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JOEL Joel's Blog

My Tool Box


I collect tools, which means that I have lots of tools. Doubles and triples of almost My Tool Box 4anything you can imagine. But I don't use them. Or rather, I might use them once in a while, just to play, and then put them away. But my toolbox is a different story. In my toolbox I have tools I actually use. So when I need a saw, I don't need therapy to figure out which one to grab. And of course once you recognize that you can use just so many tools, you end up with fewer tools to sharpen and a workshop that isn't a pile of stuff.
I subscribe to the theory of tool storage that says you should be able to grab any tool using one hand. Let's say you need to saw a dovetail: you'll need a marking gauge, a layout knife, a few chisels, a saw, and a mallet. You want to make one trip to your tool box (even if it's 5 feet away) and use one hand to grab the stuff and the other to hold everything. This is the beauty of a classic toolbox. Sliding tills expose everything and can be pushed aside with one hand. There is nothing to lift out, and the tools are an easy grab.
With care, a typical tool box will hold just about all the hand tools you work with. I used to work in a common shop so it was recommended to me to get a steel tool box. I got a small Knaack Box. I used to see them chained to pipes in the subway when the workers were doing a project. You need a blowtorch to get into them when they're locked. The inside of the box, of course, is a empty shell. When I started my hand tool saga, I realized that the best place for storing tools I owned was my Knaack box, but I needed to set it up. I bolted on a sheet of plywood to the lid for saws, and built in an inner lining to hold 2 sliding tills. And it worked like a charm.
When we moved, I took out most of the tools. Now I have to reload the case. I think I might write a few more blog entries about the tool box, but for now let's just talk about the saws. The saw till has been in flux, and none of the clamping fixtures have been glued in. Over the years, as I have upgraded my saws or changed my work habits, I have taken off the clamps, reshaped them, and moved them about. Right now I got a nice pair of 26" Disstons and a big Sanderson backsaw. Last year I took off the rip tenon saw I had on the left, meaning to replace it, but with the saw project going on in the store I never got around to it UNTIL NOW (well real soon now). I bought the Sanderson saw at Garrett Wade eons ago and it was my first saw, but now that I'm making saws I want to replace the saw with our own stuff. I also need to find space for the c. 1850 tenon saw that is resting on the tills along with a carcass saw which doesn't exist yet and I need to make, and my personal Dovetail saw. It's going to be a tight fit.

I don't have a keyhole saw and for cutting curves I have a bowsaw which I use all the time. It fits in the main box in a space in front of the tills along with a brace which we can talk about later.

Join the conversation
09/29/2007 Michael
I always like to find out what other woodworkers use for tool boxes and I must say that I never thought about using one of those boxes. I believe that they are also called "Gang Boxes" but back to the saws. I recently purchased your new Dovetail saw and it is very different than the one I was using. I received it right before I was to build a hand dovetailed Blanket Chest. There were roughly 60 dovetails to cut so I used my new Gramercy Tools Dovetail saw for half and my other saw for the other half. I won't bore you with the comparison now. I'll let you know how I felt the new and old saws did on another post.
Now, are you really going to be coming out with a carcass saw in the near future? Do you have any plans beyond that as far as making saws go? In addition to the Dovetail saw I too have the bowsaw which is the first one I ever had and I love using it.
Back to the tool chest, which model do you have?


I don't actually know the model number and I looked at the knaack website and I didn't see my box - which is 20 years old so it wouldn't surprise me if they don't make that exact size anymore. If you go this route get the largest box you have space for. Mine is a little small and I wish is were a tad deeper. I can hold basic stuff in it but it isn't deep enough for a layer of molding planes in the bottom and still have two tills. I have enough space for basic planes but if it was a little deeper and wider I could put a set of hollows and rounds AND the roughly 6 bench planes I use. Now I can just keep the bench planes in it. Not the molding planes.
I am awaiting your post of the saw - as I hope you like it after cutting all those dovetails (If not return it of course). We are most definitely coming out with a carcass saw but as the demand for dovetail saws is keeping us busy we haven't had a chance to really finish testing and stuff. Like the dovetail saw we are thinking about the saw from the ground up. I hopefully won't take as long as the dovetail saw as we have the manufacturing sussed out but research and testing does take time.

10/01/2007 Michael
In my last post I mentioned that I had taken my new Gramercy Tools dovetail saw with me to a workshop where I built a hand cut dovetailed Blanket Chest that consisted of roughly 60 dovetails. Since the saw was new I brought my old saw with me as well and used each saw for half of the work. I started off with the Gramercy Tools saw which is unlike any dovetail saw that I have used in the past. It is smaller and lighter which for me is a major asset as I suffer from ALS which is a degenerative disease which weakens and eventually renders useless ones entire body. So any tool that doesn't add to the weakening of my finger, hand, arm and shoulder muscles is something that I must try. This saw certainly allowed me to use it for a longer period of time without and I repeat because of it's importance, without tiring which will lead me too get sloppy with my cuts. I experienced no such thing while using my new saw. I was able to saw just as crisply hours after the first pin and tail were cut.
I mentioned that this saw was different than my others and the only way that I can describe it is as follows; when you saw you want the saw to become an extension of your hand and with the GT saw that is exactly how it felt to me, as if the saw was a natural extension of my arm. It doesn't feel as if it has the heft of other saws but it isn't so light whereby you can't feel the saw when cutting through wood, or when starting a cut where a little bit of heft is a good thing. You feel it and when I tried to start my cut it did just what I wanted it to do. As a matter of fact I was very pleased at the way the teeth gently began a kerf with very little pressure applied to the saw. I also found myself naturally sawing on two lines almost automatically, without even thinking about it. Joel, could that be because of the shape of the blade? I would be curious to hear from you about that and about the shape in general.
I'll repeat that for me this saw allowed me to cut dovetails without losing anything in the way of crispness of cuts for a longer period of time without tiring. I also really liked how natural the saw became an extension of my hand giving me more control with less thought. I can't wait until the carcass saw comes out.

