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Old Wood Tooling Cabinets and Drawer Index's

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
Google isn't going my way, but anyone have pictures or information that they'd care to post showing the old wooden tooling cabinets or drawer indexes that would have makers decals on them?

Other than their just being way cool, I'm interested because back in 2006 when we bought a shop in Long Island, NY and moved it to merge with our place in Texas, scattered throughout the company/shop were some tin parts drawers with wood fronts and backs. After gathering them all together I'm thinking they were once part of an old wood tooling index that the frame/case either was destroyed or lost. They're all the same style and depth, but have a few different widths and heights.
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I'm not a skilled wood guy, but the wood looks like it'll clean up beautifully and might be mahogany. The tin is galvanized and the hardware looks to be brass plated steel. I plan to recreate the case, but am yet to see a unit with the same style hardware and in the end I'll likely have to take some artistic liberty in the project. It's a project I've been sitting on for awhile, but getting a frame of reference for the design means I can start gathering materials (... and put another iron in the fire:crazy:). There's enough drawers to make a floor standing unit and I'll likely plan on some open space above and bellow the drawers, possibly even a glass door up top.

So any input on this specific project would help, but I'd also love to see pictures of other cases out there, how they're laid out and how they balance form and function, etc.
 

Jim Christie

Titanium
Joined
Mar 14, 2007
Location
L'Orignal, Ontario Canada
I can't say who made yours but here are several old catalogues on archive.org showing this type of hardware store furniture or industrial furniture.
Many are all wood and some are all metal.
I just took a quick look but maybe you will get some ideas from these links .

https://archive.org/search.php?query=Hardware Store Furniture

J.D. Warren Manufacturing Co. : Hardware Cases and Shelving : J.D. Warren Manufacturing Co. : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
Internet Archive Search: subject:"industrial furniture"
Jim
P.S. you might also try similar searches on the Hathi Trust Library site.
 

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
what you have there appear to be drawers of apothecary cabinets

apothecary cabinet plans - Google Search

That's a good possibility and they seem to pop-up more often in searches (probably more "trendy"), but all the ones I've seen were all wood whereas mine are tin with wood faces and backs, and most apothecary kits had uniform drawer dimensions. My assumption being that most of the materials that would be stored in them were just raw goods that didn't require bigger/smaller drawers, like in a shop or hardware store where you'd have smaller drawers for nuts or taps and bigger drawers for long bolts or reamers.

This set appears to all be from the same unit too. All the drawers have uniform wear and patina and nearly all of them also have a big yellow stripe painted on the sides, likely added later so someone walking down an isle is more likely to see an open drawer before running into it with their head (an none of the other hundreds of parts drawers in the company had those stripes). I have no way of knowing when the original case disappeared and the drawers were transferred to the other generic metal shelves around the company, but the parts they contained were all for machines that were developed between 1910's and 1930's and regularly supported up until the 1960's. There was too much variety in those machines parts for these drawers to have been purchased new for that specific purpose, so they really could have been repurposed as parts drawers anywhere in that time frame.
 

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
I can't say who made yours but here are several old catalogues on archive.org showing this type of hardware store furniture or industrial furniture.
Many are all wood and some are all metal.
I just took a quick look but maybe you will get some ideas from these links .

https://archive.org/search.php?query=Hardware Store Furniture

J.D. Warren Manufacturing Co. : Hardware Cases and Shelving : J.D. Warren Manufacturing Co. : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
Internet Archive Search: subject:"industrial furniture"
Jim
P.S. you might also try similar searches on the Hathi Trust Library site.

Bingo! I just needed the right search words. I've already got some pics showing the exact drawers:

vintage oak hardware store counter cabinet galvanized drawers 94” x 33”h x 25.75 | eBay

View attachment 339837

This hardware store bench was made by Heller and has drawers of the same construction and same hardware, just deeper and different sizes, but they surely made units in a few different sizes.

C. 1900 Monumental Harley-Davidson W.C. Heller and Co. Wall Unit For Sale at 1stDibs

Here's another showing more variety. This one also shows the same yellow paint. Perhaps they came from the factory that way?

