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Help - Identify Machinist Tool Box - Replacement Key?

rdd331

Plastic
Joined
Nov 9, 2022
I am trying to identify my manufacturer of my grandfather's machinist tool chest. Unfortunately, it is locked and unable to find the key. I am trying to track down a key so that we don't damage the tool chest.

After some research, I believe this was manufactured by National Tool & Chest Co. I can see through the crack of the front panel that there are oak drawers. I can see through the crack at the edge of the front panel that the bottom drawer is taller with 3 shorter drawers above; however, I can be sure of the actual horizontal layout of the drawers. I am thinking it might be a 6 drawer box (4/2). I believe it is an wooden oak box covered in metal. Anybody have expertise around identifying? Any hopes of finding a replacement key for the latch stamped with the number 411?

Any help would be much appreciated.

Thank you,
Rodney
 

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Rdd331:

It's your _grandfather's tool chest_.The only sensible course of action for this heirloom is to bring it to a local locksmith and have him/her pick the lock without damaging it. They can also likely make a key.

I took an old chest to Dekoff's Locksmith in Perth Amboy. He opened it without damaging it and made me two functional keys by cutting and filing down blanks for old GM (1950's-1960's) automobile keys.

This is what good locksmiths do!

JR Ruth
 
BTW, that case is almost identical (externally) to my Sipco, other than having a covering material on it.

However, many cases under one name were made by others. So it might have been made by Sipco, but sold under some other name.

And, many look about the same anyway....
 
Wow, thank you all for the feedback. Ted, I have jumped on the key you listed from IslandTrunkShop. Thank you!

If for some reason, that doesn't work, I will search for a good locksmith and go from there.

Rodney
 
If it fits in the lock, but doesn't unlock it, you can coat the key with a sharpie and see where it is hitting the wards and then file those spots away to create a skeleton key. This will get it open, but may not hold up for long term use. I had to do this to open a Kennedy box that I inherited from my Uncle.
 
A few years ago I went through our shop and got all the lockable tool boxes keyed and keys dolled out and put away (more than just throwing unmarked keys in random drawers to "remember" :wall:) Having the key code on the front is a good first step as not all of them have that. With it I'd say you have a 50/50 chance of finding an old key on eBay or similar site for a few bucks, and with one key more are usually easy to make. Without a key, you can take the whole thing to a lock smith for them to pick and most of them shouldn't have any problem creating a key from what they "see" inside, and it's not as expensive as you would think. I have had a couple cases where the key blank was obsolete, but they can still get it open. One of those I was just patient and a key with the right code turned up on eBay, so I have one "just in case".

IMO, too many people let the keys disappear for these things because they think it's not a big deal or they think the stereotypical black and white striped burglar won't hit them, but in my experience the lock is not so much for the dishonest ones out there, but the buddy that just needs to borrow your mike and looses it, or your kid who wants to borrow the same "C-clamp" to fix his bicycle. The lock is just a handy tool to have ready.
 
I did a restoration on a severely water damaged Union tool box recently, thinking it was a Gerstner. I spent a lot of time looking at hinges, latches, and corners trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to match the ones on the Union. Gerstner sells replacement HW for their boxes, but it doesn't fit Union. Might fit yours, though. Measure the hole spacing to find out. Woodworking stores like Rockler and Woodcraft carry some stuff, and there are places online that carry others. I'm pretty sure I saw those hinges for sale new & shiny.

A bunch of the HW is held on with split rivets, which are a PITA to crimp in. I used rivets from Gerstner, which were a bit smaller than the ones on my Union box but I installed them with glue to fill the gaps.

Also, if you decide to replace the felt in the drawers, I recommend against trying to glue in felt from a fabric store. McMaster sells adhesive backed stuff that's easy to work with and doesn't wind up looking like an oversized kid's Christmas ornament minus the glitter.
 
Felt is pretty easy to glue in if you use premixed bottled hide glue to do the gluing.

