Let’s Go Dutch



With square-shanked Rivierre nails (this is my travel chest…it’s a bit more beat up now).

Waiting for a book to print on the laser writer at the shop is boring, so Chris and I were talking to pass the time as we awaited the pages of Nancy Hiller’s “Kitchen Think”; it’s off to Kara Gebhart Uhl tomorrow for copy edit. He was printing; I was three-hole punching. Such fun we have!

I don’t know how we got to chatting about Dutch tool chests…but as of about 5 p.m. today, I’m writing a book on Dutch tool chests for Lost Art Press. I could not be more excited!

How many of these I’ve built and helped others to build, I don’t know… but I do know it is many. I can build the one I teach in less than two days, from rough lumber to hardware installation. It will take me a bit longer this time though; there will be many pauses along the way for photography.


With screws (this one was for a customer).

Why, you might ask, if there’s already a good article on how to build this form, do we need a book on it? I’ll be going far beyond the article, presenting multiple approaches to several of the joints, and a choice of at least three ways to build the lid. And hardware – my goodness…some of the hardware people have brought to classes that I had to figure out how to install! So I’ll share a bunch of options on that, too…and what not to try to use and why. (For the record, I prefer unequal strap hinges.)

I’ll also be presenting several approaches to the interior fitments. But I have only so many Dutch tool chest interior variations in me – and there’s now a fair number of these chest in shops throughout the country and around the world. So while it’s early days (heck – we just decided on this book a few hours ago!), I’ll eventually be asking for your help – if you’ve built one and come up with a clever interior arrangement, I hope you’ll take some pretty pictures and send them my way so we can include a gallery.

And there are other Dutch tool chests to discuss (and possibly build), so there will also be research into other forms.

There’s no timeline, but I’m going to dive in soon – I have plenty of wide pine in the shop basement, and (unexpectedly) plenty of time this summer. Heck – I even have parts already sized in my basement…along with some half-finished chests. Time to put those to good use!

— Fitz


This is what happens when you loan all your tools out by day 2 of a class.


About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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39 Responses to Let’s Go Dutch

  1. Congrats Megan! I’ll be looking forward to this book with great interest!

  2. Darryl Adrian Rees says:

    Great idea , looking forward to reading it.

  3. Steve V says:

    I look forward to that book. I recently built mine (with seperate lower storage cabinet) and it remains my most favourite project to-date.

  4. I’ve built several ATCs, but never a Dutch chest. I look forward to the book.

    Do you happen to know what became of that original Dutch chest that was up for auction?

  5. Peter McKinlay says:

    Sounds great Megan, I will have my order in as soon as it lands down here in Australia 🙂

    A Dutch tool chest has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks. I need to get back to my woodworking, and one sounds like an achievable goal without being a moonshot 🙂

  6. Ron Stephen says:

    I look forward to coming down and picking up a copy at the storefront.

  7. ralmcc7yahoo.com says:

    Looking forward to the updates and the book. stay safe Ralph

  8. woodworkerme says:

    I have built a few of them myself and taught a few classes were the students take around 16 hours to build one. I don’t know if I could do one in two hours but I do need a new one for a student tool chest, I guess I will start the timer before I pick up a tool.

  9. Choirboy says:

    Sounds great, but hurry! A Dutch chest was on my summer to-do list… of course I’ll have to postpone that until the book comes out.
    So I guess I should say “thank you” from my wife, for taking away my fun project for the summer and leaving only the honey-dos to work on 🙂

  10. Peter Marshall says:

    I have purchased the wood for this project twice , and it always gets diverted to benches and bookshelves. Perhaps this book will be the galvanizing event that finally gets a Dutch Tool Chest into my shop . Any chance of doing a pre-order now and then getting chapters electronically as they are completed ? Would be fun to follow your process of assembling the book material ( and I may start building the Chest sooner ) . Hope you have fun writing the book ..

  11. Goerge Jonuschat says:

    Splendid! Can’t wait to get my hands on this book, much looking forward to it!
    There’s a good many articles on Joiners Chests by now, but just one real source – Chris’ Anarchist’s Tool Chest.
    And I couldn’t think of a better fit than a book on the DTC being written by you.

