The New Ghetto Workshop

This has been the season of the toolbox. The woodworking world is buzzing about the subject after the recent release and then re-release of Christopher Schwarz book The Anarchist’s Tool Chest. Its a great read and I was lucky to have found it at the beginning of my woodworking endeavors. Schwarz’s book proposes that a tool box is an essential piece of shop furniture because it will give woodworkers a finite parking space for their tools leading them focus on quality and not quantity of tools. Any good tool box should be designed to keep you efficient in your craft. Shwarz’s book an many other great books/ blogs/ and resources can be found at

The blue milk paint makes it look like the Tardis’s little sister. Tool box space ship?

In progress note the dovetails, this was my first project to work with dovetail joinery. Not that hard.

It’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

So I made an Anarchist’s tool box, the finish is three coats of milk paint with a Tung Oil on top. The federal blue made it turn out looking like the Tardis’s little sister from the British TV’s show Dr. Who. Like the Tardis, my tool is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It’s surprising at how much stuff this thing can hold. I would recommend that any woodworker starting out in the craft should take on a tool box as one of their first woodworking projects; yes, dovetails and all.

Let it be noted that I built a traditional tool box first, made from Cypress planed and dovetailed by hand. My second tool chest took on a different agenda. Power. I like working with hand tools, less dust, no noise, more precision; they are all around safer and more pleasant to work with. Working with hand tools all the time would be great but the reality is that I’m making an attempt to be a full time wood worker, and they are much cheaper than shop assistants, so power tools in some cases are still a necessity in my shop. If time and money weren’t an issue it would be a different story.

Tech help from John Reitzer-Smith

The second tool box I call the “Jam-box-tool-box”. It solves a couple of pesky shop problems: 1) In my shop I always wear earplugs. I use power tools often enough that it’s easer to just leave them in which makes listening to the radio more difficult, and 2) All those power tools require power. I looked into contractor radios, but they are all brand specific to whatever type of cordless drill you use. I don’t know what brand of cordless drill I’m going to have 10 years from now, so I came up with a universal contractors radio that will charge any battery, phone, or iPod, and power any tool I want it to power. It’s a multi tasking machine but lets not forget the most important feature remains that it-will-rock-you.


It’s the only AM/FM CD/MP3/WMA with front/rear AUX and Bluetooth Ready tool box I know of.  I still have my grandfather’s tool box. My grandfather was a life long Iowa farmer and I know better, but sometimes I get sentimental about grandfathers way of life, a lost way of life we will never be able to go back to, and in hindsight I’m just romanticizing the simplicity of his life that probably wasn’t that simple. But I can’t think of a more fitting comparison between his life and mine than to show the difference between our tool boxes.

Grandpa’s tool box on the Left circa 1910, “Jam-box-tool-box” circa 2012

If he were still alive, I would build him one. I know he wouldn’t have gotten as excited about Jam-box-tool-box as I do, but he would have used it as an extension chord and as an am radio.  If Grandpa was working on the tractor he was blasting the farm reports, and if I’m in the woodshop I’m cranking out the NPR. Some things don’t change.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: