A Wonderful and Free Tool Cabinet Plan!

Taunton Press has been kind enough to give a superb  Fine Woodworking cabinet design away!


I think it is great!  Inexpensive, pretty, and able to hold a large collection of tools.   It has great tool visibility and uses a minimum of hardware to make.   Jan Zoltowski has done a brilliant job of refining the basic tool cabinet design.

While I am not a purist, I am a predominantly hand tool user and this is a hand tool cabinet, so I see this  from a hand tool users perspective.   If you look through my blog you will find more than one tool storage design.  You will also see where I have critiqued my own designs fairly severely.   I am apparently never satisfied with my own tool storage.   So don’t take my snarking on this cabinet as a deal breaker.  It is still a great design and with a bit of modification would be a near perfect design.

Personally, I would strongly advise a few changes but these are things that only a predominately hand tool user would  notice.   I am making a few assumptions here, but the construction of the box and the scene may give us a few details about this author.  He is creative, skilled and careful.  He can examine designs and reduce them to their simple ideals.  His plan however is clearly set up to be built with a tablesaw.  This is one of the clear signs of a predominately power tool user.  The flaws in this cabinet are not ones that a predominantly power tool user would normally notice or care about without them being pointed out.  I would probably pass on pointing this out except for one important detail.  This is a hand tool cabinet.  It is a very nice hand tool cabinet.  I think a review of it by a predominantly hand tool user is a very good idea.

It is a superb cabinet but it needs to be modified for use.  Having spent years trying to cram an entire set of tools in an ordered but tiny space, I am only beginning to learn that tight storage is superseded by  ease of access, removal and replacement.

Some empty space needs to exist in a tool box that will be used.   This is a lesson that I continue to ignore to the detriment of my own tool boxes.    There are many important qualities to a tool box, one of the most important qualities is to be able to take out and replace a tool easily.   In a tool rack close to your work, it is ideal that you can remain organized by easily put tools where they belong instead of laying them on your bench.

With a single central cabinet, you are forced to take a few tools to the work area at times, but since you will be grabbing more than one tool at a time it is even more important that you can take and replace  tools with ease and safety.

Examine the main photo of this cabinet.   With the tools intact, a lot of the tools are way out of reach.   This looks to me like a power tool using, hand tool collector has made a perfect display.  Inexpensive, pretty, and high enough to make a great visual impression.

Since a rechargeable drill and drill press will do almost all of a power tool users screw driving and drilling, those brace bits are best left way up on the left where they can never be reached.  I mean this, since I use a rechargeable drill and drill press regularly.  A brace and bit can do an amazing  job, but for me they remain a specialty tool.

Since the tool box uses table saw finger joints, the odds are good that the dovetail saws are predominantly ornamental.  The difficulty in getting them out, without standing on a stool, is not a problem in this case.  When I look at making this case, the first thing I want to do is convert it to dovetails.  In other words, the way the saws are stored here would not be acceptable to me.

The highly ornamental long chisels on the right are expensive and are not the first ones that I would grab.  Hopefully in this case they will never be used, and hopefully the owner will not tolerate someone putting finger prints on them. Otherwise the screwdrivers above them are set to fall one of the times the chisels are removed and will probably injure a foot or break on the floor.

This cabinet has truing and jack planes out of reach and specialty planes right at hand.  This works for a power tool user that needs hand tools for a few operations, but it would never do for a seriously dedicated hand tool user.

If you removed a few of the tools that are only going to be used once a year, and carefully store them in a tool chest, then you would have more than enough room to make this cabinet safe and convenient.

While I think this design needs a bit of modification, I still think this is the best all purpose, inexpensive, central,  hand tool cabinet design that I have seen to date.    All that and the plans are free!


4 comments to A Wonderful and Free Tool Cabinet Plan!

  • Mark Mann

    Hi Bob – I agree that this design, the double doors, is best for accessibility and to put back the tool. Since nothing is supporting the doors when open are’nt the hinges taking a lot of strain?
    What’s your thought?

  • Terry Pullen

    I agree with you that there are to many tools in to tight a space so maybe make it shorter and add a chest of drawers below to store less used or larger tools. We woodworkers have a fetish for tools so we like to see a bunch of them in one place but this amounts to Playboy centerfold, open it up and it’s more tool porn than tool storage.

  • Bob Strawn

    Stress is always important to keep in mind. Having a weight hang on a hinge unsupported is always an issue. If you are closing it when not in use I would guess that this would work fine. The hinges are piano hinges. Unless you find some light duty ones, they will probably do fine. If you have a lot of strain, a good solid piano hinge is a very good choice to handle it. It is a really good base design. If they are left open, I would figure out some way to put support under the doors when open. In general though, closed would probably be better in general to prevent rust and dust accumulation.


  • Jake Jakobsen

    Although I agree with some of your statements about which tools ought to be the easiest to access, the biggest problem I see, is the fact that he’s got the cabinet mounted too high on the wall. It’s 48 inches tall, overall. Based on the user’s height, the top of the cabinet should be low enough that he could reach something sitting on top of the cabinet. In the photo, it appears that the bottom of the cabinet is about 4 feet above the floor. That’s chest high on me. If the bottom was at about 3 feet, then you’d be able to reach everything without a step ladder.

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