Machinist Chest with Tools, American, c. 1880

Made in 1/8th scale by Wm. R. Robertson, 2012


I’ve been fascinated by machinist’s chests since the first time I saw one. Wonderful, warm, wooden chests of drawers filled with strange, precise, and unusually-shaped, finely-made tools. I chose a larger scale, that of 1/8th opposed to the more common scale of 1/12th, for the size of this miniature.  That way I could capture the fine details such as the engraved lines on the rules.  


The six chests were made of mopane, an African wood that looks like a miniature version of mahogany, or cherry. Pear wood was used as the secondary wood on the interior and ebony for the moldings. Hinges, handles and knobs are made in a shield shaped pattern. The lock works and is made from brass and steel. Inside the lid I pasted a scaled down version of a trade card from the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, a decimal equivalents chart and photos of loved ones. That is a photo of my teenaged grandmother and aunt—two girls who would never expect to have their image on the inside of a tool chest.


The chest is filled with miniature tools copied from originals I have collected. They’re listed in the captions below, often shown next to the full sized original.


Someday I hope to copy in miniature the wonderful Eastlake-style chest I use on my workbench.

Looking down into the chest with 2 sliding trays and the drawer open

This chest is only 2 5/8" wide

Two chests, mopane and cherry sitting on machinist's rules or scales

Escutcheon plates are shield shaped and the chest, drawers and trays are dovetailed

Chest with set of tools

Tools fitted into place

Viewing from an angle

The tools shown on stamp for comparison of size

Inside and outside calipers, note the ogee curve on each leg

Drill gauge with engraved fractions

Wire gauge with engraved eagle and sizes

The smallest slots are .002"

Screwdriver with octagon shaped ebony handle and onion dome ferrule

Machinist's scraper

Set of 3 graduated screwdrivers with hexagon shaped handles

Files mounted in handles

Brass hack saw

Square shaft blade adjuster and wing nut, blade has 100+ teeth to the inch

Machinist's squares with riveted handles

Brown & Sharpe sliding protractor

Stamping numbers on a greatly enlarged magnesium plate for engraving

Engraving the protractor graduations on a reducing pantograph, a Deckel model GO made in 1928

These are then sawn out with a jewelers saw

Finished protractors, the knurled knots have 0.7 mm threads

Rules are engraved the same way

Rules laying on a mirror, both sides are engraved and line up

Forged scribes with twisted hand grips

Brass and steel depth gauge

Milled brass depth gauge bodies being drilled and tapped for 0.6 mm thread

Marking gauge

Surface gauge

Cold and Cape chisels, center punches and a pin punch

Riveting and brass "no-dent" hammers

Notice the flame pattern in the wood grain and how it shows on the hammer handle

Machinist's Jacks

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William R. Robertson | Kansas City, MO

"Details Matter"