Chests: A Place to Store Your Heart

I do not come from woodworking lineage. My dad wasn’t overly handy. While growing up, I recall most things either went unfixed or someone else was called to remedy the situation. My grandfather worked as a maintenance man and was pretty handy. Generally speaking though, grandpa was more cheapskate than craftsman but his heart was always in the right place. Nonetheless, sometime in the late 60s or early 70s they both set forth to cobble together a toy chest for my brother and sister (I was not born for another decade or so). Over the years, the chest held action figures, dolls, baseball cards, and eventually my brother’s stash. It moved from the bedroom to the basement sometime in the late 90s. There it took up residence as the hearth my nieces and nephews gathered around when they came over to play. There it sat until just before Thanksgiving.


Chest in my mom’s basement.


The old top and awesome baseball stickers from before my birth.

While visiting my mom recently, she asked if I could reconfigure the toy chest with a new lid and safer hardware. This way my two little girls could use it when they come to grandma’s house. I made my way into the basement and with one look became awash with childhood memories. As I took second and third glances, I was able to see the piece with a woodworker’s eyes. I noticed the construction techniques: less-than-perfect case miters, screws, wood putty, and heart. How did they cut these miters? Did they fill these screw holes with plugs? They did not have a table saw or a plug cutter? Did they? Next I started to think of ways to improve the design: dovetails, rabbets and cut nails, or maybe dominoes. I could paint the base and do breadboard ends or fancy inlay for the lid. Or I could just leave it be and put on a new top with safer hardware.

During my drive home the next day, the metaphor started taking shape. A chest is not simply a place to put your tools or your child’s toys. It’s a place to pour out your creativity and a place to store your love for this craft. It’ll outlast you and it could serve as a jumping off point for a future woodworker. Maybe it’ll house an anarchist’s tools, or grandma’s blankets, or maybe it’ll just be a place to set down a well-deserved drink. Regardless of the outcome, please take this as your call to arms: be the future of the craft.

Start your own lineage.


About Shawn Nichols

Heady. Phishy. Woodworker
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11 Responses to Chests: A Place to Store Your Heart

  1. degennarod1 says:

    I share your enthusiasm and questions. I just finished a chest, one of many I’ve made and I wonder where they’ll end up some day. I put 100% effort into every one. Nothing too fancy.


  2. billlattpa says:

    Funny, you’re childhood sounds pretty similar to mine when it comes to your father and grandfather. The sad part was/is that my dad could actually be a good woodworker if he put the time into it. Good luck with your woodworking.


  3. Marilyn says:

    I’m eager to see how this turns out.


    • Me too Marilyn. There might not be much in terms of updates on this for a few weeks since I really need to get to the dresser. That’s my #1 priority. I’m no Marilyn when it comes to banging out projects!


      • Marilyn says:

        Ha! Having a lot a time off at Christmas and being on my own allowed me to cheat and get a lot done. This is no competition woodworking, right? Just fun when you can get to it. 😀


      • Amen Marilyn. The downside to internet woodworking is that I have much more time to read and write about woodworking than I do to actually woodwork. It’s all good though, I take inspiration from the accomplishments of my woodworking homies. I think it all fuels the fire.


  4. Timely quote. I received the Anarchist’s Tool Chest for Christmas and just finished reading it.

    I like the idea of adding your own mark as opposed to just cleaning it up and adding hardware. Eventually, it could be passed down in the family for a future generation to make their own changes.


    • I’ll be putting my own mark on it indeed. Plus it’s a great opportunity for a few more firsts. I think this will be my first six board chest. I’m also thinking of using some reclaimed chestnut with breadboard ends (first time for both). And I’m also thinking milk paint (another first). Since it’s for my mom, it’ll be perfect no matter what I do. I can experiment with regard for perfection.


  5. Pingback: Progress in Many Areas | While The Glue Dries

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