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Thread: First Gerstner - Planning a restore

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Burlington Vermont

    First Gerstner - Planning a restore

    Hi Everyone,
    I picked up a Gerstner chest this past weekend and I'm planning to restore it. I've been trying to soak up all the information on the forum but wanted to post a few photos of the chest before I begin and hopefully get some quick opinions. My plan is to clean up the box to use as storage for a growing watch collection. 1960's Omega watches should look nice sitting in the top section w/ straps, parts, and tools in the draws.

    Based on the site below, it's most likely dating from 1953-1959

    The overall condition seems good for it's age. What are people's opinions on keeping these as original as possible vs stripping/re-staining the wood? I like the idea of keeping things as original as possible when it makes sense.

    Oak 41c



    The section the hinges connect to has a slightly different texture and obviously a lighter color, not sure if this is a sign of a previous repair.

    The biggest issue I found is that the bottom board has warped, the fold down front panel can't be pushed all the way in due to the wave in the board. Replacing this board, if even possible, would be well beyond my skills and since it contains the serial number it feels wrong to get rid of it's original materials even if I could.


    Does anything jump out as a major problem I might run into? I've never taken on this kind of project before and want to make sure I don't do more harm than good. I've read over the information here as well: https://gerstnertoolchest.shutterfly...orationdetails

    Thanks for looking!


  2. #2

    Congratulations and welcome to the obsession!

    Looks like you have a nice O41C chest, but it is not without its issues. The bottom is made of plywood and has warped and delaminated. Replacing it is a daunting task because of the finger joints on either end. I would not want to lose the Gerstner stencil either. You may be able to inject some hot hide glue in between the layers and weigh it down in place. (?)

    The back of the box is also veneer covered plywood and the rail where the hinges attach is solid oak. That accounts for the difference in texture and color. They would have taken the stain differently.

    I'm not from the clean-up school, I'm a full blown slash and burn, strip down and restore, kind of guy, so I'm probably not the one to give advice on that process. That being said, you can still pick up some pointers on my web site:

    Another thing that jumps out at me are the numerous cigarette burns on the top inside of the front panel. Ouch! It was common back in the day, but sure has left its mark! There is no real good way to get rid of them; just chalk them up to history and patina. Even thorough sanding won't get rid of them completely. (Ask me how I know!)

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Central USA
    Terry and I have friendly disagreements about what to do with these old boxes. I greatly and genuinely admire Terry's dedication, craftsmanship and results. I have used a lot of what Terry says about restoration, especially as relates to the hardware. I agree exactly with what Terry says about the de-lamination and the possible fix. Like he says, use hide glue or at least some natural organic glue and not Gorilla glue.

    All that said, I go for the clean up. One thing about the cleanup is that you can't really hurt things badly enough that you can't go to the next step and do a Terry restoration on the box if the cleanup isn't enough for you.

    My cleanup entails taking off all of the hardware and going over the box with 000 steel wool and mineral spirits. Use some elbow grease and try to get all of the dirt and grime off. You will end up with a clean but dull looking chest. After it all dries, go over the box with a couple of coats of Old English light or Dark stain furniture polish (depending on your taste). This will restore some of the luster. If after a couple of coats you don't get the luster you want do a polish with Old English Lemon oil.

    As Terry says you will never get the cig burns out with this method. I personally like some battle scars. Some of my best old tube guitar amps have a cig burn or two. BTW, I store watches and parts in my chests too.
    Hoosier Pocket Watch Collector
    Collector/Lover/User of Gerstner Cabs to Store Watches and Parts

  4. #4
    Hi Matt, names Matt as well LOL.

    I have a similar model as yours but a little smaller and little older, closer to late 20's-30's. Your box is in way better shape than what mine was so should have great luck in just cleaning it up. Love to see some pics of your process and see how it came out!!
    “Who are you to judge the life I live?
    I know I'm not perfect
    -and I don't live to be-
    but before you start pointing fingers...
    make sure you hands are clean!”

    - Robert Nesta Marley -

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Auburn, CA
    I’m a fully strip/refinish guy myself, you’ll never get ALL the scratches and dings out, but those that remain will give it excellent character.


    7A12F4E5-3E63-4CE2-BC1A-705293B5F61B by jim nevill, on Flickr


    834D6C32-8A04-4443-9E2B-DFB9921312C5 by jim nevill, on Flickr


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