Thanks, Harry...

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Project by GrandMonarch posted 12-11-2018 01:19 PM 1859 views 11 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hello. My name is Matt. These are my first woodworking “projects.” The title of this post, is an homage to Harry Gerstner.

One day, about 10 years ago, I saw a Gerstner tool chest for the first time and remember screaming on the inside, “WHAT IS THAT?!! I want one.” Then I learned how proud Mr. Gerstner was of his chests ($,$$$) and just knew my wife would never agree to let me have one. So I decided to make my own.

At that point, the extent of my experience of working with wood consisted of hardware store lumber, sheet goods (2×2, 2×4, 2×6, plywood, mdf, etc.), nails, and screws. I had a miter saw, circular saw, and jig saw, but no “woodworking” tools or machines. And there certainly wasn’t any knowledge, or understanding of Anything woodworking related, to speak of. So obviously, I had nooo idea what I was getting into.

I slowly started trying to understand how the boxes were assembled, what kinds of tools one would need to perform those functions, and how you use the tools. I figured out pretty quick that a table saw, band saw, jointer, planer, router, and drill press were essentials. Then came clamps, and squares, and precision measurement tools and straight-edges. I watched the Craigslist-Tools section every day…for years (still do)...slowly picking up decent $500 tools for $150 that needed TLC, and slowly built up my arsenal. Then one day about 7 years later, when I thought I had acquired all of the tools I’d need and selected my wood of choice (cherry), I headed out to the garage with a pad of graph paper from work (Disclaimer of sorts: I’m an Engineer) and started drawing, and cutting, and figuring, and fighting, and cussing, and you guys certainly know the drill…

“Fail, we may. Sail, we must.”

Anyway, I made the cherry one after 3 – 3 1/2 months of determination. That was the very first real woodworking project I had ever attempted. A few years later (this past September), I made two more. Now, I’ve started acquiring materials to do 4 more (though I don’t know where I’ll even put that much lumber).

But I can’t stop making the damn things. Thanks, Harry.

p.s. At this point, it’s not even worth telling my wife that I’ve spent 3 times as much on tools as I would have spent on that Gerstner.

24 comments so far

View Bill Berklich's profile

Bill Berklich

1013 posts in 1022 days

#1 posted 12-11-2018 01:30 PM

ROFL… It’s like fishing. Cheaper to buy the Ahi Tuna than catch it yourself – but nothing is more satisfying. You’ve done an AWESOME job on those chests! They are beautiful and a great tribute to Harry’s vision.

-- Bill - Rochester MI

View HokieKen's profile


12246 posts in 1772 days

#2 posted 12-11-2018 01:57 PM

Beautiful chests!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Hazem's profile


250 posts in 1881 days

#3 posted 12-11-2018 02:21 PM

These are your first “projects”? Wow. These are great. Can’t wait to see what else you make.

View JCamp's profile


1044 posts in 1184 days

#4 posted 12-11-2018 02:49 PM

Beautiful projects and a great story. Lol. Keep popping them out. I don’t know why I just love toolboxes

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View swirt's profile


4736 posts in 3605 days

#5 posted 12-11-2018 02:56 PM

Very nice work on those. A nice study in the topic.

-- Galootish log blog,

View EarlS's profile (online now)


3483 posts in 2981 days

#6 posted 12-11-2018 04:16 PM

Welcome to Lumberjocks.

Wow – those are some good looking tool chests. Building one is on my To-do list.

Now, you need a Roubo bench to go with those awesome looking tool chests, maybe some hand made hand tools, more hand made layout tools….

If you want ta change of pace – check out the LJ 2019 Spring Swap. Yes I’m shamelessly advertising for it. Great chance to try something new and then get something from a fellow LJ.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View therealSteveN's profile


4871 posts in 1207 days

#7 posted 12-11-2018 04:36 PM

Beautiful chests.

A very good friend of mine’s youngest Son, grew up as best friends to the guy who runs Gerstner now, he’s married into the family, and it’s the only place he’s ever worked. He met his bride at a company picnic, Love at first sight and all that. Gerstners had a slew of Ladies on their half, and none of the Hubbies they married cared one wit about the family biz.