View attachment 339836
 

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
Ok, so my drawers are defenintly old Heller hardware store kit. Ideally, they could go towards completing a set, but MAN those things go for some money. They don't seem to be too rare, but the high antique market value put them way out of my reach, so I think I'll stick with my plan to make a unit for the drawers, but at the very least now I have some good pictures showing how they were constructed.

Most of those old hardware store sets seemed to be quite large and often "built-in" to the store, so I think it more likely that the drawers were just taken out of the wall of some out-of-business store and put back to work in our shop. Heller was apparently based out of Ohio, as was our company up until the late 1950's.

I think now my next step will be to lay out the drawers and see what arrangement will geometrically fit the best (10 rows of 5 or 8 rows of 6, etc.) and then I can start sketching up the new/old case for them. It's cool to see how Heller did some of their features like glass cabinets and open shelves. I don't have enough drawers to recreate a whole hardware store, but enough for a modest sized free-standing cabinet. My plan after building the case is going to be to use the drawers for cutter storage, either in our main shop or at my home garage set-up, so that will factor in as well. A glass cabinet space would be nice for measuring tool storage and open lower shelves for fixtures and other larger/heavy items. I don't think I'll incorporate a bench into the set, but it could be a nice feature. Even a small one for unboxing and laying out cutters.

I'll add too that I'm planning on recreating a mahogany bed-mounted tool chest on my 16" Hendy lathe, so gathering and cutting materials for both these projects will likely overlap.
 

dcsipo

Titanium
Joined
Oct 13, 2014
Location
Baldwin, MD/USA
Ok, so my drawers are defenintly old Heller hardware store kit. Ideally, they could go towards completing a set, but MAN those things go for some money. They don't seem to be too rare, but the high antique market value put them way out of my reach, so I think I'll stick with my plan to make a unit for the drawers, but at the very least now I have some good pictures showing how they were constructed.

Most of those old hardware store sets seemed to be quite large and often "built-in" to the store, so I think it more likely that the drawers were just taken out of the wall of some out-of-business store and put back to work in our shop. Heller was apparently based out of Ohio, as was our company up until the late 1950's.

I think now my next step will be to lay out the drawers and see what arrangement will geometrically fit the best (10 rows of 5 or 8 rows of 6, etc.) and then I can start sketching up the new/old case for them. It's cool to see how Heller did some of their features like glass cabinets and open shelves. I don't have enough drawers to recreate a whole hardware store, but enough for a modest sized free-standing cabinet. My plan after building the case is going to be to use the drawers for cutter storage, either in our main shop or at my home garage set-up, so that will factor in as well. A glass cabinet space would be nice for measuring tool storage and open lower shelves for fixtures and other larger/heavy items. I don't think I'll incorporate a bench into the set, but it could be a nice feature. Even a small one for unboxing and laying out cutters.

I'll add too that I'm planning on recreating a mahogany bed-mounted tool chest on my 16" Hendy lathe, so gathering and cutting materials for both these projects will likely overlap.

That is neat :)....hope to see your project proceed.
 

Mike U.

Aluminum
Joined
Apr 30, 2006
Location
Gloucester Pt. VA
I have a set of drawers that were once built into a store. Keep an eye out for some old card catalogs as they make nice tooling cabinets and can fit in with your project. I like wood for storing tooling as things seem less likely to rust.
 

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Limy Sami

Diamond
Joined
Jan 7, 2007
Location
Norfolk, UK
I'll add too that I'm planning on recreating a mahogany bed-mounted tool chest on my 16" Hendy lathe, so gathering and cutting materials for both these projects will likely overlap.

Just a heads up

If you want decent mahogany etc etc, don't forget old furniture - which often shows up on Facebook Marketplace and the like I've had some hideous looking crap made from solid hardwoods, again often for the taking away.
 

ratbldr427

Stainless
Joined
Mar 21, 2006
Location
jacksonville,fl.
I don't know if Japanese motor cycles are shipped in wooden crates these days but when I had my first business it was next to a Kawasaki dealer. They used to burn the crates in the back lot. That stopped when some of the old neighbor hood wood workers noticed and asked if they could have them. They went nuts over them. Made out of different Asian hardwoods. Was glad to see someone get some use out of them.
 

