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View Full Version : Gerstner Chest Conundrum



MickeyD
05-06-2010, 10:24 PM
I have been looking for a nice old Gerstner chest for a while and the ones that I have run across were either priced crack smoking high or looked like they had fallen down one too many flights of stairs or spent too much time at the bottom of a lake. Last week the guy who was handling the estate that my Monarch came out of called and said that they had finally almost cleared everything out and still had a Gerstner chest and base set and wondered if I was interested. Long story short is that they were custom ordered almost 20 years ago and never taken out of the boxes. The wood has a lot of figure and rays and the finish is flawless, they look a lot nicer than the oak furniture in our house. I ended up with them and a few other things and now I am trying to figure out what to do.

Around 1990 I bought a Beretta 686 Black Onyx over and under shotgun. Nicest gun that I have ever had. I hunted and shot skeet with it for a couple of years but lived in terror or scratching the wood (it had very nice wood) and was not really comfortable. One day while duck hunting in a flooded field I stepped off into a ditch with water about 8 feet deep and me and the gun went under. It ended up with a couple of nice scratches and scrapes but I have been much more comfortable with it ever since and don't fret about it getting hunting momentos. I guess it just needed to be baptized into real life. This Gerstner is in the same league. I am wondering if I should put it in the shop and let it sink or swim (I am in the middle of moving the shop anyway) or keep this one at the house as a special treasure. I know that I will feel bad if I or someone else dinks it, but they were made to be used.

BadDog
05-06-2010, 10:30 PM
That's exactly why I have no interest in those. Much like some of the cars I fixed up "too nice", I was always worried, and in some cases insisted on being seated at restaurants where I could see it. It's also the same reason I have NO desire to do a full "restoration" on my machine tools...

Anyway, congrats on the great find. Either way, I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

Bruce Griffing
05-06-2010, 10:34 PM
Mike-
You have to decide, but you know it will look like the other stuff in your shop after a while.... Nuff said.

J Tiers
05-06-2010, 10:39 PM
They look nice, but were intended to be used.... Now, maybe they were intended to be used by watchmakers (who don't get very dirty), I dunno.....

You could compromise..... Use it in your shop, but use it to hold your better measuring and QC equipment..... That way it won't get the abuse it would if you put it next to your largest mill, or near the grinder.....

wierdscience
05-06-2010, 10:46 PM
Have you priced a new set lately?

http://www.hammacher.com/Product/11349?source=FROOGLE

winchman
05-06-2010, 10:59 PM
My first wife loved to buy old furniture and fix it up. She put so much effort into the projects that the furniture became practically useless for fear of messing it up.

After she passed away, I sold most of the furniture. The few things I kept were put in daily use with some respect being shown for their heritage. Now they've reached a state where they still look nice but not perfect, and we're quite comfortable with them.

paulsv
05-06-2010, 11:09 PM
The scratches and shop grunge will just add patina, and improve the look of chest, like fine leather on an antique car. And if you leave it in the house, the wife will probably fill it with stitching, or potpourri or something. Use it and enjoy it!

MickeyD
05-06-2010, 11:16 PM
Weirdscience, it is not the rolling base, it is the middle box (what Gerstner calls a base). I am going to build one of the rolling bases one day, they are a little rich for my blood.

mochinist
05-06-2010, 11:21 PM
I have two gerstners's in nicely used condition and to be honest they are overrated in my opinion. For such a pricey sought after item, you would think the drawers would open a little nicer. Glad I got mine cheap:)

x39
05-06-2010, 11:52 PM
I kind of dislike things like this. If an item is "too nice" to use in its intended capacity, is it even worthy of consideration beyond its aesthetic value?

DickDastardly40
05-07-2010, 02:19 AM
Put a small deliberate scratch somewhere not too noticable, that way it will no longer be perfect and further scratches/dings/patina won't worry you as it was already marked.

Always meant to do this with a brand new car, but I've never had a brand new car.

Weston Bye
05-07-2010, 06:01 AM
My wife inherited a rocking chair, refinished and new cane seat by her grandmother. On display, but no one allowed to sit in it - presenting a horribly excruciating temptation for our grandchildren.

I call it "The Chair That Must Not Be Sat Upon."

My Gerstner is in the shop, but has accumulated camera equipment, loups, optivisors and other optical and miscellaneous stuff. And some calipers. I have a cheapo cabinet from Lowes that stores tools and tool bits.

