Gerstner Tool Box Problem
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  1. #1
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    Default Gerstner Tool Box Problem

    Hello,

    I have a couple of Gerstner tool boxes that have problems. One is walnut and I got it new when I started my apprenticeship in 78. It is a larger box with two machinery handbook drawers, one on either side. The other one I just inherited from my dads estate and it is from the mid 50's when he started his apprenticeship and is the wider box with one machinery handbook drawer in the middle. It looks like mahogany to me.

    A few years ago I took a look at dads box and the cover that folds up over the drawers is too tall to easily fit closed. Now mine is doing the same thing.

    At first I suspected moisture because my dads box had been in his basement for years but mine has been reasonably dry in my shop and now with the heat going in the shop it is pretty dry but still having the same problem. Both of these boxes were in the same climate controlled shop during our working year. Dad retired in 87 and I retired in 06. Never had any problems with either one while they were in the plant.

    Is this something ghat is common and if so what is the best way to deal with it?

    It seems unlikely that I would be the only one to have this problem.

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    I would think it has swelled up due to winter moisture. Can you bring it inside your warm, dry house for a few weeks and see if it shrinks?
    If it does resealing or refinishing it might slow the swelling down. Wood experts will know what to do.

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    I have the same box, similar vintage, and the same problem. Pretty annoying, it's been that way for 5+ years. My other Gerstner is smaller and in rougher shape but has never had this problem in ~15 years.

    I haven't fixed it because the box with the problem is too nice for my current shop, so it's leaving the easy life in my home until a nicer shop comes along.

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    My dad's has the same problem, bought in '73. Even the drawers would swell up and open/close. The three I have now, work fine, of course they are at home in a reasonable controlled environment. If you will contact Gerstner, they will more than glad to help you out and offer what they recommend as a long term fix, even if it means sending in the box to let them correct the problem. Something that might help a bunch is to keep it covered with either their cover you can buy from them or some type canvas cloth that can be used as a cover. It may help keep the humidity in check. Ken

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    I am a retired carpenter and woodworker. I would remove the handle temporarily and run the top thru the table saw. This will remove about 1/8" in width. If you have a biscuit jointer or even a dowel jig you can glue the two pieces together. Put together dry first to see if 1/8" is enough . Usually 1/8" in the width is the most the lid has grown. I use hot hide glue because it is reversible if needed. Any carpenters glue like TiteBond will do. Hot hide glue takes a stain better than most glues,
    mike

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    Not sure about yours, but we have a couple "single book" Gerstner's that the problem is that various horizontal panels in the chest have developed a sag over time and have to be pushed up to let drawers slide, front panel go in, etc. I think it goes back to weighty pieces inside and/or the front panel being left down for a long time, so I try to make it a habit to always close the tool box all the way up at the end of the day. That way the front panel helps the case hold it's shape. We also have an older Eagle Lock Co. wood chest similar to the small 16" Gersteners that doesn't seem to have the same sagging issues, even though it's been in the same oily dirty environment with the front panel left down most of the time. I think it's narrower width supports itself better while the wider Gersteners need the front panels support.

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    How about skim just the top with the table saw leaving it a smidge long and then just take a plane to the top and shave until it fits? Restain and varnish, et voila.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eKretz View Post
    How about skim just the top with the table saw leaving it a smidge long and then just take a plane to the top and shave until it fits? Restain and varnish, et voila.
    Yep. Hand plane, just enough, then refinish.

    No hand plane? Sandpaper wrapped round something solid, a cuppa coffee, and a few minutes more than if you used a hand plane.

    Before you have at with any other tools, chuck a straight edge at the various surfaces to see if they are straight, as well as a square to check that.

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    Being a machinist IO would accurately measure the aperture as I suspect the drooping is the issue. It could just be goo in the way too, a decent cleaning may help

    The old ones maybe shellac, but the newer ones will be lacquer or varnish of some description

    I should go check my larger one to see if it still shuts...

