Vintage Traveling Tool Chest- Re-Mastered

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Project by AlpE posted 08-04-2020 12:18 AM 1114 views 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This tool chest had been sitting in horse stable housing old tack for who knows how long before it came into my possession. The owner knew my hobby was to tinker around with wood, so he asked me if I would like this old tool chest he had laying around. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, and when I went to collect it, seeing it on the dirt floor and covered in grime I wasn’t sure it would be worth the effort of trying to restore. When I had to get help to lift it into the truck, my curiosity was piqued, this thing weighed a ton- empty. I at least wanted to get all the crud off it to see what kind of wood could weigh so much.

The first two pictures are pretty much the condition of the chest as I got it. Unfortunately, as I began to clean everything and strip all the paint off (which I’m certain was lead based), it became evident that the aprons were not going to be salvageable. After realizing this, I decided to remove all the aprons and the lid dust seal and scrap it out. The upside to this was it made the carcass much easier to get down to the grain. After finally getting down to bare wood, was amazed to discover that not only was the entire carcass made from 4/4 oak, it was made from a single board! For reference, the carcass is 17” tall, 36” wide, and 18” deep. It was at this point I decided not only would I try and restore the chest, but that I would try and keep as much of the original character as I could. The top was made of soft maple. The edges had warped some, so I was unable to keep the entire panel, but I did manage to flatten enough of it that I could make a coffered top. The squiggles and doodles on top are original to whomever owned it before either I got it, or the guy that I got it from got it. For that matter, maybe the pre-date the chest itself, who knows.

Thinking about the life of this chest, I found myself wondering who built it and where? Most especially when was it built? Unfortunately, the answers to most of the questions remain a mystery. I was able to date the hardware from the chest which spanned a couple decades, but the “newest” of the bit was 1934. There was newspaper clipping under the corner of the old bottom from 1955. My best guess, this was build somewhere in the late 30’s or 40’s on a farm that had its own oak trees. Theres an old lumber mill not far from the barn this came from, so it makes some sense that it probably didn’t travel too far from its creator, who would have had access to gigantic oak boards most people wouldn’t use for a tool chest that’s supposed to be at least somewhat mobile.

There weren’t any tills in the chest when I got my hands on it, so those are 100% new, and while I really am pleased with how they turned out and how they look in the chest, its almost certainly not true to the style of the original creators. Once finished, I gave the tool chest back the man I got it from for Christmas. He was thrilled with the outcome, and really surprised that I was giving it back to him. I was just as happy to see that I made his day.

Below are some pictures of the shelves and progress photos along the way.

8 comments so far

View JCamp's profile


1478 posts in 1840 days

#1 posted 08-04-2020 01:42 AM

Beautiful job

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

View MrWolfe's profile (online now)


1669 posts in 1413 days

#2 posted 08-04-2020 01:50 AM

Amazing restoration and additions!
I bet that recipient of this great piece was blown away, by both your work and your absolute generosity.
Good on you and great work!

View swirt's profile


6831 posts in 4261 days

#3 posted 08-04-2020 02:54 AM

Very impressive save and improvement. Well done.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Peteybadboy's profile


4170 posts in 3239 days

#4 posted 08-04-2020 10:34 AM

well done!

-- Petey

View recycle1943's profile


5978 posts in 2912 days

#5 posted 08-04-2020 11:44 AM

What a treasure – great restoration job

-- 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 sras's profile


6433 posts in 4419 days

#6 posted 08-04-2020 02:50 PM

Nice save!!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View John's profile


2110 posts in 2560 days

#7 posted 08-04-2020 08:05 PM

Great looking tool box again!

-- John, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

View Tim Royal 's profile

Tim Royal

326 posts in 2776 days

#8 posted 08-07-2020 10:01 PM

I’m looking in my shop now to see if there’s anything I can “give” to you! Amazing work, I love that you gave it back!

-- -Tim Royal -"Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." -Thomas Merton

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