Victorian Machinist's Chest... Got Info?
Apologies in advance if I'm messing up board protocol. Total newbie, not a machinist, female. But I LOVE old machinist's toolboxes, and I find them from time to time at the flea market. Usually they're oak and look like Gerstner or Union or something. But yesterday, I found one that's older and different. I did a pretty thorough Google search for antique machinist's boxes, and the only place I found any pictures of ones similar to this was this forum. So, I was hoping someone here might know something about my new find:
Based on the handles on the sides, I'd say this was from the late 1800s. It obviously had a label at one point that's been removed (just under the lock). No other marks that I can see. Seems like maybe it's mahogany - definitely not oak or pine.
Does anyone know anything about this box? Got any history?
Thanks in advance,
Nice find Mary and you are not messing up any protocol..... we all love to see pictures of nice stuff. You are right about the age.... 1890s till about 1920.... for that style of chest... yours on the earlier side of that. There were a number of makers of these, the biggest two were C. E. Jennings and Bliss..... I think yours might be by Bliss based on the drawer pulls...... ..... the Jennings were a little longer with thinner wire for the drops. These chests were made in walnut, oak, chestnut and I think Bliss did theirs in cherry. BTW, Bliss is the same Bliss that made lithograph toys..... but look on the center of the inside lid for evidence of a label.... that is were Jennings put theirs.... the marks for a label on the front of yours look more like those of a owners tag..... also a photo of the drawer lock mechanism might be helpful to identify it.
And I hope you do not refinish it..... I really think these are left in their original condition unless they are too beat up....... same goes for the inside..... if you put in new felt, just put it over the old. I have seen so many chests over the years with the most awful colors of felt put in them......
Anyway, glad your here and a that is a fine box of a type that you don't see much at the sales anymore.
What a beautiful find! Thanks for sharing.
The lock mechanism may be the key (!) to dating it.
As an aside and just for curiosity's sake, pull out the top drawer and stick your hand inside, but upside down. Sometimes cabinet makers put a secret shelf in things like these to hide your important documents- specialy in writing desks, I've found old passports, medical records etc etc... you never know!
-I agree. While I'm no expert, that strikes me more as an owner's nameplate, which would also potentially explain it's absence- a subsequent owner removed it since the name no longer applied.
Originally Posted by rivett608
Very nice chest, though. What makes you think it was a machinists' chest? The low drawers certainly point that way, but I'm curious if you have any other corresponding data.
I have a bunch of catalogs that show them....... they are machinists chests... also I have a few that came full of tools....
Very nice looking chest, Mary. I like the style and proportions!
Am I seeing things, or does the top drawer pull have some kind of etching on it?
Probably my great-great grandfather's tool box. He was known as "Edwin the Machinist" on legal documents predating the Civil War. We don't have his box, but we do have his son's who followed (more or less) his dad's line of work - but for a different company in town.
Jest kidding. After four generations - who knows where the box is - or cares.
Although it sure would look nice in my living room. You're lucky. Treasure it.
Joe in NH
A nice chest, and in wonderful condition. Old tool collectors like myself frequently use them to display small collectible tools.
Mary, a great find, I also collect old machinist tool boxes, and specialize in victorian era antiques. The hardware is definatley late 1800's ( most likley 1880's-1890's), although there is no definate cutoff date. Please continue to be a steward of great items from our American past.
Last edited by jeffbubauctions; 05-13-2009 at 06:29 AM.
Welcome aboard. You'll find this site quite interesting!
Hi Mary, I`v often found ads in popular mechanic & popular science magazines for those old chests .You can do a google book search and then search contents I believe those mags began in the early 1900`s.
Can`t tell from the pic`s however the lock may be of the Eagle lock and chest company they were once known to be the largest chest and trunk manufacturer of that day .Known also as a piano lock it has two hooks that eject out to hold down the lid of the top till they were usually made of brass.The eagle had a round back plate and were half mortise.
