18 July 2011

Open toolboxes - 2

This post is part of a series about toolboxes.

I was trying to solve a router problem by looking at Router Tips & Techniques by Robert Wearing, I halted on an  image of his unique workshop presented in the introduction.  As it looks so small and by having the walls fully covered by tools, I got the impression he is working from inside a toolbox.
The tools can be found back in his other books The essential woodworker or Hand tools for woodworkers.

Being back on the toolboxes taught train and supported by sleepless time,  I can as well continue my open toolbox tinkering. A place to be for looking at toolboxes is The toolbox book by Jim Tolpin. Interesting is a picture of an old toolbox.  The box is opened up through a removable front and has also a tilted lid to give a better access to the top tool racks.

To evaluate a toolbox it is best to differentiate the toolbox real estate locations. I see at the effort at grabbing a tool.  On the workbench it is just grabbing,  ... when the surface is clear.  The toolbox top:  one step followed by grabbing.  The lower shelves are,  depending of the health of my back, one deep step followed by grabbing,  or a full taboo zone.  If I deepen the box, the back of the lower shelves are nearly unreachable. That's why I mostly favor drawers over deep lower shelves. But it's a bigger effort to catch the front tools as it is now step - open  - grab (probably a two handed operation). It's possible to combine both with sliding shelves, giving an open shelve in the front and more drawer like access for the back.

As for optimal packing density, shelves seem perfect for planes (deep enough shelves). For chisels, saws and the like,  top racks can give a high tool density.

Implementing a toolbox adds maybe focus to the tools used .   It allows to think about what tools are used and needed.  My handyman toolbox is in constant evolution but when I take it along I am pretty certain I can handle most jobs without searching any further.  Another evolutionary step today, as I used it and missed a saw for a straight and a rounded cut.  I solved it with a 2 hp sabre saw,  did I say straight?  But I probably need some Japanese foldable thing.

My take today on a woodworker's workshop toolbox would be to make a narrow, wheeled column (less than 20" by 20") as high as a workbench. Narrow to keep it close without getting too much in the way.  With racks at the back half of the top, the saw rack being completely at the back (right on the drawing).  The front of the top a free landing zone.  Under it a half deep shelve for planes and using drawers or sliding shelves for ease of access to the lower shelves.
An extra could be to make the chisel rack free standing making it possible to bring a group of chisels as a whole to the workbench.