The Tool Chest

Grandpa's Tool Chest

Grandpa’s Tool Chest

Ok, now I’m the first guy to say that there is very little on TV that is worth watching, but one of the remarkable exceptions is a PBS show called The Woodsmith’s Shop.

When I saw the host with his 93 year old father, replicating the 100 year old tool chest that used to belong to the host’s grandfather… Well, I decide that I’d have to make one too.  I immediately thought that I would build one for my son-in-law, Richie, as a way to salute or honor his expertise as a tradesman.  Richie is a journeyman residential and commercial plumber, and has devoted many years to perfecting his craft.  I knew he would appreciate the timelessness of this classic tool chest, and maybe someday pass it down to the next craftsman in the family.

The next craftsman...

The next craftsman…

Reusable Resource

Reusable Resource

Of course one of the things I wanted (needed) to do was to keep the cost of the project at rock bottom, and try to construct most of it from scraps left over from other building projects.

Much of the trim would be made from these 1×2’s that began their life as the internal structure of a queen sized bed box frame, then were used for various garden sticks and had served as temporary supports (pounded into the ground) for some 4×4 fence posts during the concrete pour.

Planing down the sticks

Planing down the sticks

The top and the bottom would be oak plywood scraps from the Murphy Bed project… and for the rest of the material, well we’d just have to see what I could scrounge up along the way.

The Plans

The Plans

I downloaded a copy of the plans on my iPad and made a material list.

The first steps were to make a box, simple enough.

A little measuring, a little cutting, a little sanding… Ok, a lot of sanding.

The Box

The Box



The nice thing about being retired is that I had plenty of time to just kick back and let the glue dry on each piece as I went along.

Likewise for fitting the various trim pieces, shaving each one down just a little at a time to get a perfect fit was no problem.

The Top

The Top

After making the top I added a little molding detail using left over trim from the desk we built for the dudes.  Of course every step of the way sanding and more sanding was the order of the day.

Found on RR tracks

Found on RR tracks

The next step was to make the “till”.  Think of a till on a cash register and you’ll get the idea.  A small sliding box that fits into the tool chest for little odds and ends.  For the moment I was stumped as to what to make the till from, the wood needed to be kind of thin and light.

Well, I took off for a ride on my mountain bike, and as I was bouncing across the RR tracks near my house I spied a small wooden box abandoned on the train tracks.  Score!  I pedaled that home, took it apart and salvaged the oak side panels.  These became the new ends and divider for the till.

The "till"

The “till”

Next up – the hinges.

Hinge Mortise Jig

Hinge Mortise Jig

I was fairly pleased with this little router jig I fabbed up for the hinge mortises.  A bit of work with a chisel and the hinges dropped in nicely.

A look at the tool till

A look at the tool till

Fitting the handles

Fitting the handles

I drilled the holes for the handles, but left them off until after the finishing was completed.  I gotta say though, that I kind of liked the look of the “unfinished” wood…

But in the end I went with a nice rich brown stain… because it was left over from another project 🙂

So, at this stage of almost every other project we’d undertaken, this is the place where Suzie would usually step up to do the painting.  But she decided to leave that to me and just direct traffic from the sidelines.

I’ll let you be the judge.

The paint locker

I added 2014 to the back

Here is Duke attaching the handles

Here is Duke attaching the handles

I used my wood burner to add the date to the back of the chest, so that a hundred years from now, in case anyone’s interested, they will know how old it really is.

I got some help from Duke who expertly attached the handles.  Thanks pal.

So now the only challenge is to keep the thing a secret until Christmas.  And as the weeks wore on that became more and more difficult.



Another Old Tool Box

Another Old Tool Box

I saw this cool old tool box being refinished on Instagram and wanted nothing more than to share my project with the craftsman, but I knew that Richie would see it and the Christmas surprise would be ruined.  But it did warm my heart to think that maybe 100 years from now somebody will find ‘our’ old box and say, “hey, let’s clean this old beater up and see what it looks like”.

…and finally the day arrives.

Merry Christmas Richie

Merry Christmas Richie

For a final thought I’ll just say:

“Craftsmanship isn’t expensive – Craftsmanship is priceless”.





About Jeff Katzer

Welcome friends. I'm a cyclist, hiker, motorbike rider, kayaker, photographer, videographer, ukulele player, snowshoer, XC skier, and BEST of all - a grandpa. Somewhere in that list above you'll find the theme of the Adventure Journal.
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11 Responses to The Tool Chest

  1. Dan Knight says:

    Wow Kat, just amazing! What a masterful project! Impressive all the way around! Merry Christmas my friend.

    • Jeff Katzer says:

      Oh Dan, thanks for the kind words my friend. Wishing you all the best for the holidays and the new year. Glad you liked the tool chest. Santa stuck a table saw under my Christmas tree, so… who knows what’s coming next. Well, actually, a Jr. sized laminated canoe paddle is next.

  2. TJ says:

    That is very cool. We all miss working with you, but retirement suits you well my friend.

  3. You never cease to amaze me with your various skills. Great job, and what a great gift!

  4. Norma Jean Niemiec says:

    Awesome, what a great present for Richie and you and the dudes’s did it….Terrific…

    Love you Mom and Dick

    Sent from Windows Mail

  5. kevin says:

    looked like a nice project JK, and a cool gift! love ya man:)

  6. brickthomas says:

    That is beautiful!

    • Jeff Katzer says:

      Hey, thanks Brick. BTW, we were up in your neighborhood yesterday. Took a quick road trip to Abbotsford, BC to buy some parts for my canoe restoration and stopped at D’Anna Cafe in Bellingham for lunch. I remembered your last post and thought of you. Kat

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