|I declare this thing done.|
My tool chest is based on "The Anarchist's Tool Chest", an excellent book/theory from Chris Schwarz. If you find yourself reading this, you will probably enjoy reading that book. It's about how to spend your time doing what's rewarding, how to select implements for doing so, and how to arrange for those implements to wind up in a big box. Oh, and it's mostly about woodworking as opposed to, say, anarchy.
What I really like about the book (and the Schwarz's writing in general), is that he lays out the principles he's following instead of encouraging you to slavishly copy the details. The first rule (not technically a rule) of the ATC is that you're supposed to disobey Chris Schwarz, and I did plenty of that.
My chest is scaled down from the canonical one to fit my tools (a basic ATC principle), and to try to be more space-efficient (my own stubborn inclination). I've also added & changed features where it made sense to me, while trying to stick with the overarching purpose and principles of the chest outlined in the book. For the rest of this post, I'm going to assume you have read it, or are at least familiar with the idea of the ATC--that way I can focus on what's different in my version. If you don't know the background, spend a few minutes with a search engine. This idea has made the rounds of other woodworking blogs several times over by now. Or buy the book, it's your choice. (This is a good time to point out that I'm not affiliated with Lost Art Press or anybody else who sells woodworking stuff).
|I am incapable of painting over this surface.|
|The longest saw you see on top determined the size of the chest below.|
|Chest on legs. The offset allows them to fold next to their counterparts.|
|Wheels engage when the legs don't.|
I also elected to put my chest up on legs. Well, sometimes. The legs fold and get held closed by a toggle. When closed, brass casters are in position to roll the chest around. I find the chest comfortable to use at either height, but especially when it's ~16" off the floor. Lately I've been rolling it around a lot while I reorganize my shop.
I also did the lid differently. I think the groove-in-groove thing is neat, but I really wanted a top that is one flat surface in case I want to use the chest as a sawbench in a pinch. I didn't want to sacrifice the thickness of the panel, so I made the frame even thicker (It came from a few clear sections of 2x4). I even veneered the inside of the panel, just so it would definitely be thick & strong enough for some abuse. I know it's only another 1/40 of an inch, but the stiffness goes up with the cube of the thickness, so it definitely matters.
I elected to attach the lid with brass piano hinge, screwed straight into the back. Some people think it's ugly, but that's only, like, your opinion, man. Come to think of it, there seems to be a lot of anti-shiny-brass sentiment out there, certainly at odds with my all-shiny-brass hardware. That's ok. This brass will look old when it gets old. But I want it to look young while it is young too. The idea of artificially speeding up the process just bothers me somehow. Again, this is my taste, not advice.
Oh, and no lock. If I ever feel I need one, I'll install a nice looking hasp, and use a padlock that offers some real security. But I doubt I will.
|Whoops, there's supposed to be more stuff.|
The bottom is pretty much like the canonical ATC (CATC?), except missing the saw till and the area for molding planes. There will be no molding planes, and I'll explain later about the saws. What I'm saying is that the bottom is wide open. I've got it filled mostly with planes, and a couple other things too large and awkward to go anywhere else. I find it quite acceptable to have a drawknife, brace, and mallet piled in with the planes. I set them down gently, they don't move around much because of the plane totes, and they are surprisingly not much in the way.
|The chisels don't seem to interfere with the planes. That rack is also a nice place for a little flush-cut saw.|
I also decided early on that a chisel rack was required. I tried tool rolls, but they take up too much space on the bench and get dusty. I find I only like it for carving tools, which I don't use all that often, and tend to use as a set. My chisel rack is fairly traditional, except for the way I made it. It's a glued-up wood sandwich, with a 1/2" gap in the middle, and a 1/4" gap in the back (towards the wall). I only glued in the dividers I needed in the 1/2" gap--so pretty much just for the set of bench chisels on the right. I can always glue in more later as I figure out exactly what else goes in there, and the wide open gap works fine for most things. The 1/4" gap right against the wall is good for a small carpenter's square, and maybe other things later. The whole thing can unscrew and come out of the chest in one piece If I change my mind about it later. It actually sits on the till rails.
|Tills at rest.|
|Tills at work. This keeps the small tools handy.|
|One set of saws, with luggage in front.|
|OK, maybe I have a problem letting space go unused.|
|Loaded up, ready position.|
|The top till is still free to move with saws in place.|
|I wish I had a name for this... "self-locating chain recess"?|
"gouging one's work because there's no better option"?
I also made till-dividers that are easy to reconfgure. I used some scraps of fir that were 1/8" and 3/8" thick. The thin piece is the divider, and the thick piece is a wedge that encloses the end of the divider, preventing itself from buckling and falling off. Unfortunately it's hard to photograph clearly, but it's easy to do with a 1/8" chisel if you get the concept. Just make the angles match and don't tap it too hard.
|These are easy to make and encourage grouping by category|
OK, that about covers what I built. But, why?
|In the end, it's a box where I put things.|
I'm not naturally a neat person. Just ask my wife, my parents, or any of my college room-mates (sorry again). I do strive to improve, though, and the ATC has changed the way I think (for the better). The ATC has laid out a challenge to fit a complete working set of tools inside a box with finite dimensions. For me, that is an engaging, fulfilling exercise from what would otherwise be boring and neglected. I've got craigslist ads up right now with tools that are decent enough, but I don't really need. I have got another pile that I'm thinking about getting rid of, knowing that whatever I keep might push something else out of the tool chest. And I stopped buying tools just because I felt the urge to buy something that I might need. I never would have done this without reading ATC.
This gives me space, money, and time back. This makes me happy.
It makes the house neater, which makes my wife happy. And that makes me happy.
Now, I shall dream of sugarplums and getting on a plane for Handworks tomorrow night.