More German than French.

I have never been comfortable tightly fitting out the trays of my tool chests for a particular set of tools. Even in my giant rolling metal craftsman behemoth the tools have always sort of piled up in the drawers until no more tools fit and the ones on the bottom became inaccessible memories.

Part of the problem was too many tools. Reading The Anarchist’s Tool Chest and building a traditional wooden chest for my hand tools has helped with that.

The other problem is that over the past ten years my tools have been a rotating cast in an ever evolving storyline. From power tools to hand tools, from big box stores to boutique toolmakers, my workshop has changed as my understanding of the craft has changed. Naturally my taste in tools has changed as I’ve come to understand what I want them to do and how I want them to do it.

At the end of the day it is possible that I never really bothered to fit out my tool chests because I never really understood what I wanted or why. But I think I’m finally starting to understand, and so I’ve begun to put some pieces in place.

Building the tool chest has been a big step forward. For one it has caused me to really think about the sheer number of tools I have. It has caused me to ask myself what I really need and what is excess. It has given me pause when casting over tools at flea markets and antique shop. It has reminded me that a small, well-rounded and well-cared for set of tools is capable of a great many things.

Some are vintage, some are new, but I’ve finally landed on a set that is working for me and (mostly by trial and error) I’ve been devising better ways to store them.

Rule number one for me has been to store the tools in a way that keeps them safe, clean and in good repair. Again, the tool chest is the first line of defense, but within the tool chest I’ve really been cognizant of what bumps up against what and how I can maximize space without doing violence to the tools.

The back saw till has worked out great. The trays are also great, but I found tools mingling because of size, not utility and I wanted to clean them up a bit and organize.

It wasn’t hard to add a little hanger for my coping saw on the front wall, and get my planes in order down below, but then there were all these small parts and accessories to some of the tools that wandered in search of a home. It was ultimately this last concern that lead me to this post.

My router plane needed a home that could protect the plane and keep all the small bits and pieces in order. So I built that reclaimed oak box and fitted it out as so.



That lead to a game of tool chest Tetris as I tried to re-imagine the placement of my other tools in the well of the chest.


That helped clear up a great many problems, but there were still a few tools rolling around in the trays that needed a better home so I made this tool rack for the front wall.

I had avoided the rack for a long time because I thought it would take up too much space and prevent me from moving the trays. What it actually does is visually carry on the line of the coping saw mount and protect the saw from an errant collision with the trays.

It’s not finished, but it’s finished for now. Everything is in a good place, even if its not in its final place. This strikes a happy medium for me. It’s more flexible than “French fitting” the whole thing, but it keeps things tidy and secure and under wraps. Maybe that’s the German in me coming out. We like to keep a lid on things.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. momist says:

    I recognise both the symptoms, and the cure. My tools are currently all jumbled up in my chest, and I have been pondering a way to sort them out to some extent. However, that pondering and organising comes at the expense of not getting on with fixing and making things.


    1. A delicate balance to be sure! 😉


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