Thank you,

thanks for your comments on the saw. They don't really belong here and if you don't mind I will move them to a different blog entry if I decided to write about saws again.

I am really happy to see that your observations about the saw performance jive with what we intended. Our research led us to this design and we really think that our saw is not just easy to start, comfortable, and lets you work without hunching over, it also makes sawing easier and less tiring. And that of course is a really important goal. The lightness is important because the less material to move back and forth the less you are fighting gravity. It's something we learned from the bowsaw. The cant of the blade means that the saw mostly feeds itself and it doesn't need weight to force itself into the wood. It all adds up and and I am totally happy that people are seeing the result.

thanks for your comments,

10/01/2007 Michael
I understand about your wanting to move my comments. After re-reading what I wrote before sending it off I almost felt like it was becoming a review of the saw. I really do like it though.
Thank you,

Michael Rogen
10/04/2007 Chuck Nickerson
Please continue the toolbox discussion. I'll soon be losing 75% of my shop space. I'll be working out of a bench with drawers and a toolbox/chest. There's a lot written on workbenches, but next to nothing on tool chests.
10/06/2007 Michael

I would like to hear more about others toolboxes. Whether it's because of a situation as yours due to a forthcoming lack of space or just somebody saying that they don't have the time or know how to build a quality and useful box. I'm sure Joel had the skill set at the time to build one when he opted for the Knaack in the photo above. I have a crazy notion that I hope to act on soon and that is to build a Benjamin Seatonesque tool chest. I became fascinated with it after getting the book "The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton." For the mean time I'm going to get a quote on a box from Knaack.

Thanks to all,
Historically tool boxes looked like crap from the outside and fancy on the inside. Mainly of course because when closed it's purpose was to protect the tools in transit or in a dim shop at night. During the day - the toolbox would be open so that's where the fanciness came about. The sole point of my toolbox was to give me something secure, compact, and flexible. It's not fancy but it is all dovetailed together and was entirely done by hand (except drilling the holes to mount the plywood for the saw till.
I have one fancy bought toolbox from the post civil war period. I use it to store my antiques. I think this topic on tool boxes warrants expansion so I will be writing about tool storage more in the future.
10/06/2007 Michael
Thank you for wanting to keep this topic active as I think it is facinating to look at all of the old tool chests and boxes. Jim Tolpin's book on the subject is tool chest eye candy in my opinion and i always have it nearby to look it over. Do you know of any other books on the subjecy? Is there one on the Duncan Phyfe tool chest?

The Handyman's Book book by Paul Hasluck was recently reprinted and we used to stock it. It has the best section on workbench furniture I know of. It is now out of print but you can find it on the used market. The EAIA many years ago printed an article on the contents of the Phyfe Tool Chest. We visit it periodically at the NY Historical Society and it's been a great inspiration for the Gramercy Tools designs. Drawings for the chest are available and we stock them: (LL-64). However it's a weird design with a cabinet of rolling tills. Hard to build and while elegant, not too practical. I think I will write some blogs on the details of my chest and while not as fancy by a long shot at Phyfe's it should give you enough info to figure out your own design. My chest is small but I'm pretty happy with it.
10/08/2007 Chuck Nickerson
Michael - I'm hoping to track down "The Tool Chest of Benjiman Seaton". It sounds as if you'd recommend it.
All- I'm not too worried about the externals of a tool chest. I'm hoping to gain some wisdom on the best ways to conain tools and still have them be easy to retrieve.
10/11/2007 Michael http://Rogen
It is a wonderful book and if you need help tracking down a copy ping me privately and I can help you out.

10/11/2007 Michael http://Rogen

As for your tool box above, am I correct in saying that you basically used it as a 'shell' and you built all of the inside compartments that house your tools?

Yes - the steel box is a shell. More on this in part 2 (as soon as I get a chance to take some pictures)
10/12/2007 Chuck Nickerson
Michael - I can't find any in the US, tried amazon, abebooks, and alibris. The Tool and Trades Society's website has it, but a US source would be simpler. Not sure how to ping you. Joel - feel free to release my email address to Michael.
Will do.
You can order the book here:

Email in the order and you will get instructions for payment etc. and they take paypal.

Sorry about no update this weekend - it's all written but I left the cable to upload the pictures from my camera at work.
11/02/2007 Michael Rogen
I just received a copy of The Handyman's Book by Paul Hasluck and I can see why you recmmended it. I believe that this will prove to be an interesting book on tool chests but many other topics as well. Thanks for letting me know about it.


PS - I think it cost me $4.00 and is in 'like new' condition.
11/27/2007 Preston Spoke
This is addressed to Michael. Space permitting, purchase a Knaack box with 2-doors and internal shelves rather than a gang box. It will give you enough space for both your hand and power tools. You can fit out the interior however you like. I have pull outs for router bits and screw guns and plenty of space for everything else. I purchased mine 21-years ago and have never regretted it.
Not much more to ask, it's just that my tool box smells like puke. I've never puked in it, and to my knowledge neither has anyone else. But still thats the way it smells. How can I get rid of it?
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