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Restored 1940s Union Machinist's Chest

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Project by Lenny posted 07-31-2021 04:11 PM 997 views 3 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a 1940s Union Machinist’s Chest on which I have done a complete restoration. It is made from flat sawn oak (red oak, I think). I removed the old finish by scraping it off and followed that up with sanding. I made repairs where I deemed it necessary, seeking to retain as much of the original as possible. For example, a crack at the edge of the raised panel of the door was irreparable. Rather than make a whole new panel, I removed only as much as necessary and spliced in a replacement piece.

I stained the wood Golden Oak and finished it with 3 coats of varnish and a coat of wax.
I de-rusted all hardware, buffed it with a wire wheel and topped it off with a protective sealant. With the exception of rivets and a few screws, the bulk of the hardware is original to the chest as received by me. The worn but legible “Union Steel Chest Corp.” decal remains on one of the drawers. I am quite certain the door pull is not original to the case as it is rectangular, not circular. Also, the mirror frame is original but the mirror itself is new and, as there was no chain, I installed one. There was no key but I managed to secure one that, after some adjusting, is functional. I replaced the old leather from the handle and hand-stitched it.


The old green felt has been replaced with new. I added feet to the bottom of the chest to protect both the chest and any surface on which it may be placed. Photo #6 is a before and after shot.

The provenance of the chest is as follows. The original owner was an engineer for the General Electric Company. He used the chest for work. The second owner inherited the chest from the wife of the first owner who had died. He intended to restore it but never got around to it and so decided to sell it. I purchased the chest from him. Cleaned up and fixed up, this antique chest is ready for years of continued use.

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI





22 comments so far

View 987Ron's profile

987Ron

1985 posts in 532 days


#1 posted 07-31-2021 04:22 PM

These old chests are treasures, glad you did the restoration. Nice work.

-- Ron

View Redoak49's profile

Redoak49

5368 posts in 3204 days


#2 posted 07-31-2021 04:48 PM

Nice job on the restoration.

View tyvekboy's profile

tyvekboy

2128 posts in 4229 days


#3 posted 07-31-2021 04:55 PM

Beautiful restoration.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View pottz's profile

pottz

20145 posts in 2200 days


#4 posted 07-31-2021 05:37 PM

nice work good for another 80 years.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View Oldtool's profile

Oldtool

3309 posts in 3406 days


#5 posted 07-31-2021 05:46 PM

Beautiful restoration Lenny, great work on all aspects – wood, metal & leather. The before & after picture shows the vast amount of work which you were required to invest, fantastic.

One question if I might, what were you referring to when saying the door pull isn’t original due to its rectangular shape in lieu of being round? The photos of the door show what my limited knowledge of such things indicates to be like those I’ve seen prior. Not sure if you’re talking about the rectangular back plate or the round pull.

In any event, great work, this chest looks like new.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View James E McIntyre's profile

James E McIntyre

1463 posts in 2508 days


#6 posted 07-31-2021 05:51 PM

Great job. Did you use a quick stitch to sew the leather?

-- James E McIntyre

View Lenny's profile

Lenny

1720 posts in 4743 days


#7 posted 07-31-2021 06:05 PM

Tom, below is a photo of an original door pull for this type of chest. My guess is that it became loose through repeated use and the original owner lost it and so replaced it with what he could find/get.

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

View Lenny's profile

Lenny

1720 posts in 4743 days


#8 posted 07-31-2021 06:06 PM

James E McIntyre, this was my first attempt at any leather stitching. I found a YouTube video that seemed to fit the bill. They referred to it as a saddle stitch.

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

View blackcherry's profile

blackcherry

3349 posts in 5039 days


#9 posted 07-31-2021 08:48 PM

So cool that you took the time and effort to restore this treasure. I especially like the care in making the leather wrapping on the handle. It’s so nice to walk are the shop and not only see the things we made but the ones we salvage, so much gratification come from conservation. Great work my friend in woodworking!

View Eric's profile

Eric

1806 posts in 1089 days


#10 posted 07-31-2021 09:34 PM

Great restoration, really like the old prices.

-- Eric, building the dream

View Lenny's profile

Lenny

1720 posts in 4743 days


#11 posted 07-31-2021 10:03 PM

Thank you to all who have commented. Wilson, it’s so great to hear from you my friend!

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

View pottz's profile

pottz

20145 posts in 2200 days


#12 posted 07-31-2021 10:03 PM

wow editors choice,congrats,dont see many of those.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

5743 posts in 2438 days


#13 posted 07-31-2021 10:15 PM

A real treasure!

Having all the hardware is a huge advantage. Original quality is nearly impossible to find today without spending $$$

Great yo could preserve so much of the original!

View Madmark2's profile

Madmark2

3063 posts in 1804 days


#14 posted 07-31-2021 11:05 PM

If he worked in upstate NY for GE, he was working in Schenectady. Leroy, NY where the chest was made, was no more than 50-75 miles west from there.

Lovely restoration. If you know the original owner’s name, a small “in memorium” brass plaque might be in order. Beautifully done.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View Peteybadboy's profile

Peteybadboy

3893 posts in 3165 days


#15 posted 08-01-2021 09:58 AM

Beautiful work!

-- Petey

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