Getting Ready for the Tool Chest Build

DSC_0037 I picked up the tool chest yesterday and slipped it in place by my workbench. I own so many chests it could be embarrassing were I not using them to store the tools we do our research and revision in. Many of the ones I own now are still stateside USA, but one day we will auction them off I am sure. I have decided to replicate this one as a pattern for making one because it seems like a practical size as a smaller chest for modern woodworkers without a bunch of bulky wooden planes to house. Those that do have can simply scale up. When craftsmen traveled they used chests like this one to traverse the seas and the continents. Especially those from the Britain and that includes Scotland and the Scots carpenters and joiners well famed for fine workmanship. Speaking of which. DSC_0131

I did the deal with Bill, the canny Scot that always gets more out of me than any of the other dealers I deal with but we still parted friends. He looks out for things for me and of course I think I showed you these two panel gauges before some time. Yesterday I cut up some of the tabletops for the new replication series I am doing on the table build and it was a joy to use something made by a man 80 or 90 years ago as a special tool for his kit. Sometimes using something like this is viscerally sensing in that his fingerprint is all over the design.  DSC_0126 It’s so well thought through and balanced. I picture him staring like me at a lump of partially shaped rosewood and thinking how this thing can be enhanced. Pulling the gauge line along the tabletop created a good line to cut to and soon I was gluing up the new tabletop ready for the next stage of filming.


There has been something about this table that has really made me look differently at life as a whole. Abandonment seems always a negative anyway but this piece wasn’t just abandoning something because t wasn’t functioning or nicely made with quality joints. I imagine it being discarded because “people don’t like brown furniture these days.” How sick is that. “and they like the nice stuff they can buy in packs from IKEA.” Sicker still. A CNC machine cuts everything out and a robot creates the rest and a person in a lab designs it on a computer somewhere in a different country and then I buy a “brown furniture” piece for £3 after is served for 140 years. Unlocking past methods and techniques is one of the most enriching experiences there is. Interpreting chatter marks from a spokeshave  and knowing by experience that the marks only come from wooden ones is my reward to express for others. How do you expelling so valuable a thing?


The videos are very different than our usual work. Tomorrow I should be done with the series but the experience of buying the tables, transforming issues and recreating pieces that are now influencing my next years modern designs is priceless. I so love not working for money everyone. I so have loved my life living and being a lifestyle woodworker. No flat packs and no flat screens, no flat bed delivery trucks but multidimensional three-dimensional lifestyle woodworking I can live with until I pass.

DSC_0117 DSC_0043 Using recycled wood like this I don’t feel guilty working with real mahogany. I am glad I do and can. I sense the same my forebears did in working such fine wood and it really is a good resource for us. I just imagine how the Victorian joiners felt when they chopped and planed and chiselled such sweet wood with such even grain in wide boards. It has been a privilege all the way.


  1. I keep looking at a small area of floor space on my workshop floor while I stand at my bench during the day. This space will soon hold my tool chest. I even go through the motion of placing my left hand on the bench for support and reaching down with my right pretending to be rummaging through the tills and space that will be holding my prized possessions as I work.
    I can’t wait to work like this. Having most of my frequently used tools within reach and easy to find while not taking up valuable bench top real estate seems like a great way to work. It’s also suprisingly easy on your back if you support yourself on the bench or top edge of the chest while lifting things out from floor height.

  2. Thanks Paul always love reading your posts, and am looking forward to doing the chest build! Paul I can sense your disregard to many of today’s practices of furniture construction and purchased. IE: ikea and the likes of poor material and wastefulness of materials! However, I read something today in bloomberg businessweek that will make you smile! The article said that traditional keepsake mechanical watches are rising in value while digital watches have stagnated! I think this is because people want something traditional and built with quality as opposed to cheap! What that means to me is that there is a demand out there for quality furniture/ handmade products and I start seeing more sights trying to connect these makers to buyers! So Paul don’t be discouraged your lessons are not falling on deaf ears! Thanks again!

  3. Paul, What would we do without your inspiration and information? Re: the tool chest: I am reminded of old sea going tool chests that had wide bottoms and tapered (pyramid style) from the base to the top lid. This shape kept them from tipping over in rough seas. No such problem here on land, but they figured out the right shape back in the day to keep the ship carpenter’s box upright at all times out on the waters. My Seller’s tool box is well full and it’s time to make another. Thanks for this new version upcoming.

  4. Looking forward to the chest build Paul. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  5. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was produced in 1963 believe it or not!!
    Even in your early days of apprenticeship Paul, the modern world was already losing its soul and changing the rot so to speak had already set in!
    Fortunately with the work and passion of others and yourself, we are turning the tide.
    Who of us can see where the toolboxes we are going to craft, will be in a hundred years or more from now. The Ikea furniture that survives a hundred years will be a priceless artefact locked in a museum, how dead and soul-less is that. The heritage that we leave behind in the toolboxes we make today stand a chance to be in the hands of a craftsman expounding the same virtuous you exclaim now Paul. Living art being used and wondered at, creating new works…A wonderful idea. I think I’m with you in I think old tools need to be loved and cherished yet still used, kept in a box a display piece, a horror of a thought.
    I’m sharpening my tools and mind now. The hunt for the right wood begins. The adventure begins

  6. Very happy to see this series. A joiner’s traveling chest will look a lot better than the alternatives that I have currently. A bright red Husky tool bag from HD or a cardboard box just won’t do when I’m traveling to, or at, a place where there are working artisans in wood.

  7. Looking forward to the tool chest build. I have recently come to realize that the best life is found by keeping the best that history gives us and enhancing it with select bits of new technology rather than going whole hog on modern “convenience”. The way to chaos is found in the idea that “Because its new it must be better”.
    I can think of no better example of this then Paul Sellers and YouTube.

  8. In Aldren Watson’s Furniture Making Plain and Simple I saw that he included a project for a Blanket Chest. Was wondering if any of the steps for that project could be adapted to build a simple joiners chest. It seems similar to a Joiners but without the tills (and the blankets of course).

    Also, without imposing too much on your time, would a Stanley #78 rabbet plane be adequate for the Joiners Chest project? The Record #44 combo planes are coming up less and less on this side of the pond (at least lately, it seems). Also the #78 is a bit less expensive Stateside.

    Thank you!

    1. Ok, I see that a #44 plough plane or Stanley #45 can be used to shoot a groove. And will check the Tool Chest build on WW Masterclasses to satisfy my curiosity as to real possibilities to use.

      Great stuff. Can’t wait to get back on the tools.

  9. Any ideas on procuring or constructing a panel gauge? Seems like one could be made. I haven’t found any secondhand very easily and they are expensive to buy from LN or Hamilton or Woodpecker new etc.

  10. I can’t wait for this tool chest build. I might start gluing up panels this week.

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