100 year old tool chest

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Forum topic by nordichomey posted 02-05-2012 11:00 PM 1721 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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100 posts in 3130 days

02-05-2012 11:00 PM

100 year old chest restore questions? I found a really solid 100 year old tool chest. Other than repair to a bottom runner and fixing a sagged tray bottom the chest is rock solid. The outside has had mutiple coats of paint (probably lead) but has the perfect weathered finish.

The interior is pretty dirty and does not smell so great. I intend on putting this chest to work. Any advise on what to use to clean the interior? Mineral Spirits? What about protecting the exterior or base. Should any oil or varnish mixes be used to preserve/protect?

-- nordichomey

3 replies so far

View graywolf's profile


63 posts in 2721 days

#1 posted 02-05-2012 11:54 PM

First I would love to see some pics of this thing, I would first wareing gloves use something mild like an oil soap inside and out. Maybe some denatured alcohol on some areas in well ventalated work area and see where you are with that. Just my two cents worth here. Good luck, Richard

-- Richard, North Carolina,

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4950 posts in 3989 days

#2 posted 02-06-2012 12:03 AM

I would blow all the junk out with the trusty compressor (mask is not an option), kinda rough sand all the swarf, the coat it with shellac to seal. Sounds like ya found/got a winner. Any pics?
I would not change any of the exterior surface unless it is ABSOLUTELY needed. Real treasure lurkin’ there?
Oh, did I say not to use ANY mineral spirits or paints? The shellac will stop “stinkies” and mold issues. The chest will be even more treasured without all the new stuff you will add. These suggestions are from a feller who buys/sells old stuff.


View Planeman40's profile


1179 posts in 2789 days

#3 posted 02-06-2012 09:38 PM

My favorite method of refinishing when I want to clean up an item but retain the years of character and patina is as follows.

Use some four-ought (0000) steel wool (very fine stuff) dipped into brush cleaner (which is pretty much stripper without the “glop”) and then squeezed out to rub off the grime and old finish. The brush cleaner provides the solvent, the steel wool the needed abrasive. When the steel wool wears out or accumulates too much glop, trade it in for another. All this is best done over some newspaper.

When the item is as clean as you want it, let it dry and then coat it with your favorite finish – tung oil, brushing lacquer, shellac, etc.

Its simple and quick and does a wonderful job.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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