View Full Version : Recycled Toolchest

Alan Turner
09-30-2003, 2:53 PM
I am a relatively new member here, and am much enjoying it.
By way of introduction, making furniture is not my day job, but I do take commissions that come along, and have recently started teaching an adult evening class in cutting furniture joints with hand tools.
I thought I would post a piece which is a recycled toolchest. It is a plane till in part, but not of the scale of Dave Andersonís.
In April a furniture maker in Philadelphia retired from the business, which he had been in with his father, long deceased. They had been in the same building since 1950, a converted row house on Monroe Street in the Queen Village neighborhood of Philadelphia, adjacent to Center City. He was selling his wood and tools, and this is how I met him.
Over the course of several months a bought a bunch of his hand tools, mostly wooden planes and spokeshaves, and a few older measuring tools, like dividers and a wonderful compass. And a rather complete 100 piece set of carving tools that his carver had left behind when he died. I hope one day to learn to use them. I bought all of his mahogany, all of it 50+ years old. One board is, I think, Cuban. At the end, with his building sold and with a closing date fixed, he had the balance of his wood sold, but the guy did not come for it, so I bought it on the deal that I could pick through the rest of shop as well, and I would take what I wanted that was otherwise heading for the dumpster. The wood was +/- 1000 bf of soft maple (about half), and 4/4 & 12/4 birch, with much 12/4 and 16/4 walnut, mahogany, and rosewood (I think), etc.
And so it came to pass that he was throwing out his fatherís tool chest. He just didnít have room for it at home. The story goes that his father was drafted into the Navy in WWI and was assigned to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard to work as a carpenter. The Toolchest went unused for many years; just collected dust. There are two places on it with 6 digits, the same 6, which I am assuming are his fatherís service number, although perhaps not. One is embossed in the drawer, and one stenciled in large numerals on the side. It is of pine, and so is light, metal corners, with a dovetailed carcase, 1/2" plywood back. The doors are solid, with solid rails, but the center is not a traditional panel, instead extending side to side. The paint is original.
I took it because I couldnít stand to see it thrown out. As it collected a bit of non-neanderthal dust in my basement shop, it grew on me. So, I am in the process of refitting the interior. I stripped out what he had in there as tool holders as his configuration was a bit primitive, and didnít fit my tools. It is 32" wide, and 20" tall, with a 16" I.D. behind the doors. I flipped it over, and reversed and refitted the drawer, since I was to hang it. The fixtures that I have installed are screwed in with minimal damage so that its antiquity is not permanently seriously destroyed.
I have not yet decided what to put on the right, and it is quite likely that changes will be forthcoming as I live with it, but right now it seems comfortable. Just finished the plane rack. The chisels are laterally supported by purpleheart 1/8" dowels, which are movable. Not Andersonian, but thought some might enjoy a look.

Roger Myers
09-30-2003, 3:00 PM
What a terrific story and I'm so glad that you were able to keep such a piece from the dumpster and to put it, and many of the tools and lumber to such good use.

I'm a little concerned by the coining of the term "Andersonian" as I will be spending several hours in the car over the next several days with the aforementioned Mr. Anderson, and I do fear that having a style now ascribed to him will make him somewhat (more?) difficult to endure,,,but perhaps my fellow neanders can help keep him in line and he will remain the modest chap that we all know him to be!

Again, great story and nice work on the chest...!!


Alan Turner
09-30-2003, 3:05 PM
And finally, the chest, from the front, as mounted. I did not realize that pix were limited to 5 in number.

Dave Anderson NH
09-30-2003, 3:35 PM
Great story and it sounds like you made some great scores on both wood and tools. I'm glad they have gone to someone who will appreciate them as opposed to some picker for an auctioneer or some uncaring relative who would sell them off at $20 for the lot and only be happy to be rid of them.

As for Mr. Myers comments, he has to know that I'll get some mileage out of it tomorrow, but I promise to short about it. As for the actual moniker of Andersonian, it really doesn't fit since neither the design of the saw till or the plane till were original. Though I will admit that both were "adapted".

Todd Burch
09-30-2003, 3:53 PM
Great story Alan! While a longer read - it kept me riveted! (the hand rivets - not the machine rivets... :D )

Todd (who also needs to build a plane till - but more so needs the valuable wall space for other things)

Doug Littlejohn
09-30-2003, 3:56 PM
Way cool story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Tom Stovell
09-30-2003, 9:46 PM
Nice job and congratulations on having the appreciation of the past to do something about saving it.

I'd like to see some pictures of the old tools as well.


Bart Leetch
09-30-2003, 10:40 PM
Nice Andersonian plane Till

Chuckle I just couldn't help my self. The Till looks great Dave.

Just thought I'd send along a picture of my plane till.

