Living here in sunny FLA, we don’t have to worry about ice and snow. But, we do get the occasional tornado. And hurricanes are not unheard of. So, as my hand tool collection has grown over the years, it suddenly occurred to me that if I had to flee from impending natural disaster, it would take me a good hour to gather up my precious hand tools.
Now, not to downplay the importance of my power tools, but they are easier to replace than some of my vintage hand tools. So, after watching Chris Schwarz’s videos many times, and reading all the articles, and perusing the various chests made by fellow Lumber Jocks, I came up with a box that should not only hold my current and future tools collection, but it should be portable enough.
I chose a traditional English design, aka Anarchist’s Chest, rather than the Dutch box. Though the choice was certainly tough (all those dovetails!). The size precluded using a single width of surfaced lumber from Home Depot. Eleven and a half wide wasn’t enough. And, since we have a cypress saw mill locally, I decided to try our locally grown lumber. I purchased a stack of rough cut 4/4 by ten boards at the incredibly low price of $7 for a ten footer! Looking back, I should have added the 30% for select boards to eliminate many of the knots which vexed me a bit. But, the wood was stacked in my man cave in the air conditioning to sit and dry for a few weeks as they had been out in the yard without covering.
After three weeks, the boards were down to about 13% moisture content, which seemed satisfactory. I hand planed one side of a board flat, then jointed one edge. I finished it up in the surface planer and table saw. What I got was a very clean, smooth, board with not a bad grain pattern. So, in the following weeks I finished milling up the remaining boards. I chose the best boards for the chest sides, gluing up the front, back, and side panels. The rest ended up going to other projects.
Then, the fun began. I started cutting the first of 40 tails and pins for the joints.
Working a bit at a time over several weeks, I finally sawed and chopped out the dovetails. Most are a bit rough, gradually improving as I went along. Next was the dry assembly, to test the fit.
Everything fit well, so it was time for glue up. Lots of clamps and it went together smoothly, coming out nice and square. And, the cats loved it
Next, the bottom. I chose some clear 6” pine, and using my recently aquired tongue and groove planes, T&G’d the bottom boards for a nice fit to allow expansion. After trimming, I nailed them in place with 4d cut nails from Tremont Nail Company. They should hold tight, without the need for glue.
Next came the molding strips along the top and the skirt. The skirt will add strength and raise the box off the floor. The top strip will add strength and along with the lid will keep dust out. The pieces are dovetailed reverse from the box carcase, changing the direction of the strength of the joint. I glued and nailed the trim on with cut nails, then planed a chamfer in the skirt.
The last part of the exterior was the lid. I opted for a simple frame and panel held together with mortise and tenon. I added a slight chamfer to the rail and stile of the frame, and a corresponding chamfer around the panel. The panel was rabbeted all around with my latest addition, a skew rabbet plane. Assembly was quick and easy.
I added dust strips mitered around the front and sides of the lid.
Period style hinges were hard to find, so I picked up a set of nickeled Stanley hinges from Woodcraft. I buffed them with steel wool, then treated them with Casey’s Permablue gun bluing. A little oil and they look like wrought iron. The brass chain was a bad idea, it kept jamming up on the box edge.
So, I put together a block in the back to catch the lid and keep it open at about 105 degrees (the photo was taken before final fitting).
Next, the interior. I started with the chisel rack, as it would take up the entire length of the box. I needed a piece of 1/4″ thick, 8 inch wide, by 30 inch long pine for the face of the rack and the back of the saw till. So, I resawed a piece of 3/4 by hand. It took about 25 minutes, but came out pretty nice after finishing on the thickness planer.
After the chisel rack was glued in place, I nailed the saw till in. It is designed to fit two full length panel saws and two back saws.
The rest of the tool spaces were added a piece at a time. Each piece is pressure fit in, with dados to hold the ends together. This way I can pull them out and re-design them as needed. I have to admit, there was very little pre-planning or sketch ups with this project. I don’t always use them, I find I work best when I build on the fly. It does lead to problems from time to time though.
The tool tills. More dovetails, these in 1/4 inch stock (this time I was able to resaw on the table saw). This was the only goof in the project. I forgot that dovetail jointed boxes are as wide/long as the pin boards. So, I added a half inch to the till width to compensate for a perceived loss of material due to the dovetails. This resulted in the tills being about 1/2 inch too wide. Not a disaster by any means, but it makes it a bit of a wiggle getting the #7 out.
Two coats of Sea Green milk paint (the kind you have to mix up), and two of water based poly.
Before the poly, a hand painted logo. It represents my Chinese zodiac sign, the rat on the beam.
The box is heavy with all the tools stocked in it, but in a pinch I could move it myself. I keep it on a home made dolly so it can be moved around the shop with ease. I feel ready to leave at a moments notice, bringing my hand tools along with my other precious cargo, my wife and my cats.