Pack it up

During the last Modern Woodworkers Association podcast, Roy Underhill engaged us in an interesting discussion about hand tools.  No, it had nothing to do about them being superior to power tools, although he did allude to that later on.

Roy in a box

No, this part of the conversation was about their portability.

Think about one of the most commonly heard complaints by woodworkers.  No, it’s not the ‘I don’t have enough clamps,’ one… Instead, it’s usually about the quest for more shop space, especially as it pertains to stationary power tools.

Add a table saw? You need more space. Adding a jointer? More space. Bandsaw? You betcha…

A classic old tool chestThis can be avoided if you worked primarily with portable power tools, such as track saws, jigsaws and routers. Yes, you need some type of solid work surface – such as a workbench – to work safely and accurately, but you can limit how much the shop grows.

Hand tools – their very nature – don’t require much more than you would need to use for portable power tools. A solid work surface or two. Add enough space to place a chest of hand tools, and you are in business. Some of these hand tool chests, when well built and organized, could (and have) hold all of the tools that a skilled cabinetmaker would need in his or her lifetime.

A well-loved tool chestOf course, when you throw in items such as pole or treadle lathes, the space requirement does grow, but it’s incredible still to think that woodworking can happen even in some of the most modestly sized places.

Hand tools in a drawerThis week, at Woodworking in America, I hope to pick the brains of a few skilled hand tool woodworkers to see how they stock their tool chests. I’d love to see how they make their magic – and keep the tools to make it in a smallish tool chest…


3 thoughts on “Pack it up”

  1. Tom, the challenge is balancing portability and sufficient size for the tools you’ll use. Then comes all the design preferences for how you choose to store the tools. I have two chests and the second one came about because of a need for greater portability when taking chair making classes. Another aspect is that our focus in building furniture can change in a lifetime and so we need more storage or another tool chest. Thanks, Jim

  2. Tom, How much do you think a tool box like the one in your picture is worth. I have one in my garage that was my Great Granfathers. Power tools do take up a lot of space.

  3. Absolutely no idea. You might want to try looking on a site like eBay… there, you can get a good idea for what the going rate is…

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