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Tool Chest Contest Winner is Selected

comments (28) July 1st, 2009 in blogs

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Gregg Novosads Lonnie Bird-Inspired Tool Chest. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Gregg Novosad's Lonnie Bird-Inspired Tool Chest.

After receiving nearly 100 entries for our Tool Chest Contest, selecting a final winner was tough, to say the least. The entries varied from the simple and utilitarian, to chests so ornate they seemed just as appropriate for the dining room as for the workshop.

In the end, however, we were drawn to Gregg Novosad's Lonnie Bird-Inspired Tool Chest. Incorporating a variety of joinery techniques, Novosad's first attempt at inlay work is a testament to perseverance. The piece was inspired by a secretary built by acclaimed woodworker Lonnie Bird and features figured mahogany, tiger maple, tulipwood, and padauk.

But it wasn't just Gregg's work that stood out. Below, you'll find a list of other notable entries well worth pointing out. Here's to a job well done! He wins a SawStop professional cabinet tablesaw.

Other Notable Entries

Greene & Greene isn't a style of furniture that normally comes to mind when one thinks of a tool chest. Dave Abramoff added a bit of flair to his tool storage with elements from this signature style while taking an Introduction to Woodworking class.







Ben Broili made a bold choice for his tool chest, selecting spalted maple for the door and drawer fronts. The book-matched doors preserve the wood's natural shape, letting the grain do all the talking.

Gallery member realmccoy01 incorporated walnut and flame maple in a simple and cleanly-executed design that offers lots of space in a pleasingly-proportioned cabinet.

Terry Schneider's Rolling Piano Tool Chest has got to be one of the most creative ways to repurpose an old instrument we've ever seen.

Gallery member garyzim wowed us with his seven-and-a-half month-long project dubbed "My Neander Haven." His labor of love contains some 48 drawers, each constructed using hand-cut dovetails.

Bruce Bartlett really went the extra mile with his very portable chest. Several of his drawers use insets for each-and-every bit, plane, spoke shave, and square. This was a wonderful example of what can be accomplished with wood scraps.


Tom Fidgen's simple, clean and utilitarian design caught our eye when we noticed his incorporation of dedicated holes for clamps. This allows for a more versatile chest while on job sites. has more gallery challenges to come in the future. Our Creative Bookcases competition runs through July 27.

posted in: blogs

Comments (28)

joe4liberty joe4liberty writes: Danniel, you wrote: "It's simply a piece of furniture that stores tools. I really don't think that qualifies as a tool chest.", actually, webster's defines it this way: "A chest (also called coffer or kist) is one of the oldest forms of furniture. It is typically a rectangular structure with four walls and a liftable lid, for storage. The interior space may be subdivided. ..." Thus a tool chest would be a piece of furniture that holds tools. You make yours to look the way you like, and I will make mine to look the way I like, and obviously, Gregg will make his… his way.
One thing that we cannot argue is his ability, and if he chooses to use that ability to make a chest to house his tools in grand style, who are any of us to criticize?
And finally, I am glad that you think that it's okay for me to make a fine box to hold paints for my sister, but offended that you somehow think it's not okay for Gregg to make a fine chest to hold tools for himself. I suppose fine woodworking is only meant to be gifts (I guess I shouldn't show you photos of the "boxes" that I made to hold the Christmas decorations... the "boxes" that my wife thinks are a shame to hide away in the attic for 11 months out of the year, but the truth is, I love the weekend after Thanksgiving because of the memories that I get when I lower those "boxes" with their depictions of Victorian era santas, decorations and toys inlaid on the covers, and handles that look strikingly like horse drawn sleighs). People, get over it already, we work with wood for our own enjoyment, or we soon leave the hobby. If you want an ulgy tool chest, you should make one. If Gregg wants a beautiful one... well he did, and he did.

