Old World Tool Chest: Part 1

I know for a fact that I will not make my goal of blog posts for October, again I apologize for my recent tardiness but I have been missing the shop as well. My family and I have been very busy relocating to a new residence in LaCrosse WI, about 20 miles from the old place. The good news is that the weather has been beautiful here, cool, dry and easy for moving. The bad news is that the weather has been beautiful here, cool, dry, and I haven't been able to see the inside of the shop for longer than five minutes for about three weeks now. I guess the best news for me is that the shop is located on neutral territory and was immune to the whole moving process, and I do have a little bit of a back load of photos here to share until I get into the shop again next week.

In a previous post I mentioned that my father-in-law had seen fit to give to me the tool chest that had belonged to his great uncle, his father, and himself. In Norway in the 1800's his great uncle Melvin Indahl had been a carpenter. In 1865 he crossed the pond with his brother to find a good life in America. Eventually they settled in South Dakota and went to work farming. Being a carpenter Melvin ofcourse knew that his tools would be some of the most valuable items at his disposal, so he constructed a tool chest, (I could be embellishing a bit, imagine that, the chest could very well have existed before any decisions to strike west happened) The chest dutifully transported his tools across the ocean and across half of the USA before they paused in South Dakota later to backtrack as my wife's grandfather moved the to Western Wisconsin. The tools inside have changed along the way, some have been lost and replaced with others, some tools have been added, and some broken I am sure.

A few years before my father in law gave me a cardboard box that contained some of the previous contents. Several chisels and gouges, a couple of axe heads and a pair of wooden body jack planes. But to see what else this chest contained still leaves me buzzing with energy. Everything needs a clean up to say the least. Some pieces have a thick layer of rust and may not be usable after I get them cleaned up, but we'll see.
So many tools they could not all fit on the workbench. The saws had to rest out on the lid for their pictures.
Starting on the right end of the bench. A large 24"drawknife, a couple of slicks, one with a very short handle, a wedge and a couple of large thread cutters. The mallets in the background have been in the shop a long time, they were not part of the chest.
Moving towards the left, a fine wooden level, a couple of dividers, a trisquare, a variety of files, a saw set and a couple more wedges. One item I am having trouble identifying is the circular "pizza cutter" looking item on the left, the blade does not rotate it is pinned static.

A little more left we go, and here we can see a couple of hammers, one sans handle, some multi wrenches a stone dressing tool and a couple of the nicest woodwrights rasps I have ever seen, I really hope I can get them cleaned up and usable again.

A variety of brad awls, a stone wheel, and various small pieces of metal and bolts, a blacksmiths tongs and a couple of files forged into scrapers and what I think was probably a hoof knife, both for farrier work. There's a miniature, maybe a practice, horse shoe, a slew of steel cutting chisels that have almost all been neat to hell, and a whole bunch of brace bits.
A couple of spoon bits, something I have been looking for for a long time, With my second hobby as Viking age rennactment, spoon augers have been found in archeological finds, so spoon bits are a big part of making me more authentic in my portrayal of a a woodworker from the medieval era.

 And last, but not least, the saws. These blades are old, I am sure that at least on of them pre-dates the Disston Era, perhaps several. Three full sized are filed crosscut, One filed rip, a keyhole saw with a lot of rust and an odd little saw with a home made handle and maybe a home made blade as well... I'm just calling this a joinery saw for now. One really neat thing about living where I do is it's the same town that Mark Harrell lives in. Is the name familiar, yes he's the owner of Bad Axe Tool Works and the infamous Bad Axe hand saws. Mark does an excellent job of saw restoration and though I have done my own saw restoration in the past, if these saws are as old as I think they are, then I want an experts opinion on what should be done and most likely I think want to have an experts hands "supercharge" these saws for me for another few centuries of performance. I know that he's probably getting busy with Christmas upcoming, I think I'll look him up after the holidays.

Next time...The chest itself.



  1. Oooh, Pretty!

    I think that you will even be more surprised once you start cleaning and restoring. Looks like stuff is in pretty good shape from being kept in the toolbox.

    New tools are nice but those with a history have so much more character and personality.

  2. Very cool collection of tools. I hope you're able to bring them back to life. I believe the pizza cutter-looking tool is used for leather work. Click on the second photo in this link: http://www.oldtools.com/collect.html

  3. Hi Derek, welcome to the neighborhood! La Crosse is a great place. One of the first things you'll have to do is become acquainted with the Bodega Brew Pub on 4th and Pearl. Give me a shout, and I'll make the introduction. Cheers! ~ Mark

  4. Hi Derek, that's a pretty nice haul, cool.

    I notice that you seem to have set some sort of goal for how often you want to blog. I don't know if this helps, but my approach is to just let my work drive the blog. When I go down to the shop, I take my camera, and take photos here and there of what I'm working on. If I feel that I'm at a point where I've done something either interesting enough or otherwise worthy of recording, I write a post around the photos.

    When I'm busy down there, more posts come out, and when I'm not doing much (like now), you won't see much, if anything. I'm not a professional, so I know the output will be inconsistent. My only objective is to post stuff that I would be interested in looking at later.

  5. Hey Brian
    I do have a goal of between 2-3 posts a week but that is directly corelated to my goal of 2-3 days or evenings a week in the shop. Obviously with moving a house well shop time becomes something in short supply. But the blog goal is a good reason to keep me motivated in the shop and then the shop work feeds the blog. I'm not a professional either but I would like to become one someday and the only way I know to get down the skills I need is to have my butt in there making sawdust. My wife has so many requests in now with the new place that I may not see a time of inactivity for some time, and that's ok by me.

    It really comes back to me... if I don't set goals and schedules for myself then I procrastinate like a mofo. It kind of keeps me in line and outta trouble.

  6. Hi Derek, that's one way to measure progress! I can tell you a little about my experience in how my own shop time seems to result in posts. When I get to go down there nearly every evening, I might write 1-2 posts a week. I consider myself to be a pretty slow woodworker.

    Everyone seems to have their own style. Look at Steve Branam--he doesn't post much, but when he does, it's a nice big one. Wilbur Pan, on the other hand, sometimes has something short every day.

    Hmm, there's some analysis that could be done on this sort of thing, I guess.

  7. That is a great collection of old tools and even better that it has family history to go along with it. Documenting individual restorations on your blog can be a great way to passing on some of the additional history to future generations in your family ... and it keeps the rest of us readers happy too.

  8. Great post,I had to clean the drool from my keyboard. I will second Kari's statement that the pizza wheel is a leather working tool. We have a guy at the Steppingstone Museum that does leather work and I remember joking with him about cutting me a slice. Oh and you have to grab a beer with Mark, he is my hero!


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