  12. Rick Bowen says:

    Great idea for your DTC book, Meghan! I’m looking forward to it. It’s a design that lends itself to many adaptations/variations. I’ve built one and would love to share pics of its construction with you.
    Meanwhile, I’m starting a second version.
    Best regards, Rick

  13. Patrick says:

    With regards to interior arrangement, I always thought the Dutch chest would lend itself to being modularized. (Think barrister bookcase, meets toolchest, meets campaign furniture.). Top unit core tools. A unit for nice to havdes. A unit for all things sharpening etc. if you had to travel, take the units required for a particular job or class you might be teaching. Plus, those of us that suffer from tool acquisition syndrome can just build another modular unit.

    • Jesse Griggs says:

      I second that motion. Chris explored this concept slightly with his lower box unit. But if you stack the the main chest on top of more than one lower chest, it gets difficult to see what inside your main compartment (and I’m 6’2″). Also, i find the lower compartment of the main chest has a lot of wasted space unless you put a shelf or drawer in it. Modular totes/ boxes designed to fit would be awesome. The top compartment loses a bit of space over the planes. So i am experimenting with an atc style sliding till. So far that seems to be working nicely, though i have yet to mount anything to the inside of the lid.

      • tsstahl says:

        Fitting the interior of a chest is highly dependent on your tool collection. Maybe a synopsis of my experience can give a little insight. Not that I’m any kind of authority, or anything resembling a competent woodworker.

        I’ve built three DTCs so far: small, medium, and large. The medium chest is built to the ‘large’ design published in Chris’ article. The medium chest is the main tool storage in my basement shop area (hand tool only).
        I took it to a class and found out two things: one, I was woefully over prepared, two, it was too big to lug around comfortably even with a pared down tool list.

        The result of my experience was building the ‘small’ design as published in the aforementioned article. Since it is meant to be portable, I custom fitted my best basic tools in the top (3 bench planes, backsaws, chisels, etc.). The bottom compartment is left open to add any tools pertaining to the reason for traveling. The small one lives in the garage with lower quality tools until needed. I do not duplicate too many of my tools and thus a fair number of inside tools migrate outside, and end up in the small chest for the duration of the project (read, ‘until I get sick of remembering I left X out in the garage when I need it’.)

        The medium chest is fitted to hold as many tools as reasonably possible without sacrificing usability. After 8 years I’m about to redo the top tool holders based on what tools I use most often. The following is just off the top of my head. The two bottom compartments are where I have no problem using smaller containers for items like a file roll, brace bits, gimlets, oil stones. I have a router plane and beading plane in their own boxes to keep the accessories together. I do not own moulding planes so there is a lot of room in the bottom two compartments. Often I find maybe a bit too much room as a tool I’ve needed has migrated to the bottom of the pile. There are also a lot of hammers kicking around the two compartments. Side note, years ago as I started this journey, I didn’t believe the admonition that one hammer is not enough; now I’m passing on the advice that different work requires different hammers. 🙂

        The large chest was built for anticipated overflow tool collecting. What makes it large is the addition of a 3″ deep drawer between the top compartment and the bottom compartments. The lower compartment is also built to be a tad higher than the middle bay (under the drawer). I’m 6’3″ and have no problems seeing into the box. I find the drawer very useful as that is where I store all the fancy fasteners. I never found a need to put any tool holder into the top area. Flocking, duplicate tools, and oddball specialty stuff currently live in the large chest. There is still a ton of room in the bottom compartments.

        I hit upon the open rolling-box-as-stand around the same time Chris published his version so mine are unrefined pine boxes on top of surplus tool box casters. the medium and large DTC are on the same kind of box. The wide open storage area is a catch all. A Stanley #8 is in one along with a vice screw, and whatever other flotsam has collected there. I do not use the box storage for any tools of note; maybe I’ll restore the #8 some day.