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    Too much heavy stuff in the box and/or moisture swelling. Your eye should be able to detect box sag or front panel swelling. Taking a bit of wood off of the panel and/or box edges should correct the fit either way. Taking wood off of the panel bottom would be easiest.
    For wood removal nothing more than a sanding block and paper on the edges should be required. Refinishing the sanded edges with a bit of clear polyurethane rubbed on with your finger tip will seal the grain.
    Give them the care they deserve and leave the heavy stuff in a Kennedy..........Bob

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    I ran into this problem with my dad's old box that had gotten slightly wet.

    I took it all apart and let it dry in an upstairs bedroom all summer, and all of the drawers fit just fine. The cover was another matter.

    I discovered that the bottom panel (with the tongue and groove details) had warped and delaminated badly. I phone a woodworker friend of mine and he told me how to thin the glue and get it to wick down into the damaged area. This solved the delam problem, but not the fitment problem.

    I decided to let it be, for fear of blowing out the whole bottom panel and ruining the box.

    I'll bet if you check the panel, you will discover that it is at the root of the problem.

    Hope this helps, and keep us posted.

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    You have a tool box that is "too nice" for your shop?

    Boy am I glad that I don't have a "too nice" tool box. Because my shop is probably even less deserving than yours. Heck, my steel tool boxes aren't even top notch, name brand for that type. They are good, solid, and much less expensive than any of those top notch ones and, guess what, they hold tools. And they don't warp. So far, there is no rust. And the slides work perfectly. And I may not move them often, but even the wheels roll well. What more could I ask of a tool box?

    Good luck taking care of your problems. But keep in mind that wood distorts if it's moisture content changes in either direction. Too dry can be just as bad as too moist. Old furniture that lives in air conditioned areas can develop cracks because it lost moisture.

    The tree may be dead, but the wood from it is "live".



    Quote Originally Posted by Halcohead View Post
    I have the same box, similar vintage, and the same problem. Pretty annoying, it's been that way for 5+ years. My other Gerstner is smaller and in rougher shape but has never had this problem in ~15 years.

    I haven't fixed it because the box with the problem is too nice for my current shop, so it's leaving the easy life in my home until a nicer shop comes along.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike 44 View Post
    I am a retired carpenter and woodworker. I would remove the handle temporarily and run the top thru the table saw. This will remove about 1/8" in width. If you have a biscuit jointer or even a dowel jig you can glue the two pieces together. Put together dry first to see if 1/8" is enough . Usually 1/8" in the width is the most the lid has grown. I use hot hide glue because it is reversible if needed. Any carpenters glue like TiteBond will do. Hot hide glue takes a stain better than most glues,
    mike
    Hi Mike, It isn't the top that's the problem. It's the cover that flips up to cover the drawers that is tight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by M.B. Naegle View Post
    Not sure about yours, but we have a couple "single book" Gerstner's that the problem is that various horizontal panels in the chest have developed a sag over time and have to be pushed up to let drawers slide, front panel go in, etc. I think it goes back to weighty pieces inside and/or the front panel being left down for a long time, so I try to make it a habit to always close the tool box all the way up at the end of the day. That way the front panel helps the case hold it's shape. We also have an older Eagle Lock Co. wood chest similar to the small 16" Gersteners that doesn't seem to have the same sagging issues, even though it's been in the same oily dirty environment with the front panel left down most of the time. I think it's narrower width supports itself better while the wider Gersteners need the front panels support.
    For 28 years straight my box was closed and locked while I wasn't working and the cover always fit fine. Since I retired a bit over a decade ago I've mostly left it open because it's not in danger of having things walk away anymore. My dad's box on the other hand sat closed for quite a few years and when I went to open it a few years ago I had to use a putty knife or something like that to help open it.

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    The bottom edge of the cover has a narrow wood strip that drops down into the slot in the bottom panel of the box so that isn't probably the best place to start removing wood. The top of the panel has a couple of metal inserts that the pins drop down into when you close the top. I've thought about taking the inserts out and running the front panels through my table saw but I'm a little bit concerned with trying to match up the finish.

