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Ask any woodworker how they store tools in their shop, and they will tell you it’s an evolving process that changes and grows with experience. It is not uncommon for woodworkers to build three or four cabinets during a lifetime. With so much thought going into the process over time, it is no surprise that some cabinets are simply stunning. So check out our pick of 8 amazing tool cabinets/chests.
1. The Studley Tool Chest
Now and then a woodworker creates a piece that can truly be described as a work of art, and the Studley tool chest is the perfect example. The tools chest was made by piano maker Henry Studley (1838-1925).
The chest shows an incredible level of skill across a broad range of woodworking areas; the stunning chest is made beautiful with inlays of ebony, mother-of-pearl, ivory, rosewood, and mahogany. There are over 300 tools in the cabinet, and each one has its unique position. The chest is compact and measures 40 by 20 inches with a depth of 9 inches when closed. Open, it creates a 40 by 20 inches chest that is remarkably packed with tools. While of relatively small size, the Studley chest is a bit of a beast and weighs 72lbs empty and a whopping 156lbs when full of tools. That is a huge 84 lbs of tools crammed in a small space.
2. A Lonnie Bird Inspired Masterpiece
Another cabinet that probably took several hundred hours of work to complete is this beauty inspired by acclaimed woodworker Lonnie Bird.
Again, this cabinet shows a master of the craft at work with inlaid drawers and even some marquetry. The cabinet can hold a huge number of tools, including doors that are laden with chisels hammers and a host of other things. The doors are held strong with piano hinges. For a modern build, this huge tool cabinet is clearly a labor of love.
3. Studley Inspired Tool Chest
Next up on our list is another antique cabinet that takes it to another level. While not as beautiful as the Studley cabinet, It’s a stunning piece of engineering and planning.
The cabinet lacks the fine inlay work of other cabinets but is a pure masterpiece of planning and design. The amount of time and effort that went into planning the exact location of each tool must have been staggering. The see-through doors with tons of chisels and gouges hanging in it make this cabinet a sight to behold.
While the Studley cabinet contained the tools used by piano makers, this cabinet is clearly more associated with a cabinet maker.
4. Arts and Crafts Tool Cabinet
This Arts and Crafts is a masterpiece and looks more like a piece of furniture than a functional chest. The cabinet would not look out of place in your living room.
The large free-standing cabinet has two doors at the bottom, and two larger doors on the top half of the cabinet. The large upper section has hand plane cubby holes for hand planes, while above them a mind-blowing 27 drawers carry almost every hand tool imaginable. Above the main compartment small double doors offer even more tool storage.
The joinery on the cabinet is immaculate, with deep through dovetails attaching the top to bottom. The pins are left intentionally long to give the cabinet a unique look.
5. Marquetry Tools Chest
Another small tool chest that shows off the incredible skill of the craftsman who made it. While the cabinet carcass and internal structure are simple with removable subdividers and totes, the lid is something to behold.
The lid of the chest is a master class in marquetry and inlay techniques, featuring complex shapes and curves as well as a variety of exotic woods. The chest is finished off in a black matt color that makes the lid pop when open. It is not a big chest by any standards, and only measures 18X18X30 inches. Despite its size, the chest can hold an unusually large number of tools which ultimately make it less than portable.
6. A Modern Twist
Our latest choice is a tool cabinet that could be found in most woodworkers shops. Made from plywood, it features relatively simple joinery with drawers held together by simple box joints.
Where the cabinet comes to life, is in the sheer clever design, size, and stunning storage capacity. The clamshell cabinet measures an impressive 8ft wide and 3ft high when open. The main carcass is 9 inches deep while the doors are 6 inches deep. Each door has 2 folding doors, to double up its storage space, while the main cabinet itself also has a section with 2 doors. Finally, the cabinet features 3 plywood drawers at the bottom for small parts storage. With doors within doors and dedicated tool holders, almost every tool you imagine has a home and somewhere to live.
7. Japanese Tool Chest
The next item on our list comes from across the Pacific and is packed with Japanese woodworking tools.
The cabinet features a wide drawer at the bottom with subdividers that hold an array of chisels. Above that 12 drawers also with subdividers hold other smaller hand tools. Above the drawer section of the cabinet, there is a small plane till housing 5 Japanese planes. Finally, the lid of the cabinet has an integrated saw till, while the top section of the lid holds rulers and a square.
As with most cabinets in our list, the planning and joinery are astounding, all the drawers are box jointed, while the carcass itself is made with through dovetail joints. To support the weight of all the planes, the plane shelf is attached to the cabinet carcass with through tenons.
8. Portable Tool Chest
So far, most of the chests we have seen, could not be described as portable. Here we have a great piece of craft that is truly portable, although if you made something this attractive, I would be worried about it getting knocks and dents.
This small chest is 13in. tall by 12-5/8in. deep and 23-1/4 wide. It has two bottom drawers with dividers for smaller tools, while the top section is dominated by a shelf for hand planes, and a saw till. While there are many ways to join wood, the cabinet is a demonstration of the craft. The drawers are beautiful half blind dovetails, while the carcass of the cabinet is made strong with the bottom attached to the sides with through dovetails. The back and front stretcher attach to the cabinet with through tenons. There are hundreds of ways to fix a shelf in a carcass, but here the craftsman has chosen one of the most complex. The shelf is secured to the sides of the cabinet with split through tenons. This cabinet demonstrates a huge array of skills and is a work of beauty.
Deciding how much effort to put into tool storage is a difficult choice. Some woodworkers opt for supreme functionality without caring about aesthetics, while some turn their tools storage projects into a labor of love and create some stunning pieces that inspire other woodworkers. Have you been inspired by our selection to create something special in your workshop!