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Thread: My Gerstner Restoration

  1. #1

    My Gerstner Restoration

    Hello! This is my first Gerstner & Sons toolbox restoration. This box is actually my first encounter with a Gerstner box (I didn't know they even existed before seeing this box up for sale on a Facebook group that I am a part of). It wasn't in too bad of shape with the exception of the veneer chipping off in a couple corners. That almost made me pass on the box because I have never dealt with repairing veneer.

    After thinking about it for a couple days and secretly hoping that nobody would buy it, I bit the bullet and bought it. The damage was worse than what the pictures showed but I fell in love with it as soon as I got to messing around with it. It blew me away how well built and practical it was and I was eager to get all my taps, dyes, and measuring tools inside of it.

    I got everything loaded into it and it was working great but the veneer problem and general wear and tear it was nagging at me and I knew that there was more potential in this old box so I started down the rabbit hole.

    I found a lot of videos online and was thrilled once I realized that hardware was still available directly from Gerstner & Sons. I ordered new split rivets, a new mirror (mine was pitted), a key (mine didn't come with one), and some feet. In the meantime, I got to work dismantling, tagging-and-bagging all the hardware, buffing, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, and sanding. My goal for this project was to give the box a proper restoration that would be original but still MY restoration. What would classify the restoration as "mine" would be the stain color and the fact that I would be using all the original hardware, just new looking.

    Once I sanded all the old stain off, I found a picture of a Gerstner box with a stain color I really liked. I bought the associated stain and finally stained all the drawer fronts. The color wasn't my favorite but I thought it was cool that it was still a color that Gerstner made on their current boxes. Two problems then occurred: 1. I discovered there were a lot of parts where the old stain wasn't completely sanded off and it was driving me insane and 2. after sanding all the new stain off and finished sanding off the original stain, I stained the same color back on and it looked way better.

    While I was waiting for the stain to dry, I found a cool video where a pretty big Youtuber got a tour of the Gerstner factory. Towards the end of the video, the person giving the tour explained the Gerstner International line of boxes and then it hit me that I chose a stain based off of the Gerstner International line. Now, I'm not bashing on the International line of Gerstner boxes, it's just that this box is not a Gerstner International box. So I decided to sand all the stain off AGAIN and I went with a dark cherry stain (WHOOPS).

    Turns out dark cherry stain looks purple when applied to oak. I was so frustrated because I could either cut my losses and throw the entire project in the trash, just go with it and hate it for as long as I have the box, or do the right thing and sand all the stain off. Again. Fortunately, I was only staining the drawer faces and the front cover so it wasn't completely terrible. But I have been getting really really good at hand-sanding.

    I came to the realization that doing things "the right way" (as far as the color is concerned) was realized while I was polishing all the original hardware. It polished up quick and shiny with the exception of a couple corner guards that were rusty. It seemed like the box had sat in about 1/4" of water for a few hours and the water that was trapped in the wood caused the corner guards to get rusty. Luckily, the rust wasn't bad and i was able to remove the rust and the wood that got wet had only swelled a little bit but didn't rot out.

    My next issue was the chipping veneer. I think that water damage caused the veneer to start peeling away from the plywood and someone broke off the veneer. The lid veneer pulling off was most likely caused by usage. Sucks, but reality bites. I decided to dismantle the lid, sand off the veneer, and then glue on more veneer. The back of the box would require me to carefully chisel the veneer off and it worked really well. Besides making a big mess, everything came apart really well.

    Now, reattaching veneer to the lid was a piece of cake. All I had to do was cut out a piece of new veneer to the exact dimension as the lid and then glue it on. Piece of cake. The back of the box was a completely different beast. I had to cut it out to the perfect size and then glue it down with minimal support provided from the box. I didn't want to put the weight on the inside of the box because I needed to make sure the veneer was still fitted up perfectly to the box. Here is what I came up with. Is it pretty? Nope. Was I nervous? Darn tootin'. Is there a better way? Yup. Did this work? Absolutely it did. The veneer-fixing was the most daunting task of this entire restoration and I did it. Let me clarify - I've never veneered ANYTHING before. I bought the veneer on Amazon. It was 30 dollars. If I can do it, so can someone else. Am I touting myself as a professional? Nope. Am I bashing professional woodworkers who specialize in veneering? Absolutely not. I'm just saying that we can do hard things.

    After sanding some more (I hadn't completely sanded the main box yet), the home stretch was in sight. I clamped down some loose boards on the box, started staining (again) and also began clear coating pieces. It took a little bit of work to get the never-before-stained veneer to match the box with the new stain but I think it turned out really well.

    After rebuilding everything came the new felt. I have been sewing for all of my adult life and am really comfortable around a rotary cutter and mat.

    Feel free to wander around the tumblr account I made with all the pictures. All the before pictures were taken by the seller that sold me the box and everything else was taken by me. I'd love to hear your feedback and hope that I did an acceptable job that doesn't make you say "yikes! That is one ruined Gerstner box". Thanks for reading and hopefully I'll find another deal on a box to do another restoration!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Melbourne, FL, and Broad Brook, CT
    Nice looking box!

    I suggest you gain a bit more knowledge befor tackling you next one. Sanding is not the best method of removing old finishes, though it is part of the process.

    Please see details on my web site:

    Also, be aware that the split rivets that Gerstner sells are flat headed and not like the original round head rivets.

    Last edited by user459; 09-18-2019 at 04:22 AM.


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