I revamped my entire garage/shop in order to make room for a large, free standing hand tool cabinet, now in the planning stage. My internal debate on construction materials is ongoing, but the design is now pretty much decided. I had looked at hundreds of examples, being very impressed by Andy Rae's tour de force cabinet in The Toolbox Book by Jim Tolpin (Taunton Press.) But my heart kept going back to a wonderful piece of furniture made by Megan Fitzpatrick for Popular Woodworking's February issue in 2009:
(Sketch Up model by Bruce Beatty, PW website)
This is a Shaker-style, step-back cupboard over seven feet tall, and forty-four inches wide. The upper unit is 12" deep, and the lower cupboard is 16" deep; plenty of room for a wide assortment of tools, if I just reconfigure the inside shelving. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? I've almost decided on cherry ply for the panels and cherry boards for the casework, but that's not a final decision. American Cherry is extremely expensive here in Eastern WA. I could also go with walnut. I'm undecided on this option, because I tend to use free space by hanging things on outside surfaces of my storage units, and defacing a fine piece of furniture like this would seem like a sacrilege. If it was nice plywood, I'd not feel so bad about it.
In deciding the interior structure, I had to list what I intend to store, and how to allow for extra room for new purchases. I'm short on good hand saws, so some kind of saw till will be included. I own lots of useful marking and measuring tools, so the doors must display storage, whether that be deep, box-like doors or frame and panel with fitted hooks and holders, I don't yet know. And I have a large bow saw to hang, with another smaller scrolling bow saw, and a long panel gauge. And a big 'Commander mallet.'
A main consideration is having the upper doors high enough off the floor to swing clear of my workbench, which is currently 35" high. If and when I build a nicer one, it will have to be at least 36" high, as I am six feet tall and everything in my shop feels sized for midgets some days. The Shaker Cupboard has a base cabinet at 34", so raising it a little won't alter the proportions too much to look bad. It is crucial the upper doors swing free of the bench, so I've no choice there. The 44" width puts it squarely over the end of the bench, and I'm going to have to be careful to place the cabinet so the lower doors can swing open to at least 90º without hitting the bench or the newly-added garage storage shelf I've found so useful. Space constraints.
I set to work designing the interior of the base cabinet, changing the feet to some form of club foot for strength, and adding cubbies for smaller hand-held power tools like a trim router, an angled screw driver used for sanding pads, and a random orbit sander. The saber saw proved bigger than I'd thought, with the blade sticking out ready to use, so I had to make one space larger than the others. Then I added in a shelf. Organizing the upper cabinet is going to be an exercise in tool layout, putting cardboard down on a table and actually tracing around tools to see how packed I can get everything in. That's an exercise for later, but as I thought about it, considering an angled, lift-up shelf for planes, etc., it occurred to me I was packing the upper space and leaving no room in this cabinet for one thing I really wanted: a nice presentation box for my growing collection of wood samples. This photo is an old one; I am now up to fifty 3x6" sample pieces of different species of wood:
With that realization, the interior space is radically changed. This was my 'light bulb' moment.
When I make the box, it will sit front and center upon opening the top doors. So. That means a bank of small drawers on each side of it, filling out the 40" interior space, with tools arranged above them.
Somehow, I keep cutting into the upper storage space for these large hand tools, but I'll just have to do the best I can. There are priorities, after all, and an artsy burl box of wood samples is just too good an idea to pass up.
So here is my initial design for the overall cabinet, drawn out on my 'Bucket Boss' graph paper, which is old as the hills, I think. Feel free to let me know what you think of it, and to make any suggestions before I truly get started. The base cabinet, of course, is first. Wood selection has me stymied right now, but I just have to make a decision and go with it, I think. The upper unit will probably take me all winter, as it is much more complicated than the base. The height will be changed by adding crown molding as Megan did on the Shaker cupboard, but that depends on whether elves come in and lower the height of my garage rafters when it's all done. We'll see.