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At least once a month someone asks about lid stays for the Anarchist’s tool chest; now I’ll be able to refer them to this post.

Both Christopher Schwarz and I (now) use chains to hold out chests open, but they attach differently. Both methods work. As will multiple other methods, but these are ours.

But let’s back up two ticks. In “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” Chris directs readers to leave the back corners of the dust seal a little overlong and cut an angle on them. That will work if you’re gentle with your chest, and don’t use it all the time. If you are not gentle, and do use it all the time, that corner will start to break off – then you’ll need to come up with another method of holding your chest open.

The back corner of the original lid stay (after years of use), as shown in the book.

After the back corner of his dust seal started to show its years, Chris added a rigid aluminum lid stay, held in place by knurled knobs. The problem – if you can call it a problem – is that to use it, you had to unscrew the knob, put the stay in place, then screw the knob back in. And reverse that to close the lid at the end of the day.

Chris’ aluminum lid stay.

When I built the ATC I use at the Lost Art Press shop, I decided to add a nickel-plated chain to the outside, because I like shiny silvery things. So I bought a length of chain from McMaster-Carr along with some 3/8″ threaded rod, and found female-threaded finials on a lamp-repair-supply website. I cut two pieces of threaded rod to length, then epoxied them in place in the side of the dust seal and upper skirt. The chain fits over the rod; the finials screw onto the rod. (I’ve used this same approach on a couple of chests built on commission…but I added a threaded insert into the side of the lid and top skirt for extra insurance. Overkill, but I’d rather err on the side of solid when I’m sending out my work.)

It doesn’t look pretty when the finial is off – but it works.
That’s better!

Chris used a different approach, in part, I think, because he already had threaded inserts and knurled knobs from the aluminum lid stay.

A knurled knob and its insert.

He simply screwed both knobs in tight, then bought a dog collar.

The advantage here is that the chain can be removed in a jiffy when Fido needs to go for a walk.

In truth, though, both of us store our chests against a wall – so more often than not, it’s a wall, not a chain, that holds our chests open.

— Fitz



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