Anyhow your romantic view of a Gerstner would be shattered by the reality, they are almost completely CNC cut parts. Still it’s a great place to walk around, and see how it works. The first time I went over with Bill (probably 15 to 20 years ago) was when they were changing over from hand cut, to CNC, and ALL of the tools they had amassed over the years were still there. It was a toy land of epic proportions. Sadly as they grew the CNC end of the biz, they started having less of them around. The last time I was there was probably 2 years ago, and they still had a couple of old timers who reconditioned older boxes, and they had their own tools, just wasn’t what I had seen years before. Most of my friends are machinists, and CNC was pretty much a thing then, The Gerstner CNC was the first time I ever saw wood cut on a CNC. I stood and watched what the operator took as a boring thing for over an hour. The bed was 10’ x 16’ and they almost completely covered it with wood. In that time I saw him set up, and cut, 2 loads of wooden parts. I stood there with my mouth open. It was so different from anything I had ever seen before, so fast, and with no apparent set up time, just a little button pressing on a computer, and whoosh.

Earlier they had what they called the scrap pile, actually it, and the “good” pile were bins like you would see at an old post office, where mail was sorted, just a big bigger scale. They took better care of their scrap wood, than I did my treasures. Machined parts that actually resembled case parts, just had a flaw or 2 that made them unusable for their high standards. Later the scrap they left after the CNC’s truly was scrap. They would net out wood to the 1/8”, a thing to marvel, but also an end to the goodies we used to take home. I still have some Walnut, and Cherry from scrap we took home some years ago.

They have an annual open house, where you can go and buy both the US made, and several pieces not US made called Gerstner International, replacement, and spare parts seconds, and a guy used to show up who sold off seconded PEC tools for peanutz. As with everything years ago it was a great deal, and Gerstner lovers from afar used to come into Dayton for it, not so much anymore. The big market around here is auction bought originals. Dayton was one of the big manufacturing sites, and tool and die shops were on every corner, and every toolie had at least one Gerstner.

So that makes your boxes even more special, and if you ever take to selling them, you should remind buyers yours are hand made, like an original. Grand Monarch Tool Chests has a nice ring to it. We’ll call you Harry if you like….

Thanks for posting. Kind of gave me a walk down memory lane thinking about them.

-- Think safe, be safe

View BurlyBob's profile


7056 posts in 2899 days

#8 posted 12-11-2018 04:51 PM

Those are really gorgeous chests. An amazing job.

View recycle1943's profile


3665 posts in 2255 days

#9 posted 12-11-2018 04:53 PM

Matt—Welcome to LJ’s
Matt—I am not in the habit of hireing myself out but thre’s only a couple things I wouldn’t do for that waulnut Gerstner
The front cover is evidently a bookmatched burl with accented sap wood and one of the most lovely pieces of assembled lumber I’ve seen in quite a while.

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View torus's profile (online now)


395 posts in 1046 days

#10 posted 12-11-2018 05:02 PM

Wow! It looks great.

And great story too. So how proud ($$$$) you are of your chests? ;)

BTW Grain match on the walnut chest door (second picture, left) is outstanding!

-- "It's getting better..." - put this on my RIP stone!

View bluekingfisher's profile


1333 posts in 3613 days

#11 posted 12-11-2018 07:04 PM

Well worth the effort. Like much else, the first one is always a trial, from there on in the basics almost become second nature. I expect after having built three your will want to elaborate on the base models. Who knows what you will build as your enthusiasm and skills develop.
Such boxes are highly desirable with all sorts such as hobbyist, collectors, sportsman etc. I am sure if you ever wish to make a few extra $$$’s the customer base will be there.
Good luck and well,done.

-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View oldnovice's profile


7522 posts in 4001 days

#12 posted 12-11-2018 08:11 PM

That is some beautiful work and a nice tribute to “Harry”.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Peteybadboy's profile


1580 posts in 2583 days

#13 posted 12-11-2018 08:50 PM

Beautiful! Brings back a memory. Leaving a client on Park ave. (NYC) on the corner was a Gerstner chest, all in pieces. It was hot, and I had no way to carry the pieces back to the office. I left it there. Someone must have dropped it and just left it.

-- Petey

View Boxguy's profile


2868 posts in 2901 days

#14 posted 12-11-2018 10:00 PM

GM, what a great project. As you make more consider jigs. Jigs make projects repeatable and easier. Selling some of these might be a way of paying for your tools. Welcome to Lumber Jocks.

-- Big Al in IN

View Frederick Desroches's profile

Frederick Desroches

26 posts in 804 days

#15 posted 12-11-2018 10:35 PM

Wow Amazing…

Thanks for taking the time to share the story about your project :P

-- Fred, Canada

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