Actually it also serves as my shop clock. I have way more time into the planes to get them into working condition, then I do building the clock which is made of weathered cedar fence boards tongue & grooved together & the breadboard ends done the same & hung with a French cleat.

Alan that really looks like as labor of love to keep it close to original & still arrive at what you want & need.

Alan Turner
10-01-2003, 9:02 AM
Thanks to all for the comments, and compliments. I really grew to like Ralph, the recent retiree. I was there a number of times in the final months after I heard of the closure. Ralph is a true gentleman. I have offered to him the use of my shop since he still has an interest, and does plan on some repair work, etc., to stay a bit busy. So far he hasn't taken me up on it, but I still hope he will.
He and his father were primarily builders of frames for upholstered chairs and sofas and the like. There were literally hundreds of patterns and designs, all neatly hung on hangers. Mostly reproduction-type pieces. Their work was featured by a seller of period pieces, in a catalogue, and when an order would come in, they would then make the piece or pieces, to order. Rarely, but occasionally, they would do a small production run of their more popular pieces. Only a few were without upholstery. Ralph couldn't find anyone who wanted the patterns, and most went to the dumpster I am afraid. There must have been about 100+ running feet of pipe, hung from the ceilings in the upper rooms, all filled with these hanging patterns. As to about 50 or so, I called Steve Latta of Thadeus Stevens, and for that college he accepted a donation of all that the school found might be useful. At least some were saved.
Even though the bulk of the furn. was fabric covered, still the legs, arms, and the like, involved hardwood, carefully shaped, beaded, carved, etc. A separate carver did the heavy lifting there, and it was his carving tools which were my first acquisition.
At the end there were about 40 or so wooden planes left, and they had been picked over by the collectors, so no named pieces were left. So, I took them to sell for his account, but later jsut sent him a check and kept them. He was discarding an old butler's pantry wall cab., and I took that also. Glass doors sort of piece, common in the older homes of this region. It is now on another shop wall, and holds the wooden planes.
They made their own spokeshaves, and I am a recent lover of them. Not the Boggs style, but rather the tang style, and they made the wooden bodies. Used so much that many have replacement mouths, of end grain white oak. He demo'd one for me, and I have never seen wood removed so quickly. These were heavily used in shaping a curved sofa back, for example. Soft maple was undercarriage of choice. He said the upholstery guys couldn't nail into hard maple.
Several of the hand planes have irons on which I can still see the partial teeth of a file used as the blank. I don't think there was a tool newer than 1950 in the whole shop. They made most of their specialty tools themselves. Not fancy, not for the wall, but they worked well. In a discussion he stated that he had never heard of a Bessey "K" body. I didn't press the point, but did take some of his older clamps. Among them were about 7 clamps, free, which I do not know the name of, and will post a pix. They have three screws on them, two to hold two pieces of wood in the same plane, and the third to force the two pieces of stock together. The 3d screw is on the back. I am sure they used these to glue the odd corner of a chair, and perhaps otherwise as well. I haven't needed them yet, but chairs are in my sights some day.
Tom, I will snap a pix or 2 of the more interesting tools when I get to it and share with the group. Here are a couple I had already.

Tom Stovell
10-02-2003, 8:03 PM
Thanks for the pictures of the planes. They look great spread out on your bench. How long will it take to get them into working condition?
That may be a ton of sharpening to do...


scott pollack
10-02-2003, 8:32 PM
awesome story alan. and great pics. my wife and i both enjoyed looking at them. enjoy the tools. they truly are treasures.


Alan Turner
10-03-2003, 9:40 AM
Thanks for the pictures of the planes. They look great spread out on your bench. How long will it take to get them into working condition?
That may be a ton of sharpening to do...

Gosh only knows how long it would take to sit at the bench and sharpen all of them. I have decided to sharpen them only on an as needed basis, which so far has been about 3 of them. They were in use, so they are not in bad shape at all. They are actually usable in their present condition, but could be sharper, of course. So, one at a time they will be gone over.

I constantly have feelers out for shops closing, etc. Last winter a pattermaker's shop closed as the owner retired, and could find no purchaser. There I scored a number of tools of some interest. A marking gauge, probably specially made on a lunch break, which is my favorite!!

If there is a tool maker out there who would like to knock it off, either personally or for sale, please be in touch. The small star shaped knife is easy to file and hone to sharp, and the visibility is excellent. Becuase of the spring steel keeper, when you loosen the screw, the beam does not shift untill you want it to, and then only as much as you would like.
Very easy to set.
And yes, I did get some Emmerts, one No. 2 for me, and two No. 1's for buddies. I got the only extra jaw, however.
Wish I had bought more. The shop had some excellent old Oliver's, inc. a 299d 24" planer, and a 270 TS.