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Like nearly every other woodworker on the planet, I built a “Dutch” tool chest a few years back; in fact, I built two. I enjoyed both projects, and it was a good chance to work on several different skills: dovetail joinery, dado joinery, mortise and tenon joinery, joinery, joinery, joinery.
One of those chests I gave to my dad, the other I kept. For quite a while my chest was in my garage with most of my woodworking tools placed inside it. It sometimes sat on my bench, or under it, or under my feet. I bumped into it quite often, every now and again I would trip over it; I bent over countless times to get stuff out of it. Eventually, I smartened up, hung a cabinet and some tool racks on the walls near my work area, and put my Dutch tool chest in the attic.
Here is the plain truth that nobody wants to hear: working out of that chests sucked. It wasn’t a size issue; the chest was easily large enough to hold the bulk of my woodworking tools. It is a simple matter of logistics, too much bending over, reaching, stretching, dropping, knuckle banging nonsense.
I found the best way to work out of the chest was to put it on my workbench so that everything was at eye level. The problem there was it got in the way too much. Of course, I could put it back on the floor after I got everything out, but then all of that stuff was on the bench too. And who feels like picking up and putting down a 100 pound + tool chest four or five times? Not me.
I’ve seen videos where the woodworker removed all of the tools he/or she needed at the beginning of the project and put them on the bench. I suppose that works, but then all of the stuff is on the bench and in the way (unless you have a recessed tool tray, but they are bad news, right?)
Okay, I’m complaining, so what solution am I offering? The same one that has been around forever: mount your tools on a wall rack and store them in a wall hung cabinet.
Everything is at eye level, out of the way, easy to see and easy to reach. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: since I’ve mounted my tools on the wall I’ve become a more efficient woodworker. AND, my back feels a whole lot better.
So here is my expert advice: If, for some reason, you travel a lot with your woodworking tools, make a tool chest for transportation. And if you are like the overwhelming majority of amateur woodworkers with tools that very rarely leave your work area, mount your stuff on the wall over your bench. Nothing bad is going to happen to your stuff if it’s out in the open. I live in a high humidity area and I’ve had very few rust issues. Keep your tools oiled (as you should be doing anyway) and they’ll be just fine.
So why rehash a topic I know I’ve already covered? Well, a few weeks ago I was getting some things out of the attic and I saw my tool chest sitting on the floor. It still looked pretty good, and it will certainly still hold tools, so I brought it down the stairs, dusted it off, and sold it for a few bucks.
I mentioned a few posts back that I had sold off some tools (mostly duplicates) and how I surprisingly had no sentimental attachment to any of them. But when I sold my Dutch tool chest I very nearly backed out of the deal. My second thoughts didn’t stem from the sell cost, I was just very reluctant to let go of something I had built myself.
I’m hardly a great woodworker, but I put a lot of time and effort into my projects. For whatever it’s worth, and for all of it’s shortcomings, I thought that my tool chest looked great when I finished it. When I brought it down the attic stairs and briefly back into my garage, it seemed to “fit the scene”. But then I remembered why I put it into the attic in the first place, so I put sentimentality aside and did what I know was the right thing to do. And though I pride myself on being a person who makes the right decisions, the right decision in this instance wasn’t an easy one to make.
March 1st. Spring is right around the corner. I spent the past 3 months complaining about the cold and snow and unpleasant working conditions in my garage. But with the onset of March I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, sort-of.
Yesterday I actually got to woodwork a little. I felt a good way to begin the month of March would be to start the repair of my tool chest. Of course, the snow was falling, the winds were howling, the temperatures were plummeting, and my garage was freezing. I can tell you this, our next house will have at least a two-car garage, as well as a dedicated workshop specifically set-aside for woodworking. I understand that I might have to fork out some money to make that happen, but we only live once, and life is too short for certain compromises, my happiness being one of them.
My chest needs two new parts; a new front panel and a new lid. The winter and my garage haven’t been kind, and the chest is taking a major league beating. I decided to replace those parts with some walnut that I’ve had set aside for quite some time. I started with the front panel, as I knew it would be the easier of the two parts to fix. Because it was far too cold to open my garage door for any extended period, I decided to do as much as I could by hand.
The first thing I did was cross-cut the boards to rough width using a basic STANLEY carpentry saw. I then opened the garage door, rolled the table saw over to the opening, and ripped the front panel to size. Once that was done I was able to shut the door and put away the table saw. I had the panel nearly fit to the opening, so I planed the edges to get a nice fit, then placed the panel on the workbench and used the smoothing plane to not only clean up the board, but also match the thickness of the rest of the chest, as it was just a hair wider than the boards I built the chest with. Once that was finished I used my block plane to clean up the end grain, and more importantly get a nice fit side-to-side. Now, I know that a lot of professionals, and some amateurs, like to make the claim that most woodworkers “don’t know what sharp is”. Maybe that is true, but my amateur ass managed to not only beautifully plane the front panel smooth and flat, but also take full-length end grain shavings on Walnut with a block plane that “never knew sharp”. Am I bragging? Yeah, you’re God-damned right I am.
