Henry Studley’s beautiful tool chest

Look at this beautiful tool chest! It was designed and created by Henry O. Studley (1838-1925), a carpenter and an organ- and piano-maker.  This is a work of art in itself.

According to Wikipedia, there are 220 tools in here, though Twisted Sifter says 300. I’ll let you count them and tell me who’s right.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about it, which, aside from the disparity in tool number, accords with the Twisted Sifter account:

Studley gave the tool chest to a friend. That man’s grandson, Peter Hardwick, loaned the chest to the Smithsonian in the late 1980s as part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, until it was purchased by a private collector for an undisclosed amount of money. The current owner continues to lend the chest to the Smithsonian on occasion. It has been featured on an episode of The New Yankee Workshop and is the subject of a May 1993 article in Taunton’s Fine Woodworking and a popular wall poster.

When closed and hanging on a wall it takes up an area of approximately 39 inches by 20 inches with a 9 inch depth. It opens to become a 40-inch by 40-inch tool chest. It is made out of mahogany, rosewood, walnut, ebony, ivory and mother of pearl, materials that were probably taken from the Poole Piano Company’s scrap material. The fine craftsmanship is exhibited by the way each tool fits snugly into its space, often with an audible click as the tool snaps into its close-fit cavity. Sections of the chest swing out to allow access to a second or third layer of tools. The tool chest features Masonic symbolism, including the Square and Compasses emblem and Royal Arch symbols.

And here’s a video of the chest (you can find everything on the Internet). It’s from the television show The New Yankee Workshop, but I can’t remember the name of the guy narrating it. (Is it “Norm”?)

 

 

44 Comments

  1. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Puts everyone with a pegboard to shame.

  2. Paul S
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful, and yes that is Norm Abram.

    • Neil Wolfe
      Posted November 27, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      He is rather striking.

  3. Posted November 27, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating – so many of our modern tools are almost unchanged from those in the cabinet – the modern adjustable square looks like a good quality Stanley. I’d kill for the shooting plane (the big one LHS) – for jointing boards. Who needs a 2HP jointer? Powering down? Maybe we should learn to use hand tools again…

    • Richard benton
      Posted November 27, 2018 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      Those tools are modern We’ve been modern for a long time Stephen Gould made this point somewhere in his manifestly overgrown verbiage

    • David Coxill
      Posted November 28, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      like wot that Gibbs does in NCIS .

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Yes, that is Norm, the master carpenter from there in the Boston area. He has been doing Public TV (This Old House) for many years as well as his own Yankee Workshop. I use to watch his show allot.

    Funny thing is, this story is all about hand tools and Norm is a real power tool guy. If it can be done with power, that is the way Norm goes. He has about every power tool there is in his shop.

    • Christopher
      Posted November 27, 2018 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, this tool chest looks more befitting Roy Underhill of the Woodwright’s Shop. I own few tools and I’m as non-handy as can be (I can make a mean IKEA bookshelf though) but I love watching Underhill work his woodcraft magic. I’m impressed by other handy persons on This Old House, Rehab Addict, and related programs but the Woodwright wins hands down in my book.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted November 27, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. The olde hand tools often seem much more interesting. But the different shows are all fun to watch.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 27, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Woodwright is the opposite of Yankee Workshop. You don’t need electricity for Underwood. My father was a carpenter and his dad did some as well. Always had a wood shop for making all kinds of things.

        If they had a PhD in Carpentry, that would be Norm. He can do everything from building houses to fine furniture.

        • Richard benton
          Posted November 27, 2018 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

          Well Roy is an amazing personality His work falls under the heading of green woodworking Green wood is easier to work although greenies use power tools It is a satisfying way to work Builders of Windsor chair typically use green wood The shavings are great for starting fires

      • Lynn Wilhelm
        Posted November 27, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        Roy would definitely like these, but Norm appreciates hand tools too.

        Roy’s show is a local one for me–I haven’t seen either show in a while, but I used to love to watch The Woodwright’s Shop, This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop. This Old House used to be better when they really seemed to work in manageable ways on old houses–it ended up becoming a showcase for expensive materials and design (but was still cool).

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 27, 2018 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          You are correct about that change with This Old House. It seems now they take on projects with rich folks and no budget.

          • John Conoboy
            Posted November 27, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

            Did they ever do projects with someone who was not wealthy enough to pay for it? I know that the home owner pays for all the materials, but do they have to pay for all the labor too?

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted November 27, 2018 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

              I think the work done by the guys from this old house is free but everything else is on the homeowners. I don’t recall any where the owner could not or did not pay. Way back in the beginning when it was Bob Villa, he worked most on small repairs and rehab where just the guys on the show did the work but that is not how they do it now.

          • Christopher
            Posted November 27, 2018 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

            I wis someone would do a show for the less economically advantaged of us. They could call it “Too Broke To Fix It”. I nominate my tiny 1930 shack of a house for the first episode. I just want level floors and walls and ceilings a bit higher so I don’t hit my head going under doorways.

        • Richard benton
          Posted November 27, 2018 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

          They did work in Flint Michigan for African Americans and had show segments on installing new water supply lines from street to house

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 27, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      I’m a total Philistine when it comes to handcrafts – I prefer watching a router in a CNC-controlled milling machine 😉

      cr

      • Richard benton
        Posted November 27, 2018 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        They are wonderful things They were built by machinists using beautiful hand tools and of course our exquisite hand eye coordination We have more nerve endings in our hands and face than anywhere else Is that true?Anybody?

