The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Tot Ziens


When you’re a guy like me, and you woodwork at the back of a one-car garage, space is at an ultimate premium. The battle to remove clutter, create storage, and make the work area “work” is never ending. Generally, I keep my work space fairly clean and organized, yet, whenever I am working on a project, I always seem to notice something else that could be improved. And the past weekend was no exception.

This past Friday my daughter wasn’t feeling well, so I took the day off to stay with her. While she slept, rather than continuing my project, I decided to remedy something that has been bothering me for months.

My garage is “L” shaped, and the “L” section usually contains leftover paint, gardening supplies, and countless other items from countless other projects. Many years ago I built a three tier shelf from leftover “two-by” stock and slowly that shelf became more and more cluttered, no matter how-often I cleaned it. Most recently, my Dutch Tool Chest found its way there, and I decided to finally do something about it.

A few years ago Dutch Tool Chests were all the rage. I personally built two, one for my dad and one that I kept for myself. In fact, one of those chests actually made it to the daily top 3 on Lumberjocks. It was a fun project and contained all of my favorite joinery: dovetails, tongue and groove, mortise and tenon, and dados, as well as decorative cut nails. I enjoyed building it immensely.

BUT…

I found that I did not enjoy actually using the chest; it always seemed to be in the way, and once I made wall racks for my woodworking tools, the chest became a storage bin for rags and cleaning supplies, the only tool it contained being the head of an old ball peen hammer that I found. Considering that just a few weeks back I purged my wall cabinets of hundreds of magazines, I had plenty of room for those supplies, and considering the chest takes up a lot of space, I made the decision to put it into my attic and cover it with a sheet.

Even though I spent a lot of time on that chest, the decision to put it into storage was surprisingly easy. Just as I said goodbye to the Moxon vise without any regrets, I am now saying goodbye to the Dutch Tool Chest. I am not impugning either project, as I’ve seen many blog posts describing their virtues; they just didn’t work for me. Both were trends in woodworking that I mistakenly followed without doing enough research, and now both are just side notes in my woodworking history. And though I do regret the money I spent on the hardware for the Moxon vise, I do not regret building the Dutch Tool Chest. As I said, it was fun to build and the construction process made me a better woodworker.

The back corner of my garage is now a little more roomy, and a little better suited for my needs. I even took some of the leftover lumber from the shelf and made a quick little workbench to hold my grinder and drill press, two of the power tools I still actually use on occasion. It is a space I can put to good use. In fact, I hope to turn it into a dedicated sharpening station.

In the meanwhile, I did learn a lesson, and that is to avoid woodworking trends. Maybe there was a reason that items like the Moxon Vice and Dutch Tool Chest disappeared for such a long time. For my part, I found out the hard way that they weren’t for me. But then again, I would never have known if I hadn’t tried in the first place.

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8 Comments

  1. ausworkshop says:

    Yes, it is times like these that I’m glad I am so slow to start things on my ToDo list. I had been meaning to build a tool chest for quiet some time. I started to think along these lines, I’m in a one car shop as well. So glad I didn’t, instead I just made a few storage boxes to slide in under my workbench like drawers. All my other tools planes and equipment are in some old wardrobes (drawers and cupboards with sliding doors that open easily and don’t swing out) it means I can keep my saw support rollers in front of them and still reach in around them if I need to get something out. The section that would normally contain coat hangers for clothes has been filled with a pigeon hole shelf for routers and other machines I hardly use, keeps them all away from dust but still within reach at the side of my workbench. Also the left over space in there still comes in handy to hang my dust coat, jacket or hats and keep them out of the way so they don’t get covered in dust.
    So I guess the wardrobes became my tool chest, only they are much easier to get things in and out of and see at a glance without having to take up too much more floor space than a large tool chest.
    Tool chests might be good if you want all your tools together ready to take out on the road, or if you want them all in one place so it’s easier for a thief to take off with them but for people who work in a workshop I believe drawers and cupboards are the way to go. Sliding doors even better. Shelves always get messy and dusty, I’m trying to get rid of them eventually or put some doors on them too.
    Also, a tool tray on my workbench holds most of the things I was going to put in the chest. Marking tools, pencils, spoke shaves, chisel trays, all those small things that would have been cluttered up in a tool chest are easily in reach. All you do is occasionally dust them and apply some oil with the rag can. Easy and efficient to sweep out if they have open ends.
    Thanks for reinforcing my suspicions about tool chests.
    Oh and I’ll cross off the Moxon for now. My ToDo list is almost empty again 🙂

  2. ausworkshop says:

    Yes, it is times like these that I’m glad I am so slow to start things on my ToDo list. I had been meaning to build a tool chest for quite some time. I started to think along these lines, I’m in a one car shop as well. So glad I didn’t, instead I just made a few storage boxes to slide in under my workbench like drawers. All my other tools planes and equipment are in some old wardrobes (drawers and cupboards with sliding doors that open easily and don’t swing out) it means I can keep my saw support rollers in front of them and still reach in around them if I need to get something out. The section that would normally contain coat hangers for clothes has been filled with a pigeon hole shelf for routers and other machines I hardly use, keeps them all away from dust but still within reach at the side of my workbench. Also the left over space in there still comes in handy to hang my dust coat, jacket or hats and keep them out of the way so they don’t get covered in dust.
    So I guess the wardrobes became my tool chest, only they are much easier to get things in and out of and see at a glance without having to take up too much more floor space than a large tool chest.
    Tool chests might be good if you want all your tools together ready to take out on the road, or if you want them all in one place so it’s easier for a thief to take off with them but for people who work in a workshop I believe drawers and cupboards are the way to go. Sliding doors even better. Shelves always get messy and dusty, I’m trying to get rid of them eventually or put some doors on them too.
    Also, a tool tray on my workbench holds most of the things I was going to put in the chest. Marking tools, pencils, spoke shaves, chisel trays, all those small things that would have been cluttered up in a tool chest are easily in reach. All you do is occasionally dust them and apply some oil with the rag can. Easy and efficient to sweep out if they have open ends.
    Thanks for reinforcing my suspicions about tool chests.
    Oh and I’ll cross off the Moxon for now. My ToDo list is almost empty again 🙂

  3. ausworkshop says:

    Sorry Bill, tried to correct spelling and now it posted twice, erase the first one if you can, thanks.

