Ever since I started carving; having a safe place to lay the chisels I’m using on a project has been a problem. If it’s a picture frame I can lay them on other legs of the frame to keep them “corralled”. If it’s a relief carving I resort to laying a piece of wood on the side of the bench and pray they don’t roll off or get that dreaded metal to metal contact. They end up getting scattered and I waste time looking for the one I happen to need at the time. I carve on a 24″ long bench which is clamped to my 48″ long carving area so that doesn’t leave much room to lay the chisels down. After doing an internet search for some solution to this problem I found a blog by Bob Easton, someone I’ve had many online conversations with but never met in person. Here’s a LINK to it. By the way, he refers to a bench that you clamp onto another bench as a BOB!
I have to admit that I had some difficulties following his blog and pictures. I couldn’t figure out why the bottom shelf that the chisels sit on was angled at 45° and the more I looked at the pictures the more I became confused!! Decided to go ahead and treat this as a good, hand tool project exercise and figure things out as I went. I didn’t use an auger bit as he did, instead a forstner bit did the job. Teaching middle school woodshop for all the years I of course followed his advice and only drilled through one side until the point of the bit came through. The board was then flipped over on the drill press to complete the hole. Made some interesting discs, I also used a divider to set off the spacing for their centers. You can see the tape on the bench used to set the right size. I have room for 13 chisels.
Only two measurements were given; 8″ for the side pieces and 17+” for the pieces between. What I did was count how many chisels I was using for the current project, checked to see how much material I had and decided that 13 was a good number — I used dividers to step off their centers much like you do for laying out dovetails. Bob cut a series of stopped dados for this project so I followed suit. Didn’t have enough material for a full shelf so that too received a stop dado. My angle is about 35°. This was a good exercise in hand chiseled dados and my Stanley 271 router plane insured all of the bottoms were the same. Trick holding the wood for these routers but here’s how it was done, bench hook works to hold this small piece.
With the bottom shelf on my version not going the full width and a at different angle things were different but in a good way! During a dry fit the shelf was inserted into the stopped dados and then marked on the ends. Those lines were extended the length of the shelf and this gave me an opportunity to hand plane a chamfer. If you’re a hand tool woodworker you understand when I say this was fun! I used to teach my junior high school students how to use a block plane to cut chamfers and rounds and this reminded me of those times.
I followed Bob’s directions and used glue and screws for assembly. The rack also hangs on the wall with a French cleat. A coat of Danish Oil will keep it looking good! By the way; now that it’s complete I understand the function of that angled, bottom shelf. Gravity brings the tool down and it gets “wedged” between the top and bottom holes. It works equally for narrow or wide chisels and access is easy. Like Mick Jagger said after singing Like a Rolling Stone on the Stripped album — Thank you Bob!