Traveling masterclasses

Monday this week was my day off, so what did I do? I worked on milling wood and finished off another of my tool boxes. This was once the most traditional of Traveling Joiner’s Tool Boxes in England, Scotland and Wales and where I am from I never saw a joiner without one. Most joiners and furniture makers carried one to the job in people’s homes, offices and shops and stores. I will be showing people how to make this during my Winter tour with The Woodworking Shows here in the US and you will be able to follow on with each stage of the Show stops in different states. These boxes stood alongside the larger tool chests that stored the great mass of tools furniture makers  had beneath their benches. They carried a more modest amount but still a pretty full set of tools without the excesses. They rubbed against the leg as they were carried into banks, stores and homes where the daily work was carried out. Fact is, they are still truly practical tool boxes and I have used one of these, actually I own about eight of them, since 1965 and I cannot be without one. I will be traveling with one when I do the masterclasses for the Woodworking Shows starting January 2013 and you can examine mine at the shows. It’s not fancy, it’s functional, lightweight, strong and very practical.

I started teaching classes with the Texas Arts and Crafts Foundation back in 1989 and also taught workshops in the Texas Woodcraft stores on and off through the years. I started my first school back in 1995 and I have strengthened what I began back in 1989 with two more schools since that time. I have also taught masterclasses for the Woodworking Shows since 1997 if I remember rightly. We plan continued expansion to help others grow in their craft and always strive to establish our craftsmen as working craftsmen producing salable work first, before they become teachers. That way they teach from a solid background as producing artisans and the experience that brings is second to none.

Today’s work

We really had a blast all through today. The wall/bookshelves are almost together in terms of cutting the main housing dado joints and it’s remarkable how well made the joints are. We have a surgeon in the class discovering hand tools for the first time (we have  had a surgeon in just about every class we have offered this year), a paramedic discovering hand tools and loving it to the point that she doesn’t want to stop for lunch or dinner, a recently retired police officer who hardly worked wood but discovered before it was too late that he has a gift, and a postal worker who can’t wait to work wood at home for therapy. Beyond that we have teachers and a professor, a pastor and a retiree or two. The age range? Anywhere between 30 and 60 I’d say.

Different joints and tools

Tomorrow we begin mortise and tenon joints, which they have already been practicing. More techniques using hand tools will be added throughout the next 24 hours and so spokeshaves are on the agenda tomorrow. I should be able to post pictures of the finished tool chest fully loaded also so please chick in for that.

Part III Foundation this coming Friday

Best until tomorrow. Oh, BTW, I start the Part III straightway after the Part II on Friday so you will be able to see how we make our oak chairside tables as well.


  1. Stefan on 11 October 2012 at 9:15 am

    Hi Paul,
    I’m really interessted in your tool chest. Is there a drawing or something like that which shows the dimensions. I’m a beginner in hand tools work and I need an idea where and how to start.

    • Paul Sellers on 11 October 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Not yet there isn’t. I have a few different types of this box I have made through the years. I have a smaller version, which I travel with on planes and they go gradually larger from there.
      When we do the online broadcast we will be giving out all the details there but I am not certain of the schedule as yet as the 2nd project is the Craftsman style rocking chair and I understand the filming we just finished is in the editing process as I write.

  2. James on 2 July 2014 at 10:09 am

    I did my carpentry and joinery apprenticeship in 1962 and a toolbox was one of the things I had to make.
    However, I did not see toolboxes being carried from job to job,they stayed in the workshop. We had tool bags for that purpose.

    • Paul Sellers on 2 July 2014 at 10:56 am

      My tool box went with me from job to job but chests, the big rectangular ones the older craftsmen had, stayed permanently at the ends of the benches. For small jobs with just a few tools needed we took a bass, a hessian lined canvas tote that held saws, a plane and a few wrapped tools like brace and bits and a wheel brace.

  3. Roy on 20 March 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Have you ever published the details for this tool chest? Like the original poster, I am a beginner and could really use this size chest. I don’t have a lot of tools but I’m keeping them on shelves and in a Craftsman’s mechanics tool box. I would really like to get them into something more appropriate. Thanks

    • Paul Sellers on 20 March 2016 at 8:55 pm

      Not so far, I’m afraid. Time really. Perhaps one day I may.

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