The Vagabond's Tool Box

Here is my current travel tool box;

Open Tool Box

I love the thing, Woodworking ONLINE even did a write up on it. Sadly it does not do quite what I want it to do.

It holds, protects and organizes tools. It is easy enough to carry and open, and it is rugged. Here is my son, Nathaniel, carrying it;

Tool Box carried

Best yet everything in it, except the folding ruler, I made myself. The Yankee Style Screwdriver barely counts since I just put another handle on it, but I will take my victories where I can get them. 😉

Tools in Box

The problems with the tool box are not obvious, unless you use it. With a few canvas tool rolls filled with files, the stuff does not rattle and wear, so the obvious issue really isn’t such an issue. The real problem it that it is not a convenient tool rack. It takes up a large section of table or floor space when open, and you have to reach quite a bit to get at some of the tools. This is not as good a design as it could be.

If I split up the three folding sections, putting one on one side and the other two on the other then it would almost balance on one end. This would reduce the foot print to something reasonable, make the tools more visible and make the tools easier to reach. Also every tool need to be held in place and able to sit on end. Even the big ones in the center body.

I may have to put a foot on the double flap side to make it stable standing, but that can be incorporated into the tool holding and be made to add grace to the entire structure. Well made fittings look cool.

So here is the difficult part, deciding what tools belong.

My current quest is to design the ideal vagabonds tool box and set.

I think the set of tools in the box is important, since it defines the size and shape needed. So this is every bit as much about the set of tools as it is the box. So here is the concept, If you were going to travel, by foot, bicycle, boat, train, plane and automobile, and you were going to be ready to do quality but perhaps basic woodworking, what set of tools and what sort of enclosure would you use? I am thinking of the minimum quality set for missionary work. The show off and use set for taking to a week long woodworking class or gathering of woodworkers, The tool set for carrying as a migrant woodworker, or for doing a touch of woodwork while you sail. The vagabond’s tool set should be a minimalist set that allows productive work. Imagine that you are having to refugee or you have gotten old and your children are checking you into an assisted living home. What tools must you have to do decent woodwork? The band saw, table saw, circular saw, are all out. What tools do you want with you when they strand you on an Island?

This time I am departing a bit from my almost entirely self built tool set, but I and envisioning being able to make some improvised tools as I need them. I want a set that will allow me to make a decent set of tools.

Here is my list:

Royoba, RazorSaw 650

Royoba, RazorSaw 651

Chisel, 1/16″

Chisel, 1/8″

Chisel, 3/16″

Chisel, 1/4″

Chisel, 3/8″

Chisel, 1/2″

Chisel, 3/4″

Chisel, 1″

Chisel, 1.5″

Chisel, 2″

Chisel, Swan, 1/4″

Chisel, Mortise, 1/4″

Chisel, cranked neck, 1/4″

Skew Chisel pair

Chip Cutting Knives set of 3

Scrapper Set

Burnishing tool

Low angle block plane

Jack Plane

Smoothing Plane

Rabbet Plane

Small Router Plane with fence, and square side for referencing to a guide

Adjustable square

bevel gauge

2 marking knifes

marking gauge

2 rulers/winding sticks

Yankee Style screwdriver/drill

Folding rule

Tape measure

Sharpening Kit







Screwdriver with quick release hex bits

Mini Archimedean drill

Brace and Bits

2 clamps

Ball of stout string

Wax/Oil and a rag or two for preserving tools.

After I lay all this out, I may find it is to heavy to carry comfortably. Remember, I want to be able to take this on a bicycle. The smaller a functioning set can be, the lighter and cleaner. So I want every tool I will need, but no more.
One of the real goals to this exercise is to define what a good starter kit is.

Here are a few examples of other folks tool sets,

Ulima would add a jointer plane, scrub plane, file, rasp sanding block and a few other things. Their list looks great, but traveling on foot with it seems a bit much.

Ryohei put together a nice Japanese starter set, and would keep it simpler than my original list.

Chris Black at Highland Woodworking has several wonderful sets with great data and descriptions, but they look hard enough to carry up stairs, let alone travel with.

Yeung Chan’s tool case can be seen if you go to his gallery and select the first picture. This is the tool set that really started my desire to make tools. I saw his tool set as useful art.

A tool set can be a medium of expression that is itself a work of art.


2 comments to The Vagabond's Tool Box

  • Very cool, i might try to make a similar toolbox eventually. I am trying to get some older hand tools, becuase i like the “older” way. I don’t use power tools. I would love to here what tools you reccomend, or even if you will tell me how to make them. Please contact me, thanks.

  • Marg Durnin

    I’ve been looking at this and your peg-board design. Wouldn’t this one work quite well if all but one of the sides were NOT attached at the base (but were rabbeted into it) and then have flexible ‘hinges’ of leather so you could fully open the kit and reverse it, while it’s standing on end? Maybe each slat would need a little ‘foot’ part that lets the whole thing sit upright.

    It’s quite lovely, moreso than the blue bucket. Although at our house we also use buckets – one for plumbing tools, one for wood/fencing projects, one for gardening.

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