I then made new hinges for the front panel, which are basically two small battens that lightly overhang the bottom, and I transferred the original catches for the latch from the old front. I glued and screwed both the hinges and the catches. Lastly, I thought a little bead would be nice, so I used my “new” ¼ inch beading plane to add one. A coat of linseed oil (I’ll add another next weekend) and the front was done.
I had a little time left so I decided to edge joint the other two boards I had set aside before I called it an afternoon. Neither had an edge that was remotely straight, so I made a mess of shavings to get them flat and level. Thankfully my jointer plane was sharp, though I can’t figure out how since I am a rank amateur that doesn’t know what sharp looks like.
I have enough walnut to do one of two things: either make a traditional frame and panel lid, or glue up a lid and make battens for it. The frame and panel is what I’m leaning towards, and it would probably look nicer, but I will decide on that next week. When I placed the finished front panel in the chest I discovered that Walnut, as usual, looks awesome on anything, and my tool chest desperately needs a coat of paint. This time, I’m going to make it shine.
Last night I entered my garage to do a little preventive maintenance on my tool kit. As I said in yesterday’s post, we have been experiencing some frigid temperatures in my area for the past few weeks, and the next few days are expected to be the worst of all. Because of the expected deep freeze, I decided to oil my tools, and I even drained my water stones and brought them inside from the garage. So as I was removing my tools from the tool chest to clean them I took notice to how the chest was holding up. I’ve already mentioned in another post the issues I’ve been having with the lid, but last night I also noticed that the removable front has taken a beating as well. That shouldn’t be a surprise, as the lid and removable front are obviously the parts that see the most movement and abuse. Thankfully, the rest of the chest is in good shape, and really only needs a coat of paint to freshen it up. But, I’ve already come to the conclusion to replace the lid, and now I think the fall front panel will be replaced along with it.
I’ve decided to go with a frame and panel lid, which should be relatively easy to make. I had planned on using Poplar again, but then had the idea to use Oak, which will make the lid heavier, but should also make it stronger. It then occurred to me that I wouldn’t even need to paint the Oak, I could just add a few coats of linseed oil or clear stain and allow the natural brown/red of Oak to nicely contrast with the deep black paint color. Adding a new oak front panel would only help accentuate the look. There is only one flaw in my otherwise brilliant plan, and that would be the fact that I would need to purchase the Oak, and without sugarcoating this in the least, I am being cheap and I simply don’t want to put out the money for it. Enter plan “B”.
Though I don’t keep much lumber in my garage because of space constraints, I do have a decent amount of Walnut. There is more than enough to make a new lid and front cover for the tool chest. The only minor problem with that idea is that I had visions of a the contrasting black paint and red oak, and I believe that the Walnut, even if stained, won’t contrast as nicely with the paint. I had thought about doing something I rarely do and ask the opinions of anybody who happens to read this blog and see what they may happen to think about the idea. In other words, I was going to ask for a little help.
In any event, I am going to use the Walnut. It may not look as nice as the Oak would look, but it’s quite frankly stupid to purchase new material when I already have perfectly good stock in my garage. And the oiled Walnut may turn out nicely enough contrasted against black paint. And to really be blunt, this is all for a tool chest that I really am not overly fond of. So if I don’t turn into a block of ice over the next few days, I may get this project rolling.
More than a year ago I completed the construction of a Dutch Tool Chest. The DTC was and still is a popular trend in tool storage, and while I have a love/hate relationship with it, I can say in all honesty that it does a decent job of holding most of my woodworking hand tools.
When I constructed my chest, I basically followed the plans in Popular Woodworking Magazine. I did not change any of the joinery, but I did use decorative, wrought head cut-nails rather than screws, which I feel is a great improvement aesthetically. Other than that, the only changes made to the plans were the dimensions of the chest. The instructions for the lid were a little more ambiguous. For my chest, I used one wide poplar board as the lid. To keep the lid stable, I did not install battens or breadboard ends, which many other people who have built the chest did in fact do. It was my foolish hope that the long battens on the hinges would help control warp, but my hope proved false.