I also like those pulls!!!
Do these antique toolboxes sell well?
Hello again, y'all!
I'm the owner of the Victorian chest in the first post here. Found out today my car is not long for the world (R.I.P, 1999 Corolla!), and I'm going to have to buy sooner than I thought. So, I'm thinking I should liquidate some of the stuff I've collected around my house to help with the downpayment.
I've never seen one of these non-Gerstner, non-Union, non-oak type chests come up on eBay, and there's very little information about them online. Do these come up for sale regularly? If so, do they sell well? I love this old piece, and it's a great organizer, but if I could get a good return on it, I would sell it to help with the car.
Thanks in advance
Private Message sent.
Here is a link to a similar that sold on ebay....... it was missing two pieces of the bottom "baseboard" molding....... this one was by Jennings... sorry the photos are down.
ANTIQUE 19C. VICTORIAN WALNUT MACHINIST CHEST TOOL BOX
Item condition: --
Ended: Jul 11, 200918:27:00 PDT
Bid history: 12 BidsSee history
Winning bid: US $142.50
Shipping: $32.48UPS Ground | See all details
Estimated delivery within 3-8 business days
7 day money back, buyer pays return shipping | Read details
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Item number: 200358792088
Item location: Cranston, Rhode Island U.S.A., United States
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Jennings Machinist Chest
Hello forum -- my first post...
Last weekend I was at an estate sale and picked up a C.E.Jennings & Co. chest full of tools and papers.
Researching the chest I came across this forum post, so I thought I'd share my find.
The chest is a 2-drawer and is as described in the following 1904 ad:
Here's a couple photos of the chest:
The front, (note the pull wires are thinner than the OP's photo).
...some of the contents, (there's small trays below the ones that are visible).
One side (similar handle to OP's photo).
The top looks crumby in that picture -- but it's really some nice old wood!
I did repair a few things on the box -- just enough to preserve it and keep it front breaking [more than it already was]. The mortised joints along the back sides had dried out and split -- every time you opened the box the back was pulled apart more. All of the wood was extremely dried out, but not splintered and no pieces missing. I glued and clamped the splits and drove in (8) 1" brass brads to pin it together. The top was also loose and I unscrewed the corners, (from inside the lid), put wooden toothpicks and glue into the holes and rescrewed it. I replaced the lower screw in the elbow bracket (it was missing - I found a similar aged brass screw)... The key is missing, so the bolt of the lock is tucked back inside the slab so it won't get lost, but the lock is complete and appears functional. One screw holding it in does not appear original. Two of the brass glides in the tops of the drawer-fronts are missing, and one does not look original, (I am wondering it they were original at all -- one on the bottom drawer is driled so close to the front of the wood that it is visible with drawer closed -- I didn't think that would pass "quality control" of that era.
I did NOT strip and refinish the wood -- I rubbed the entire outside of the box with Mineral Spirits, (to remove grime, paint splatter, etc), then rubbed it down with Howard's Restore-a-Finish, to bring back the finish and the grain, then with Howards Feed and Wax Wood Preserver to keep it from drying out again.
Here's the back of the box (with 4 of the 8 brass brads showing -- maybe they weren't a good idea -- but I am just a weekend refinisher)...
I started going through the tools and most appear to be 1890-1910 western Massachusetts makers. The latest date I found on any item in the chest is a 1934 letter -- the man's name that's scribed into several of the tools is in the letter...
Anyway, if anyone wants to know any specifics about the chest, feel free to ask.
Enjoy the pics!
I guess mbc1963 is probably no longer following this thread. But I saw her chest for sale at Hollis Flea Mkt last month. (Hollis NH) I assume, I spoke with her husband. Asking price in line with Rivetts advise. It was (gently) refinished and the top reglued a wee bit out of kilter - but a nice box.
I did not buy it, but it is a small world!
how do you guys feel about reconditioning a piece like this with Howards Restor-a-finish, in my opinion it is magic.