Every good carpenter has a decent set of tools, but no one has ever created anything quite as special as a Studley tool box. This beauty measures 20" x 40" closed (40" x 40" open) and contains 300 instruments in a carefully crafted mahogany, ebony and mother of pearl case. As interesting as the piece itself is, it has a long history, having been exhibited at the Smithsonian at one point.
The tool box was designed by mason, carpenter and piano maker H.O. Studley. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1838, Studley enlisted in the Massachusetts Infantry in 1861 and was taken prisoner in Texas. While working as an organ and piano builder between 1890 and 1920, Studley invented his original chest.
Designed to store his own tools as well as a collection of 19th-century hand tools, Studley worked hard to create an ingenious system that would fit everything into a relatively small space. Fold-out compartments, hidden compartments and multiple layers hide everything perfectly, like a well-assembled puzzle. Each tool has its own place, even a click when inserted.
The Studley Tool Chest is a work of art and full of detail, with mother of pearl and ivory inlays that speak of his career as a pianist. The giant figure weighs 72 pounds empty and 156 pounds open, meaning it takes a full squad to move it.
Before his death in 1925, Studley presented the award to a friend. Pete Hardwick, a friend's grandson, took the chest and loaned it to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in the late 1980s. It was later purchased by a private collector for an undisclosed amount, but when you consider that just one instrument in the set was worth $700 in 1993, it certainly paid off for Hardwick. The current owner still occasionally lends it to the National Museum of American History.
The chest became a legend in the woodworking community after being featured on the cover of Fine Woodworking. The Massachusetts magazine even printed a limited edition Studley Tool Chest poster that quickly sold out. After many years of sale, the poster is for sale again.