        • Richard benton
          Posted November 27, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

          In the union apprenticeship programs you can get trained to be a Millwright They install factory equipment and thermal power plants among other things

  6. Mark R.
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Mine is bright red plastic with a black handle…and it also has a tray. 🙂

  7. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    My Y chromosome is stirring. What’s happening? I feel strange.

    • Lynn Wilhelm
      Posted November 27, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      I don’t have one of those, but I feel something too. Maybe it’s not really sex-linked??

      • Posted November 27, 2018 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        Or perhaps you have a Y chromosome?

        -Ryan

        • Lynn Wilhelm
          Posted November 28, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

          No, I don’t (as I said).
          Do you consider it a requirement?

  8. enl
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Don Williams (retired Smithsonian finish conservator) arranged a viewing a few years ago, and, literally, wrote the book on this chest. Quite the interesting read.

  9. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    “According to Wikipedia, there are 220 tools in here, though Twisted Sifter says 300. I’ll let you count them and tell me who’s right.”

    I expect the first difficulty we’d run into (aside from the fact that the guy didn’t open all the drawers in the video, which is kind of a biggie) is the old category problem. As soon as you try to count large numbers of anything this pops up.

    In this case, for example, do the drill bits count as individual tools? Or does the whole set of them just count as one tool? How about spare blades for the planes? (I couldn’t see any and I’m not a woodworking expert, but those planes have removable blades for a reason). And so on…

    cr

  10. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    The other extraordinary – almost incredible – thing about it is, *none of the tools are missing*.

    Every single tool set I’ve ever come across has one or two missing tools – it’s a universal consequence of entropy or Sod’s Law or something. Often they have been replaced with others which are similar but never exactly the same. (The consequence of this, and of tools often being sold in sets, is that there are always numerous duplicates left over from sets that have been ‘robbed’ to maintain the Number 1 toolbox…)

    But this chest is so finely made that only the original tools of the exact same model would fit. That is truly incredible.

    cr

    • Richard benton
      Posted November 27, 2018 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Norm wrote a book wherein he extolled the virtues of basic hand tools it was called measure twice cut once that phrase is useful in all endeavors is it not?

      • Richard benton
        Posted November 27, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        He was jewish

    • Richard benton
      Posted November 27, 2018 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      Back in the day did time motion studies on tradesmen and that carpenters spent an inordinate amount of time looking for misplaced tools the modern work Protocol of modern masons/bricklayers evolved out of those studies A carpenter resolved the mysteries of longitude for the British navy during the age of sail

  11. rickflick
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I have a few tools which I keep in diverse places. Now I am ashamed. 😎

  12. Posted November 27, 2018 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Ahhhhhh!

  13. Sideshow Bill
    Posted November 27, 2018 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Putting in a plug for Lost Art Press and the most recent book on the tool cabinet. https://lostartpress.com/products/virtuoso

  14. Michael Fisher
    Posted November 28, 2018 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    The discrepancy in the number of tools is likely due to the Studley Tool Cabinet [wall mounted] having a sibling decoratively matching Studley Workbench that also accommodated tools – note the very fine vice & the tool drawers in this image of it:

    Additional tools likely stored in the workbench:

    panel or other saw to dimension stock
    bow saw
    coping saw
    carving chisel set
    glue pot
    rasps
    files
    card scrapers
    tenon saw
    nail set
    rule or tape measure (for distances >2′)
    marking knife
    joinery planes
    fillister
    plough
    router
    shoulder
    dado, &c.
    trammels
    moulding planes
    pad saw/keyhole saw
    nippers
    mortise chisels
    veneering hammer
    drill bow

    In the link HERE is a claimed list of tools for both bits of furniture. Cabinet first & bench follows below that.

    • rickflick
      Posted November 28, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Wow! What a table! The vice looks like it could be used to hold rare and wonderful things. The wood is probably mahogany. I’d be afraid to use it in case I put a ding in it. I’d have to just walk people past it in my shop. Just to intimidate. 😎

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted November 28, 2018 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        It’s at the Phoenix Masonic Museum in Florida – Studley being of the funny handshake brigade. The white brass, wood & inlays – has been over-polished to within an inch of their lives. I speculate that Studley made some or all of that vice – the brass wheel looks like it came from a boiler room or off the bridge of a ship.

    • David Coxill
      Posted November 28, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Wot about a bas***d file?

  15. chrism
    Posted November 28, 2018 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    When my grandfather trained as a joiner in the 1900’s he had to make such a tool chest to pass out of his apprenticeship, and that included making some of the tools in it such as a wooden-bodied block plane, mortise gauge etc. It currently lives in retirement as a coffee table in my brother’s home. (That grandfather had an interesting life – playing football for Aston Villa before WW1, and for Crewe Alexandra after his service in France. He also worked building the great steam locos of the LMS in Crewe. RIP, Grandad.)

  16. darrelle
    Posted November 28, 2018 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Wish I could keep my tools that neat. With kids it’s impossible though. Well, I can’t put it all, on the kids.

  17. David Coxill
    Posted November 28, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Loved the Crane story and the Cats with bells.

  18. Posted November 28, 2018 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Wow. I have the exact opposite – a lucite box with everything thrown in at random. 🙂


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