Posted: 8:14 pm on July 21st

oscar_mann oscar_mann writes: Tool chest?? Where???? Ya gotta be kidding.. I was looking for fresh ideas to make a tool chest.. Dont see any here... This is certainly a "fresh idea" but it aint no tool chest.. Great work, beautiful craftsmanship... but TOOL CHEST??? Maybe the next tool chest contest will be won by a bed with a place to store tolls under it... Or MAYBE the judges will look at the name of the contest and actually have a tool chest as a winner...
Posted: 8:31 pm on July 13th

MattSweetnam MattSweetnam writes: Way to go Gregg, outstanding piece of work. What you have in your workshop is as personal a statement as the furniture in your bedroom. Some folks sleep on a cot. If what we're trying to do is showcase craftsmanship, then I think it hit the mark. If we want to showcase aesthetic design and have a form vs. function debate, then perhaps the conversation should move to a furniture design site. You just need a New Resources badge cut into the front.
Posted: 2:09 pm on July 13th

MattSweetnam MattSweetnam writes: Way to go Gregg, outstanding piece of work. What you have in your workshop is as personal a statement as the furniture in your bedroom. Some folks sleep on a cot. If what we're trying to do is showcase craftsmanship, then I think it hit the mark. If we want to showcase aesthetic design and have a form vs. function debate, then perhaps the conversation should move to a furniture design site. You just need a New Resources badge cut into the front.
Posted: 2:07 pm on July 13th

tangible tangible writes: Yeah I think that after reading a few comments on this page I am really going to make some changes in my wood choices. I am definitely going to start to use more rain-forest woods. I am so sick of people turning their noses up at beautiful pieces like this just because it is easy to criticize the choice of wood. And ianmillis, I could ramble on forever about nothing too. No one cares what you have to say.
Posted: 11:02 am on July 13th

ianmilliss ianmilliss writes: I'd like to second the comments about rainforest timbers, one further problem with this piece and probably many of the others.

We are now entering an era where sustainability and carbon reduction are life-or-death issues with the potential for an enormous increase in all sorts of products made of some types of wood (eg bamboo and quick growing plantation eucalypts and pines) because of their ability to rapidly sequester carbon. Meanwhile there will be a complete ban on other timbers because of rainforest destruction, as Henning comments. This has interesting possibilities that magazines like FW should address - consider the fact that some of the most admired styles like Biedermeier and Shaker furniture are the creative result of very constrained timber choices.

Above all every type of cultural production including woodwork has a moral dimension as the Shakers fully understood. Both editors and readers should think hard about where a taste for profligate use of resources and careless waste has led their society. Many comments have claimed some special status for this winner as art and to the degree that it portrays the useless excess of western society it could be seen as art but better artists also try to model the future in their work, to lead viewers to an understanding of how the world needs to be in the future or at least to recognise more clearly the faults in a conventional view of the present.

In that context FW should be more forward looking. As well as these show-off gallery type contests why not set contests with several months lead time where we are set a type of woodworking problem and we can see what solutions people can come up with eg how to replace a variety of products that are currently made in plastic with a wooden equivalent?
Posted: 8:08 am on July 10th

Dacelo Dacelo writes: joe4liberty - you make some valid points and yours is a great and touching story. A loving family is everything. But I think the situations are not comparable.

You made a piece with a specific intent and that informed your whole creative process. It reminds me of a story of a piece that was the subject of an article in Fine Woodworking way back in the black & white days of publication. I think it may also have been a secretary but I can't remember for sure. It was a very fine piece of furniture, intricately detailed, and it took some inordinate number of hours to make. At the end of the process, the furniture maker slammed a four inch nail in to the front of it and left it protruding what looked like three inches. As I recall, it was a more an artwork that just furniture and he was making a statement about preciousness.

But that was not the brief here and there is nothing to suggest that this was the maker's intention. It is clearly over-designed and inappropriate. It's simply a piece of furniture that stores tools. I really don't think that qualifies as a tool chest.

This is my third post on this issue so I think I'll stop hogging the space. But I would like to echo Henning's sentiments about the use of rainforest timber. I've loved being a subscriber to FW over the nearly three decades that I have, but I've always been concerned about an absence of dialogue about the sustainability of the raw material used in this art or craft that we love. I make everything using recycled lumber (or timber as we call it here in Australia) or, if I can't find what I'm looking for, timber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, a body auspiced by, among others, WWF. It's work is about promoting environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests. I think it's time this issue was addressed by FW's readers and contributors.
Posted: 10:24 pm on July 9th

