18th century style tool chest

I've been working out of a large, traditional tool chest for some time, the form similar to the famous Anarchist's Tool Chest popularized by Chris Schwarz. This is a great solution to storing a traditional set of tools but I've long wanted something a little different. This weekend I scratched that itch.

I spent this past weekend demonstrating period woodworking at the Johnson's Wood Expo in Charlotte, MI. Though it's an exhausting two days, it's always a great thrill to work alongside Scott Phillips, Chris Schoenberg, John Wilson, and Ernie Schuette and I can't wait until next year.

My home on Saturday
Since my wife had gone on a family trip with her parents and taken our daughter Abigail with her for weekend, I was all alone when I got home from the Expo each night. Not something I'm used to! So I spent those hours building this, a low tool chest inspired by the famous Thomas and Warren Nixon chest owned by the Framingham Mass Historical Society.

At 18" outside dimension, it is, I think, slightly wider than the actual thing but perfectly sized for my favorite set of planes, a chisel rack, and saw till. At approximately 50 inches long, it's a big mamma jamma but it will hold all I need and a bit more. I'm still planning a sliding till and, of course, it will need a proper mortise lock and casters (right now it is just sitting on a moving dolly). The finish is Sea Green milk paint under linseed oil, paste wax, and my own special blend of aging oil.

 Like many pine chests of the period, it is simply rabbeted and nailed together. I also lined it with acid-free construction paper to help prevent dust and moisture from attacking the treasures within. The blue paper in the till is a nod to "sugar paper", a commonly used drawer lining material from the period.

 I've only had a few hours in the shop with this chest but I like it very much already. It will probably supplant my deep 19th century style box in the very near future.... anybody wanna buy an updated antique tool chest?

I also built this handy 18" square. I happened to have some oak offcuts and scrap of just about the right size. It should be a nice addition to my kit.

Thanks all for reading. I'll do my best to have more frequent updates about my work and my various writing projects, including an upcoming article for Mortise & Tenon Magazine.

All the best,


  1. Interesting solution, it certainly holds a great deal of tools. Does it need to sit on a raised platform (bench, Sawbenches) to allow access? It seems a bit low otherwise if sitting on the ground, but maybe not an issue in use. Seems also like it might travel a bit easier than some other shapes as well.

    1. I haven't put in enough time with the chest yet to answer the question fully, but I expect a stand will make it easier. If required, I will probably make up a base with two deep drawers side by side and rest the chest on top. I've never been fully happy with the archetypal multiple sliding trays on top of the plane till so leaving this mostly open (excepting one easily moved sliding tray).

      And it would travel quite easily if required, but I have a smaller Viking-style box that I travel with to demonstrations, classes, etc.

  2. It looks like the top of the chest is lower but the bottom is at the same height as other chests ;)

    I think a stand would make using a chest a lot easier no matter what.

    1. A stand may be a later addition but I want to give it a good tryout this way first. We will see!

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