Monday, December 8, 2014

Gerstner inspired tool chest, fall front hinge mechanism

This post was actually going to be about finishing the bottom drawer, and making some more drawers. But since my drawer stock has gone inter galactic WARP 1+ 2, I had to think of something else instead - The fall front.

As far as I have been able to see on pictures of Gerstner chests, and on their home page, they use some sort of bracket for the fall front mechanism.
Hardware is fine for me, but I didn't feel like making any for this project. Besides there had to be another solution.

Drilling a hole in each side and putting a dowel there was my first idea. The problem with this route is the fact that the dowel needs to be placed very low on the front, so the drill would likely wander off through the side. There was also the problem of how to get the front in place, and then plug in the dowels. There was no way I could tilt the front and still make contact with the dados for the hinge dowels.

Yesterday I had a revelation (OK maybe just a bright moment..), and today I tried it out in real life:
I made a groove in the bottom of the front.
Next I planed a small stick that fitted tight into the groove. I drilled some small pilot holes for the screw itself, and some bigger holes for the heads of the screws, so they could be sunk below the surface. That way I could finish the stick by planing it while it was in the correct position. That ensured a level surface with the front.

I then trimmed the ends of the stick to the correct length i.e. a little shorter than the depth of the dado where it would end up running.

The final step was to round the two protruding ends so they would fit in the dado. I used a chisel for the initial rounding and a piece of sandpaper for the final touch.

I unscrewed the dowel stick, and inserted it in the case of the tool chest. Then I brought up the lid to the stick and screwed it back into the front again.
The great thing about this approach is that:
1) It works.
2) It is cheap.
3) It is repairable

A thing that seems to be unrepairable though is the stock for my drawers. I have reached a conclusion, that I'll take the project with me home, and then I will make some drawers of some stock that is more stable. I could also go the spruce way for drawers, but I don't feel like doing that So I'll probably make the drawers out of some elm at home one day.

The fall front hinge.

The warp of the bottom drawer.

More warp on the next drawer front.


  1. The joys of working pallet wood. I think you have the right idea to wait until you are home and use good stock. Great revelation on the fall front fix.

    1. Hi Ralph.

      I am also scheduled for signing of in a little more than a week, so I can't finish it anyway if I have to make new stock for the drawers.
      The chest so far is OK, save for the sides which I think should have been thinner. But it would be lack of judgement from my side to continue with the drawers, or plain stupid. I can only prove that you should use as straight sick as possible for your drawers, and I am pretty sure that I have read that a few other places before, So I couldn't even claim that it was a test of a myth by doing it :-)

      I am glad you liked the fall front solution.

  2. Brilliant solution on the fall front.

    Wow, thats some serious movement in your drawer stock. I wonder if you could lighten the look of the case with a heavy bevel around the outside of the front perimeter? Just a thought.



    1. Hi Greg.

      Thanks, I am actually a bit proud of the solution myself. :-)
      It is a great idea to add a bevel. I hadn't thought of that.

      The most disappointing thing is that I actually believed that the stock I had prepared was going to be super stable.

  3. Nothing is more frustrating than warp. It is basically out of your control. You can sharpen your tools if they're dull, or get better tools if you don't have good ones, but once your stock goes out of whack there is little to do but start over with new material.
    I made a television stand a few years ago that I had hoped would turn into an heirloom piece of furniture. Unfortunately one of the side panels warped uncontrollably and threw the whole case out of square. I was able to salvage it, but the warp was so bad that I had to change the plans for the drawers etc..It was and is the most frustrating thing to happen to me while woodworking.
    BTW, I hope you get to finish up before Christmas so we get to see the completed chest.

    1. Hi Bill,
      I doubt that I will finish the chest before Christmas, but you never know.
      Warp and wood movement due to humidity are both hard opponents.


  4. This is a brilliant revelation. I have been struggling with a method for making a till lid in a 6 board chest or a lidded box. My method involved putting a tongue into a dadoed pintel batten, switching the grain 90 degrees. Your method affords an opportunity to hide everything and remain stable.
    I still might play with this method so as to avoid needing to use metal hardware. I am going to try widening the pintel batten so the assembly can be pegged, problematic in its own way but it opens another avenue.
    Damn, this is further proof of how good your weblog is.

    1. Thanks for the very nice comment on my blog :-)
      I am really glad that you found the information useful. Personally I think that one of the big advantages is that this system can be scaled up or down depending on the project. There is also a certain satisfaction of making a "hardware" solution yourself.
      I think you method sounds interesting, and as the old saying goes: There are more ways to skin a cat :-)
      Brgds (and soon: Have a nice weekend)