joe4liberty joe4liberty writes: WOW you people are rough! MY gosh, the man does a great job, and the criticism that "it's too nice." I sure am glad that I work wood by myself, and for myself. Reading these posts and I just had to tell my story; about a decade ago, I made a "box" as a present for my sister who was graduating from Art school. It was made from quarter sawn oak, tiger maple, walnut burl, wenge, about a dozen different woods in all. Inlaid brass hardware, her initials and a rough up of a work that she had done while in school done in marquetry on the lid. It was done in the style of an attaché case, with compartments for paints, brushes, et. al. inside. I finished it with 6 coats of Tung Oil finish rubbed and buffed between each coat, instead of a more durable poly varnish.
When she opened it, her eyes lit up, and then she frowned and said "I wanted a box that I could use to hold my paints and ‘stuff’, but this is too nice." I explained that this is what I envisioned her stuffing her supplies into, and spilling paint on. I wanted it to be beautiful so that she would know that I loved her, but also to inspire her to make beautiful things herself. After much debate, she caved in, and began using it as her paint "box." After a decade of paint projects, it’s dinged up, and has drippings of a rainbow of colors all over, as well as in it, but thanks to the craftsmanship, it's still hanging tough, and we both agree that it is far more beautiful now than when it was new. Sure, I could have just made a box and covered it in poly, but a plain box could not have shown her what I thought of her. I made a testament to the career she had chosen; Art for art’s sake, because that is what my heart wanted her to have. The paint spills are her badges of honor that she adds daily. The dings are the gift that she gives me by letting me knot that it is being used and loved. Any old box would not be good enough, and not beating this one up would have been no way to honor the idea of the gift. This was the “box” that was needed, and it was being used as it was intended. Using it was not ruining it, it was adding the value of artistry that I could not impart into it – only she could.
Our niece is entering collage this fall to study art as well. My sister made her a deal; if she graduates with an A average, she will get the box... the box that has been by my sister’s side through so many ‘all-nighters’… the box that my niece has been admiring since she was old enough to sneak a peak over my sister’s art table… the box that you guys would have “boo-hooed” had I entered it in a contest here because you would have thought it too nice to use...
Great furniture gets used lest it is just a piece of junk. The winner of this contest is a Great tool chest. It deserved to win. Greg, well done! - Use it - bang it up - and make great works from its contents, for one day, it too may become the beautiful thing that it has the potential of being.

Posted: 8:10 pm on July 9th

Henning Henning writes: Nice winning piece, but too much rainforest-wood in it for me... Why not stay with domestic woods?

All use of tropical timber is banned in all governmental projects in Norway (where I live) - even socalled certified timber. Seems to me you Americans are far, far behind in this issue?
Posted: 9:34 am on July 9th

JasonRevzon JasonRevzon writes: Geez, if this had been an entry, you would all be calling it a silly piece of frippery:

Grow up, the winner's chest may not be to your taste, but there is no denying that there is plenty of craftsmanship AND utility.
Posted: 7:53 am on July 9th

Danniel Danniel writes: pjfurlong, you miss the point that this was a contest and, by definition, requires a critic. This wasn't a piece made just for the craftsman himself. It was made specifically to be put out there and judged.

And it is way too simplistic and not accurate to say that "the artist can always create that which pleases, whether it be for others or just for themselves." If art is about conveying an idea or a feeling or an emotion via a particular medium, then it must be more than just pleasing for him- or herself. If the sentiment in the piece is not being communicated to anyone else but the creator, then how is it art? And once it's put in the public domain, it is entirely appropriate for those who view it to comment on how they perceive it.
Posted: 12:50 am on July 9th

pjfurlong pjfurlong writes: To the critics I say this-

As an artisan I have no need for the critic, I create for myself and others to enjoy, I care not for the critic. My passion is in the process, in the doing of something worthy of my time. In seeing some others work I am delighted in each and every detail. As I gaze upon the works I wonder about the thoughts of the artist as he crafted his work. It matters not the how and whether I would use it or not, it wasn't made for me. To say it is not something I would make is to say what, that I am not talented or creative enough to do the same.

I would delight to be associated with any of the works shown. The craftsmanship is awe inspiring. In each and every one can be seen a desire to do something not done before. It's enlightening to see so many with the courage to take it to the next level. To truly be creative, I say Bravo to all.

The critic needs the artist, for what would he have to critisize. Yet, the artist can always create that which pleases, whether it be for others or just for themselves.

Yet do I critisize?

Posted: 12:16 am on July 9th

richlife richlife writes: Talk about over-critical! Those who object to this awesome chest based on their own opinions of what a tool chest "ought" to be or how it "ought" to be used or where it "ought" to be placed "ought" to be keel-hauled. My first thought was "beautiful but not for me -- now what does the tool storage look like?" Having seen how the tools are stored inside, I'm doubly impressed. Won't fit in MY shop, but I've seen MANY shops in which the size would not be a concern and which would have room to protect the beauty of the work. After spending the time to make such a lovely piece, he can now use it as inspiration for other projects as well as having a fine place to store his tools.

