Small Tool Chest

  • Advertise with us
Project by Stopher posted 03-31-2012 05:27 AM 7372 views 11 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A few months back I picked up a copy of “The Anarchists Tool Chest” by Chris Schwarz (like the idea or not, still a great read, highly recommended). This is my half-attempt at building a tool chest, somewhat similar to Chris’ traveling tool chest. I say half-attempt because, while I enjoyed his book, I’m still not sold on the tool chest idea. I have had a large peg board hanging to the right of my bench and thus far I have to say I rather like it. I want to give the tool chest thing a try though, so here goes…

The case is constructed just like Schwarz’s; dovetails all ‘round, mini-skirt, and ship-lapped bottom boards. For the lid I wanted to do something a little different. I had some great aircraft-grade plywood cutoffs that I wanted to use for the panels in the top. Because of their small size, I had to use two panels. Instead of making the stiles long and the rails short I made the rails longer (it seemed like a good idea at the time). I was hoping that with the split in the lid the longer stiles would add some interest. The rails have through mortises (my first attempt at mortises) and they didn’t end up too bad. The hinges are from Lee Valley and, like much of the lid, seemed like such a good idea before I installed them. I think once I have time I’ll make a new lid and stick to the beaten path.

Inside the chest everything is nailed in place with #18 wire brads. I know tools will come and go, so I want the chest to evolve around these changes. At the front there’s room for my four most used saws. Behind that I have my el-cheapo jack plane, my Stanley #7 and my Stanley #60-1/2 block plane. It’s not much, but these are the tools I find myself using 90% of the time anyway. Above that there’s a small chisel tray. I’m really bummed that my 1-1/2” and Mortise chisel don’t fit like the others, but I can’t make the tray any longer because the #7 gets in the way. :( Above the Chisel tray is my marking/measuring/misc. tray. I bought a belt at the thrift store and attached it between two pegs on the ends; it makes an excellent handle.

I haven’t used the chest much, but my initial impression is that it won’t be too bad. I like that it can change as my tool collection changes. I’ll have to update you all in a month or two to let you know how it’s working out.

-- The bitterness of low quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. - Ben Franklin

9 comments so far

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 3364 days

#1 posted 03-31-2012 07:56 AM

I would have run the support rails for the chisel tray the full length of the sides so it could slide back and forth. This would make it possible to access under it by sliding it instead of removing it and would be safer if you move the chest.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View Helgi 's profile


51 posts in 2802 days

#2 posted 03-31-2012 11:17 AM

nice job.

View RussInMichigan's profile


600 posts in 3256 days

#3 posted 03-31-2012 11:46 AM

Nice chest.

You said,

I say half-attempt because, while I enjoyed his book, I’m still not sold on the tool chest idea. I have had a large peg board hanging to the right of my bench and thus far I have to say I rather like it. I want to give the tool chest thing a try though, so here goes…

I can really relate. For mobility, of course a craftsman wants a chest or toolbox for moving and securing his tools. But, in a shop setting I think easy, quick accessibility is the way for the tools you use most, and that means having them on racks, pegs, tills, shelves.

I used to build a lot of sets for theater companies which required on the fly mobility, so toolboxes were the way. Now, the toolboxes are a huge encumbrance to getting woodworking projects done, so I’m converting the shelf space where the toolboxes sit to drawers, counters and racks.

View Bsmith's profile


330 posts in 3146 days

#4 posted 03-31-2012 01:22 PM

Very nice tool box. I’m not sold on a tool box either, but I do see the making of a sewing, knitting, crafting sorta box. It’s going in my favorites.

-- Bryan

View doncutlip's profile


2832 posts in 4032 days

#5 posted 03-31-2012 02:25 PM

Nice style, great looking build, that one’s a keeper

-- Don, Royersford, PA

View spunwood's profile


1202 posts in 3312 days

#6 posted 04-01-2012 12:53 AM

I was just thinking about making something like this for storing my kids clothing.

I think I am going to follow your design and simply scale up a bit. I have to say, the top was what I noticed first and I like it.
What kind of wood is it? Any plans for it, or just in your head?

-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

View dpow's profile


504 posts in 3320 days

#7 posted 04-01-2012 01:00 AM

Hey Stopher, whether someone is a tool chest guy(or gal), a pegboard guy, or a tool cabinet guy isn’t that importatnt. What is important, is the nice job you did on this tool chest. I really like it. When you run out of room in the chest, you can build a bigger one or build a wall cabinet. Thanks for sharing.

-- Doug

View rasp's profile


75 posts in 2734 days

#8 posted 04-19-2012 02:35 PM

we have a very similar set of tools. nearly the same planes and narex chisels. i am reading the anarchists tool chest as well. it certainly is a great book. i’m also stuck between a french cleat/hanging cabinet system and a tool chest.

I think i’m going to go with the tool chest route until I get my own dedicated woodshop. the chest keeps the dirt, dust off your tools, especially if other people use the garage to work on cars and stuff. metal grinding bits get mashed into everything.

the leather strap is a nice touch.

View Stopher's profile


8 posts in 2845 days

#9 posted 04-19-2012 06:19 PM

Just a little update here:

After working out of the tool chest for a couple of weeks I have both good and bad feelings about it. First off, all my saws are back hanging on the peg board. I think I put them too close together int he chest and it was too difficult to grab the one I wanted. Not sure that’s a tool chest issue, but more my design that’s flawed. Also, the strap on the top till is kind of nice but it gets in the way whenever I want to put larger stuff in there or take it out. A good idea, but poor execution; having a slim strap would be just as handy but wouldn’t be in the way.

On the positive side, I love having the top till with some sort of a strap. I keep all my measuring/marking stuff in this till so it’s fairly light. When I start working I grab the entire thing and set it on the bench. Now I don’t have to worry about my marking guage and pencils rolling off the bench. Having the chisels in a dedicated container is OK. It’s nice to have them all in the same place, but usually that little box ends up in the way more often than not. I’m not sold on dedicated chisel storage in the chest, but now I’ve got all that space from the saws I’ve got to use up. We’ll see, and I’ll post a picture or two as it all evolves.

-- The bitterness of low quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. - Ben Franklin

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics