Anarchist Tool Chest – Yellow Pine – 2015

I didn’t do a whole lot on this project, at least in terms of chopping and paring.  My valuable contribution was setting the balls in motion by evicting David out of my shop.  After four years or so, I closed up the garage, packed up my tool boxes and hit the road.  For all of those years my garage was infested with mosquito, and totally exposed to the elements but I loved it anyways.  And even as I set up a fancy new space, with temperature control and fewer unwanted conversations with passerbys – I am so glad that I took the leap and rented that space – I had no idea how much that space in my life, such a little footprint could fill.

With my departure David was left thinking out a new set-up for his own shop.  In addition to needing a place for storing his collection of awesome antique planes, David was also left with all of my tools which didn’t make the move.  As a starting point for thinking out out all the design and philosophical challenges of making a tool chest, David and I both read through the anarchist tool chest.  The text is a manifest against poorly cut hardware and consumeristic nonsense all at once!  Tool boxes are one of those quintessential projects; it was the first thing I built when I moved into the shop and the last thing that David built before I moved out.  Back in the day a woodworkers’ chest would embody all of his/her skill, and be conveniently hoisted with him/her from job to job.  With all the cuts made, and all the shavings flung, David carries on the tradition.  Simple lines and balanced proportions speak to an  ascetic more utilitarian than decorative in this particular iteration.

A temporary home until David finds a place to pull up a bench. For me at least having a tool chest neatly stored in a one bedroom apartment would be too much to resist.  One thing would lead to another and I would have piles of shavings everywhere


The blue milk paint contrasts with the yellow pine beautifully.



Following the maxim that errors compound, David took a little special effort to true things up this time around.  This is no small feat on boards tall enough to hold all of a person’s tools. Yellow pine, hit the sweet point of price, strength and location.


Turns out that tool boxes – have space for a lot of dovetails!  And to think all this careful fitting will be covered by a thick layer of milk paint.  All said and done – David cut somewhere in the world of 120 dovetails for this project – minus the rapture this thing will likely be around for a couple of generations.

David’s gradated the floor with salvaged wood flooring from community forklift.


Almost as soon as the bottom was nailed in tools began to find a home!  Check out the 18th century coffin plane, and the home made jointer.


In a very clever design, the skirt has the dovetails reversed, providing strength in both directions.  The trick is getting a tight fit across the length of the box.  Turns out a couple of hundred years of woodworkers stumbled upon  a design that makes sense.

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Looks like we acquired a rough carpenter along the way.  Nancy was great in the shop, until she wasn’t.


Apparently its poor form to joke, but it is large enough for a coffin.  This much work in- damn right I am taking it to the grave.



David dovetailed three sliding tills – scraps from throughout the shop found a purpose including this western red cedar from our canoe project.  In my ever evolving quest to cut dovetails that I have never cut before – there is a frankstein till, with three woods dovetailed together at a single joint.

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Turns out once you place your tools in a box you have more than you thought.  Part of the ingenuity of the design – is that every tool in the box is two hand motions away.  Sliding the tills reveals the tools below.  Each till is a 1/4 inch larger than the one below it, ensuring each can be taken out and than return to its place.



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Thanks to Bill Anderson, who helped David pick out this ~150 year plow plane.  The lid is offset with two grooves.  For what its worth, I think Christopher Schwartz has a ton of insights but if I were building one of these chests I wouldn’t try a mortise at the end, I would just make a mitered bridal joint.

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With my stuff already shipped up, David followed the tradition, as wrong as it seems – and put a thick coat of milk paint on his chest  Not bad, a couple of months down, and the dude has a chest for the rest of his life.  A real accomplishment!



Nostalgia is hell of a thing, Davids tools are packed, the final shavings have passed from board to tool and my shop is once again a garage.


I prefer to remember it like this – a magical place – full of shavings and projects in various phases of completion



2 thoughts on “Anarchist Tool Chest – Yellow Pine – 2015

  1. Pingback: Dutch Tool Box – Yellow Pine – 2015 | raecreation

  2. Pingback: Danish Modern Coffee Table | raecreation

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