My wife always complained that David Marks just CAN'T use that beautiful cabinet in his shop?! (He has several beautiful custom tool cabinets and other work in his large shop.)

I have an extremely small shop which uses every spare space for some kind of storage. But in the smaller finish area, I have a lovely wall-hung, cherry display case to show off my hand-carved sculptures (as well as my ability to design and make furniture). Hardly room to move, but no concern for damaging it or breaking the glass -- just a little constant care.

Congratulations, Gregg, on the stunning workchest and your well-deserved title!
Posted: 1:56 pm on July 8th

salmonfly salmonfly writes: Not to take away from the fine workmanship being displayed, but I've always heard that form should follow function. This doesn't come close
Posted: 1:42 pm on July 8th

tahoe tahoe writes: So I have read all the comments, and have to say- Great Job on building the cabinet. Kudos to you for having the patience...It would not be my style, in fact I would be afraid to work around it for fear of damaging it. But different strokes for different folks as they say. In all the conversation about the merits of this cabinet as a valid representation of this contest, I didn't want the builder to think that his hard work was unappreciated.
Posted: 1:21 pm on July 8th

Moriarity Moriarity writes: Nothing succeeds like excess?
Posted: 12:49 pm on July 8th

a_Furnitologist a_Furnitologist writes: Of those who disagree with the jurors selection, did you enter a piece to be judged???

These challanges are nothing new to those who have been at the craft for a while, every exhibition you are in has a best of or best new designer award, these challenges are important to the amateur woodworker. Pressing for more is human nature and may lead to better work by others.

Does the criterior used in judging need to be presented in a clearer fashion prior to any new building challenge, absolutely.

Objectively you can critique each entry by discussing and evaluating the design elements and score each. But what you will never know or understand is that each juror and the challenge itself has a very important subjective component.

Nobody knows what the critior of the subjective element in judging was. Maybe a high priority in judging was visual interest, rhythm, craftsmanship, use of materials, color, layering and the subjective element of judges for the challenge was to present an object of the highest skill level to the woodworking community.

I have no problem with that. Many designers are given the best booth space and have won awards only because the organization wants the Designer to return the following year. His or her work is good for the show long term.

Could it be that Fine wants to show the skill level that hangs around their web site. Don't we all put our best foot forward.

The final point to building for challenges is, you design to the criterior, break a rule or 2 to twist the jury in the hopes of an extra look, and let the chips fall where they may. That's woodworking maturity.

One last thing, when you all vote in the book case challenge, what criterior are you going to use or will it be popularity contest.

Nice work Gregg Novosad

Neil Lamens
Furnitology Productions.

Posted: 12:42 pm on July 8th

wifont wifont writes: I agree with most of the post above. The piece is so dumb and the fact that it won is beyond me. The editors explanation is more sillyness. I've had enough and will retire from this "over the topness" but letting my subscription go. There is much more that can be done that serves some useful purpose with the time and money it took to build that silly mess. My world does not need more "over the topness", please a little less. "Over the top" is what got us into this recession.

Posted: 12:02 pm on July 8th

308Norma 308Norma writes: Hold it fellows! I loved the tool chest and know full well that a cheap metal cabinet from Sears would hold tools just fine. Utility is not always the point, nor is a cost/benefit analysis.

My brother throws thousands of dollars at golf. Tens of thousands in fact, and that not withstanding the fact that there is something deeply trivial about golf.

That beautiful tool chest approaches art and sometimes art is enough of a justification by itself. Of what utility is the Mona Lisa? I wish I had a tool chest just like that one.
Posted: 11:19 am on July 8th

GEide GEide writes: Hi All,

"I think it's about time that readers got to vote," wrote ianmilliss. Well, we agree. You all will get the chance to vote in our next gallery challenge on creative bookcases: Read all about it here:

So, for the next challenge, I hope that you folks will post photos of your own work (by July 27), comment on your favorite pieces, and then vote on the finalists to choose the winner.

About this winner, the judges were blown away by the piece… you make valid points about function, but Novosad’s explanation of why he built such an ornate piece was pretty interesting… he wanted to make a period piece, but it just didn’t match the furniture in the rest of his house, so putting it in the shop was the best way to satisfy the itch.

