Hand-Tool Armory

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This article is from Issue 59 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Safe storage for all your chisels, files, and rasps

Finding a safe storage spot for chisels, files, and rasps while simultaneously keeping them close at hand can be challenging. A workbench’s tool tray offers a convenient short-term storage solution, but over-filling this trough inevitably leads to accidental run-ins with a project part, another tool, or a misplaced hand. Boxes and rolls can better manage a sizeable collection, but both eat up valuable bench space when open and put tools out of reach when closed.

To conserve bench space (and reduce my need for Band-Aids), I devised a simple wall-hung rack that keeps all of my most-used tools within arm’s reach. The slotted shelves keep the tools from steel-on-steel contact and direct sharp edges away from meaty encounters. Best of all, racks are stone-simple to build. You can make one or more in just a few hours, perhaps using some pieces scavenged from your scrap bin.

I’ve found that 13⁄16"-diameter holes work with 99.99% of the handled tools in my sizeable collection, but you may want to drill a test hole to make certain your tools aren’t part of that .01%. As for spacing, I’ve found that locating the holes 13⁄4" on center offers just enough clearance to grab a tool without knocking it against its neighbor.

Custom Fitting Notes

The basic rack is designed to hold eight tools, but you can easily adapt it to house a larger collection by widening the unit or by lengthening the sides and adding a second shelf. To make the two-shelf rack shown at left, adjust the length of the sides to 30" and the length of the shelves to 38". (I added a 13⁄4"-deep support shelf under the socket chisels as insurance, should the handles loosen.)

Make the parts

1 From 8/4 (2"-thick) stock, cut the sides to size. Referring to the Side Profile above right, make a full-sized pattern, trace the pattern on both ends of each side, and then bandsaw just outside of your lines.

2 Clamp the two sides in a bench vise, and finish shaping the profiled ends. I prefer to work up to the lines using a rasp (Photo A), and then switch to files and sandpaper to remove the tool marks. Once the sides are shaped and finish-sanded, use a hand plane to remove any tool marks on the fronts and sides, and then set both pieces aside.

3 Cut the shelf to size. Referring to the Shelf Slot Detail, right, lay out the centerpoints for the shelf holes, and then use a square to draw a line from each centerpoint to the shelf’s front edge.

4 Using a drill press equipped with a 13⁄16" Forstner bit, drill holes through the shelf. Place a piece of wood under the shelf to prevent tear-out on its bottom face.

5 Using a square, draw a line from the outside edge of each hole to the shelf’s front edge, where shown.

6 Attach an auxiliary fence to your miter gauge, adjust the height of your saw blade to 3⁄4", and cut a kerf in the fence. Draw two lines on the fence to indicate the location of the kerf. Now, align the lines on the shelf and fence, and notch the shelf, as shown in Photo B.

7 Smooth the sides’ flat faces with a plane. (If you’re so inclined, now’s a good time to apply a finish. A coat or two of either an oil/varnish blend or shellac, followed up with a light coat of wax, will suffice.)

Seasonal changes in humidity can cause a socket chisel to pop free of its handle. To reattach the two, mist the tapered end with hairspray, insert it into the metal socket, and then tap the handle’s butt end against your bench.

Shaping both pieces at once saves time and ensures symmetrical sides. Use long continuous strokes, and let the rasp do the work.

Align the pencil lines on the shelf with the kerf lines on the auxiliary fence to ensure neat, accurate notches. Keep fingers outside of the area marked with blue tape.

Employ a pair of shelf-length spacers to keep the sides from tilting as you drill the holes and assemble the rack.

Assemble and install the rack

1 From scrap material, cut two 12"-long spacers. Sandwich the shelf and spacers between the sides, and clamp the assembly together.

2 Place one end of the clamped assembly near the end of your bench, and lay out the screw holes on the sides. Using a 3⁄8" brad-point bit, drill a 1⁄2"-deep counterbore at each screw location (Photo C). Switch to a 1⁄8" bit, and drill pilot holes through the sides and into the ends the shelf. Screw the sides to the shelves and plug the holes.

3 Drill countersunk holes in the front faces of the sides where shown, and then attach the rack to the wall with 2"-long screws. (You can conceal the screws with mushroom-top plugs, but don’t glue them in. You may need to pop them out if you decide to move the rack.)  

About Our Designer/Builder

Rodney Milen lives in Ocoee, Tennessee, with his wife and their two children. Besides building custom furniture, he teaches one-on-one woodworking classes. For more info about Rodney’s work or school, go to www.grasonwoodworks.com.


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