Limy Sami

Diamond
Joined
Jan 7, 2007
Location
Norfolk, UK
I don't know if Japanese motor cycles are shipped in wooden crates these days but when I had my first business it was next to a Kawasaki dealer. They used to burn the crates in the back lot. That stopped when some of the old neighbor hood wood workers noticed and asked if they could have them. They went nuts over them. Made out of different Asian hardwoods. Was glad to see someone get some use out of them.

Back in the 70's Honda and Yamaha crates were a good part of my firewood supply for many winters :)
 

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
I'm not dead-set on Mahogany as I know it isn't cheap, but I want something that's going to look and perform the same. Looks are relative, but in general I don't want the old drawers (once cleaned) to stand out against the new case, and I want it to be durable enough to hold up to metal parts and sharp edges hitting and pressing into it (at least better than pine).

The other project perhaps would be less critical as It's being made from scratch. It started as completing a bed-mounted collet box for my 16" Hendey. I found a couple of decent original wood cases and am working on making all of the metal hardware to go with them. I bought a bunch of prints from Hendeyman, and while he was digging in his archive, I also bought the prints for a bed-mounted tool chest and floor standing chuck/back-plate pyramid, both of which were included with some high-end tool room lathes around the turn of the century. I've only ever seen advertisements for these pieces for high-end 12" lathes with integrated electric motors (back when they had the 8 speed headstock and the motor sat on top). These lathes were advertised for laboratory and experimental work. My 16" also had the factory motor on top and even has a carriage mounted motor control, so it's "high-end" in my book, and the prints reference versions of these assemblies for the larger lathes. I haven't found any recorded sightings of the original tool chest and pyramid in the wild, so I'll have to make them from scratch. The prints are too large for me to scan, but the pyramid is a revolving wood assembly with wood pucks on the tapered sides to hold chucks and back plates, and the tool chest is kind of a drawer/tray/box assembly that sits atop a steel post clamped onto the bed.

Hendey Collet Box parts

This thread I started for the collet box project, and Hendeyman mentions that Birch and Oak were also mentioned as materials Hendey would use for their wood components, so that might make for more economical construction than the standard Mahogany.

The Heller images I found show basic cabinetry construction mainly from milled and fitted 1-by's with some larger 1/4" pieces for center panels. It looks like the shelves that the drawers sit on were tin framed with 1-by boards. So I imagine that 1x4 or 1x6 hardwood boards will cover a majority of the construction with some cabinet grade 1/4" plywood on the back, and I might settle for plywood as the center panels too depending on what I can get my hands on. Any large open face shelves or benches I'm not sure on. If I can re-claim some larger panels I'll go that route, but It might not be a bad idea to stick with the framed-tin design that the drawers sit on as the tin will hold up to surface wear better. I don't think I've seen this done on any original cabinet cases though, other than for the drawers and drawer shelves.

The toolbox and pyramid have larger thicker panels unfortunately, the largest tool chest panel being approx. 13"x15"x 3/4", which I can make by gluing narrower board together, but on the pyramid they'll be fairly visible so a solid piece with continuous grain would be preferred, and that might put that project off for awhile.

My woodworking skills are mainly limited to machinery crating and shop amenity construction in the cheapest pine available, so this little adventure into durable shop furniture that actually looks nice will be new for me. I wouldn't be opposed to farming these jobs out to someone more skilled, but as they won't be making me any money, DIY wins out. I have a 10" Plainer, 6" Jointer, table saw and miter saw to play with when the time comes.
 

Chip Chester

Diamond
Joined
Dec 13, 2007
Location
Central Ohio USA
If you have enough drawers for a 'logical' layout, plus extras, it sounds like you could sell one or two to a cabinet owner with 'vacancies' in their cabinet, and finance the casework for the rest of them.
 








 
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