Studley Toolbox – A 19th Century Toolbox That Holds 300 Items

by Cristian I

How remarkable was the tool chest Studley designed? After he died in 1925, his obituary featured the product amongst his most outstanding achievements.

The Studley Tool Chest valued at aprox $300.000

Every artist, mechanic, or DIY specialist knows that they can be more productive when their toolbox has everything needed for a specific project. By keeping everything close by, you don’t lose as much time running back-and-forth between different spots to find what you need.

That’s why you’ll find massive garage toolboxes with dozens of drawers and containers offered for sale today. Some of those commercial designs come with a workbench area so that you can build, repair, or maintain different items.

If you’re a woodworker, it isn’t always easy to find the proper toolbox to hold everything you need. That’s why you need to get to know the Studley Toolbox.

No one has ever created something as unique as this product. Not only does it fold shut with secure hinges to maximize your space, but it can also hold up to 300 of your favorite tools. If you love to make things by hand through woodworking, this beautiful 40×40-inch chest is arguably the best thing ever made.

Studley Toolbox
Studley Toolbox – via Imgur

The Studley Toolbox Has a Storied History

H.O. Studley was born in 1838 in Massachusetts. He enlisted in the infantry in 1861 to fight in the Civil War, but his unit was captured on the battlefield. He would end up sitting out most of the conflict as a prisoner in Texas.

After the war was over, Studley began working as a piano and organ maker. During the 30 years of this part of his life, he engineered the most ingenious tool chest that has ever been created.

Studley designed the tool chest so that it could hold all of his items. In an old photograph taken at his workbench in the Poole Factory, you can see the product hanging on the wall behind him. It holds a collection of 19th century hand tools, his own items, and other things that were needed to complete his job.

You can find hidden compartments, flip-up trays, and multiple layers that store and conceal everything remarkably well. Each tool has a correct space, and it even clicks when pushed into the holder so that you know it is secure.

Studley didn’t stop at the functionality when designing the tool chest. He also included ivory and mother-of-pearl inlay to reflect his skills as a piano man.

If the design has a weakness, it is the overall weight of the unit. Without any tools, the Studley toolbox weighs 72 pounds. When it has everything locked into its proper spot, you’ll need to carry 156 pounds.

What gets lost in the mix with Studley’s unique toolbox is that he also created an impressive workbench. It had movable components, plenty of storage space, and lots of strength since it was made from Cuban mahogany. The top has ebony bands that lead into a rabbet.

Studley DCW Poole Piano
Studley DCW Poole Piano

More About H.O. Studley

How remarkable was the tool chest Studley designed? After he died in 1925, his obituary featured the product amongst his most outstanding achievements.

The Smith Organ Company employed H.O. Studley for about 25 years before he joined the Poole Piano Company. It is believed that he designed the toolbox during the second part of his career.

He was a Freemason who worked well into his 80s before deciding to retire.

Studley Passed His Prized Possession Over to a Friend

H.O. Studley passed away in 1925. Before dying, he gave this prized possession to one of his friends.

Peter Hardwick was a grandson of that friend, holding onto the chest over the decades until deciding to loan it to the Smithsonian Institute in the 1980s.

Although it didn’t remain on display for long, it was a popular exhibit at the National Museum of American History. Hardwick would eventually sell the entire tool chest to a private collector for an undisclosed sum.

Similar products made by craftsmen during the same era have fetched over $150,000 at auction, including the Woodworker’s Tool Compendium. None of the other chests can hold as many tools as the Studley, which means its value is likely around $300,000 today. The current owner occasionally allows history museums to display this incredible piece.

It became a legendary item, something akin to a woodworker’s holy grail, after images of it were published on the cover of Fine Woodworking. Posters of the chest have sold out every time a printing takes place.

Updated images over the years show that some restoration work has taken place on the toolbox. It looks even more incredible now, which means you can feel Studley smiling down on it as we all celebrate this fantastic idea.



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