The Studley Tool-Cabinet and Workbench are the stuff of woodworking legend. I’ve seen the now famous poster of the cabinet in many woodworking shop, school and store. It’s the benchmark by which every other tool cabinet is compared. I know it ran through my head when I was researching the Chandler and Barber Sloyd tool cabinet.
To gaze upon this woodworking masterpiece in person is to be in awe…
Or so I’ve heard. The cabinet has been in private hands in recent years and other than a grainy New Yankee Workshop DVD and the FWW Poster and Article there were not a lot of places to see it or learn about it.
Earlier this year Donald C. Williams and others organized an exhibit to coincide with Handworks 2 wherein a limited number of folks could visit the cabinet and bench in person. I would have loved to have seen it in person but New Hampshire is a LONG way away from Amana, Iowa and with an infant son at home I could not make a trip of that distance.
I did pre-order Don’s book “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” by the Lost Art Press which can be described as high class tool porn. 🙂 It provides lots of background, research and in depth photographic record of each tool in the cabinet along with vivid photographs by Narayan Nayar. The comprehensive book is well worth the read and can be inspirational to even non-woodworkers. There are several reviews of it on other well known websites.
But for those wanting more instant gratification or those of us who don’t have as much reading time as we used to — these days with the baby I’m lucky if I can get an exhausted hour or so in front of a screen to watch something enjoyable, so I figured I’d take a gamble and check out the companion DVD — “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” also by Lost Art Press.
The DVD runs for about an hour and fifteen minutes and feels a bit like a PBS style documentary. (Which is something I often enjoy). It’s interesting to see how much emotion folks close to this project felt as they worked with the cabinet and its tools. Don Williams, Chris Schwarz and Narayan Nayar talk about what moved them, their favorite tools from the cabinet, their adventures in researching the cabinet and Studley and even some of the open questions they’d like to learn about if someone out there is sitting on a cache of Studley documents. The disc also has a section wherein Don removes all of the tools from the main compartments of the cabinet and shows each tool to you — basically everything except the drawers. It was very interesting to watch that happen in video as it gives an idea of how well the various trays, doors and holders held in their respective tools and how Studley layered the tools to make an incredible visual composition. Given how hard some were to locate and get in and out I don’t think Studley loaded up his tools each day and night as part of his regular work as I am in the camp that views this as something he did at the end of his career to make a statement/preserve some of the tools, but it was interesting to see some areas did have some wear from repeated use. The video reinforced the inspirational value the cabinet provides and helps to showcase the quiet beauty found in these high quality and time worn tools.
My criticisms about the DVD are all pretty minor: The disc comes in a cardboard sleeve — I’d rather have had a plastic case so it doesn’t get lost on my DVD shelf or a digital download option instead. The chapter transitions all use the same cover image with different text and were a bit slow to transition — and again that is likely just me being a tech nerd. Having attempted to edit a few videos for YouTube and for classes I have a lot of respect for anyone attempting to edit video as it is a VERY tedious process and everyone is a critic. 🙂
So, if you missed the Studley Exhibit in Amana, Iowa this video is the next best thing to seeing the cabinet and workbench in person and I’d recommend watching it. Feel free to share your thoughts on the video in the comments section below.
P.S. I bought the caliper shown in the featured image at this year’s Nashua Tool Show thinking of the Studley Tool Cabinet.
P.P.S. I bought the now famous poster from Robin Lee as part of the EAIA Annual Meeting Auction — now I just have to find some time to make a proper frame for it, so I can proudly hang it up out in the shop.
P.P.P.S I don’t have a direct association with the Lost Art Press other than Chris being a friend of mine and having bought a ton of stuff from LAP over the years. The links above generate no income for me and are provided for your ease in finding the book and DVD.