Yesterday afternoon I happened to take a glimpse at the chest sitting as it was sitting on top of my workbench and the lid was not completely shut. At first I thought one of the tools was keeping the lid from closing completely, but upon closer inspection I found that the panel had warped considerably. I measured the gap across the front and it was almost a perfect 3/8 throughout the entire length. I suppose I could attempt to install battens to help correct the warp, but my garage experiences the same temperature extremes that the rest of the area does: Hot in the Summer, freezing in the Winter, humid during the Spring, and dry in the Autumn. I think that adding battens will not completely solve the issue, and while I can’t say that I love the Dutch Tool Chest as a tool storage medium, I’m definitely not going to give up on it, as I spent a decent amount of time making it to the best of my ability, and I do feel it is a nice looking chest. I can’t speak for anybody but myself, but I do love a nice looking chest.
Anyway, I’ve decided that I should make a new lid. Plywood would probably be the most prudent choice, but even painted it would probably not look all that great. I have nothing against plywood, especially for case construction, but I wouldn’t want to use it anyplace where the edges would be visible. I will likely edge joint/glue two boards together to make up the width and add either bread-board ends or battens. This may give me an opportunity to possibly add a decorative paint scheme to the lid, though I still will ogee the edges, as I like that look. Either way, I will be making a new lid for my tool chest, and I will likely need to get started sooner rather than later.
When I completed my tool box project a few weeks ago I posted some pictures on Lumberjocks. One of the commenters mentioned that while the box looks great for transporting a decent amount of tools, it didn’t seem as good a solution for a home woodworker to keep his or her tools stored and ready to use. I would have to say that I agreed with his opinion. If I were a woodworker with a larger garage or dedicated workshop, and I also had a larger set of tools, The Dutch tool box probably wouldn’t be the way to go as far as a permanent tool storage solution. I personally believe there are much better methods for the home woodworker to store stuff. If my garage were bigger and set up a little differently, I would think that a wall mounted rack or stand alone tool cabinet would be the best way to go about keeping my tools stored yet well organized and close at hand. Some people prefer tool chests, and while they look great and hold a lot of tools, I don’t think they work as well in a smaller workshop, and they also force you to either dig through them, or remove all of the tools you think you may need before hand. I think a dedicated wall rack and dare I say, a tool tray on your workbench, are much better ways to keep all of your tools nearby yet out of the way. So why build a Dutch Tool Box?
Firstly, the box was fun to make. It uses dado, dovetail, tongue and groove, and nailed joints, so if you are looking to practice your joinery and still make something worthwhile it is a good project to start with. You can also make the tool box with power tools, hand tools, or a combination of both. It’s also fairly easy to build, and if you aren’t as good at sawing dovetails as you would like, you can either use the box as practice, or make the case itself using only dado and nail joinery, which would be nearly as strong and somewhat easier to put together. It holds a nice amount of tools; nearly every hand tool I own is in mine except for a some of my hand saws, and if you don’t have an overly large tool set(and don’t plan on any massive expansion) it will probably be all that you need for most of your basic hand tool storage for a long time. Another good thing is that the tool box is easy to modify, and you don’t need to follow any strict plans. It is easy to take the basic layout of this box and customize it to whatever you want. With all that being said, would I build another, or recommend another woodworker making one?
There are a few things I would change; I would have made mine a little wider, around 3 inches or so. The height and depth are fine. I also would change the way the lid sits. The most difficult part of the construction is attaching the lid flush to the angled back. I had thought about squaring off the back and attaching the lid to the level section, but that little overhang would have possibly interfered with removing chisels from the rack. Once the case was already assembled, I didn’t want to take a chance and end up making a huge mistake. If I ever build another one, I will incorporate the new lid into the design. I changed the depth of the front compartment, making it around two inches deeper than the original plan in Popular Woodworking, and I’m glad that I did, as the added depth allowed me to put my gouge chisel and files in the tool rack. Had the depth been shortened, the chisel rack would have been less useful. I also used decorative cut nails to fasten the front panel, as well as reinforcing the dado joints for the shelf. I think the nails look great, and to pat myself on the back a little, mine is the only Dutch tool box I’ve seen with that feature. The bottom compartment is a little shallower than the plans call for, yet it has not interfered with anything I’ve tried to put in there. I had some reservations about the weight when the box is fully loaded. I put it on a bathroom scale and it came in at just under 112 lbs without any of my joinery saws. I have no trouble picking the toolbox up and moving it where I want, though I wouldn’t want to carry it up and down a staircase all day.
So all in all I’m glad I made the tool box. It was fun to build and offered a little bit of a challenge without being overly difficult. The box is small enough to keep out of the way and not take up too much space, yet large enough to hold nearly all of my hand tools. I think it is a good project for a new to intermediate level woodworker. If you have nice sized garage, or a dedicated workshop, I would again recommend making a wall mounted tool rack right above your bench, or a stand alone tall cabinet that you can keep nearby. Either one of those does a great job of tool storage, and will have enough room so you never outgrow them. For the smaller work shop, this tool box is a good choice, and if you take woodworking classes it is a nice way to transport your tools as well as show off your handy work a little. So I say if you are thinking about building a Dutch Tool Box then go for it. Even if you don’t plan on using it you can always give it away as a gift, or you could just go to Sears and buy one of their roll around tool carts. I have one and I love it.
