Hand Tool Cabinet--Not sure where this is going quite yet. . . .

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Forum topic by dfdye posted 12-18-2010 03:48 AM 2094 views 1 time favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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372 posts in 3543 days

12-18-2010 03:48 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question modern plane walnut

I read too much. That is the only explanation for why I haven’t gotten this project off of the ground and made it happen yet. This little excursion began when I was flipping through a book about Arts and Crafts furniture projects at a local book store that is closing, and Chris Schwartz had nice chapter about his plane/hand tool cabinet. I immediately decided that this was the solution for storage of my soon-to-be-expanding plane collection, and bought the book with every intention of exactly (or nearly exactly) recreating that Schwartzian cabinet. I sketched out the plans with some minor modifications here and there, but the more I worked with it, the more I realized I didn’t like his cabinet for my needs, and especially for my space.

At the same time, I was reading Krenov’s “The Impractical Cabinet Maker” and started getting too philosophical about how to build this tool cabinet. I spent a good half hour talking to my lumber stack to figure out how it wanted me to build this cabinet, but alas! The lyptus said arts and crafts, and the walnut said simple and “Scandinavian” for lack of a better description. (I’m not sure I can publicly repeat what the cherry told me to do with my idea to make black locust panel doors. Who knew cherry was so sensitive?) Two sequentially cut wide walnut boards did make a compelling argument that they would be good for solid slab doors, so at least the wood was a little helpful in convincing me to build this thing in walnut.

Other than that, I guess I’ll have to figure things out for myself. . . . As I went back to the computer to sketch out some ideas, I realized that the more complicated I made the design, the less I felt I could easily use it. The more specialized I made the cabinet to my tool collection, the more I realized that I would probably hate the cabinet as soon as I built it since there is NO WAY I will get the organization right before I actually start reaching for tools from the cabinet.

So, 1) keep it simple, 2) make it flexible, 3) build it in walnut.

With that in mind, I put together a preliminary sketch, but still am floating ideas around.

The basic use of each of the top shelves will be to store a bench plane on its side. The cabinet opening will be 24.5” wide to accommodate a No 8 if I ever decide I need one (and now that I am building the cabinet, I guess there is no excuse NOT to get one, right?), and each shelf will have the option of friction fitted vertical dividers to section off “cubbie holes” for each smaller plane. This set up should easily allow a No 5 and a No 4 to be stored on the same shelf with a little space left over, so this gives space for a No 8, No 7, No 6, No 5, No 5 1/2, No 4, and a No 3 (or some similar combination). Still, this allows me to reconfigure the set up if/when I decide there is a better way for the cabinet to be organized.

The bottom shelves are for block planes. I figure there is easily space for 4 smaller planes there, so I can easily fit a standard block plane, a low angle block plane, and two other widgets I may need in the future (Veritas skewed block planes?). The top of that shelf will have a shoulder plane and a rabbet plane.

The open area will have a few pegs for hanging spoke shaves and a No 80 scraper, a block for organizing card scrapers, and a couple of hangers for a plane mallet and a carving mallet or two (the banger area will be to the left, thus the extra height to accommodate handles). One of the door interiors will have a chisel rack, and the other will have a rack for a dovetail and a tenon saw.

Here’s the rub: I really wanted this to house my layout tools too. Honestly, there is plenty of space inside the door above the chisel rack, but for some reason that doesn’t feel right. No idea why. Also, I know I am going to be building a couple of specialty planes—a 1/4” grooving plane and a chamfering plane are at the top of the list—and they don’t exactly have a place to live in this cabinet yet.

I know I could just expand the height of the cabinet by a little bit and add a couple of extra shelves, but it honestly LOOKS right as it is! The proportions are solid, and more importantly, the grain of the boards I will be using for the doors is quite nice if I use these dimensions. Everything just LOOKS right, but I can’t get over the nagging suspicion that something is wrong!

I know that form follows function and all that jazz, especially pertaining to shop furniture, but but in this case, I think I may just keep this design and live with it not holding as much as I may have wanted.

Besides, there is always the opportunity to build another one to house the rest of my hand tools! :)

Now that that rambling is over, if all of you brilliant wood minds out there have any suggestions or comments, I would LOVE to hear them. I think I am going to get started on this after Christmas, but if I can’t get rid of this feeling that something isn’t quite right, it may linger for a little longer. . . Who knows. . . .

-- David from Indiana --

3 replies so far

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3848 days

#1 posted 12-18-2010 04:22 AM

Looks good from where I am sitting. Will you be adding storage in the doors?

-- Marc

View cabmaker's profile


1745 posts in 3315 days

#2 posted 12-18-2010 05:22 AM

David, that looks good to me. The good thing is that there are no hard and fast rules on a tool cabinets. It should be however you conceive it and make it usable for your situation. No matter how much you ponder over it there will be something you ll wish you had done or not done. But I would say that if that cab. is the only thing between you and a #8, you better get started. Good luck with it !

View dfdye's profile


372 posts in 3543 days

#3 posted 12-18-2010 07:04 AM

Marc: Yes, one door will have a rack for chisels and the other will have a rack for back saws. You can’t see it from the perspective that I posted, but the shelves are set quite a bit back from the doors to allow for extra tool storage. The one problem may be that adding tools on the doors may bump into the plane blades and totes if I am not careful with placement. I’ll have to double check those dimensions, but I may be limited to keeping all of the tool racks on the doors below the lowest full-width shelf. We’ll see. I am sure it will all fall into place once I get the basic cabinet structure built. Things have a way of falling into place despite entropy trying to make sure that they don’t.

Cabmaker: You are certainly right about “no hard and fast rules” for these sorts of things! Therein lies the opportunity and the challenge. The quest for perfection can indeed cause paralysis, and the fact that there is no “right” answer suggests that “appropriate” should indeed be the guide. I’m sure I have something that will be “appropriate,” and I am amazed by how simple “appropriate” can be. In this case, I am feeling a bit more “form” driven than “function” driven, so it will be interesting to see what shape the final cabinet takes!

As for that No 8, I have a No 7 that is my workhorse, so the only “real” reason for me to get a No 8 would be to complete the set of vintage Stanley planes I have recently been accumulating. After Santa visits, I will have a No 3, 4, 5 and 7 that are either type 13 or 14 (very little apparent difference between the two types unless you really know what to look for). Sure, a No 8 and a No 6 would be nice, but I haven’t found the right ones yet. Forget about me paying for the No 2 and DEFINITELY not the No 1!!

Honestly, I think a 55 or 60 degree wooden smoother would be more useful than any of those, so that may well be my next “shop” project after this cabinet. Too many plans, and not enough shop time. . . .

-- David from Indiana --

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