Traditional Cabinetmaker's Style Tool Chest Question

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Forum topic by Bearcontrare posted 12-23-2020 05:08 PM 960 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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112 posts in 193 days

12-23-2020 05:08 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Season’s Greetings, Gang. I’m posting this a couple of forums in order to get some good input on the subject. The opportunity has arisen for me to buy a traditional cabinetmaker’s style tool chest from an antique store about a mile from my home. This is not the over-ornamented style chest that makes the centerfold of “Play-Tool” magazine, but a well made, walnut tool chest with three sliding tills. the chest is in good shape, and has ben refinished within about the last 10 years, so it looks very nice.
Cost is about half of one of those metal, drawer filled rolling toolboxes mechanic’s use, from Horror Fright or one of those places. I’m tempted to buy it, even if it winds up at the foot of the bed holding linens and such.
My question is: Do any of you folks here in the Group use this type of tool chest, and would you be willing to share what you like or dislike about it? OK, I KNOW this will sit low, so I would build a stand to raise it up off the floor to a more convenient height. Should I buy this chest and use it in my shop…??? Thank you in advance for any input you are willing to share on this subject.

-- Barry, in Maryland

9 replies so far

View SMP's profile


3818 posts in 962 days

#1 posted 12-23-2020 05:32 PM

Well, i personally would rather build one than buy one, unless the old one had some sentimental value pr something. Building Chris Schwarz’s Anarchist Tool Chest would be a great learning opportunity and practice. However instead I think i am going to build his Dutch chest with the bottom box that lifts it up higher. It seems like that is much more functional, portable and easier to work out of.

View theoldfart's profile


12550 posts in 3508 days

#2 posted 12-23-2020 06:48 PM

Build vs buy is a matter of dollars. While the build is fun and an informative experience the cost of stock might be close enough to what you’ll pay for the chest. You don’t mention price but all walnut does sound appealing. I have built both a cabinet makers chest and the “Dutch” style chest. In addition I had an opportunity to buy a vintage chest for fifty dollars so I grabbed it. I use all of them and I’m in and out of them most days. Each has their pros and cons.

These are the two big chests

And the small green one is against the back wall it holds marking and measuring tools along with wooden planes. small hand drills and the like. It’s light enough to be called portable with a two wheeled carrier.

Hope this helps, ask questions if you have the need. I would not spend too much time dwelling on the choice, worst case just make another one! There’s no downside.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View BlasterStumps's profile


1944 posts in 1496 days

#3 posted 12-23-2020 09:30 PM

Dang it tof, everytime I see a picture of your neat-as-a-pin shop I feel like I have to run out and clean mine up and put things away again.

Nice tool chests btw.

-- "I build for function first, looks second. Most times I never get around to looks." MIke in CO

View theoldfart's profile


12550 posts in 3508 days

#4 posted 12-23-2020 10:23 PM

Blaster, a picture is a single moment in time. That moment has not reoccurred!

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Woodmaster1's profile


1706 posts in 3644 days

#5 posted 12-24-2020 01:43 AM

Woodsmith shopnotes has plans for a couple of tool chest. I would look at the measurements of one and improvise. You need to watch the pbs show Craftsman Legacy they had had an episode on the Gershner Tool chest company.

View Bearcontrare's profile


112 posts in 193 days

#6 posted 12-24-2020 05:59 PM

TOF, You are SO right! Have been considering the question this way: Walnut tool chest, built, finished, ready to use, $250 asking price, probably some wiggle room for cash. Buying lumber, hardware and finding the necessary number of free hours to build (especially working a “part-time retirement job” for the State Department of Health during the Corona Crisis) make building a chest a Hell of a lot less cost-effective.
I have had two Gerstner type chests before and found them extremely limited as to which tool could actually FIT inside them. They were sold ten years ago because of their uselessness. Maybe they’re OK id you have a lot of wood carving tools or other small items, but for regular woodworking tools, you’re screwed.
If, and I say IF, I buy this chest, it would be strictly an in-shop use means of tool storage and organization, and NOT a hit-the-road-with-it affair. I have other, smaller toolboxes for that. Two things I hear from users which appeal to me is protecting the tools from rust and sawdust. In a shop with about 25% power tool usage, sawdust tends to cover anything which is out in the open pretty quickly. I appreciate the input from folks who HAVE and USE this type of tool chest!

-- Barry, in Maryland

View theoldfart's profile


12550 posts in 3508 days

#7 posted 12-24-2020 06:32 PM

Bear, take yourself over to here

Smitty is a good friend and a seriously prolific refurb artist. This blog has twenty something sections and should be required reading for anyone attempting a tool chest resurection.

As an aside I also rescued a Gerstner style wooden machinist chest. It holds all my machinist quality measuring and making tools.

Please keep us posted on your progress and look Smitty up for inspiration, I did. Just a warning, he has the Neanderthal affliction as have I. If it’s old and Stanley he has it and has used it!

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View jdmaher's profile


472 posts in 3636 days

#8 posted 12-24-2020 06:57 PM


I built and use an Anarchist’s chest every day. It’s big and on wheels. I usually stash it under an assembly table, except at the start of the day.

I’m VERY selective about what I put in there (hand tool work only). I’ve formed a useful habit: I pull it out and put away yesterday’s tools (which I SHOULD have done the previous night); then I think through what I’m gonna do that day and set those tools out on the assembly table. For me, it’s a good way to organize my efforts for the day.

It is on the floor and I’m old and it’s hard to bend over and reach the the back side of the main compartment (planes) – so I keep a low rolling stool right by it.

I like it and find it useful. But I’ve also got plenty of other storage for all the rest of the crap I use only twice a year.

It was fun to build, but took me a long time (while I was still working). If you’ve got higher priority projects, just BUY now and MAKE later.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View Bearcontrare's profile


112 posts in 193 days

#9 posted 12-26-2020 02:53 PM

Thank you guys for your well considered answers. If I go ahead with this purchase, (and probably will) I’ll be using this chest as TOF and Jim describe, removing the planes at the beginning of the day, and using the till tools as needed. Of course there will be other types of tool storage in the shop, because there just ain’t no tool box big enough to hold ALL my tools. (I’m Barry, and I have a tool addiction….) But, the thinking here is to help house, protect and organize a fair number of my hand tools which do not travel out of the shop, while keeping them handy to the workbench.
Yeah, I know, we all have several types of tool storage in our workshops. it’s nice to have a variety of options.

-- Barry, in Maryland

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