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    My first tool box when I started about 45 years ago was a Gerstner given to me by my Dad who had it for some 30 years prior. The Gerstner box was never my favorite but kept it around for sentimental reasons. The drawers never fit, the sides were coming apart, and the front cover wouldn't close without a fight. I purchased a new Kennedy within a year or two after I got the Gerstner and finally gave the Gerstner away recently to a relative. Wood boxes may have had there place before WWII when shops didn't have climate controlled environments like today. My Kennedy boxes (I have 5) still function like new more than 40 years later.

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    Well, some of us just love Gerstners. Yours was beat when you got it. I have no such problems with mine, and I restored a late 30's one going so far as to buy real wool felt cause Gerstner sells the synthetic stuff and that aint right.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by gustafson View Post
    Well, some of us just love Gerstners. Yours was beat when you got it. I have no such problems with mine, and I restored a late 30's one going so far as to buy real wool felt cause Gerstner sells the synthetic stuff and that aint right.....

    Dunno about "just loving" the Gerstner, but I have one that is so old that Gerstner has forgotten they made it (but it is one of theirs), from the early 1900s. The thing still fits fine and the only problem is that the treated cloth covering is getting pretty worn after nearly 100 years.

    I like the wood boxes for measuring equipment, mics, indicators, etc. For screwdrivers and such, the metal boxes are best. No, I have zero "science" behind that opinion, but......

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    Quote Originally Posted by JST View Post
    Dunno about "just loving" the Gerstner, but I have one that is so old that Gerstner has forgotten they made it (but it is one of theirs), from the early 1900s. The thing still fits fine and the only problem is that the treated cloth covering is getting pretty worn after nearly 100 years.

    I like the wood boxes for measuring equipment, mics, indicators, etc. For screwdrivers and such, the metal boxes are best. No, I have zero "science" behind that opinion, but......
    I agree. It seems to me that most wood tool chests are made with less gap between the drawers and case than their steel counterparts, which is likely part of the problem we are discussing here, but that also means less chips and debris work their way into closed drawers. Our steel chests all seem to collect chips in the corners of the drawers while the wood ones stay cleaner inside, so our wood cases usually get used for inspection tools more than general shop floor tools. Keeping them away from coolant and oil spray helps too.

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    Glad to hear consensus is just sanding to adjust clearance then refinishing the sanded face. I wasn't sure how bad refinishing the sanded edge would be, glad it's straightforward. (You can tell I do a lot of woodwork) I'm guessing the larger boxes are more sensitive to humidity changes since the clearances on the bigger front panels probably aren't proportionally larger than those on the smaller front panels.

    Quote Originally Posted by EPAIII View Post
    You have a tool box that is "too nice" for your shop?

    Boy am I glad that I don't have a "too nice" tool box. Because my shop is probably even less deserving than yours. Heck, my steel tool boxes aren't even top notch, name brand for that type. They are good, solid, and much less expensive than any of those top notch ones and, guess what, they hold tools. And they don't warp. So far, there is no rust. And the slides work perfectly. And I may not move them often, but even the wheels roll well. What more could I ask of a tool box?

    Good luck taking care of your problems. But keep in mind that wood distorts if it's moisture content changes in either direction. Too dry can be just as bad as too moist. Old furniture that lives in air conditioned areas can develop cracks because it lost moisture.
    Thanks that was so helpful. My main box has been a craftsman knockoff since highschool. I share a shop with folks who graze boxes with forklifts and douse them in angle grinder sparks. When my box is finally too dented to open I'll buy a new one from HF. But yes, I would be sad if my retired mentor's 50-year old, meticulously cared for wood box received that treatment. He knew my circumstances when I received it. But good point I should throw it away instead of storing tools at home until my situation changes.

    I've never lived in a home with air conditioning.


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