Dilute with water a bit, paint onto the drawer surface you are replacing felt on (typically just the bottom), and lay in the felt. The glue should be thin, but not so thin that there is little glue. Paint on enough to get tacky, but not enough to saturate the felt. You want only the bottom of the felt to get glue in it.

Pre-cut the felt, you do NOT want to be doing that when the felt is wet with glue, although some apparently trim with a razor blade after putting in place. Maybe you can do that well, I cannot do it past trimming off small amounts of excess after the glue dries.

The good thing about the hide glue is that it is removable later if you want to remove and replace dirty felt. The self-stick often sticks way too well. Hide glue loosens rapidly with some hot water.
 
If it fits in the lock, but doesn't unlock it, you can coat the key with a sharpie and see where it is hitting the wards and then file those spots away to create a skeleton key. This will get it open, but may not hold up for long term use. I had to do this to open a Kennedy box that I inherited from my Uncle.
Great tip. Thank you.
 
I did a restoration on a severely water damaged Union tool box recently, thinking it was a Gerstner. I spent a lot of time looking at hinges, latches, and corners trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to match the ones on the Union. Gerstner sells replacement HW for their boxes, but it doesn't fit Union. Might fit yours, though. Measure the hole spacing to find out. Woodworking stores like Rockler and Woodcraft carry some stuff, and there are places online that carry others. I'm pretty sure I saw those hinges for sale new & shiny.

A bunch of the HW is held on with split rivets, which are a PITA to crimp in. I used rivets from Gerstner, which were a bit smaller than the ones on my Union box but I installed them with glue to fill the gaps.

Also, if you decide to replace the felt in the drawers, I recommend against trying to glue in felt from a fabric store. McMaster sells adhesive backed stuff that's easy to work with and doesn't wind up looking like an oversized kid's Christmas ornament minus the glitter.
I originally thought my grandfather's chest was a Gerstner and went down a rabbit hole on Gerstner's website. I agree, I think that their hardware is a good option if I restore. I really appreciate all the input.
 
I've had good luck using Scotch 77 spray adhesive for gluing felt down. Doesn't take much, just a light spray is all you need. Apply it to the metal or wood surface then lay the felt in place.
That could work well, and be removable.

Another thing I remembered.... Never use yellow wood glue (and maybe white either).

I did that years ago, and everything I set on the felt rusted at the points of contact. Apparently there is some corrosive component to the glue. It did not seem to matter if it was "dried" or not.

The hide glue uses water, but has never caused any rust.
 
My problem years back was finding hide glue. Nobody carried it. This was back before the WWW came around. I tried yellow glue, would soak thru and made a mess.
 
Just my opinion, but unless you want to make it completely like new again (which can be a big project depending how much it needs or how deep you go), the old felt might be a nice touch to leave in place. I use my Dad's old Gerstner who he bought from an old machinist neighbor of his that got him started in the trade, and it's fun to see which drawers have seen the most mileage, like seeing where someone has picked up with same micrometer a million times. OTOH, if the felt has worn through, it would be good to get something in there to protect the tools.

That line you walk between preserving things as they are and making them new is what makes it your own. I tend to lean more in the direction of correcting mistreatment of things like rust, and fixing damages that affect function, but leaving general wear and tear.
 
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My problem years back was finding hide glue. Nobody carried it. This was back before the WWW came around. I tried yellow glue, would soak thru and made a mess.
I get the pre-mix bottled hide glue from Woodcraft, they have a local store. Rockler may also, they are farther away from me. The cake type is too much work, we used that at a previous employer, and had the machines to apply it.

Preserving the wear.... I am usually too lazy to NOT "preserve the wear" on many things, especially if I want to put them to use.

The toolboxes, though, I prefer to get my own grease and dirt on the felt.... some of the old stuff can be pretty grotty, and felt was a maintenance item anyway.
 








 
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