    • billlattpa says:

      No problem.
      I’ve found that wall mounted tool racks are by far the best option for my situation. Having everything within view and at hand is by far the easiest way to woodwork. Tool chests likely came about firstly to store tools to keep them from rusting etc. Secondly because in a workshop situation where you may have had a dozen or more woodworkers at any given time, not only was wall space a premium and used for keeping large templates and jigs, keeping your tools from getting mixed up with the other workers was extremely important as tools were extremely expensive (and still are). Of course, on places like sailing ships tools had to be kept in chests for there was no other place to store them.

      But for the home woodworker, I don’t see how a tool chest is the best option. Like you said, if you move your tools from place to place often storing them in a chest is probably the most sensible thing to do. But I don’t care what anybody says, tool chests are miserable to work from, unless they are very large, which then blurs the line between practical and obtrusive. My work area could not fit a tool chest that holds the 45 most used tools in my shop; not even close, as that chest would be near 8 sq feet or more, and considering that my workbench is only 12 sq ft, that would be a very large chest. My walls hold everything I need and then some, and not one of those tools needs to be moved out of the way, like tool chests often are, to work. At that, the ironic thing about all of this is the fact that tool chests, which are supposedly the ultimate solution in tool storage for the lone woodworker, are probably best suited to a large shop where there is room on the floor to keep them from being in the way. Yet, that larger shop will also have far more wall space, and in my experience in the few professional workshops I’ve been in all of the tools were stored on the wall either on open shelves or in cases with fold out doors which also displayed tools.

      As far as keeping my tools clean and rust free, like you I occasionally dust them, and use the “Paul Sellers” oil can, which works like a charm and has left my tools rust free for a long time.

      That all being said, I would like to build a chest at some point, but it would be used to store linens and blankets, which to me is the best use for a chest.

      Thanks!
      Bill

  4. bloksav says:

    Hi Bill.

    I am now back on the ship and that as usual inspires me to get back to blogging and commenting.

    I have never really seen the benefit of a Moxon vice, but it might be because I use a shoulder vice on my bench. The Dutch tool chest on the other hand has always appealed to me, I don’t know if I will ever use it if I build one though. But they look like nice projects.

    I like to store my tools in a wall mounted cabinet, because I can cram in a lot of tools in a fairly tight space, and they are a bit protected from the dust that comes from when I use my tablesaw etc.

    I built the ATC at while back and I think it is enormous. We use it for storing our comforters respectively for the winter and the summer. It seems like it work for some people, but I don’t want to try it out, I am pretty sure it won’t work very well for me.
    Building it was a blast though, so I don’t regret it.

    Brgds
    Jonas

    • billlattpa says:

      Hey Jonas! Glad to hear from you!

      The Moxon vise was probably my biggest regret in as far as the hardware for it cost around $75.00. It is very good quality, but I now have absolutely no real use for it other than to sell it on ebay or some such place. I’ve found that a leg vise and a hold fast do a better job and are easier to use. The Moxon vise always seemed to be in the way and very rarely did it actually ever come in handy, as in almost never.

      The Dutch Tool chest is nice and fun to build, and in your case may be an item you could really use considering that you often travel with tools. For me, it wasn’t a very good storage solution as far as tools are concerned. It was just too small too hold what I needed (in a convenient way), and at the same time just a bit too big to store under my work bench, mainly because the lid would not open without pulling the entire chest out from under the bench. It was very frustrating. I ended up putting it on top of a rolling cart I had made years ago to use for moving my amplifier when I used to play the guitar.

      As I’ve mentioned in many posts, for the past year or more I’ve been removing more and more unneeded items from my garage, and that rolling cart was next on the list. With that, the DTC, which was holding nothing but cleaning supplies, had to go as well. I have two former kitchen cabinets mounted in my garage that have plenty of room in them now that I removed all of my old magazines, so all of the cleaning stuff fit in there with room to spare.

      I would like to build an ATC, but it is far too big for my garage. I could modify the size, but it would still not work. On the other hand, like you I would probably not use it for tools, but for linens and blankets. But as of now that type of chest is far down the list of projects I would like to complete.

      Thanks!!
      Bill

    • ausworkshop says:

      I was lucky enough to have a customer order a large dovetailed chest at about the same time I was reading The ATC. I even sent a few emails back and forth with Chris working out the details of the design as this was an outdoor version with a sloping lid. It took way longer than first expected so my hourly rate was very low but I enjoyed it. I think working on the project got it out of my system, by the end of it I was glad to have the giant chest finished and out of my workshop. I’ve never put any of the pics on my website because like many of those projects I’d rather not do another one so I don’t like to show pics of things I’ve made unless I’m in the mood to make another. I prefer smaller projects in my small workshop.

      • billlattpa says:

        Same here. My days of building large projects are pretty much finished unless we move to a larger house. My house is just over 1800sqft, and has all of the furniture it needs and them some. For the past few months I’ve done little but build some small, dovetailed boxes and I am currently working on a wall cabinet for my garage to hold my planes as I am going to remove the shelf-not that the shelf is in any way not working, but I’ve acquired many more planes from friends, family, and co workers, and I would like to keep them stored all in one easy access location.
        Thanks again!
        Bill

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