Some Photos & Rough Sketches of an Old Tool Chest

Topics Covered

  1. Photos & Commentary
  2. Sketches & Commentary
  3. How old is this tool chest ?
  4. Is this a good tool chest design ?

What follows are 14 Photos and three rough Sketches. The Sketches show the basic dimensional values, for this old tool chest. My wife Cathy bought this tool chest at an auction, she recently attended. Supposedly, the tool chest is from the McCormick (The spice company) family estate.

Here’s the first Photo, of this tool chest.

The tool chest is not in the best of shape. But, it does provide a glimpse of what was being built, in the past. I always like looking at things made in the past. However, my examination time was limited. Cathy needed to get the chest moved to her booth, at an antique store, the next day.

The shot below shows the bottom trim, the lid corner joints, and the tool chest handle (one at each end of the chest). The corner joints, for both the bottom trim and the lid, are mitered joints.

This next shot shows the back of the tool chest. The bottom trim on the backside is missing.

The bottom side of the chest is shown below. Bottom consists of one wide board and one narrow board.

I assume the areas where the paint has been rubbed away is from the chest being dragged across the floor.

The next two Photos are closeups of the lid butt hinge. Two butt hinges fasten the lid to the chest carcase.

Pictured below is a close-up of the back of the lid.

Here in the shot below is a look at the inside of the chest. The inside of the chest contains one tray, divided into three compartments.

The next two Photos show the tray from two different vantage points.

Pictured below is one of the two runners, that the tray slides back and forth on.

A close-up, of one of the two metal handles, is shown in the Photo below.

The lock mechanism, viewed from the inside of the chest, is shown in the shot below.

Here’s the other half of the lock mechanism, fastened to the bottom side of the lid.

Sketches & Commentary
First a general comment. For all three Sketches shown below, the numerical values shown are in inches.

The first Sketch below is a Front View showing the outside dimensions, for the tool chest. The outside dimensions of the carcase are 34-3/8″ length x 12-7/16″ high x 13-1/2″ wide. The bottom trim is – length as req’d x 2-3/8″ x 1/2″.

This second Sketch shows the outside dimensions for the tray, inside the tool chest. The outside dimensions of the tray are 32-3/8″ length x 4-11/16″ wide x 4-1/8″ high. The tray bottom board is 3/8″ thick. The remaining four boards, making up the outside of the tray, are 5/16″ thick.

The inside dimensions (I abbreviated as “ID”) for the three compartments are 9-7/16″, 11-1/8″, and 10-11/16″. And as noted, all the joints are butt type joints, for the tray.

The last Sketch here consists of three partial Sketches.

The partial Sketch at the bottom left shows the carcase interior dimensions, 32-5/8″ x 11-5/8″.

The bottom right partial Sketch provides dimensions for the runners that the tray slides along.

The top partial Sketch dimensions the handle height above the bottom of the tool chest.

How Old is this Tool Chest ?
I do not know the exact age of this tool chest. But, I am going to guesstimate that it dates back to somewhere in the neighborhood of 1910. And, I base this on the following:

  1. Willoughby M. McCormick started his spice company in 1889, at the age of 25.
  2. Mr. McCormick passed away in 1932.
  3. No plywood was used in the construction of this tool chest. Plywood usage in the U.S. started around 1945.
  4. Screws used on the tool chest, for the handles and lock mechanism, are slotted head type screws. Use of Phillip type heads for screws began around 1936.

In a nutshell, I split the difference in time between 1932 (Date of death) and 1889 (Date Mr. McCormick started his company). And, that is how I arrived at the 1910 neighborhood date.

Is This a Good Tool Chest Design ?
Here are my thoughts regarding this issue:

  • In the Dec 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, Chris Schwarz wrote an article covering rules for tool chests. Chris also covers rules for tool chests in his book, “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest”. For the most part, this chest doesn’t comply with most of these rules.
  • When bought, this chest had no tools in it. So, who knows maybe it served some purpose other than being used as a tool chest.
  • Maybe the size of the chest was based on space constraints, and / or only a limited number of tools were housed in the chest. And, again maybe the chest didn’t hold tools, but instead held some other type of items.

Final Thoughts
I enjoyed examining this chest. Enjoyed looking at how it was constructed, and how it fared wear wise over time. And lastly, I enjoyed guesstimating the age of this chest.

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Until Next Time, Take Care