Sunday, April 13, 2008

Traditional Style Tool Chest

If you found this post chances are you’re interested in either building or purchasing a traditional style tool chest; either way you’re in luck!
For those who are looking for a tool chest design to build on your own, my new book “Made by Hand-Furniture Projects from the Unplugged Woodshop” will be available in November through Popular Woodworking Books and has the complete plans and building procedures to walk you through the process of building this design. Watch my blog for pre-order discounts and specials. For anyone that is interested in purchasing a Traditional Style Tool chest, I’m building a limited number of my Cabinetmakers Toolchest design. Due to my schedule I will only be able to offer six this coming year, they will all be signed, numbered and dated. Using only the finest solid hardwood and hand cut joinery, this will be a heirloom in years to come.
If you’re interested please contact me at tomfidgen at yahoo dot ca

Below are some shots of the unique work holding features incorporated into the design that will make this Toolchest double as a makeshift workbench while on job sites.

The Toolchest has a built in/removable shooting board on the lid. It can easily be removed to allow a larger work surface.

The pre-drilled holes on the front and top allow for a surface clamp or hold fast to be used for work holding applications. Edge jointing, dressing or cutting joinery in the vertical position also works extremely well. I store two cam-clamps in the built in tray on the rear which are used to hold the toolchest in place while on site.

The toolchest has a solid Poplar tool tray and can be customised in whatever wood species you'd like. Tools and clamps are not included but if you're interested in purchasing a 'finished model' with the clamps included just ask and I'll give you a quote.

Thanks and I'll look forward to hearing from you. Below is a blog I wrote on a another toolchest design I built last year. You'll be surprised at how much these things will hold!

Simple Joinery makes for Quick and Sturdy Construction

I'm just finishing a major cabinet project and have found some time between finishing coats to build a traditional style Tool Chest. I always had a tool cabinet in my shop as well as a peg board wall for hanging odd size tools but never seemed to be able to find the time to build a proper Tool Chest.
I think I started this train of thought after reading the latest issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine and seeing the great article on Gerstner & Sons. Truly amazing, 100 years. My initial thought was to simply copy the Gerstner style chest of drawers but once I started taking inventory of the "must have" tools I'd be putting in this thing,I quickly realised the chest of drawer design wasn't going to suit my purpose. What I did like about the Gerstner design is the simple construction methods that clearly could stand the test of time. Dadoes and rabbets, no fancy joinery; reliable and sensible I decided this would suit what I needed and wouldn't eat up alot of shop time. Having a background in wooden boat building I've always loved the old Mariner style Sea-Chests and thought of a way to incorporate the two styles while keeping the Chest relatively light.

The Carcass and Interior

For the top, bottom and two sides I used 4/4 Cherry. I joined the corners with a simple rabbet and dado joint. A stacked Dado on the Table Saw set-up with a wooden sacrificial fence made the job of cutting the joinery here quick and painless. Glue and Cherry dowels will assure this stays put for a long time. The front and back of the chest I made frame and panel style; the frame is again 4/4 Cherry joined with through mortise and tenons while the panels are off cuts of 1/4" plywood. This is a safe and stable material that will keep things from moving around in future climate changes. I built two drawers into the front bottom and installed sliding panels out of plywood to keep the drawers in place without having to resort to mechanical fasteners. Again on the table saw, a simple dado for the drawer corners keeps everything running smoothly. The drawers are solid Cherry for the front, back and sides while again plywood for the bottoms. The right hand drawer has a false bottom for two levels of storage. This is dedicated to drill bits, knives and chisels leaving the left drawer for lay-out tools. On the inside of the lid I made a custom cleat that holds my full size cross-cut saw, (this actually determined the Chests' width during the design stages of this project) to hold the end of the saw blade secure during transit, I added a strip of leather. I knew I wanted to leave the majority of the Chest interior open to accommodate larger items but always liked the whole "till" system you see in the old Mariner style Sea-Chests. I secured two cleats at the top inside of the Chest sides, about an inch lower than the lid bottom which enables the tills to hang safely inside. The rear till is slightly wider and deeper than the front to accommodate two back saws as well as some other items. I made some custom dividers and tool holders that actually can be a real mind-bender when you have to put things away. It's sort of a puzzle in the making when fitting tools into a small space like this. The front till handles some screwdrivers, spokeshaves and hammers. I'll include a full inventory of the Chest at the end of this article. I used some 'Flame Birch' for the tills I had kicking around my shop; it was good and dry as well as an aesthetically pleasing contrast to the Cherry. At this point it came time to make one of the hardest decisions of the entire design; which hand planes to take? Which ones were worthy of coming along to 'on-site' locations? I quickly got into the whole "If you could only take ten items to a desert island scenario..." I made myself a plywood template of the Chest bottom and on my Bench I started to arrange my hand planes. Moving them here to there, taking this one away and adding that one; when I finally decided on my plane selection as well as the orientation of the lay-out I traced around each one and using a small jig-saw, cut out the shapes. I then took this perfect template of the lay-out and glued it into the Chest bottom creating a kind of French-Fitted compartment which is much fancier than I originally anticipated. This method also helps to keep items from shifting when moving the Chest around.

