Fair Woodworking

June 4, 2016

Thinking outside the box, and inside the chest

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog,I Think I'm Funny — fairwoodworking @ 2:01 pm

This blog is a broken record.

But let’s back up a bit.

One of my favorite things in the world is to make fun of my friends and family, people I like and also enemies or those I simply don’t really like. Did I miss anyone? Essentially, I’m happy to play the jerk if it entertains me. And so, for opportunists like me, the entertainment of mocking the topic of Anarchy is an absolute riot. (See what I did there?)

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen some of these glimmers of comedic brilliance.


  • It must suck to be an anarchist with OCD.

“Oh no! The flames are too high on the right side of the car!”

Nice! Or how about;

  • If your throwing arm feels off balance without a lighter in your off hand… (Jeff Foxworthy voice)

You might be an Anarchist.

Ha, ha, ha. I know, I know,


Now available!

  • The Aesthetic Anarchists Emergency Kit.

Some assembly required.


Ya, you’re right, the last one is revolting…


*Jazz Hands*…..

Seriously though, I’m torn with this Anarchy thing. I should point out that most of what I’ve written on the topic is horribly inaccurate, and should not be taken seriously. I agree with Chris’ views in the Anarchist Tool Chest but at the same time I’ve seen what some other modern Anarchist (the non pitch fork/Molotov type Anarchists) believe, and I’d honestly rather associate with Vegans.

But this is besides the point. As nutty as I think Anarchy is, many would say the same about my non-belief in Human Rights vs. what I’d prefer as Human Respect.

Note to self. Never again attempt to dispute this with 140 Characters on Twitter… (or in the comments below) thank you very much.

Back to the broken record…

Where today’s imaginary Love affair with Christopher Schwarz continues, is on the topic of the benefits of the self-limiting, yet fully functional tool chest.

But not so much the tool chest.

Today, I’m talking about the self-limiting and functional workshop, and I think I can speak to life in a self-limiting workshop.

In the book, and I’m ultra loosely paraphrasing cause I couldn’t find it, and now that I think of it, it may have been in a blog post or video or fantasy conversation , “if a tool doesn’t fit in the chest, perhaps you don’t need it”. This talk of need to have and nice to have? It was a foreign concept when I first read it in 2011 and I’ve been resisting it for some 5 years now.

Also, I don’t know if it’s an Anarchy thing, or just an English Tool Chest thing, but the idea of accessibility is huge.

It really is something how one chest can hold so many tools, and yet everything is accessible by moving only one other thing. There is video of this I’m sure, if you haven’t seen it, go find it… somewhere.

So what happens if you adapt these two ideas to a workshop?

Talk about workshop layout normally focuses around the idea of a work triangle, but in a workshop under 150 square feet, I’m not sure I could fit a triangle and still be able to move.

Some shop owners say their table saw is the center of their shop, others the workbench. In a small shop it’s not the tool or the bench, but the task that is the center, and everything else in the shop must move to accommodate it.

The problem is that moving stuff wastes time, and while I may never incorporate the “Anarchists” English Tool Chest into my shop, now that I see its advantages, I’d be a fool not to imitate it in my shop design. In a shop where you really can’t work at the bench when the bandsaw is in place, you can’t use the bandsaw when the thickness planer is set up, and it’s tricky to get in and out of the shop when either is not in storage, how do you transition from one to the other without wasting a day in set up?

Well for starters, you simply have to accept that you can’t own every industrial sized tool known to man, but really I think we all have to do that.

The second?

Like the ATC or English Chest, as many tools as possible need to be able to rearrange without the world coming to an end. In the chest, the tills all slide front to back, and the tools in each till are loose and can easily be re organized from till to till to accommodate the current task. Be it layout or joinery or whatever, the necessary tools can be close at hand and the others safely tucked away nearby. So how do you make the layout of your shop be as adaptable as the chest and still be functional?



Dude! I think I just reinvented the wheel!

Ya, I know that casters have been in workshops forever. In fact, I’m pretty sure that is what they were invented for, but what if you really took casters seriously?

100% buy-in on the idea?

What if everything in a shop that was touching the ground, that isn’t a woodworker or a workbench was on casters?

Still not impressed huh?

Ya well, my shop is going to be a lot bigger once I can roll ALL of it out of the way, or even out the door and into the hallway.

That would give me the space to move my bench into the center of the room when I want, and still have room to work. It also means that I could fit more tools in the shop if I want, and also have a second work bench where this ugly pile of Rubbermaid and clutter now lives.


Now that I think of it, with two benches, I’d be that much closer to an honest to goodness work triangle.

Well I can dream…




  1. This is an excellent distilation and extension of the ATC principles. reduce the tools you don’t actually need (especially the duplicates), and make everything easily accissible.

    I am slowly working on similar implementation in my shop. The thing that really kills me is lumber storage. I’ve always told myself I don’t have any to store, but constantly am moving materials around, wasting time and often inspiring extra lethargy just because I don’t want to move “X” to get to “Y” Sheet goods are especially problematic, and while I don’t use them that much, I tend to always have “some” in the shop that I don’t use often but have too much leftover to pitch and no real place to put them. to that end, I’m looking at something like:
    (though I have an idea to improve by incorprating a “panel saw” cutting jig on the shop side to aid sheet good breakdown)

    On the topic of casters, I suggest a couple of ideas:
    –One is from Norm@~2:35
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eriCGNJCCf8 @2:35
    –Another good option (though more involved, is the way the casters are actuated in this guys shop, if you haven’t seen them:

    Comment by Jeremy — June 6, 2016 @ 9:12 am

    • Does 9 smoothers count as duplicates…? I’m a bit of a minimalist with a hording disorder.

      Wood storage is a problem I don’t believe any self respecting woodworker will ever truly master. I can relate, between wood supplies, project parts, and precious cutoffs, wood can cripple my small shop pretty quickly. Marc’s rack looks pretty sweet (phrasing), but it would never fit (oops, Phrasing!) I have a small metal rack in my shop (pics on Instagram) and the rest I keep in my garage to my wife’s dismay.

      Norm’s caster idea is pretty slick, but way overkill for a shop as small as mine. I only have to move my bench 2′ from the wall it is against to be in the center of the room.

      If you have ever played the game Rush Hour, that is pretty much what casters allow me to do in my shop, and really to cut sheet goods I’d have to roll my T/S into the den when the wife isn’t home, and pray my dust collection doesn’t fail.

      Really, it’s all just the trick of realistically assessing what your shop can accommodate, and following through with a good plan.

      Look forward to seeing what you come up with!

      Comment by fairwoodworking — June 6, 2016 @ 10:40 am

  2. Unfortunately there are so many “I need to do that first” projects: I have a slab workbench 75% complete. Maloof Bar stools, overflow stools, phase II of the epic kitchen project… that lumber & sheet good storage tends to fall to the bottom into “nice to have someday” even though I know it would be quick to build and greatly improve my shop flow. Also I think I’m going to try to do the “June” chair build that Toolerable is leading, just to get my wworking mojo back, though ideally I should have a shave horse to make those chair/stools…

    Comment by Jeremy — June 6, 2016 @ 11:30 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: