For years, I made do with an inherited set of mismatched and battered chisels that had seen better days. They were stored loosely in a tool chest, where their cutting edges were dulled through frequent contact with drawer sides. Moreover, that heavy tool chest had to be hauled out from beneath a workbench whenever I needed to access its contents.
Needless to say, those chisels were not pressed into service very often. When I needed to do some trimming, I tended to reach for a utility knife. Last year, after I upgraded my chisel collection, I resolved to devise a better way of storing them, so they’d be well protected and easily accessed.
The design criteria were straightforward:
I needed a compact storage cabinet that would enclose the chisels to protect their cutting edges while warding off dust and other workshop debris.
The tools had to be easy to remove and replace without posing a threat to my fingers.
The storage unit had to be within easy reach of my workbench.
Considering space and layout factors, I opted for a shallow cabinet that would hold the chisels in a vertical position and that would occupy a corner at the end of my workbench without intruding excessively upon the work surface.
A plastic window enables an instant inventory to ensure that no chisels have been left lying about where they could snag a wayward hand.
One design issue that I puzzled over was how to store the chisels in a vertical position. Initially, I envisaged a rack arrangement for suspending them with their handles upward. This approach did not appeal to me because I was concerned about the possibility of dropping a chisel during retrieval or replacement, which would send it plunging downward onto its sharp end.
One day while examining the chisel display in my local Lee Valley showroom, I came upon the solution: instead of suspending the chisels with their handles up, why not just park their butts in a row of blind holes in the cabinet base? One-third of the way up the cabinet, add a crossbar with semi-circular notches to align the chisels vertically so they stay clear of each other. Two-thirds of the way up, add another crossbar fitted with a row of rare-earth magnets to secure each chisel in its proper position.
Each chisel is held securely in place by three elements: a blind hole in the base, a semi-circular notch that engages the ferrule and a rare-earth magnet that holds the blade in its correct position. The spacing between blades makes it easy to grasp any chisel without risking a cut finger.
The cabinet that now houses my chisel collection features an oak frame, a white hardboard back panel and a downward-opening front with a Plexiglas window. The unit keeps my tools within arm’s reach, permits me to retrieve any chisel without exposing my fingers to sharp edges and promotes frequent use of the implements. With the proper tools at hand, I no longer need to be a jackknife carpenter.
The front opens downward, hinging on a pair of screws that are driven in from the sides. It need not be fully open to allow ready access to the cabinet’s contents. A magnetic catch holds the front securely in place when closed.