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Thread: help with Studley inspired tool cabinet design

  1. #1

    help with Studley inspired tool cabinet design

    I am making a tool cabinet. I got super inspired by the legendary and arcane Studley Tool Cabinet after picking up the book on it. I am nowhere near Studley's level of woodworking though. I am what men of his day termed "a n00b". At the very least though, I thought could take some inspiration from the layout and organization.

    So I have been working on this cabinet, and thought I had a sound basic design, but when I got to one of the main compartments I found my initial idea didn't look right in practice. At its core its just a box with a lid flap that swings upwards. It just has an odd shape due to the plane tills intersecting with it.

    I was going to make a series of small boxes and stack them to form the interior portion, essentially.

    As soon as I put the boxes in it was clear that the depths of the sides would make it inconvenient to put tools in or take them out, and would waste space I could use to fit more tools. So I revised it and tried a single box with one side that zig-zagged to fit around the tops of my hand planes... but that just looks wrong and kind of rickety.

    I'm turning over some other ideas but I was really hoping someone here would have a better idea about how to approach this before I waste any more wood.

    Thanks!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
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    Welcome to the Creek, Dave!
    You're not getting much traffic here. I suggest you try posting this in the Neanderthal Forum. That's where the serious handtool folks hang out.

  3. #3
    The workmanship on the Studley chest is obviously glorious, but I've always thought that the genius is in the design and layout. What if you put a compartment with rarely-used tools in behind the planes, and bring them closer to the front for easier access?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Tyler Bancroft View Post
    The workmanship on the Studley chest is obviously glorious, but I've always thought that the genius is in the design and layout. What if you put a compartment with rarely-used tools in behind the planes, and bring them closer to the front for easier access?
    The handplanes are fine, I made the depth of the cabinet to specifically fit them. Its the compartment that is beside and above them that is throwing me for a bit of a loop.

  5. #5
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    I’m thinking form follows function. What tools are likely candidates for that space? Is a No. 4 in your future. It could go where the No 3 is and the no 3 could be placed above it. Do you have any block planes? What about butt chisels, small screw drivers, 4” square, router plane, marking knives, marking gauges, magnifying glass? Set of needle files, saw set, fret and or coping saw or gents saw or flush cut saw, dividers, compass, spoke shaves. You have probably already done this, but I’d start laying tools out on paper to try to see what works. Looking forward to seeing your progress

  6. #6
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    My thinking is Studley knew from experience what tools he needed to keep and which he could sell off, and built his tool chest to hold the keepers only - for the work he was doing. Pianos I think.

    With a relatively tiny tool chest like that he could pack up and go work for a competitor in like 15 minutes, or demand whatever pay the market could bear to stay in the shop where he was already. I see his tool chest, or tool cabinet, as thumbing his nose at the establishement/ business owners. If you want to employ me you may, but I can leave right now and go work for someone else this afternoon if I get a better offer.

    I can see folks like Chris Schwarz or Edwin Santos coming up with a tool cabinet like that this decade; but for Joe Homeowner who might fall in love with a 5 1/4 Bailey tomorrow or take up intarsia in 2022 it looks like a time sink.

    M2c

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Joe A Faulkner View Post
    I’m thinking form follows function. What tools are likely candidates for that space? Is a No. 4 in your future. It could go where the No 3 is and the no 3 could be placed above it. Do you have any block planes? What about butt chisels, small screw drivers, 4” square, router plane, marking knives, marking gauges, magnifying glass? Set of needle files, saw set, fret and or coping saw or gents saw or flush cut saw, dividers, compass, spoke shaves. You have probably already done this, but I’d start laying tools out on paper to try to see what works. Looking forward to seeing your progress
    So I am a doofus, its actually a no 4, not a no 3. I do not have a no 3. Yeah I have basically all of those, except the magnifying glass, plus a lot more. My main interest is making instruments so I've got a bunch of specific tools for that as well. I've laid them out on paper before, and have somewhat of a plan for how they will fit in, but I think I am going to revise it slightly now anyways. It's a bit tricky because there are a few tools I know I will be getting, or making, in future, so I need to try to save space for those as well. I figured if I could at least get the major compartments and their doors on, I could worry about the specifics of what's inside of them later.

