Tool chest

This is a version of the boarded tool chest from the Anarchist’s Design Book by Christopher Schwartz. The original plan was to go to a timberyard and get a decent set of straight-grained pine planks which I could throw through a thicknesser. Another lockdown put paid to that idea so this is made from DIY store pine which I thicknesses by hand. The grain did not make that enjoyable.

The corners are lap joints, with the nails skewed to help dovetail it to the side. I wanted to tongue and groove the floor, but ended up shiplapping it.

Starting to think about tool layout but the next step is tills, lid and skirt. So far my only complaints are difficulty fitting my moulding planes in a useful spot, and difficulty fitting my brace anywhere (but then braces are awkward anyhow).


Nice one! That came together quickly! I’ve ordered some poplar and will be getting going on the DTC shortly. I bought those tongue and groove planes as well and I don’t think they’re perfect but after a good sharpening I was able to cut a successful tongue and groove in some scrap

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For what it’s worth, if you want to put something together quickly, I reckon you could skip the dovetails and replace them with nailed laps the way much of the stuff in the ADB is put together. Good luck!

Haha no I think if anything I’ll want to eek it out and enjoy the journey! Wood is too expensive to do projects too quickly :stuck_out_tongue:

Seriously impressed Ed!!
I managed to get a copy of schwarz’s anarchists toolchest from Germany and will be a project when I get the room to put it somewhere.

Hope all is going well in Canada, looks like you have a nice set up there!!

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Cheers Mark! I can reccomend the Anarchist’s Design Book as well (I have a copy if you want a browse), and the Anarchist’s Workbench (which is free as PDF).

There’s a good workshop here I’ve joined (when it’s not shut down for lockdown) but I’m definitely enjoying having my own bench!

Thanks Ed,

Anarchists toolchest was tracked down and read the last lockdown, downloaded the anarchists workbench last week and devoured it in three days.

Now waiting for the anarchists design book which should be here in the next couple of days.

Which will make Christopher schwarz up there with my most read authors! Along with Tolkien, richard Harris, Jeffery archer (sorry) Dean koonts and Ian banks! I never saw that coming!

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He really is extremely readable, and very approachable woodworking wise. I think you’re going to enjoy the design book - look forward to seeing what you make of it!

They look like great books. And I’d buy them if they weren’t so expensive in this country!

I’ve downloaded and started the Workbench book but already he wants me to buy 2x12 yellow pine. Can’t get that in B&Q, can I?

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Can’t get it anywhere but 6x2 is available and nearly all of the 12x6 is ripped in half.

I worked out you need about 85m of 6x2

Cheapest I could find is treated c24 carcassing timber from howarths in Brockley , still comes out at £360

As the final size required is 1 1/4” x 5”
Hopefully the treated sides will be planed off.

I will be shortly making some saw benches from this, so will let you know.
Just worried about dust from the treated timber if put through a planer thicknesser.

It seems odd I cannot find untreated timber cheaper than certified graded and treated structural timber.

If anyone knows where we can get 6x2 less than £4 a metre please let me know

Would this do?

It would make it definitely but not so sure I would want to use it

There are three types of constructional timber
Cls (Canadian lumber standard) as you mentioned (fast growing pine)
Used for non load bearing stud work between drywall
Soft lightweight but not strong … and notoriously twisted. I have been through nearly a pallet of the stuff to find 10 straight pieces.

C16 — structural timber normally pine, slower growing than cls used for joists and some load bearing construction straighter and heavier than cls

C24 as I mentioned , normally slower growing such as redwood , straighter grain and less defects
Normally the choice of engineers and specifiers. Used as per c16 but suitable for longer spans and weights

Heavier and straighter than both the above.
Can order for delivery without picking the pieces knowing it is going to be straight

If the c24 Cleans up ok happy to pay that

I think I recall some discussion in the toolbench book about this kind of thing, and speculation that the reason English benches look the way they do is because of the relative higher cost and lower availability of lumber (which is a problem stretching back to Nelson’s Navy).

Fwiw I ended up building a Nicholson (i.e. English) style and it’s holding up well so far.

@lewisss might this be suitable? I had looked at it for a chest but wasn’t sure.

The other option for a workbench which I think would be viable would be to buy kitchen worktops for the bench and top up with some std stock for legs etc. You can get a 2m length of 40mm beech worktop for c£110. Glue 2 of those together and you’ve got yourself a nice thick top with no work. I imagine the remaining wood would be the same cost again from somewhere like Surrey Timbers. Slight issues (but manageable) with this route are the wood is glued up without regard for grain direction so flattening is more difficult (although they come flat) and I’m told the finger joints in the wood are a nightmare to work so if they landed where you were trying to do leg mortices or something it might add some difficulty.

Lid on, tool rack in, first till made. I like having a tool rack for my chisels and awls - I used one in my last tool chest and appreciated being able to lay my hands on them more quickly than with a drawer or till. I will say that it takes enough off the width that seeing into the bottom of the chest is a little awkward, so if I made them again I might do the tills at five or six inches wide rather than seven.

The bottom of the till is recycled maple, resawn and bookmatched. I’m not going to be looking at it much, but when I do it will be nice to see the pattern.


Looking great!

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Second till done - might add an internal tray for it but I’ve got some more tweaking to do until I’m happy with my layout.

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Got the chamfer done on the lid. Mostly happy with it, just need to replicate it on the skirt (and make the skirt) then think about paint.


Nice! Keep it up!

Long overdue update on this. The skirt is three pieces, rabbeted and glued the same as the carcasse. I’ve also stuck some brads in there to help with strength.

I replicated the moulding on the lid for the skirt - fillister and smoother. I like the way it looks, somewhere in between modern and traditional. Functionally it keeps that corner robust while removing a sharp edge and reducing surfaces dust will accumulate on.

The paint was extremely fun to make - there’s another thread for that so I won’t go into it but it’s well worth a try if you’re interested and can get your hands on the pigment.

General thoughts after a couple of months’ use:

  • The chest lives on top of two saw horses to bring the top to about hip height. I haven’t really used this on the floor, and I don’t really want to. The Dutch tool chest is superior in that aspect I think - storage underneath main compartment is built-in.

  • I like that I open one thing - the lid - and it’s all there. Sure I have to move tills but I don’t have to find a place to keep the fall front while I work like I do on the DTC.

  • It’s not as good as the DTC for storing moulding planes. There isn’t the height for a corral plus tills (I could go with just one till, but you’d lose a lot of storage), and I can’t fit my plough plane in at all. Some of this is because I put a tool rack in which reduces the space at the back, but honestly getting any of them out is a challenge. Maybe I’m storing them wrong. The DTC wins in that regard.

  • I don’t store my saws in there. There’s not the room for my panel saw (again, I need more height under the tills), and I’ve ended up keeping everything in the French cleat on the back of my bench. Not great, and the DTC doesn’t have this problem.

  • The tills really do soak up all the small awkward things which my last tool chest didn’t really have a place for. The tool rack is something it shares with the DTC and is my favourite thing - keeps all the edges on my chisels safe - although you do have to be careful reaching into the bottom back corner for things. That could be solved with a thin panel though which I’ll probably put in at some point.

  • I can’t find a good place for my brace, but braces are awkward, angular things and that would be true of any chest.

Some of these problems could be solved by building a full scale Anarchist’s Tool Chest, which I don’t have the time, room or patience for. Otherwise I think it’s hard to compare this against a DTC and conclude one is better.

The other problem is that it’s already pretty full, and I have ambitions to build more tools. But that’s not something which can be solved by a different design of tool chest.