those who hang their hand planes up by their knobs (you know who you are).
I live in Colorado, what is rust?
Ditto! Western Colo for me
I do however store most all my tools in a dutch chest and base plus a wall cabinet
Ahh Chris, If I were to keep my Hummel figurines in a tool chest no one could see them.
I consider my shop to be a huge tool chest since the stationary machines are too large to put in a box at night. I have 5 tool chests for students to use and a dutch tool chest for when I travel as well as tools hung on the wall where I can see them (and if they are missing) and be able to easily get to them as I work.
It is far more important that a person use their tools, and maintain them, than how they are stored, that keeps the rust off!
While I agree with the majority of what you wrote I fear that there are those who will take this as dogma, the world is divided enough as it is.
Pins first or tails first
Power tools or hand tools
Conservative or liberal
Believer or heretic
Pants or no pants
You know I don’t do dogma. We’re cat people.
I’m probably in the minority, but I open/close my DTC every time I need something in part so I don’t forget to close at the end of the session. I built the thing mostly because of crazy midwestern humidity swings so I might as well take advantage of the protection it provides
Any suggestions on preventing rust in a tool chest, beyond good oiling? Are the various humidity absorbers and such worthwhile?
Customers have had good results with Goldenrods. Others have used simple tricks like a string of Christmas lights (which does the same thing).
I don’t have much experience with the dessicants such as Bull Frog, but perhaps other readers here can chime in.
What about using a piano dehumidifier? When i was a kid living in florida, we had a grand piano with 2 dehumidifiers attached to the underside. They were basically a metal tube with a heating element inside. One of them got hot enough to burn you. We quit using them after we moved to the midwest. It still amuses me hearing people complain about the “humidity” when it’s 50% relative humidity at 78 degrees. Or 35% at 90 degrees.
That is basically the goldenrod I described earlier. Works!
The idea sounds good and prompted me to begin planning a chest. However, as I thought about it, the greatest amount of dust is present as I work not overnight and my shop is in the house basement where the greatest risk is water on the floor rather than a tree crashing through. I know one comment was that the person opens the chests, removes the tool, and then closes the door. I know myself well enough to know that I will never be that disciplined. So I think I will just leave my hodge podge on the wall (and other assorted places). I have not had rust or lose for 50 years and besides I would rather work on my other, partially finished projects or dream of creating the beautiful pieces others have made.
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