Grandpa’s Tool Chest

Before I start work, I often read some of my favorite woodworking blogs.  Because of my work, I start at 11am local time to have lots of overlap with my home office in California (I live and work in Connecticut).  This work schedule started about a year ago and at first it proved difficult but now I am used to it.  I still get up at 6 or 7 and have some morning leisure time and sometimes get in some turning or saw practice before the programming begins.  Anyway, earlier this week I saw this post by Chris Schwarz over at Lost Art Press, “White Star Tool Chest”. The white star chest didn’t grab me that much, but the illustration from “Grandpa’s Tool Chest” piqued my interest. It looks a lot like a project from one of my many woodworking books, and also one I had started and put aside when other life events took most of my free time.

So I dusted it off, grabbed my card scraper to get the munge off one of the sides (some kind of mold I’d guess, you can see it on the right back edge in the photo below), then tried out some of my tools in it. I need a place for my saws, molding planes, chisel roll, and rasp roll, and would prefer to put my planes in a more enclosed space. This seemed like a good option since I had the carcase made already, the dust panels in place, and just needed to finish the lid, and build some drawers for the lower section. A base would probably be a good idea too.

After scraping the side, I sealed it with some shellac (I had apparently done this to the other side already). Then I grabbed my longest plane–yup it will fit in a drawer quite easily.

My rip saw however was a bit too long, but I was able to grab a dovetail practice scrap and saw some kerfs in to see how the crosscut hand saw and my back saws would fit. I also grabbed some of molding planes and put them towards the back. Pretty spiffy. I think I’ll even have enough room at the top to make a sliding till for layout tools or saw files and such.

I have space for three good sized drawers and with some full extension sliders, I think this will really work out well for my tool storage. If I put a skirt around the lid that should cut down on the dust getting into the bin, though that skirt might be a bit tricky with the angle. With a base on it, the top of the lid will be at about mid-chest height for me, so it shouldn’t pose a problem putting tools in or out of the top bin. The slant-top ought to cut down on my propensity to put things on flat surfaces and leave them there as I work around the clutter (OCD I am not). I’m liking this idea.

This particular project is not difficult, the frame for the raised panel is just glued into a rabbet–I think the original project in the book just had a single flat panel. I made the frame with mortise and tenons, and raised the panel with my hand planes. For the sides I just used some pre-glued pine panels from a big box store. The back is in two sections with pocket screws holding the frames around a thin piece of luan, and both are rabbeted into the sides. The bottom of the upper bin is also a pre-glued pine panel and it separates the two back pieces. I do need to nail that to the sides at the front third or so of the panel so any wood movement goes towards the back. The dust panels are made the same way as the two back sections, pocket screws, luan, and glued into dadoes in the sides. I don’t think I even used cut nails, though I think I will add them. The frames are all made of poplar, and the lid will be a single panel with some wide bread-board ends, though I haven’t finalized that. I might use some gorgeous jatoba (aka brazilian cherry) I have from a different project. I’ll probably paint the sides and just shellac the drawer fronts, maybe similar to another piece of shop furniture I made some time back. Maybe some soft maple would go better with the pine. Or just some pine. Pine always looks nice.

The source of the chest project: “Early American Country Furniture” by Denis Hambucken.