Beautiful 1800s toolchest: the Studley


42 Responses to “Beautiful 1800s toolchest: the Studley”

  1. Ernunnos says:

    And there are still people doing this kind of thing today.

    I’ve heard that tool chests were traditionally a ‘final exam’ project for apprentice cabinetmakers. Served as a useful tool in and of itself as they continued with their career, and an advertisement of their skills.

    This is the unicorn chaser for a certain decorating trend involving brass spraypaint, copper plumbing bits, and old gears.

  2. adonai says:

    Bloody Stupid Johnson would’ve been able to do something with that….except maybe make another organ…

  3. bijouliving says:

    I can smell it! Stunning work. I wonder what the inlay is?

  4. Cunning says:

    Oh sure, a masterpiece of staggering efficiency until the introduction of the Wind Master Deluxe Pipe Organ in 1808 whose maintenance requires the newly developed 13″ shoulder plane which doesn’t…quite…fit…

  5. TharkLord says:

    The fascinating thing about this is the mindset it represents. To make this you would need to be able to carry in your mind the shape and size of every tool you need. Its relation to other tools. The frequency of use for easy access. How they might all fit together. What adding a tool would require…

    The term “Master Craftsman” had a specific meaning at one time. The kind of person who could carry the plan and process for building a cathedral inside of their head.

    Are there any human brains out there today that work that way?

  6. Thud says:

    @bijouliving–given his vocation, ebony and ivory.

    @freshyill–don’t bother. According to the BBG article from yesterday, it was sold to a private collector…

  7. vert says:

    I do block printing, and have recently been thinking about creative ways to store my tools. This has given me a whole new direction to go with.

    Freakin’ awesome.

    • Antinous says:

      I have my great-grandfather’s toolchest, minus the tools. It’s a medieval looking chest made of huge slabs of ash. Right now it’s storing a zebra pelt and an ocelot-skin loincloth, but that’s another story.

  8. Cowicide says:

    Complete with compass and ruler.

  9. minTphresh says:

    paul laffoley?

  10. ricket says:

    It sure doesn’t look light.

  11. jaemsdotorg says:

    That is an incredible find. I can only imagine what SteamPunks would pay to get their hand on this beauty.

  12. zeroy says:

    Too bad he couldn’t store his ears in there too.

    I used to love to climb back behind the huge pipes that hid the smaller pipes belonging to the serious organ installed in the chapel at the horrible prep school that was inflicted upon me. Humans tend to forget the bad parts, but that organ will stay with me forever.

  13. Furnitude says:

    Thanks, Boing Boing, for reminding me of this incredible toolchest. I’m linking to it at my blog, Furnitude (

    BK, thanks for your references to the Fine Woodworking stuff.

  14. FoetusNail says:

    First of all, just to have those tools, but in that box, stunning! Protects everything and makes it easy to keep track of your stuff. Like the way he worked in the compass and square too.

  15. Pantograph says:

    Stylish 19th century high tech posted on BB and the word rhyming with dreamfunk hasn’t been mentioned yet.

    I am shocked and outraged.

  16. George Curious says:

    This was featured on an episode of the PBS series New Yankee Workshop about 4 years ago.

  17. Piers W says:

    It also takes a bow on this site:

    Which has a couple more nice items.

  18. Uncle_Max says:


    This is gorgeous, I especially like the top right corner square, since I’m a fan of symmetry.

  19. Beanolini says:

    Not sure why we need to link to an auto-translation of a Portuguese page cobbled together from other people’s work; there are some better photos at the Smithsonian, and more informative text from ‘Fine Woodworking‘.

    Our local Organ tuners have rather more prosaic metal toolboxes.


    Careful now, I think this is what you’re thinking of.

  20. Marooned says:

    Wow! That is amazing. What beauty within complexity.

  21. freshyill says:

    The Museum of American History just reopened less than two weeks ago after a lengthy renovation. I’ll look for this when I get around to visiting.

    Man, I really hope they didn’t do what they did to the Natural History Museum.

  22. alphabitch says:

    I saw this a few years ago at the Smithsonian’s Piano 300 show. I was on my knees in front of the toolbox for quite some time until my friends, piano technicians all, dragged me away. It’s truly stunning in person.

  23. Parkingtigers says:

    Oh dear lord …

    I was just idly scrolling down the homepage and that photo just made me catch my breath. Amazingly beautiful bit of kit, it must have taken ages to figure out such an efficient and beautiful layout of all those tools.

    Sigh. I want one.

  24. frankieboy says:

    Beautiful. You know the job is going to be done right by whoever owns these tools. Must be heavy as hell! Also seems to have a nautical air about it, with cramming a lot in a small space, and “everything in it’s place”. I wouldn’t be surprised as you moved and shifted it around, you don’t hear much rattling around in there.

  25. Frank W says:

    Consolation at last for the hurt of that gollyawful mutilated sewing machine of a few days back.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Those tools look like the best you can get today. Only the brace looks a bit out of date – anyone still use a brace and bit?

    The 19th century was a good time for hand tools!

  27. zish says:

    Apparently he wasn’t just a mason, but he was a Mason too.

  28. Robert says:

    The stuff on the upper right appears to be a vampire-staking kit.

  29. sammich says:

    I’m still drooling from seeing it on bbgadgets yesterday =)

  30. ill lich says:

    Reminds me of that Captain Beefheart quote about how he opened up a broken blender when he was a little kid, “and saw the universe in there.”

  31. BK says:

    The box has recently been lightly restored. The images above are actually a before/after set. Look at the triangle shaped inlay near the bottom on the right side. There are several other subtle differences. Here’s an article that points out them out:

    Fine Woodworking also has a desktop image available for download and sells a gorgeous poster of the tool chest:

    Finally here’s a slightly more attainable/usable version inspired by the original:

  32. shanealeslie says:

    I just had a toolgasm.

  33. freeyourcrt says:

    One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen all year, Thanks.

  34. schr0559 says:

    Studley Toolchest would make an awesome porn name.

    “I’m here to fix your organ…”

  35. Connie H. says:

    Now THAT is beautiful, elegant, and functional design.

  36. diluded000 says:

    I’ve been drooling over this chest since I saw it in a magazine years ago. And #12, I think some traditional chair makers use a bit-and-brace with a spoon bit for drilling an angled hole in the chair seat to attach the chair back.

    If you like the sort of tool in this case, they sell a really good collection at:

  37. nanuq says:

    Just out of curiosity, what are the odds of successfully getting all the tools back in the right order once you’ve taken them out to use?

  38. Takuan says:

    what is the archetype?

  39. flosofl says:


    My dad makes cabinetry and furniture (along with being a consultant on FDA trial protocols) and is a serious collector (and user) of antique tools. He probably spends 20 weekends or so a year trawling farm auctions in the SE US.

    I just sent him the link, and he wrote back a one-word email: “WANT!”

  40. carriem says:


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