  8. #8
    There is no way he could pack that chest up and take it anywhere quickly my dude. The thing weighs about 156lbs when its full. It was meant to hang over his bench in his shop. I would assume he had a portable kit for travel. It wasn't thumbing his nose or anything like that. I believe it was meant more as an artist's statement on the skill he'd achieved at his craft, and the beautiful and intricate work he could do. It seems to have been built towards the end of his life and shows little sign or wear or regular use. The tools were certainly used but its thought this was mostly before the cabinet was made.

    I highly recommend the book Virtuouso if you ever want an in depth study of the chest and its history.

  9. #9
    With a relatively tiny tool chest like that he could pack up and go work for a competitor in like 15 minutes, or demand whatever pay the market could bear to stay in the shop where he was already. I see his tool chest, or tool cabinet, as thumbing his nose at the establishement/ business owners.
    IIRC, Studley worked at the same shop his entire career (or maybe two shops). And the famous tool chest was made at the very end of his career, probably into his early retirement.

  10. #10
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    There was also a very fancy bench he made...
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  11. #11
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    In my OPINION, I would start using the chest a little as I design it. What I mean by that is make some temporary holders from scrap wood and attach them with masking tape or some other temporary solution and see how it fits into your workflow. If you wish you would have put those drill bits in a different spot, it is easier to change now than when the cabinet is finished.

    Part of the genius of the Studley cabinet is not only did he manage to fit a ton of tools in a small space, but it also looks like an efficient design. Things like planes and layout tools are front and foremost and easy to grab.

    I give this suggestion because you can always draw a piece out on paper, but I find after the finished product and using it sometimes I think "I wish I would have made that a little taller." Or "This should have been thicker."

    Studley, with years of piano making experience and working with his tools, probably knew where to put everything because he interacted with his tools so much. He knew not to bury a square in the back of the cabinet if he used it often.

    So I would try finding some temporary holders for things or a way to set them in the cabinet and start interacting with it now, so you don't design something you might regret later.

  12. #12
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    I will often do a quick mock up with scrap/cheap wood and hot melt glue, put the tools in and try it out. I’ve done several mock ups on my own tool storage designs. Don’t force it, and it will work out the best for you and the tools.
    Jim
    Ancora Yacht Service

  13. #13
    I did the Studley inspired tool chest thing also. I was really enamored by all the tools crammed into a small space, and having a relatively small shop at the time, I thought it would be a good idea. I ultimately found having to move panels and trips and slides to get at tools a little frustrating (infuriating actually) and ended up building a larger one where the tools could all be reached directly. I ended up repurposing the old one to be a 'overflow' storage for my multiplying plane collection when I moved into a larger shop.

    Original, now a plane cabinet
    73CEC004-8465-4F30-A1C0-E25D3B44D4BA.jpg

    Replacement cabinet
    B0A525B4-82E5-4AC7-9909-88B5493F875C.jpg

  14. #14
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    Hmmm...
    Planes, today, plane til.JPG
    Most planes land here..
    June Project 21, saw selection.JPG
    Most of the rest of the ready-to-use tools are inside of this
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  15. #15
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    Dave I really admire your ambition! I think the Studley tool test is pretty much top of the mountain and a very worthy project. In fact, it strikes me as less of a practical exercise in tool storage/management and more of a "statement" piece intended to show off his prodigious woodworking and design skills. BTW, no disrespect to the idea of a "statement piece". Something like the Studley tool chest would not only be a daily joy to the builder/owner, but obviously an heirloom to be passed down the generations. From that perspective, might be helpful to consider the purpose: is it for your most used tools, or maybe a place to store smaller tools that otherwise might get lost in a larger chest etc.?

    As a piano maker, seems like most of his tools are relatively small-scale, the kinds of things that might fit in a relatively small, gorgeously designed chest. For me, I like saws, layout tools and planes hanging in tills on the wall with their easy to access. I keep chisels and smaller inlay, carving tools in two rolling chests. Not saying that's ideal, just recognizing the original tool chest I built four years ago was quickly (and I think inevitably) rendered too small by an ever-growing collection tools.

    Setting aside the practical considerations, Studley tool chest is the kind of aspirational piece you will be proud of and glad you made for years to come. Just my two cents YMMV.

    Cheers, Mike

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