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Remembering the Exquisiteness of the Studley Toolbox

Henry Studley was no ordinary organ and piano maker. In his early career, he worked for the Smith Organ Corporation and later on for other manufacturers in Quincy, Massachusetts. He hailed from Lowell, Massachusetts, and is popular for creating the exquisite chest called the Studley toolbox. This stunning box is a tool chest that can hold up to 280 tools. The entire space takes up will only be 40 x 20 inches when closed.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Studley joined the Massachusetts infantry. After that, he was captured in Texas. When the war ended, he went back to his piano-making activities and joined the Masonic Lodge. In 1925 he eventually died and was remembered in his obituary as a remarkable tool chest maker—this among his numerous other achievements.

The Studley chest

Any talented woodworker will need a decent toolbox. But nothing has ever been created in history as unique as the Studley tool chest. It is a beautiful and remarkable 20 x 40” toolbox when closed. It measures 40 x 40” when open. It can hold up to 300 tools within its carefully designed case. The case itself is a combination of mahogany, rosewood, ebony, as well as mother-of-pearl. It has a long history, and at one point, it was even displayed at the Smithsonian.

This exquisite tool chest was created and engineered by toolmaker Henry Studley. Sometime between 1890 and 1920, Studley engineered this innovative chest.

The Studley chest was created to hold his tools and a collection of 19th-century hand tools. Henry Studley worked exceptionally diligently to make this ingenious and innovative system that can pack everything into a relatively small space. You can flip up the trays and the hidden compartments, and there will be multiple layers that will be concealing every tool you will ever need. It is similar to a well-put-together jigsaw puzzle. Each device will have its proper space. It even clicks when pushed into its place.

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This piece was created back in the day by Henry Studley and has stood the test of time.

A work of art

The Studley tool chest is considered to be a masterpiece of art. It is full of exquisite detail. It has mother-of-pearl and ivory inlay that speaks well of its creator. This fantastic and monumental piece weighs 72 pounds when empty and 156 pounds when fully opened. It will require more than one person to move it.

Before his death, Studley passed this prized treasure to a friend. Pete Hardwick. His friend’s grandson maintained the chest and loaned it to the Smithsonian Institute back in the 1980s. Later on, it was purchased by a private collector for a sum that is undisclosed. But if you imagine that just one tool in the set was appraised to have a price of $700 back in 1993, it indeed paid off for the Hardwick family. The present owner still lends it to the National Museum of American history occasionally.

The chest is considered a masterpiece in the woodworking community after being published in Fine woodworking magazine. This Massachusetts-based magazine even printed a limited-edition poster of this beautiful Studley tool chest which eventually sold out. After numerous years out of print, the poster is again available for sale.

Lisa Less
Written By Lisa Less

Anna received her Masters degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland. Her writing focuses on history and general lifestyle pieces. Anna has been published in various lifestyle magazines. She spends her free time reading and furthering her knowledge about the about history.


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