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Gerstner - oops, Union - tool box hardware needed

tom_boctou

Cast Iron
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Location
Boston, MA, USA
I trash picked a heavily water damaged quarter sawn oak 7 drawer machinists tool box. I figured, the veneer's mostly off already and the rest of it is falling apart, probably a week to rebuild the damaged laminated (plywood) parts, right? It was a calculated risk but boy am I bad at math.

I took the carcass (the drawers were ok) apart to component parts, bleached the rust stains out as best as I could, and put it back together with the old veneer on new ply. Tonight I went to put some of the HW back on but it's all really rusty. I know Gerstner sells restoration HW, so I looked through their offerings and found that it was all really close to what I have but not quite the same.

After a little bit of searching I found that instead of a Gerstner 41B I have a Union B-20.

hw.jpg

There's a good chance I can match the latches, but the lock and especially the hinges are unusual. Does anyone know where I can find replacements for these?
 

dcsipo

Titanium
Joined
Oct 13, 2014
Location
Baldwin, MD/USA
There's a good chance I can match the latches, but the lock and especially the hinges are unusual. Does anyone know where I can find replacements for these?

It is unlikely that you will find replacement hardware, that style is not manufactured today. The best bet is to soak it in Evaporust, clean it up, and see how it looks. If you want it shiny, look for someone who can electroplate them
 

tom_boctou

Cast Iron
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Location
Boston, MA, USA
the hinge and latch will clean and polish just about perfect

Gerstner will sell you unmarked latches without proof of ownership

The latches and locks that Gerstner sells are very close, but some of the screw holes are off by about 1/2 a screw width, which is pretty much pessimal but won't show if I plug the old holes & redrill.
 

tom_boctou

Cast Iron
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Location
Boston, MA, USA
Here are some pictures of the rebuild. Apparently I didn't take any pictures of the whole thing before I disassembled it, but all of the joints were pretty loose so it wasn't difficult to tap and wiggle it apart.
top-1.jpgtop-2.jpgtop-disassembled.jpg
The top, bottom of the top compartment, and rear were all laminated out of fairly heavy gauge hardwood. The water damage and resulting delamination made it hard to tell exactly how thick the panels were to start with, but it was difficult to match the thicknesses with standard ply.
The inside of the top was good oak veneer despite being covered with felt, so I refinished it without the felt.
top-laminations.jpg
This make it look thicker than it is, but this is the edge of the ply used for the top.
top-veneer.jpg
This is the top before I took the veneer off, the veneer from the back, and a one of the layers from the ply. Some of the wood used in the ply have a pretty grain, I've considered reusing it but it's pretty thick and I haven't managed to get it flat enough.
 

tom_boctou

Cast Iron
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Location
Boston, MA, USA
bowed-ply.jpg
Soaking the veneer off led to some surprising warpage.
sides.jpg
I used a lot of wood bleach (oxalic acid) to get the rust stains out. These are the side panels, the one on the right has been bleached.
front.jpg
The front also came apart pretty easily. The long sticks are pretty bowed, I still haven't managed to get them straight enough to reassemble.
carcass-reassembled-2.jpg
This is a loose reassembly. The inside of the front panel was felt, like a Gerstner, but I was able to sand the panel smooth enough (it had been rough sawn) to keep it bare wood.

I used a finish meant to replicate a Stickley formula in hopes of having the carcass roughly match the drawers, which didn't need work. The finish turned out redder than I wanted, so now I have to refinish the drawers too.
 

neanderthal mach

Cast Iron
Joined
Dec 18, 2008
Location
princeton b.c.
A bit late now but for future reference. Depending on the type of glue Union used and a likely guess given the time period it probably would have been hide glue, then using an old clothes iron without any water in it and on it's lowest heat setting would probably have gotten the glue to release. Start at an outer edge and then slowly move the iron along as you gently pull up. A wide putty knife can also help to lift the old veneer as the glue bond separates. It takes a bit of patience, but you'll get a lot less warping than water soaking it.
 

JST

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2001
Location
St Louis
That hardware looks almost identical the the hardware that came on my Sipco. I am pretty sure Sipco made their own boxes, and also contracted out to make them for others.

Not sure if Union actually made their own boxes, or contracted for them.

