Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Joseph Goostray's Pattern Makers Chest

A couple of weeks back, as I mentioned previously, I was lucky enough to get to spend a few hours in the company of antique tool guru, Patrick Leach, in Ashby, Massachusetts. While swimming around the ocean of tools in his 3 car garage, ( see Pete Galbert's blog for photos of this - http://www.chairnotes.blogspot.com/ ) I asked Patrick if he ever came across cabinet makers tool chests that were in tact, with tools etc. Wrong question!  Patrick asked me just what sort of chests in particular and then took Pete and I out in his living room and showed us a spectacular chest that serves as a coffee table at the moment! This chest was amazing in it's own right in that 2 or 3 of the lidded compartments closed with such exacting tolerances that when the lid was let go it closed with a soft but defined thud as the air underneath it cushioned the lid as it closed. Sort of like listening to a Mercedes Benz door close!

If that wasn't enough we were then led into the 'Inner Sanctum,' Patrick's home to his spectacular collection of priceless and rare tools. Ah hellooo Tool Chests!! If you have a thing for authentic, quality made chests and believe me I do, then this was like stepping into chest paradise!

This little fella had some of the most elaborate carving on a chest that I have ever seen....

This chest, although very plainly painted on the outside, was as impressive I believe, as the Seaton Tool Chest. It was absolutely full of every cabinet makers tool you could imagine, most of them hardly used, just like Seaton's and more sliding tills than you could poke a stick at. This is just one stack of sliding drill tills, there was another group at the back for larger forstner type bits.

This highly decorated chest, seen before on Chris Schwarz' Blog was amazing. It was a great example of how a chest in days gone was representative of the makers ability and in this case gave a clear picture of just how skilful this particular maker was at marquetry. The detail of the inlays inside included rules and marking gauges with even the increments marked into the inlay.

The next chest was something though I had not expected to see. A real, fair dinkum, good as you will ever get Pattern makers Chest. I had actually read Patrick's account of how he found this chest, years ago when searching the internet. He found it almost by accident at a yard ( our garage ) sale. It's a great read and can be found on Patricks Supertool website.

This is Patrick levering it open. These chests usually hang from walls on sturdy cleats so it was doing it's best to stay closed. That and the fact that it had a few hundred pounds of tools inside! I wish I could replay the narrative of what Patrick said when doing this, but I don't think it's suitable for this blog! Pete and I had a laugh for a few days afterwards recalling it......

Now this is it open, but what you can see here is not all, there are fold out hanging walls of tools that hinge from inside, each of them just as comprehensive as what you can see here. Patrick described it as the 'working' version of H.O. Studley's pristine chest, made famous from the thousands of posters printed of it by Fine Woodworking magazine. I reckon he's spot on as this is an actual pattern makers chest as opposed to H.O's who was a piano maker.

So after creating a largish pool of drool all over the floor of the Inner Sanctum, I picked my jaw off the floor and we heading back out into reality. One more look into the blood and guts before we left. As we entered the garage again I started to rack my brain for tools that I often think of but never get around to finding. Having just flattened my chair seat by hand at Pete's, I asked if he had a good No.8 jointing plane. Pete turned around and picked one up just beside him. A beautiful 608c Bedrock, in magic condition....

Patrick said the price and I said sold. Simple as that. Then as off the cuff as you like, he said, "oh and there's a little Pattern Makers chest under all that crap, if you that interests you?" A What!? I could get the boxes of tools off it quick enough. Now it was no H.O Studley but when I slid the first little drawer out and sitting in the drawer looking back at me was the pattern makers spectacle like eye goggles, I knew I was onto something. Then we saw his metal stamp for marking his tools and work. Then every drawer in graduating sizes revealed a little more pattern making magic. All the cranked neck gouges, carving chisels and bench chisels, all in their own segmented compartments. Then little wooden boxes containing all his metal scale rules, then drill boxes and on it went.

Here's one of the drawers. The auger bit tray slides out and there's more below....

This drawer has the drill bit box ( large ) fixed to the bottom of the drawer. The long box is for scale rules. The smaller one next to it for specialty adjustable augers. Note the curved wooden form with brass tags on the right side, attached to the drawer bottom..... have a think about it.

As I said, it's no oil painting, but you know that is probably what impressed me a lot about this chest. If you've read my blog you'll know that the frugal habits of old woodworkers really impresses me. In that vein, this guy has converted an old steamer trunk with it's wooden frame inside into a portable chest for his tools. And why not, it's solid, it's a ready made carcass and it's covered in heavy canvas with brass corners! There is a lid to come later.

So Patrick told me what he wanted and I went home that night and gave it a lot of thought, mainly about how I was going to get it home! But, overwhelmingly my decision was based on the likely hood of ever seeing another like it in Australia..... not bloody likely I thought. So I emailed him that night and bought it. Patrick's wife brought it over the next day and I then packed all the tools from it into another box for shipping, taking careful note and photos of how all the tools were arranged for when I re-fitted it. 80 pounds of tools. The chest was then packed in a separate box. Now I just have to get UPS to find the chest which is currently in no mans land when it was shipped from Massachusetts to New Jersey. I think they may have found it in Missouri! It's hard to get good help as they say.

Oh and the strange wooden curved thing on the bottom of the drawer? When Patrick was telling me about the chest he said that it had no planes in it and that the guy must have had a separate chest for them. Ah ha! The curved piece is the relief of a Stanley No. 3 smoother, which it locks in to like a bum in a bucket - so to speak! There is another in a separate drawer for a No. 7 jointer too. Mr. Joseph Goostray thought of everything!

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