Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Consumerist's Tool Chest

AKA Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures...

AKA Winter's Coming...

Without going into too much personal detail, I will still set the stage by saying a cluster of sickness, injury, and deaths in the family has made for a very chaotic early winter.  As I've been away from the house and the shop, I have worried a great deal about my tools during the extreme changes in temperature and the winter rains.  I've kept the tools oiled and usually visit them regularly to make sure they are not rusting even if I do not have time to use them.

Building a traditional tool chest is high on my list of priorities.  Being realistic, though, it is not likely to happen for some time so I was forced to take some drastic action to protect the core tools.

Purchase of this ugly behemoth is not something I feel great about, philosophically:

It wasn't all that expensive, but it is plastic, unhandsome, and counter to all that my woodworking pursuits are based on.

However, it has a decent seal, is large enough for my panel saw, and a half-step up in Intelligent Design than the plastic tote I had in mind while shopping for some emergency tool shelter.

I'm not able to fit everything in it, but I did get the following in there:
  • Panel saw
  • Tenon saw
  • Rip carcase saw
  • Crosscut carcase saw
  • Dovetail saw

Bench plane tote containing:
  • Jointer (#7)
  • Jack (#5)
  • Smoother (#3)
  • Low-angle block
  • Wax
  • Oiled cloth in small jar

Under the saw till lives:
  • Large shoulder plane
  • Large and small router planes
  • Skew rabbet plane
  • Small plow plane

In tool rolls are:
  • Set of 13 auger bits
  • Set of bevel-edge chisels
  • Misc chisels (mortise, corner, etc)

and a small tray of measuring and marking tools:
  • Dividers
  • Marking knife
  • Marking gauge
  • Squares
  • Folding rule
  • Maybe some other bits

I was not able to fit brace, drills, and a host of handled tools like awls, rasps, etc.  These are, however, ensconced in a seperate bin and should remain safe.

I feel slightly better about this, and while I am still eager to construct a real tool chest ASAP, I am glad that the main tools are now out of harm's way for the most part, and they are stored in a way which is somewhat simple to root through.  It's no Anarchist's Tool Chest, but I have seen (and used) worse.


  1. It's a starting point, and it will also help you learn what tools you reach for most often. Keep track of what you grab a lot, and what you have to fight your box to get to all the time.

    Then in your next box, you can plan it so that those tools are closer at hand and easier to grab. The form and function of your tool box should match your needs, and help you work not get in your way.

    Good luck, and maybe the plastic will push you a little harder to get your new one done?

    If you're looking for a simple box, that holds a lot of tools and is more appropriate for a hand tool shop, check out my write up of my "anarchists saw box" that I made last month. It only took a few boards of inexpensive pine, and can hold a lot of tools (as well as serving as a seat, and saw bench).

    Chris Schwarz wrote about it on his Lost Art Press blog too.

    Good luck, and keep up the good work.


  2. Sorry to hear about your trying times.

    I wouldn't feel too bad - I think You are doing a sensible thing by protecting your hard earned tools. Im sure the plastic box will get reused after you build a toolchest and not simply instantly become landfill.

    My tiny 'workshop' is also a blessing in that its a room in a central heated house so a lot less risk of rust in the drier air. I do however, look forward to starting my own toolchest in the New year.

    At the other extreme, When I was at sea in my tiny wooden boat, I used to cover my tools in vaseline and wrap each tool in taped up plastic bags.

  3. Badger- actually this setup is already teaching me a bit about use and organization, and the saw till could easily be tranferred into the real deal. I've already determined a few things about placement through this dry run. My apologetic tone is more for dramatic effect than real distress.

    Simon - here in a coastal rainforest, it is almost the same as living on a boat. My tools have been ok, for the most part, but after leaving them for 5 days a couple of the pairs of dividers had a thin film on them.

    Not sure I need to go to the vaseline bags yet, but better safe than sorry!

  4. Hey, at least you're honest about it. Still, adding the little saw holder and trays was a stroke of genius. Sometimes you just have to do what you can.

  5. Great Post, You are protecting your tools while you build a chest. You may learn a few things about how you want the chest to be constructed while working out of the consumerist tool chest. Really like how you dropped the saw till in there as well.

  6. Good to hear that your apologetic tone isn't actual distress.

    Not every tool or shop fixture has to be pretty or ideal. And buying this plastic box has given you more time and space to design your tool chest based on your experiences, and not just on an article or book. I like Chris Schwartz just as much as the next guy... but I do things differently than he does.

    Joel Moskowitz built his chest up inside of a knaack box ( and it serves him very well. A plastic box is not a knaack box... but (as you're discovering) it's a good way to experiment with what you want before you make permanent your ideas.

  7. A very good place to keep your tools while you build a proper chest. I would have my tools in a Knaack box like Joel Moskowitz if I had to store them in the neighborhood where his shop is.

  8. Consider using the best air compressor for giving power to air tools. The work will get finished early and is also cost effective.

  9. For some reason I'm having trouble leaving a question, so I apologize if you have the same question multiple times. What brand of box is this? What dimensions? I'm in a similar situation and need a long term temp storage option. This looks far better than anything I've come across so far.

  10. Hi Ryan,

    Unfortunately I am now away from the shop for a bit, but I can try to look it up next time I am back. I bought it at a Fred Meyer in Newport, OR. You might just want to look at whatever hardware or MegaStores you have around your area.

  11. It seems the selection "these days" is all about flashy, overpriced boxes...thanks though.
    Just ran across this blog. Great stuff! Your bench is a beauty! I'm still working through the design stages. I dig the split top roubo design but I'm not set on it.


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