My Toolbox Restored

When I first saw this tool box I didn’t fully express my feelings here. My senses told me that the box was really, well, first auctioned from a cellar-find in an abandoned state; redundant to requirements, spat out by industrialism and left to die in the dumps around the world in the same way craft, true craft I mean, has been mostly dumped. I have never particularly liked tool collecting for tool collecting’s sake but by user-owners I think is fine. That’s just a personal view and I can also see why people do collect too; possession, conservation, preservation and so on. DSC_0113

We all know that the passage of industrialism has indeed left its high-tide mark of waste and redundancy in Western culture as a direct result of exporting the industries to Asian fronts and all in the name of progress. Dirty someone else’s backyard and dump your trash and garbage there has been the policy of politics and economics for generations. DSC_0011

The tools I restored and reloaded today became more a political statement for me. The past redundancies aren’t at all my quest from the mereness of nostalgia, whether the redundancies are the people, the tools or the toolboxes, but a press into an intentional lifestyle woodworking. The tools in this old chest still work well after decades and even a hundred and more years of use. The tool chest should go for another 150 or so too. The life these tools catered for will be resurrected in the life of another woodworker now. I might sell the chest and put the money into a charity I believe in that can use it to help Downs syndrome youngsters to find dormant skills. Its a serious thought for me now. DSC_0077

As I restocked the toolbox with the older tools I felt an inexplicable excitement placing the tools as stuffed entities representing life and life skills. The two boxes sat side by side and I look forward to bring the videos on the build to pass on the woodworking masterclasses series in the new year. There wasn’t too much complication in the building of the box but watching how you make dovetails fit dead on around the skirt and the lock and lid rail makes the whole process so succinct. DSC_0095 DSC_0101

As you can see it’s an amazing storage area and it takes a lot of tools. In the case of this toolbox the craftsman obviously intended to use it to travel to and from jobs. Placed on a hand cart, lifted to the job, opened on a living room floor to repair a door. So many days of use over a century and more by maybe two or three users; father to son and even to grandson??? DSC_0107

Anyway, I know that you know I enjoyed this one. More to come on the box build yet. Get to it soon.


  1. All right, I would be seriously interested in purchasing the toolbox. Let us know when you have decided. Thanks.

  2. I spent many years in the trades, mainly in flooring installation and some general carpentry. I do have a special bond with my tools that I used everyday. To say that to a person who never worked with their hands it would sound a bit silly I think, but writing it here I know it means something. Most of my trade tools sit undisturbed in several tool boxes with the exception of my favorite hammer and a few that I am able to put to use working wood. It just doesn’t seem right to break the tools up, you know? We do live in a fast food society, a throw away society, but sites like this one give me some solace, thanks again

  3. Paul, I’ve often been interested in the idea of building a box to carry my tools back and forth between my shop to the farmers Museum where I volunteer giving Woodworking demonstrations. I have yet to build one chiefly because I’m concerned that I first need to effectively plan the storage scheme so that I can fit all the tools I need to transport. Over the years I’ve observed some common usages for the compartments. For instance it seems that often times planes are loaded at the very bottom of the box and handsaw’s are often stored in purpose-built holders in the lid. I like the idea of using the lid for saws as it seems the most economical use of space and the planes being some of the heaviest and bulkiest items seem to make sense at the bottom of the chest. I know sliding or removable trays also have their own merits as storage compartments, but I am concerned about how to maximize storage for these trays. I was wondering if you might share some of your ideas of how these tool chests are best or even traditionally loaded. Is be interested also in you thoughts I love Weather two small chests are better than one large one when considering that I will typically have to lift/carry the chest(s) by myself. Thanks for the excellent content. Keep up the great work—you are changing lives for the better.

  4. I’ve followed this project with growing interest. It first caught my eye as I need a tool chest of some sort to keep my growing tool collection where I can find it however, quaint as it was, it looked too small and a bit complicated of a build for my purposes. I had pretty much decided to build something similar but larger out of plywood. However, as you proceeded with the build and elaborated on this particular box, I became more and more convinced that it was the best design for my needs and would also provide a great measure of satisfaction when I finished. Now that it’s finished and you show it loaded, my mind is pretty much made up to do this so…………please do offer this in video form. I’m pretty sure I am not the only one who’s interest in building it. It will be a classic, like the Paul Sellers workbench series.


