If the type of woodworking you do demands that you be versatile (perhaps you spend half your time building fine furniture in your shop and the other half installing doors and trim in new homes), then you may want to design your primary tool-storage system to be versatile as well. When Sheldon Perry, of Tamworth, New Hampshire, set out to build himself a toolbox, he was in just this situation. Appreciating the ease of access and voluminous storage area a standing cabinet would provide his shop, he was unwilling to do with less when he worked on site. The challenge was to find a way to make the cabinet serve both facets of his work situation equally well.
Sheldon Perry decided that his standing cabinet had to serve him in his shop and on building sites. His design features removable tool boards, drawer till and support stand, and a bowed front that maintains ample interior volume while giving the box a more manageable shape. Photo by Brooks Dodge.
For ten years, furniture maker Andy Rae, of Lenhartsville, Pennsylvania, ruminated on the idea of building a standing tool chest that would be large and complex enough to contain the bulk of his hand tools. Finally, with the acquistion of five beautiful matched flitches of Honduras mahogany and a few prize tiger-maple boards, the time had arrived. Gathering together the tools to be stored, he arranged them in various groupings, measuring them until he finally got the design down on paper. Then the fun began.
Rae began construction by making the case framework from mahogany, joining it together with hefty mortise-and-tenon joints. He used sliding dovetails to attach the dividers and shelves to the frame. To build the upper box-type doors, he surrounded a solid-wood panel with four boards joined at
The solution came when Perry happened on the idea of creating removable "tool boards." These boards-one fitted to carry saws and the other a selection of planes and spokeshaves—would perform equally well whether fixed into the cabinet for shop work or installed on a job site. The till of drawers is also removable, allowing it to be independent of the mother case.
To make the case itself easily transportable, Perry had to limit its weight and bulk as much as possible. The gentle bow designed into the face of the cabinet both enhances the looks of the box and reduces its mass, yet sacrifices only a minimum amount of volume. And because the open base support is independent of the case, the the cabinet's overall size and weight are
An Outstanding Standing Chest significantly reduced. To provide carry points, Perry created hand grips by cutting elongated holes into the center partition. Notches cut along the edges of the door provide an attractive, yet entirely functional, access to these grips. To keep the tools in place on their support pegs or brackets while the case is being transported, Perry added miniature bungee cords to the tool supports. He removes the cords once the box is set up—either in the shop or on a job site.
Andy Rae's tool cabinet is 7 ft. tall, 6 ft. wide (with doors opened) and 1 Vt ft. deep. It is built of Honduras mahogany, tiger maple and birch plywood. Photo by John Hamel.
Rae's cabinet features holly and ebony inlay and ebony handles (left).The Honduras mahogany veneer on the doors is thick enough to create raised panels; the coved drawer face (above) mimics waist molding in traditional furniture designs. Photo by John Hamel.
their corners with spline miter joints. The lower doors featured a mortise-and-tenon framework joined around a floating raised panel. Rae made up his own string inlay from ebony, holly and fiddlcback maple, oversizing it in thickness to create a distinct border between the bevels and the flat fielded areas of the door panels.
To create an efficient work triangle within his shop, Rae teamed up his new toolbox with his workbench and low assembly table. Having outfitted the standing chest with an ample number of drawers and a pair of large tool-bearing doors, he brought the bulk of his hand tools close to the two work areas where they would most often be needed. Within the chest itself, he situated the most frequently used tools, such as hand planes, chisels and layout tools, where they would be clearly visible and easy to grab. He tucked away lesser-used items behind doors or within the divided drawers. Because this toolbox was ten years in the making—at least in his head— Rae has found little that he would change or modify in the design.
Reinhold Faeth's modular stacking tool chests are based on the traditional European fire box. Each module holds a job-specific array of tools and can be removed from the stack for transportation to a job site. Photos by Reinhold Faeth.
For the doors. Faeth created his own three-ply plywood by gluing a thin veneer to either side of an edge-laminated core of solid wood. Photo by Reinhold Faeth.
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