When Greg Radlev, of Ventura, California, set out to design a tool cabinet for his shop, he did not worry about portability—he had no intention of ever moving this particular toolbox. Instead of designing for versatility and mobility, Radley's challenge was to create a box of a reasonable size that would not only hold his large collection of tools, but would hold them in a way that allowed those most commonly used to be visible and easily accessible. In addition to his hand tools, Radley also hoped to store a good assortment of power tools in the cabinet, creating a one-stop tool station for perhaps 90% of his day-to-day tool needs. As if this weren't challenge enough, Radley was also faced with having to live up to his hard-won reputation as a fine furniture maker— this tool cabinet was going to have to be finely made and be good-looking to boot.
I low did the concept of this particular cabinet come about? In Radley's own words: "In the beginning, my tools fit neatly in a cardboard box. In short order I outgrew the box so I bought a small mechanic's-type toolbox. Soon I outgrew that one, too, so I built and fit my tools in a portable folding chest that was much like a suitcase. I found that I seldom carried my tools around so I hung it up on the wall. I eventually outgrew this, too, and had tools all over the shop. This was a problem that had to be solved, so I began looking at every tool chest and article on tool chests that I could find. I was inspired to build my tool chest from several sources, one of which was the Studley toolbox (see the photo on p. 76). I am a very visual person and I like to have my tools where I can see them. I don't like searching through drawers. When I'm in a hurry (which is most of the time), I quite often open the wrong drawer first and then realize that the drawer next to it was the one I wanted. I had to have an orderly layout where the tools could be easily seen and acccessed as I needed them.
"When I finally decided on the configuration of the tool chest, I decided to make it beautiful as well as functional. This tool chest was going to be mine and I was planning to look at it every day for a long time. I also wanted to impress future clients so they would know without a doubt that I could build their furniture."
To my mind, Radley's cabinet is the epitome of a good toolbox. The chest itself is certainly attractive, and the joinery impeccable. But even more important, I give this tool chest top grades for practicality and function. By devoting the utility cabinet in the base of the chest to his collection of power tools, Radley left the rest of the cabinet free to carry an impressive selection of hand tools. To some extent, the function of the case followed its form.
Greg Radleys standing tool cabinet, of Honduras mahogany, ash and curly and stained ash veneers, was designed with both beauty and function in mind. Photo by Vincent Laurence.
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