  5. Paul, that’s a beautiful old box and I think that it and the tools in it will still be here, being used, long after we are all gone to the next adventure. My woodworking partner and I are not craftsmen of your caliber, but we share your values and do what we can. One thing we do is build a small tool tote and load it with a collection of household tools, to give to each new young householder that we know, in the hopes that they will learn to do the fundamental repairs and improvements around the house that everyone used to be able to do. We find the tools on ebay or at flea markets and antique malls, and they are better and cheaper than anything we could buy new. Most young people setting up today don’t have a screwdriver or a hammer or a tape measure, a pair of pliers or even a roll of tape, so by giving them these things we hope to at least suggest that they can do things for themselves instead of just calling the apartment manager.

  6. I’ve really enjoyed this and the other restoration series. That the craftsmen of long ago can talk to us across the centuries through their work is somehow humbling and inspiring. What will people in the 22nd century make of our work (assuming it hasn’t been used for firewood by then)?

  7. Hi Paul, as many have already commented this has been a lovely look into the history of this unasuming box. It has triggered a need in me to say something I have been thinking for a while now.
    As I have read through your blog posts over the last year or so I understand the passion you have for all that you do. However, I don’t tink I realy ‘got’it. Until a few weekends ago. I have always liked to help people learn to do things, anything I can pass on gives me pleasure. As I have been re-discovering hand tool woodworking, mostly thanks to you, I am passing on the things I am learning/re-learning to as many as I can. Part of my mission in life is to rescue quality old tools and machines. Engineering and woodworking, farm implements steam engines, you name it.
    A couple of weekends ago I happened to be combining these quirkes. A young work mate who is trying to get into woodworking was spending some time with me in the woodwork shop. I have made him a few simple tools to start him off and invited him across on the pretence of teaching him to sharpen a saw. What I actualy had in ming was to get him to restore a couple of hand saws to take home with him.
    Well, we had a great day. He cleaned off the rust and I showed him how to joint and then shape the teeth. Once I was happy he knew how to file a rip tooth I change it to a cross cut and had him have a go at that. When we had finished I told him to try it out, he was seriously impressed. Even more so when I pointed out that it was his hands that did the ‘Magic’ not mine.
    That’s when it all came together. He went to give me the saw back and I said no, it was his to keep. Along with the saw set we had used the file and the other saw (and of course the Paul Sellers saw vice). The look no his face! I know you know that look. That look was like a slap to the back of my head, suddenly ‘I got it’. That is what you do and why you do it, (on a huge scale) and that is why I feel so emotional when I read your posts. I get it.
    Back to the tool box. You mentioned you might sell it off and give the proceeds to charity. I can’t argue with your sentiment but humbly submit a variation. I seem to remember you have mentioned in the past that you give free places to some young people who have the passion but lack the funds. Wouldn’t one of these young people benefit from such a tool box filled with such a collection of quality tools? I for one would be happy to make a small contribution to the cost. I am sure there are many of your followers would also support such a cause. If we all chipped in a few pounds each you would soon have enough to cover your expenses and leave a healthly contribution to your proposed charity.
    I hope a few others reading this will give there opinions.
    If I am out of order, please accept my appologies. (But it is your fault for making me feel this way 🙂
    Regards, Mark.

    1. My thought is to invest in a charity that can make a difference to young people with Downs syndrome looking toward higher levels of self sustainability and looking at how that can be progressed. I think that could have a major impact. I have an interest in this field and feel I can invest a little time to help. Thanks for your thoughts all around though.

  8. Paul,

    There are two boxes in the picture. One looks like it is painted and the other has another finish. What is the difference between the finishes of each?

        1. Dare I add that I have found your stanley marking knife at Axminster tools at £7.00 it’s a beauty

          1. Glad at last that one of the catalog companies carries ii instead of being forced to send people to Amazon.

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