Black_Moons
05-07-2010, 06:42 AM
this is why I have a cheap clone wooden toolchest...
Some of the drawers store things like abrasive stones or 4 1/2" bench grinder accessorys.

I get a little laugh every time when I see grinding wheels resting in felt lined drawers... Yaknow, to keep from scratching them.

JCHannum
05-07-2010, 07:10 AM
Gerstner boxes are oil finished. Minor dings and scratches can be cleaned up with oil finishes such as Min-Wax and Formby's. Gerstner sells their own, but is it pricey. I use Min-Wax Antique Oil Finish on mine.

I would use the box myself as I do my older walnut box. I have it out of the general shop area and only keep the precision tools in it. Use it and enjoy it. It sounds like a beauty.

Tony Ennis
05-07-2010, 07:52 AM
If it's that nice I'd sell it to a collector and buy a beater.

alanganes
05-07-2010, 08:14 AM
I agree with the "use it and enjoy it" sentiment, and I think you answered your own question:



Around 1990 I bought a Beretta 686 Black Onyx over and under shotgun. Nicest gun that I have ever had. I hunted and shot skeet with it for a couple of years but lived in terror or scratching the wood (it had very nice wood) and was not really comfortable. One day while duck hunting in a flooded field I stepped off into a ditch with water about 8 feet deep and me and the gun went under. It ended up with a couple of nice scratches and scrapes but I have been much more comfortable with it ever since and don't fret about it getting hunting momentos. I guess it just needed to be baptized into real life. This Gerstner is in the same league. I am wondering if I should put it in the shop and let it sink or swim (I am in the middle of moving the shop anyway) or keep this one at the house as a special treasure. I know that I will feel bad if I or someone else dinks it, but they were made to be used.

I have the same "problem" sometimes. I like old stuff and it seems to find me. Most of it is not pristine, but in the past I have been hesitant to use it for fear of wearing it our, breaking it, etc. I finally decided that until such time that I find myself owning a museum, I am going to use my stuff and get the satisfaction of doing so. If I can't or won't use something, I give it away, sell it or throw it away.

wierdscience
05-07-2010, 09:11 AM
Weirdscience, it is not the rolling base, it is the middle box (what Gerstner calls a base). I am going to build one of the rolling bases one day, they are a little rich for my blood.

Even still,it's a virgin,Gerstners are nice boxes,but I wouldn't put one in the typical machine shop environment.Maybe a QC or instrumentation room,but not out on the floor.

I used to buy junkers at auction,the black with grime nasty looking ones you see with missing drawers and lids.I would cannibalise the worst ones for parts and build whole ones.Those could be had cheap,a good cleaning maybe a a refinish and new felt and they sold good.I even sold the extra drawers on Fleabay and made good pocket change.

MickeyD
05-07-2010, 10:01 AM
I think I am going to use it for measuring tools and the like. I am waiting on a contractor to show up before I leave so I took a couple of pictures.

http://austincnc.com/images/gerst1.jpg

http://austincnc.com/images/gerst2.jpg

http://austincnc.com/images/gerst3.jpg

http://austincnc.com/images/gerst4.jpg

Steve Seebold
05-07-2010, 10:51 AM
For Christ sake, it's a TOOL box, not a jewelry box.

Hal
05-07-2010, 11:07 AM
Mickey D

Some guys have all the luck. I would use it. If your the only one in your shop,
you know how it will be taken care of.

Hal

lynnl
05-07-2010, 11:16 AM
It certainly is beautiful.

But to me it would be no less beautiful if it showed the signs of daily use.

SGW
05-07-2010, 11:44 AM
Gerstner sells (or used to sell, and presumably still does) zippered covers for their chests. I got one for mine, and it's possible to keep the cover sitting on the box but have the front open so you can get at the drawers. Of course that means you can't see most of the chest, but it does protect it.

Mcgyver
05-07-2010, 11:47 AM
sell them and buy Listas, I mean they look great and everything, but they are supposed to be a tool box

toolmaker76
05-07-2010, 03:47 PM
Had a Gerstner once upon a time- was using a very small prick punch in a nearby vise, it got away from me and stuck in the side of my Gerstner box. Upset me so much that I sold it and have had Kennedys ever since.

I know a fellow that keeps a Gerstner tool box inside a metal cabinet!

That being said, I don't think it would have the same effect on me now. They are very nice boxes for storing your precision tools. Buy it to use it!