We put practical shop projects in the magazine on a regular basis. But sometimes, isn’t over-the-top what it’s all about? A shrine-like home for beloved hand tools? That’s why people are agog over the Studley tool chest right? As Bstev noted, "It also has unneeded decoration and exotic materials and probably took way to long to build. But it is beautiful nonetheless."

Anyway, as we mentioned at the top of this post, with so many stellar pieces, it’s always hard to pick a winner. But, next time it’s on you folks, so I do hope that you’ll comment, vote, and post photos of your own.

Posted: 10:42 am on July 8th

BStev BStev writes: I think it's beautiful. I have a picture of H.O.Studleys tool chest and for some reason they called it a tool chest even though it seems to hang on a wall. It also has unneeded decoration and exotic materials and probably took way to long to build. But it is beautiful nonetheless. As is his workbench which also has all the same unnecessary additives but I would be happy to have one or both in my shop. Bob
Posted: 10:26 am on July 8th

robrocks robrocks writes: Magnificent stupendous thrilling brilliantly executed woodwork throughout. Now show me which one I can stand on to get things taller, saw on to get things smaller, sit on to eat lunch and not have someone faint because I came in contact with the finish.
In addition I'd be curious as to how a wall of drawers and doors constitutes a chest.
Maybe I'm being overly cranky. Maybe I shouldn't post comments before I've had a cup and a smoke.
Posted: 10:18 am on July 8th

castlent castlent writes: A long, long time ago I was a charter subscriber to Find Woodworking. After a few years of looking to the magazine for help and education I cancelled my subscribtion. This is the reason why. The pieces showcased were beautiful and superb examples of what others could do. And maybe set goals for what I might someday accomplish. But the cancellation resulted from too much esoteric, useless, way out, far fetched, inefficient in design and execution work. Really, nine months of work and thousands of dollars in material to produce a tool chest for a contest. I had to earn a living.
Posted: 9:18 am on July 8th

5Thumbs 5Thumbs writes: Gotta agree with the other posters. The winner's an impresive piece of work but absurd as a tool chest. The editors seem to be in love with baroque pieces; that's fine but I remember my grandfather (a finish carpenter all his life) who taught me to always keep the purpose in mind. He did inlays and fancy moldings - but only on decorative pieces for show. His tool box was a maple box with dividers to separate tools. I wish I had it today.

I really liked Tom Fidgen's chest as a practical woodworking accessory.
Posted: 7:49 am on July 8th

ianmilliss ianmilliss writes: I really don't want to diss what would be a technically impressive bit of work in any other context but a major element of good design is appropriateness, fitness for intended use, and it's hard to imagine anything less appropriate than this winner - just putting tools inside a cabinet does not make it a tool chest. The editors' choices over time really do seem to have a taste for uncreative nostalgic styles and overdone technique bordering on kitsch. This is another fiasco almost as bad as the recycled wood contest that was won by a project that wasn't made of recycled wood.

I think it's about time that readers got to vote, or at least that the thumbs up got laid out so we could see more easily which projects got the most reader approvals. I think the Tom Fidgen toolbox would be my choice for good design, innovation and all round creativity and realmccoys in second place for a very well done and appropriately designed large tool chest.
Posted: 6:30 am on July 8th

Waleye64 Waleye64 writes: Beautiful piece of work but it is not what I would want as a tool chest.
Posted: 5:26 am on July 8th

Dacelo Dacelo writes: Chezer - I couldn't agree more. I would have thought that, in designing a tool chest, consideration would be given to function as well as style and creativity. Sure, it functions as a tool chest - there's a place for everything and it's all logically laid out. But it's going to be used in a workshop where things get moved around and those things are often damaging, like lengths of lumber, long clamps, tools from the tool chest... need I go on? I'd be way too nervous to do anything in the workshop for fear of damaging it.

But, aside from that, it's just way over-designed for the item being made. It might be clever joinery which might look good on a secretary, but in this context - and I really don't want to be too harsh on Gregg Novosad who's clearly a skilled craftsman - it's kind of grotesque. It's completely over the top and inappropriate.
Posted: 5:14 am on July 8th

chezar chezar writes: I'm sorry, it's a beautiful piece, but as a ToolChest?? - c'mon, that's ridiculous.
Posted: 5:55 pm on July 7th

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