Just around two weeks ago I got sick; I don’t like being sick. I missed a week of work and generally felt like death warmed over. In the meanwhile, our frigid winter has continued and with it we’ve gotten lots of snow. In fact, in just over a weeks time we’ve gotten more than 3 feet. It has not been a friendly environment for woodworking. I still do not feel great, my garage is freezing, and even when I’ve managed to feel somewhat normal I’ve not had a place to woodwork. The main problem right now is the snow. My wife is parked in the garage, and I am parked in the driveway. My street has 5 feet of snow piled on either side and my little town more resembles Alaska rather than Pennsylvania. But today I caught a bit of a break. I had off from work and my wife did not, and that meant that I had a place to park along with an empty garage. So at long last I had the space and an hour of free time to get my Dutch Tool Box put back together.
In essence, this project was finished more than two weeks ago. Just before I got really sick, I took it apart and painted it. So all I really did this morning was put it all back together. I did end up adding an ogee to the lid, and for the record the lid still is not attached, but that is only because I decided on another coat of paint for added protection, which I did just a few hours ago. Other than that, I attached the handles and bottom cleats, and added my own little personal touch to the chest.
I had been on the lookout for a decorative touch to add to the front panel of the tool box. While the cut nails do a little to break up the flat black paint, it still is somewhat boring. I had many ideas, from inlaying a coin, to a flag, to Captain America’s shield, but I couldn’t find a suitable item that would fit the bill. Just as I was about to give up, I looked into having something made, and discovered a web site: plaquemaker.com. I only needed to submit a design/drawing and they could convert it to a plaque sized to my choice. So I decided to submit my own design/logo rather than using a pre-made image, and I felt that “The Slightly Confused Woodworker” was as good a choice as any for my tool box. The company was easy to deal with, the plaque was inexpensive, and they also keep the image on file for future ordering, so If I like I can install my “logo” on future projects.
So now that this project is finished I’m not sure what is up next. I want to make a blanket chest for my wife, and I also want to make some new tools, and while I’m at it a new workbench might be on the horizon. But for now I am not doing anything. I still don’t feel all that great, there is still a massive amount of snow on the ground, and the cold weather is not expected to break any time soon. I don’t want to make any decisions until I feel better, and maybe more importantly, until I actually have a place to woodwork. At that, this winter cannot end soon enough, because until it does I will not start another woodworking project.
The super bowl, the flu, and the impending doom of nearly a foot of snow didn’t stop me from hitting the garage yesterday morning to get my Dutch Toolbox painted. Before I go any further, I have to be forthright and admit that I sold out. Saturday afternoon I went to the craft store with the intention of picking up some cobalt blue paint for the chest. Unfortunately for me, they only had that particular color in the small sizes, and when I say small I mean the size you may see in the pencil box of a kindergarten student. In the “adult” sizes the color choices were much more limited, so rather than compromise with a blue that I didn’t like I went with the old stand-by; black. I’m not happy with the black to be honest. It looks fine, and I’m sure it will hold up just fine as well, but it’s been done before so many times that I wanted to try something different. In fact, I nearly left the store, but my wife pointed out that yesterday (Sunday) was going to be the last somewhat decent day we are expecting for the next few weeks, and if I didn’t pick up the paint, it would be weeks before I had another chance. Besides that, I do have something that I believe will set the box apart and make it special (at least to me), but I don’t want to say anymore until I know for certain.
The only thing I have to report on the paint job is the fact that there is nothing to report. The paint went on easily enough and left a satisfactory chalky/matte finish. In fact, I had planned on adding two coats but after the first coat dried I only needed to do some touching up to get the look I wanted. All in all it took less than an hour to paint the whole chest. After the paint was dry I installed the cut nails and the corner brackets to protect the bottom of the chest. The only thing left to do now is reattach the lid, handles, and bottom cleats and this chest will be officially finished.
The only thing left now to do is decide on my next project. My wife wants a blanket chest that will fit in the living room. I can handle that, but with this never-ending winter in full swing I may wait for warmer weather to get started. In the meanwhile, I’m thinking of making a few hand tools, perhaps a brass hammer and a shoulder plane. I haven’t decided as of yet. I’ve been under the weather for weeks now, and I don’t want to make any decisions until I feel like myself again, and until this long winter finally is over.