Lately I have had a new junking obsession.
There has been one thing I have been looking for for YEARS. An antique Gerstner machinist tool box. I saw one years ago used as a jewelry box, and have been obsessed ever since then.
I have found them, but never in my price range. They go for HUNDREDS.
In the early 20th century, tool chests were produced by companies such as H. Gerstner & Sons and Union Tool Chest Company to hold punches, tap wrenches, and other machinist tools—Union also made boxes for Sears that were branded as Craftsman. These wooden chests, usually built of oak, opened from the top and had numerous shallow felt-lined drawers so that tools and dies could be safely stored and easily accessed.
Tool maker Stanley also made chests, some bearing its Sweet Hart brand. Many of its boxes were designed like steamer trunks, which were meant to be opened only after being turned on their sides. Custom-cut blocks and pivoting cleats held everything from hammers and saw to planes and chisels in place so they wouldn’t rattle around and get damaged.
Stanley also made vertically standing tool chests with a pair of doors instead of a single lid, as well as ones with roll-top fronts, like the covers on a roll-top desk. Less fancy were its tool “totes,” which more closely resembled the small, single-handled tool boxes that most of us have in our garages.
Other types of toolboxes include cast-iron ones attached to tractors and farm machinery—the lids of these all-weather toolboxes were often stamped with words like McCormick, Harvester, John Deere, or Case. And red, wheeled, Snap-on toolboxes are such beloved fixtures in car-repair shops that some people who can’t have the real thing make do with a miniature toy bank version.
Finally, some toolboxes are as renowned today for their Tetris-like engineering as the tools they held. The H.O. Studley Tool Chest is one such box. Studley worked for a piano company in the early 1900s, so he custom built his chest from materials used to make instruments, including rosewood, mother of pearl, and, of course, ivory. Over the course of three decades, Studley packed some 300 pieces into his 39-inch-high by 18-inch-wide by 9-inch-deep box. It was not very practical, though—reportedly, it took three strong men to lift it.
A few weeks ago, the day I dreamed of finally happened. I saw it sitting at the end of an aisle at the flea market. I practically knocked people down in my haste to get to it. It was marked $75!! As I was drooling over it, two men started opening the drawers, and I couldn’t get my money out fast enough! I actually ended up getting it for $65! Happy day!
I already told the story about how my mean husband hid one of the drawers on me when we got home, and was shocked to find that I still loved it, even missing a drawer.
So then a week later, I was at the flea market (shocker!) and I saw another old tool box! This one is not a Gerstner, but it is still old and awesome!
We got it home, and found that it was full of old tools, pictures, an old handmade birthday card, a Red Cross card, and schematics from 1916!
This weekend I was again at the flea market, and wouldn’t you know it? Another tool box!
This one is HUGE! The plan is to use it to store my silver!
Do you have an antique tool box? How do you use it?