In any case, (!) that style hardware is on a number of brands, and may be findable if hardware you have is not restorable, and you want original. Might find it on partial or damaged boxes from others.
 

gustafson

Diamond
Joined
Sep 4, 2002
Location
People's Republic
The latches and locks that Gerstner sells are very close, but some of the screw holes are off by about 1/2 a screw width, which is pretty much pessimal but won't show if I plug the old holes & redrill.

Yes they are depending on vintage

If you try them on the box you can decide whether you want to even bother re drilling. They will latch together just fine, the upper latch hangs down but you don't really notice
 

Chip Chester

Diamond
Joined
Dec 13, 2007
Location
Central Ohio USA
"I used a finish meant to replicate a Stickley formula..."

I would have jumped right to ammonia fuming for this, since it's so small.

You can occasionally find manufacturing/date marks on the original drawer bottoms. Not sure if Union did this too, though.
 

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
Unless the old hardware is damaged or missing, I'd stick with it. As others noted, chemical rust removal should give good results to clean it. After that, If I was looking for functionality, I'd polish and clear-coat the pieces. If I was looking for a first clast piece (which yours it looking like one!), I'd send the pieces out to be re-plated. A simple Nickle over copper job with minimal polishing would look fantastic and likely is close to original.
 

tom_boctou

Cast Iron
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Location
Boston, MA, USA
Unless the old hardware is damaged or missing, I'd stick with it. As others noted, chemical rust removal should give good results to clean it. After that, If I was looking for functionality, I'd polish and clear-coat the pieces. If I was looking for a first clast piece (which yours it looking like one!), I'd send the pieces out to be re-plated. A simple Nickle over copper job with minimal polishing would look fantastic and likely is close to original.

I put the hardware through a rust remover bath and it looks ok, but there's no plating at all left on the latches and corners and the plating on the lock and hinges is spotty. If I do the latches and corners then the knobs will stand out and I'll have to do them too. I could buy another of the same toolbox (remember, this is Union/Craftsman, not Gerstner) with good hardware for what it would cost to have my hardware replated. I've got jars of copper & nickel sulfate for this sort of thing but I've put way too much time into it already and I'm done working on it.
finished-left.jpg
This is what it looks like with partial hardware. I still have to figure out how to take the bow out of the front (not in this picture), then of course the original finish on the drawers will need to be redone to match, which I plan on putting off until after I'm dead.
 

tom_boctou

Cast Iron
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Location
Boston, MA, USA
A bit late now but for future reference. Depending on the type of glue Union used and a likely guess given the time period it probably would have been hide glue, then using an old clothes iron without any water in it and on it's lowest heat setting would probably have gotten the glue to release. Start at an outer edge and then slowly move the iron along as you gently pull up. A wide putty knife can also help to lift the old veneer as the glue bond separates. It takes a bit of patience, but you'll get a lot less warping than water soaking it.

I did try heat first. The veneer was already pretty warped and partially delaminated, I couldn't get an iron on it and a heat gun didn't work. I figured I was going to have to soak the veneer to get it flat anyway (unless there's some other way?), so I went with soaking.

Fortunately the veneer was thicker than some I see these days, it put up with a lot of abuse before I got it back on with a finish applied. Notice that the finished picture I posted doesn't highlight the veneered faces.
 

dcsipo

Titanium
Joined
Oct 13, 2014
Location
Baldwin, MD/USA
I put the hardware through a rust remover bath and it looks ok, but there's no plating at all left on the latches and corners and the plating on the lock and hinges is spotty. If I do the latches and corners then the knobs will stand out and I'll have to do them too. I could buy another of the same toolbox (remember, this is Union/Craftsman, not Gerstner) with good hardware for what it would cost to have my hardware replated. I've got jars of copper & nickel sulfate for this sort of thing but I've put way too much time into it already and I'm done working on it.
View attachment 338672
This is what it looks like with partial hardware. I still have to figure out how to take the bow out of the front (not in this picture), then of course the original finish on the drawers will need to be redone to match, which I plan on putting off until after I'm dead.

Hey :) It is a toolbox, not a Louis XIV rosewood desk :), For a toolbox, it looks fantastic.
 

dcsipo

Titanium
Joined
Oct 13, 2014
Location
Baldwin, MD/USA
Are you saying it's ugly compared to a Louis XIV rosewood desk? Now my feeling are hurt.

Form over function? Looks great, be proud of the work. For the record, I do not like the looks of Louis XIV furniture they are overdecorated but incredibly well made pieces
 








 
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