One of the tool chest forms that has been on my list to explore is the Swedish chest, which I’ve encountered a few times both in the United States and Europe. It’s similar to the Dutch tool chest, with its slanting front lid. But the Swedish one is in many ways simpler.
The chest shown here came from the family of Johan Lyrfalk, who owns Rubank Vertygs AB, a woodworking supplier in Stockholm, Sweden. Last Saturday, he brought it out for us to inspect and measure during a visit to his store.
The chest is most likely pine and it is assembled with through-dovetails at the corners. The top and bottom are screwed to the carcase. The slanted lid is kept flat with two battens that are neatly joined to the lid with blind sliding dovetails. The steel hinges are let into the carcase and are screwed through the lid and into the battens, increasing the reach and strength of the screws.
The interior of the chest is fairly open. There are openings for three drawers (this chest had only two of them remaining). The drawers are assembled with half-blind dovetails (two dovetails per corner). One nice detail of this chest is the top edges of the drawer sides are beveled to the inside. That reduces the number of corners you will bump into when you reach for a tool.
The drawer frame and dividers appear nailed and screwed to the chest from the outside, keeping with the aesthetics of the chest.
The interior walls of the chest are lined with tool racks. And there’s a tool rack on the lid.
How the tool rack on the lid was used was a question among the woodworkers looking at the chest. The lid is propped open by its hasp, which allows the tool rack to be handy. But you’d have to remove the tools to shut the lid. Some speculated perhaps this chest was rarely closed and used mostly in a workshop environment.
Dimensions are: 32” wide, 18-1/2” high and 19-1/2” deep. The top is 11” wide, as is the drop lid. Most of the stock for the carcase is 7/8” thick.
This chest is definitely one on my to-build list. We are always looking for tool chest classes that teach a variety of good lessons for classes (or for publication). The Anarchist’s Tool Chest is my personal favorite to work out of; but as a class, it is mostly about through-dovetails and nails. Even in a one-week class working flat out, it is difficult to get to making the lid, much less the rest of the interior bits.
The Dutch tool chest, as a class, is a more balanced experience. You get some dovetails, dados, rabbets, maybe some tongue-and-groove.
The Swedish tool chest could be a primer on through-dovetails and half-blinds, for the drawers.
I’ll have to build one to find out.
After we spent an hour poring over Johan’s tool chest, he returned it to its resting place. The next day we went to see the Vasa exhibit. And there, right next to one of the workbenches from the Vasa, was an almost-identical chest (just a little longer). Perhaps the universe is sending me a message.
— Christopher Schwarz