Thursday, November 1, 2012

Disobeying Christopher Schwarz: Changing the Saw Rack - VIDEO

Here is the problem I had with my tool chest:  Once I had the first till constructed, I noticed there was not much room to reach into the bottom compartment to get to tools stored there.  I have a screw arm fillister plane that would not go in without removing the till. 

Not ideal.

My moulding planes would not drop straight in or lift straight out.  To get them in or out, I had to first lay them sideways so I could twist them around a bit.  Not too big a deal while I still only have a few moulders, but I plan on making more.  If my chest has a full compliment, I will not be able to get them in or out without removing the bottom till.

Definitely not ideal.

The moulding plane problem I could live with for a while.  Although the first problem I mentioned really is a pain.  I either have to get the plane in the chest and probably never bother to take it out again when I need it, or, keep the screw arm fillister out of the chest perhaps to get dirty, damaged, or lost when I need it.

After all, the rule is, if it doesn't fit in the chest, then you don't need it.  Right?  I think that means I must figure out how to get this gorgeous tool in the chest.

What did Chris do with his chest?  Honestly, I don't know.  My saw till is exactly 4 5/8" from the front of the chest to the side of the divider.  The Till is exactly 9" deep.  Both dimensions are right out of "The Anarchist's Tool Chest" book.

Perhaps my chest is overall not as deep, or perhaps it is because the stock for my dividers is too wide.  Honestly, I only need another 1/2" for my moulding planes to go in and out easily.

My first reaction was to adjust the till.  It looks great now, and will hold a lot.  But, if it was only 8 1/2" deep, the moulders would fit perfect.  I used hide glue, so technically I can take the till apart, saw off one set of tails, recut them and glue the till back together.

But, then I started to look at the saw rack.  There is plenty of room between the saws.  I could cut a new saw rack, with slots closer together.  If the divider in front was closer to the front wall, the bottom till would have more room to travel, opening more space for the moulders to go in and out.  This would have the benefit of holding the same number of saws, leaving that nice big tray, and give me more real estate in the bottom compartment for more planes and stuff down there.

I'll go with option 'B.'

I could have just made it 1/2" narrower, but I decided to see how narrow I could make the saw till while still allowing it to hold four saws.  The new saw rack wound up at 2 11/16" wide.  The divider now gets to move almost two inches closer toward the front wall.

I decided the saws didn't need so much space under them in the chest, so I lowered the rack a few inches.  I thought this might give me more room for a chisel rack someday.  Instead of 12" tall, the new is only 9", and the kerfs go down to only one inch above the bottom of the chest.

For some reason, I took only two photos of the process, and this is the only surviving pic.  The rest is video.

I first planed the stock nice and square(ish), and sized it to the 2 11/16" wide.  I left it in one piece, just over 18" long.

With my #24 brace bit, I drilled a hole directly in the center, cut it in half and cut the kerfs with my rip saw.

You can see the results in the video.  It first shows the saws loaded in the original configuration, along with the restricted till movement.  The middle clip shows the new saw rack installed, and the gained room in the chest.  Lastly, you get to see me removing and re-inserting all the saws in the rack. 

My appologies for the quality of the video editing.  I am trying out a new open source video editing program called Kino, and haven't quite got the knack of it yet.  It seems to be missing a few functions that I'm used to.  Or, perhaps I just haven't figured it out yet.  Anyone know of a different video editor that works well in Linux?

Overall, I am happy with the upgrade.  The saws are not quite as easy to get in and out, but the advantage in access to the lower compartments more than makes up for it in my opinion.

I'll have to use it for a while to give you my full opinion. 

If I don't like it, I can always change it again.


  1. I guess that you'll be happy that you made the extra space. Think about when you are going to fill in all those hollows and rounds.
    But disobeying the Schwarz.. That road can't possibly lead to somewhere good.
    I am looking forward to seing the video, once I get somewhere near a fast Internet.

    1. The video isn't too terribly interesting, you aren't missing much. It does, however, show that just an inch or two more travel for the till makes a big difference.

      I hope everyone gets the joke within the title. No offense to "the Schwarz," as you refer, just tying in his book with the fact that I am personalizing my work by moving away from his published measurements.

  2. Weird. I just asked this question about 10 minutes ago on a blog at LumberJocks. I'm getting ready to build mine and I was thinking it might be easier to see the contents of the tills if the bottom one could come right to the front of the chest. This made my mind up

    1. Hi Paul,

      I'm glad the timing of this post was helpful to you. I wrote it a few days ago, but wasn't able to post it until I got back to civilization and a wifi connection.

      Here is something you may want to think about before doing what I did: One disadvantage of this saw rack configuration is that it may prevent me from mounting any tools on the front wall of the chest, like a chisel rack. I'll have to see. There seems to be more room above the saws to mount one, but I am afraid it could prevent the saws from being inserted or removed. I'll have to try it. I think 1/2" more distance between the first saw and the wall of the chest would be enough. If I choose to do this, I might have to modify the chest again. The good news is there is plenty of room to play around.

    2. On his travel chest, The Schwarz has mounted a couple of panel saws on the lid. I think one reason was to make room for a tool rack.

    3. I'm considering putting my backsaws there.

  3. Have you given any thought to making a "till" for the screw arm so that it stows vertically? You wouldn't need as much horizontal real estate that way.

    1. That screw-arm filletster just takes up a bunch of room no matter what due to the screw arms (imagine that). Once I get the rest of the sliding tills done, I'll organize things and make sure everything is where I want it. Good idea with the till, I was considering making a box for it.

  4. I love the music! Didn't know you were so organized, Brian! Good job. Beautiful wood. I think I'm learning some new stuff!


  5. Thanks, Mom.

    BTW, I really enjoyed your most recent prayer blog:

  6. I know I'm pretty late to the party here, but I wanted to say that I had an email exchange with Chris Schwarz about issues similar to this and discovered that there was a misprint in the book. Chris' tills are 8" not 9". That inch may not seem like a big deal, but it also made me change some things about my chest after the fact that I may not have changed if the tills were smaller.

    1. Now this makes sense. I could totally live with tills an inch less deep. But, now that they are there...

      What solution did you come up with?