Thursday, March 18, 2010


A long time ago, back when I was shopping (the used market) for my Gerstner machinist's toolbox, I stumbled across an interesting no-name one that had a few...problems. Like somebody had carved big squarish openings in one of the drawers, and the outer case -- metal -- was in terrible shape, covered with flaking paint in a livid shade of green.

But it had this: I couldn't resist it. After all -- Hammarlund!

As you can see, the paint was fixable. The openings in the drawer front took a little more finagling:The small holes, I just drilled out to a consistent diameter (1/8") and filled with dowels. To fix the big ones, the drawer fronts were oak and I found some similar red oak, cut it oversize and did a lot of scraping and sanding. ...A whole lot of scraping and sanding. To hold the patches in place, I drilled from the top and bottom of the drawer front and glued in more 1/8" doweling.
At some time in the past, black ink or paint has spilled down drawer fronts, too; the only fix for that was sanding and refinishing, though I didn't want it piano-glossy like a new one. What's on it is mostly dark boiled linseed oil and multiple coats of wax. You can still see where the stain was but it's not too bad.

Trivia: The edge detail at the top of the drawers is a bead -- that's the rounded bit -- and a quirk, which is the little square-bottomed groove between the bead and the rest of the drawer front. This example's only a little quirky. Traditionally made with a custom plane, a scratch stock or (cheater!) router bit of the proper profile. The look can be faked with nothing more than a large flathead woodscrew, a bit of scrap wood and some sanding, but that's a story for another time.


  1. Wow! You have the coolest stuff!

  2. You have a really rare machinists chest. I saw one of those, once, in North Judson, Indiana, around 1950 or so. Good job of restoration, too.

    As a stray, there have been many ways of decorating wood, but the oldest cheat I know is a broken piece of glass with the right contour.

    I have shaped and fitted many a hammer handle and decorated many drawer fronts with no more trouble or expense than hunting up a broken bottle. Of course, you have sweat equity in the finished job.


  3. hah! I've SEEN that modification, and it's not all that uncommon! I'm trying to remember who had it, and it was, if i remember, a Popular Mechanix thing, or maybe QST- wait, maybe....

    As I recall one hole housed a meter and the other a switch panel, or maybe even a long stacked plate cap.

  4. You did a very nice job - it looks good and pretty stinkin' kewl!

  5. My guess for the holes was a switch and an AC socket. There's a 3/8" hole in the drawer back and the back of the toolbox and I figured a previous owner had wired it up and plugged his soldering iron in there. But it's only a guess.

  6. Delightful restoration. Lots of character. Nicely aged finish. Great patience with the scraping and sanding. Still watching for the right Gerstner to add to my reloading bench...

  7. The wood may, indeed, be oak.

    But it gives the impression of Sapient Pearwood. It has been places and seen things, some of which it did not approve. For now, it has a look of waiting, undecided, for the next call upon the ancient magics it has known and a chance to witness the talents and skills of its new owner.

    I have the impression that any battery placed in it will expire immediately and any electronic device may become infested with mysterious intermittents. Perhaps the chest should house only handtools until it becomes acclimated to its new station.

    Still, EXTRA CLASSy restoration job.

  8. Where does she get those wonderful toys?

    (Er, tools. But that breaks the meme :) )