Smitty was a cranky old journeyman machinist with more than a few quirks. A lot of guys who worked piecework could be particular about their tools. Smitty tilted over into obsessive, even a little paranoid. He mounted extra locks on his toolbox and got really fired up if someone borrowed a tool for a moment or set their coffee cup down on his bench. His paranoia was viewed by the young apprentices as a temptation. Knowing we had the power to set him off was a juicy morsel, some Turkish delight, impossible to resist. You couldn’t be brazen though or you’d have Smitty and the boss after you. Mike stepped forward to take on the challenge. He ran the same milling machine as Smitty but on the night shift. The workbench had a few communal tools, some wrenches and hammers that everyone shared. Twice a week like clockwork, Mike would take the mill’s brass hammer and gently sand off 1/16” of an inch off the bottom of the ash handle. He carefully blended a small chamfer around the end of the handle and rubbed some dirty oil on his work to add a little patina. Months rolled by and Smitty was the only one in the shop unaware of the slowly unfolding prank. He’d pick up the shrinking tool and look at it and tilt his head like a puppy that just heard a new sound. It took several months but finally the handle shrunk to half its length and the light came on for the old guy. It was one of the few times I got to see someone get a new nickname. From that day forward he went by the name “Stubby”.
I made up this tool rack that hangs on the wall just opposite my workbench. I built this several years ago and had multiple goals in mind. I avoided drawers as I like to be able to pivot around and without thinking reach a tool. Also, easy to reach it makes them easy to put back. Instead of constantly accumulating piles of tools on the bench that always seem to find a way to hide out of sight; I stick them back in their place. I organized storage so that the tools I use most frequently are approximately in the “strike zone” to use a baseball term. Back saws and bench planes are right at my finger tips. When I built this I imposed a few limitations on myself just to stretch my design skills. I didn’t use a tape measure or ruler, just dividers and a square. It’s approximately 5 feet high by 3 feet wide. It’s made from 1X12 #2 white pine so it’s just over 11” deep. The bottom section is 2/5 of the entire height. I plan on building another rack beside it but may opt to mount some drawers in that. Small tools like chisels, files, and rasps seem to be multiplying like rabbits and I need a solution for storing them. I included a shot of my workbench. It’s a European style with a shoulder vise. I built it about ten years ago with an assortment of wood I’d been hoarding. The base is red oak, top is beech, tail vise is lacewood, the extension that juts out to support the shoulder vice is a chunk of bird’s eye maple. The large breadboard ends on the top are walnut. Lest you shudder, this is Ohio, we used to build barns out of walnut here.
George R. Walker