My grandfather’s tool chest, lovingly crafted from solid oak, shared a workingman’s life￼. The now worn drawers held the tools of Granddad’s trades: a mechanic, machinist, carpenter. The cabinet has a patina only achieved by decades of being polished by rough, calloused, oily hands. The drawers now show their age. Chipped and nicked from an unimaginable variety of well used but sharp tools.
The chest is a hundred years old and probably a little older. My father used it for his tools after Granddad passed in the mid-1950s. Eventually, it became mine and is where I keep some of my tools, many of which are as old as the chest.
This old chest and the tools it contains remind me, of course, of the mentors of my childhood, but also of a simpler time when hard work, a journeyman’s skills, and integrity were ideals to strive for.
An Interesting Quote From 1914:
In those days a journeyman’s full tool chest was quite a costly investment, and many a man
found it an expensive undertaking to supply himself with all the tools he needed. Besides his
ordinary bench and everyday working tools, he was obliged to carry a lot of odd tools that are
not much thought of these days. Sash planes, match planes, moulding planes, beading planes,
coves, rabbits (sic), side filisters, try and other squaers, mortise gage, and three or four other
squares, bevels, miters, and a half a dozen or more saws of various kinds, including a dovetailing saw – a saw which is now almost extinct – plumb-bob, and two or three dozen chisels,
gouges, and many other things the modern carpenter never wants of thinks of. The moving of
tool chests was quite a big job, and the chest itself was a fearful and wonderful combination of
usefulness, clumsiness and adaptability. I keep mine as a “mechanical relic,” now over 60 years
— A Retired Carpenter, The National Builder, January 1914
More images from my Still Life collection can be found here found here. And, thank you.