Commonly known as the Studley Tool Chest, this intricate showcase of craftsmanship was created by master carpenter and stonemason Henry O. Studley. Studley was born in 1838 in Boston and came from a milliner and engineering family. He worked many engineering positions and earned a reputation as a skilled craftsman with a flair for intricate engineering.
Studley started as a piano maker in his 30s. More specifically, he started as an “Action Man”, a person who makes the inner workings of the piano. He made pianos for over 50 years, finally retiring at the age of 81. Studley left the realm in 1926, but his legacy continues to live on.
The chest itself is a masterpiece. Mainly made of real mahogany and rosewood, each part of the tool box has the most intricate inlays of ebony, ivory and pearl, all commonly used materials in traditional piano making.
There are a total of 300 rare and traditional tools that were all made prior to the 1900s.
It is estimated that over 64 of the tools were handmade by Studley himself, and at least 20 of them were redesigned and repurposed by him as well. Ten of the tools have been replaced with period replicas as they were missing. One of the spaces remains empty as the tool has not been found. It has not yet been defined what tool would fit in the remaining space.
The Studley planner in the top left corner of the photo above alone was recently value at around $1000 USD. So, we could only imagine what today’s value would be to include such a rare insight into human ingenuity of the past. Currently it is privately held and occasionally lent for exhibitions and displays.
Each of the tool is housed in a series of interlocking mechanisms, maximizing the space and effectiveness of this amazing masterpiece. To consider each aspect of this was handmade by one person, including the tools, is nothing short of breathtaking. It makes one wonder how many other artisan chests have survived the last 200 years?
The tool box measures at 39 inches high, 9 inches deep, and 18 inches wide. Studley would have closed and locked his chest each night. Even the locking system is a work of art.
The three minute video below is a 43 minute time-lapse loading the chest with its tools. It gives you the full impression of just how amazing this tool chest is, and the skill we have sadly lost in the modern industrial era.
And finally, the famous page of a partial list of tools that were housed in the tool chest. From the Fine Woodworking Magazine, Issue 100, May/June 1993: