A Kennedy Manufacturing Tool Chest Story

| BlackHawk Team


Ohio-based Kennedy Manufacturing has built industrial-grade tool chests and roller cabinets since 1911. Machinists revere Kennedy boxes for their ruggedness, fine craftsmanship and configurability. Kennedy owners brag about their toolboxes so much that the company created an Outfitters Club web page where people can post pictures and stories about their beloved toolboxes. Many customers have owned two, three, even ten toolboxes. Kennedy toolboxes become heirlooms that are passed down through families.

The magic chest

I would like to share my Kennedy story.

A few weeks ago I learned that the old brown tool box on my late father’s work bench is a Kennedy model 520B. It is at least 60 years old.

For as long as I can remember (I’m 61), ol’ Model 520B sat as the centerpiece of Dad’s hand-made workbench. The chest has seven drawers, a top till, a combination lock, and a front cover that was always tucked away into its slot below. After all these years, the drawers glide open and shut like new. The chest weighs 35 lbs. empty, but it is filled and weighs probably twice that. Flanked for decades by an oscilloscope, a lighted mirror and stacks of electronics and auto parts catalogs, that chest had a regal presence, like a tabernacle on an altar.

Dad was a retired mechanical and electrical engineer who had had a long career designing brakes for railway freight cars and rapid transit systems.  So he accumulated a lot of fine tools over the years. He was also an inveterate putzer and hobbyist. A lover of airplanes and model trains. Dad’s chest may or may not have seen some field time. But I know the chest was filled, in part, with tools of his trade and “things we might need some day”. Taps and dies. Gauges. Calipers. Jewelers’ screw drivers. Multitester. Micrometer. Solder. Allen wrenches. Magnets. Files. Magnifiers. And a couple of prayer cards from family funerals. Everything was neat and organized. Even the cards.

As a child I marveled at how Dad could dip into that wondrous box and pull out the right instrument to repair a balky kitchen appliance, fix an axle on a Matchbox car, or restore a “dead” HO locomotive to life. One afternoon when I was about four, I crawled onto a high chair and onto the workbench, where I proceeded to explore the contents of the heretofore off-limits tool box. I was manipulating a small pair of needle-nosed pliers when Dad suddenly appeared inside the basement door, home from work. He caught me red-handed, but his face lit into a smile as he asked, “What ya got there?” I nervously handed over the pliers. He snapped a piece of spare wire and said, “See? Like this. I’ll show you more later.”

And so he did, so much more over the ensuing years. Dad’s methods were meticulous and precise. Dad was always particular to instruct me to fetch something out of “the machinist tool box” as opposed to the tool carrier or the box with the 3/8 drive socket sets. That machinist tool box was special.

Kennedy is everywhere

You’ll find a Kennedy machinists’ chest wherever there is a machinist. Aerospace. Automotive. Facilities management. General manufacturing. MRO. Metalworking. Construction. Energy. Machine shops. Vo-tech schools. On the job, a machinist needs to stay organized and have the right tools and parts at the ready. Kennedy toolboxes deliver organization with extraordinary scalability and flexibility.

Signature series

These brown wrinkle steel classics come in a variety of sizes for benchtop and roller cabinet placement. They feature:

  • High-security tubular locking system
  • Heavy-duty friction drawer slides
  • Drop front security panel
  • Wool-lined drawers to protect precision tools


KSERIES offers stationary or mobile rolling units in a range of sizes and styles. They feature:

  • Double-wall construction
  • Smooth operating ball bearing drawer slides capable of handling 120 to 240 lbs.
  • High-security tubular locking system
  • Heavy-duty 5” x 2” roller bearing casters with 350 lb. load capacity per caster

Stack & Add

Kennedy chests, bases, roller cabinets and side cabinets are configurable to more than 2,000 different possible combinations! To help you maximize your productivity in your work space, Kennedy has a PDF listing the possible combinations of every unit. Also, Kennedy can advise you on the most popular configurations they have seen over the years.


Kennedy offers drawer organization, coated work surfaces, fold down shelves, tool boards and more.

Treasure chest

Dad’s old tool chest is mine now.  I didn’t follow Dad into engineering or take up the machinist’s trade. But I can hold my own with certain repair jobs, so I believe I’ve earned the right of possession. When the time comes, I’ll make sure to find a good home for it. After all, it’s an American-made Kennedy.

BlackHawk is a proud partner with Kennedy Manufacturing. For more information about Kennedy toolboxes, contact your BlackHawk customer service rep at 855-610-1001.