        The Campaign Furniture book has a collapsible book case project in it. I enlarged this design and built a collapsible base for the small DTC. The base works great. I really like how it brings the chest higher off the floor than the pine boxes on casters. However, I’m going to remake the collapsible base in a harder wood due to durability concerns. I have not yet experimented with casters on the collapsible base.

        Well, I guess this is a tad more than a synopsis. Sorry for getting all keyboard diarrhea finger-y.

  14. Steve P says:

    Great news! I’ve been wanting to build an ATC or dutch chest but i massively over analyze everything before starting. I had previously been looking at all the pics on She Works Wood to get ideas on the interior fitments. Good stuff there you may want to check out.

  15. Tim J says:

    Looking forward to it! I just finished the main chest this week and am working out how I want the internals to be laid out.

  16. Bill Clark says:

    I am chomping at the bit to get that book. I desperately need to build a real tool chest. Thank you.

  17. Connell Jones says:

    I look forward to the book.

    Have you ever bought prepunched copy paper? I used to make training manuals and that’s the only way to go!

  18. Gary says:

    A strange idea, you said other forms, a nailed, slope topped, small dutch mule with drawers – a dutch donkey? Builds basic skills, quicker than dovetails?

  19. Pascal Teste says:

    Good idea for the book. I finished building one (the large version) a few weeks ago for my wife’s gardening tools. The slopped top made sense because it will sit outside and get rained on. It was a fun and fairly simple build, so I’m building two more, a small and a large, for extra tools I have that are over crowding my existing floor chest. I will gladly send you pics If you are still interested when you get to that part of the book.

  20. Great Idea Meghan. I made one for our Dungeon Master so it’s their travelling D&D miniatures chest. I used finger joint drawers in the bottom section. I could try and send some photos.

  21. Bruce says:

    Don’t forget the canvas flap on the lid – particularly along the top edge near the hinges – if the chest is going to spend any time outside. This should stop rain or other spills from running down the underside of the lid and into the chest (and all over your favorite tool/s) At least one of my father’s old tool chests had canvas flaps on all 4 sides, and he may have inherited the chest from his father.

  22. Perry Chappano says:

    Looking forward to the book. Perhaps an opportunity for a “virtual” class…

  23. kdbarton01 says:

    Fantastic! Can’t wait for this one! Let me know if you want any photos of my “Mini DTC”

  24. Noel says:

    Can we pre-order yet? 😉

  25. Tim Bailey says:

    I’m really looking forward to this book. I’ve built a Dutch Tool chest and the lower storage unit but I’m eager to build more with my sons using the guidance this book provides.

  26. When my oldest daughter was getting into woodworking, we built her a small Dutch tool chest together. The one modification we made to the usual design is that we hinged the lower door instead of designing a “fall-front.” The hinges go on the bottom edge of the door and are surface-mounted. We really like that arrangement, as the door never gets in the way. If the chest is up on a bench, the door just hangs down out of the way. Here’s her account of the build: https://literaryworkshop.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/daughters-dutch-tool-chest/

  27. This sounds great, Megan! Definitely can’t wait to pick it up when it comes out. And I’ve been wanting to build one for some time now, as well. For travel, I mean. Not that I need anything to hold more tools…

    Of course, I can’t do anything like everyone else so I think I might use that really wide antique pine that came to me through Craig’s List via some guy cleaning out his dad’s house in Boston… two boards of 10′ long and 18″ wide pine board. There are a few issues with some split wood, but it’s mostly flat and I can patch splits, so… should be fun.

    I’ll clean up the inside face and edges where joinery is concerned, but I’d like to keep the outside the old weathered pine.

    If I can get it going in the next month or two, I’ll maybe have some ideas for your book. I think that bottom section needs britches. Er, drawers, I mean…

  28. Andrew says:

    Looking forward to the book. In the meantime can anyone please tell me the color/finish of the 2nd chest (with screws)? Thanks!

  29. markustobert says:

    Congratulations Megan thats awesome news. Can’t wait to read it and get inspired to build another.

  30. markustobert says:

    Congratulations Megan thats some good news.

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