• Sunday, January 29th, 2012

There are lots of ways to store hand tools. Among these are drawers and cabinets under the workbench, open shelves and pegboard systems, a large lidded joiner’s chest, Gerstner-style chests, steel mechanic’s chests, and wall cabinets. Some woodworkers may even feel comfortable with their tools simply scattered about the shop and constantly shifting places.

Why store your tools in an enclosed unit? Tools work best when they are kept free of debris and rust. An ordered, safe place for tools improves your efficiency. In short, your tools are valuable and deserve their own place.

This series has described my approach; it works for me. It is neither perfect nor original, but it does have a solid rationale and will hopefully be useful for ideas as readers make or alter their own set ups.

Here is a summary of the underlying concepts in this tool cabinet.

1. Space economy:

  • Small footprint; use of airspace (For me, this is the biggest advantage of this design.)
  • Outer surfaces, top, and stand are put to use
  • Efficient use of room inside the cabinet

2. Accessibility and convenience:

  • Majority of tools can be reached directly without shifting other tools out of the way
  • Little or no bending
  • The cabinet is placed next to the workbench
  • Wide-open presentation of the tools provides mental access to them
  • No need to use separate saw guards and tool sheaths

3. Flexibility:

  • Layout is easily changed as tools are added or retired
  • Generally logical storage
  • Storage conflicts are resolved based on the frequency of use and protection required by the tool 

4. Practical:

  • Simple, undandified aesthetic
  • Simple construction
  • Inexpensive
  • Durable

This tool cabinet with its many features substantially adds to my ease and clarity in the shop. Most important is to set up your tool cabinet and your shop to suit, to the extent possible, how you prefer to work. In this way your environment contributes to your ease and efficiency, and ultimately, to the quality and joy of your work.

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5 Responses

  1. Great series on the stand up chest. I got the rust inhibitor grippy stuff in place now and I made my own 1/8″ dividers. Thanx for all the great ideas in your posts.

  2. 2

    Many thanks for doing this Rob, a lot of good info here. Hope to get started on a tool cabinet in the next few weeks and plan on reviewing this again…often I’m sure.


  3. 3

    Ralph and Tim,

    You’re welcome. Holler if you have questions or additions.


  4. 4
    Don Williams 

    Great design (I say that partly because yours is strikingly similar to the one I built 25 years ago).

    BTW, where did you get the door pulls?

  5. 5


    Thanks, and I hope yours is also still going strong. I changed the handles somewhere along the way and I don’t remember where I got them. They are available here: