Filling the Top of The Chest

After I finished filling the bottom of the tool chest I was really psyched to start filling in the top of the chest. It was getting cold and I could almost feel the snow coming and if you remember, the biggest goal for finishing the tool chest is it would allow me to bring enough tools home to our apartment so I could continue to work over the winter and remain frostbite free.

I've already designed my version of a Joinery Bench to knock down for travel, I needed a way to pack up the goodies that make a bench worth having.

I like the simplicity of the Anarchist Tool Chest sliding tray design. The baseness of the concept is infinitely versatile and will let me grow into my own comfort level of where I want my tools stored. It took me a bit of thinking and studying the pictures in Chris's book to really get the concept of how to put together the rails. I've rarely been accused of being a particularly quick study. It took some time for me to wrap my head around exactly how I should go about it.

I may have missed it but I think Chris understates the concept of supporting the rail system from the bottom of the chest. The trays will be holding a lot of weight in tools for a very long time and even though he shows this support in pictures, I don't recall reading a word about it. Maybe I'm off base but the support seems kind of important to me.

It's entirely possible I missed it's mention in the reading. I'm fallible. But I did read the construction sections of the book over and over as I worked my way through the build.

The bottom rail is a 1 X 1 section of hickory. The supports are the same size. One support helps sandwich the divider for the saw till, the other just takes up a little footprint in the corner.

The rail itself, in my version, stretches from the back of the chest to the support rail I made for the front tool rack. Not pictured here is a little corner glue block I placed with a little rub joint so the rail gained some support against the front of the chest as well.

From the bottom 1" wide rail you then build up the next rails. The next one up is still hickory and a 1/2" thick. It measures 6" wide to accommodate the deepest of the trays. This one I had to notch around the front tool rack. Another thinner rail weighs in at 1/4"thick and 3" wide to support the upper tray.

Oh and you can see the small glue block I placed to support the front of the widest rail.

A little glue on the back of the rails and some counter sunk screws to hold them in place. The bottom wide rail is glued and nailed to the side and also nailed to the supports.

With the rails in place I started working on the trays themselves. I cleaned up a bunch of hickory and resawed it to thickness using my bandsaw, until I dulled my blades beyond recognition, then I finished the job using the tablesaw. I may be a hand tool geek but I am also fat and lazy and not terribly interested in resawing to thickness by hand. Sorry to disappoint.

The upside to this process is I was able to butterfly my drawer bottoms. I know the detail of this will be hidden by the tools in the trays, but I will know it's there and when I do get to see it, it will make me smile. The thickness for the bottom, deep drawer is 3/8ths" and the top two shallower drawers are 1/4" thick.

I planed ship laps in the bottoms and moved on to constructing the sides of the trays.

One of the several mistakes I'll admit to in this project happened in my planing stage. I just didn't buy enough poplar. I should have ordered closer to 70 to 80 board feet instead of stopping in the neighborhood of 60. I had already planned to use hickory for the long wearing surfaces like the tray bottoms and the side runners, but I just wouldn't have enough poplar. So I made a stop at the local home store and picked up some pine.

In hindsight I am not sad about this development at all, I love the smell of pine and everytime I open the chest, I get a puff of that sweet resin smell that triggers some kind of primal endorphin response. It makes me happy.

After cleaning up the home store marks and planing the boards straight I sized the sides of the trays to specific length and width. The they were resawn down to 1/2" thickness.

More dovetail hijinks ensued.

And in the end, I had a glued up and finished tray. . .

. . . Or three.

The hickory bottoms were all attached with nails and a couple dollops of glue to try and allow for wood movement issues. All the burn marks from the power saw blades were buffed out with a sander. 

And now I had the top of the chest to fill. Each drawer slides back and forth on it's own rail. I used a little wax to reduce the friction. The real trick to these is to get the fit of the trays piston tight to the sides of the chest. A tight fit makes the sliding work better because the tray can't kick off center and bind.

I got close, very close, but I do have some racking as I move the trays back and forth. Most of the time it is not an issue and I just have to move a tray with two hands instead of the nonchalant one handed sweep The Schwarz uses in his demonstration videos. I'm not too bothered or worried, the occasional stick is a minor issue and we'll see how they work after they've seasoned in for a few years.

Just like when I finished filling the bottom of the chest, I couldn't hardly wait to throw my tools into the top trays and see how they work. Here's where my work showed one more mistake. In my calculations for the width of the trays I must have somehow added an inch to each trays width. The result is more room for tools in the trays, I like that, but you do not get that nice stacked effect where you can look down and see every corner of all the trays at once. At times a little fiddling is needed to get a specific tool out.

In truth, I think I came out on the winning side of this mistake, I like having a little more room in the trays.

As I said before, I could feel the snow was nearly ready to fly and once we received a significant amount I wouldn't be able to get my van closer than a football field away from my shop. I needed to get the lid on and the chest to my apartment before it became snowed in.

But that is another story for next time.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. I know it is not that traditional, but a nice way to use up some of that extra space would be to try some UHMW-PE strip to give a bit of wear protection and slide lubrication. You can get it in a self adhesive strip. They also have it on little stick on buttons.

    I would suggest finger holes in the lower trays for when they get all to the side. Maybe something decorative. :)

  2. Looking awesome, Derek! I love traditional chests stuffed with tools. I may build one of these at some point, I just can't resist (happy though I am with tool wall).


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