Finishing Touches

I used a Piano style hinge across the back to hold the lid with a heavy-duty Bronze closure for the front. I had it left after a boat build I was working on last year and this proved a perfect application for the Naval hardware.(Note: A Ship Supply Store can be a great place to find interesting hardware suitable for all kinds of furniture making as well as being different than the stuff you'll find in most hardware stores.) The handle on the top is made from 5/4 Walnut. I made it wrap over and around the top to add some extra surface and help keep from pulling off while carrying it. Some glue, walnut dowels as well as some 3" wood screws driven up from the inside will hopefully take care of any movement in the handle. For the finish I decided to try a homemade method of 'Ebonising' the plywood panels. A simple mixture of steel wool in a mason jar covered with household vinegar and left to 'cook' for a few days turned the wood a rich Black. I added a second coat when it dried and finished it off by taking a card scraper and lightly scraping the black residue left behind. Over this as well as the entire Chest I rubbed on my now exclusive Oil and Varnish mixture. This really brought out the grain in the Cherry and will provide a strong finish. The Tried and True Oil/Varnish product has become the only finish I use and every time I apply it I like it more and more. This Traditional style Tool Chest was a quick and relatively painless project that will protect my tools for many years to come while keeping me fit everytime I have to move it.
Here are the overall dimensions of the Chest as well as a complete inventory of it's contents.

Width: 28 5/8" Height: 16" Depth: 9 1/4"

Right Drawer:

Set of 8 Forstner Bits, 1/4" to 5/8"
Set of 12 HSS Lipped Brad-Point Drill Bits, 5/64" to 1/4"
2 Paul Beebe carving Knives #8 and #12
Small block of Paraffin Wax to lubricate hand planes
2 Lie-Nielson Mortise Chisels, 1/4" and 3/8"
2 Japanese Dovetail Chisels, 1/4" and 3/8"
1 Hand Counter Sink
Small Jewelers Style Drill with Bits
Stanley Scratch Awl
Hinge Centre Finding Punch
2 Lie-Nielson Gunsmith's style Screwdrivers

Left Drawer:
Sheffield made Rosewood Mortise/Marking Gauge
Sheffield made 3" Try/Miter Square
8" Steel Engineers Square
12" Combination Square
2 sets of Dividers, 4" and 8"
Dovetail Marker
6' Folding Rule
3" and 8" Sliding Bevel Gauge
10' Cabinetmakers Measuring Tape
Tite Mark III Marking Gauge
Brass Compass with pencil
6" Dial Calipers

Front Till:
10-1/2 oz Warrington Pattern Hammer
Veritas® 1-1/4 lb Journeyman's Brass Mallet
Veritas® Beading Tool with assorted Cutters
Veritas® Flat and Round Spokeshaves
4 Wooden Handled Screwdrivers
Assorted Card Scrapers with small Burnisher

Rear Till:
Lie-Nielson 15 tpi Dovetail Saw
Lie-Nielson 14 tpi Carcass Saw
Fret Saw
Lie-Nielson Side Rabbet Planes #98/99
James Krenov custom made Smoothing plane
Wood and Brass adjustable plane Hammer
Veritas® Detail Chisels, set of 5
Very old German made GENKO hand drill
24" Steel Centre-Finding Rule

Under Lid:
10 tpi Panel Saw

Interior Compartment:
Lee Valley Scrub plane
Lee Valley Small Router Plane
Lee Valley Plough Plane plus additional blades
Lie-Nielson #4 Bronze Smoothing Plane
Lie-Nielson # 5 1/2 Bench Plane
Lie-Nielson Skew Block Plane
Lie-Nielson Medium Shoulder Plane
Lie-Nielson Bronze Low-Angle Block Plane
Stanley #90 Rabbet Plane
1 set of custom made Mahogany and Brass Winding sticks

Amazing what you can squeeze into a relatively small footprint isn't it?
While I was finishing up this project I glanced out my rear shop window to see this friendly visitor helping himself to the fresh buds starting to grow on the trees. If you look closely at this picture, through the window just past the utility trailer you can spot the Moose...Bon App├ętit!