Weston Bye
05-07-2010, 03:48 PM
I sanded and urethane varnished 3 maple topped benches in my shop. Seemed a shame to see a scratch put into the new finish, but after all, what are the benches for? They still look good, but I have no regrets about the inevitable dents and dings that come with actually doing some kind of work on the benches.

Deja Vu
05-07-2010, 04:24 PM
Nice chests!
But I think this is just a "tool gloat" somewhat in diguise..;)

Kibby
05-07-2010, 05:27 PM
For Christ sake, it's a TOOL box, not a jewelry box.

This is kind of how I see it. My guns aren't safe queens, either - they're users. I have enough guns to warrant two safes, and I still need another safe, but they are all users. The only true safe queen I have is an old Fox 2x2 my father left me.

My machinery is the same. No sparkling gems in my shop. They all look like they've been used - not dirty and beat-to-death, but used. My machines are sort of like the rat rods of machinery.

I've never owned a Gerstner. I never will. There is no right of passage I need to perform. My skills speak for myself.

uncle pete
05-07-2010, 07:46 PM
Some times a really well made and good looking product just speaks for itself. I appreciate the O.P. pictures. While I'd love to buy a Gerstner I'm adding to my precision tools fairly often, So while I could justify buying 1, Requiring a further 1 or 2 down the road plus the room they'd take up is really not in my buget right now. MickeyD, If it's not out of line could I ask what you payed for your awesome Gestners?

I also fully agree with those that said these tool boxes were designed to be used.

Pete

x39
05-07-2010, 07:46 PM
My guns aren't safe queens, either - they're users.
I hear that. I used to have a 16 gauge Winchester Model 21, and hunted with it a LOT. I'm not exactly a candidate for the cover of Grey's Sporting Journal or GQ, it used to raise some eyebrows among the knowledgable.

MickeyD
05-07-2010, 10:51 PM
Thanks for the tip on the covers, I am going to check and see if they are still available. The cnc machines get enough coolant mist in the air sometimes that I could see it eventually hurting the finish. I am not really sure what I paid for them, they were in a lot with a few other items, but I think it was a fair price. I have a lot of measuring tools and I think that these will make a good home for them. BTY, I did get one of the new Okumas (the whole reason for the new shop) wired in and running today. Plan on spending most of the weekend getting familiar with them and might even try to make some chips.

tyrone shewlaces
05-07-2010, 11:52 PM
You're not me and neither is anybody else of course, but if I had one I'd just use it. If you intend to sell it someday you want it to hold value so just store it and sell it as soon as possible. If you want to hand it down to someone when you're done, the scratches and stains will each contain a story that could be told about your days in the shop. Tell them the stories before you're gone and they will be more valuable than the chests themselves.

As far as overrated goes, I agree. And I'd add that Kennedy are way overrated as well. Either of the things are just little boxes housed in a bigger box. Kennedy is just pressed and spot-welded sheet metal throughout, and not very thick at that. The name is worth much more than the product on either brand. I couldn't care less about a name.

For the regular price of a Gerstner, I'd prefer to just whittle my own. 1/4 the price (or free if you can scrounge) and you can configure exactly like you want it. I'd buy one if it was a screamin' cheap deal though.

BadDog
05-08-2010, 01:12 AM
sell them and buy Listas, I mean they look great and everything, but they are supposed to be a tool box
I couldn't agree more. As nice as the Gerstner is, with the resulting money you could probably get 2 of the Lista/Vidmar/Lyon/Nu-Era/etc boxes, each with well several times the volume and MANY more times the capacity, and with drawers that work nicely even with 200+ lbs of tooling in them. I've now got 3 of them, and I wouldn't trade them for 3 brand new top-line Gerstner boxes (other than to sell and buy 6 replacements :D)

Mcruff
05-08-2010, 08:41 AM
For Christ sake, it's a TOOL box, not a jewelry box.
I agree wholeheartedly.
Its meant to be used, if it gets a scratch its called use, get over it. I have my fathers, it has been drug thru shops since the 1950's, has a few minor scratches but mostly dirt from 50+ years of use. I don't know how you think your gonna tear it up putting mics and small tools in it. Its not like there built to throw wrenches and hammers in it.

J Tiers
05-08-2010, 08:52 AM
I refinished the old Sipco box that wife's Uncle Walter used..... But I was careful only to remove the smoke damage and do as little as I had to in order to make the popped joints fit, etc... I figure the dents and knocks of the years are the result of honest work, and deserve to stay.

I think I too might sell that one, if I was 'afraid to use it", and get something practical. But if you DO use it, it will also eventually show the results of honest work.