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Restoring a wooden tool box, help needed

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Brian Abbott24/09/2020 22:27:23
491 forum posts
93 photos

Not model engineering but I could do with some woodwork advice.

I have an old wooden toolbox that I would like to restore.

It looks like it has had a really bad coat of varnish at some point in its life which I guess I can just sand back and re-varnish (?)

The problem I have is the side of the box has bowed across its width, and the finger joint has come apart.

Is there any way I can flatten this or should I just leave alone?

Thanks for any help

Steviegtr24/09/2020 22:37:33
2422 forum posts
336 photos

A picture paints a thousand words. So a pic would give more info for your question.


Martin Kyte24/09/2020 22:46:56
2721 forum posts
48 photos

Once you have stripped back to bare wood damp the side down over a period of time (put it in a bin bag with some damp newspaper for example and then clamp up to some strong straight battons and allow to dry out again.

regards Martin

Brian Abbott24/09/2020 22:53:47
491 forum posts
93 photos

Thanks Martin, Steve.

I have added some photos to my album in the toolbox folder.

Looks like the joint is not glued and will come apart ok so i could try that.


Steviegtr24/09/2020 23:11:25
2422 forum posts
336 photos

Ah yes i see now. So some wood glue or cascomite & a battern, plus a sash cramp should do the trick.

Good luck & i hope it turns out well.


DMR25/09/2020 00:14:08
124 forum posts
14 photos

I second Cascomite and you need 2 sash cramps and some strips of timber under your clampings to protect your box sides and hold your joint/s. Don't remove the varnish first. Leave it on as it will help stop the glue adhering where you don't want it. Plan ahead. Do some experimental clampings without glue so you don't get into a situation where the glue is seting on you. The point where you need most pressure is not necessarily at the worst bowing point and you cannot put 2 clamps, 90 degrees apart, at the same point on the corner so experiment without glue.

Work the Cascomite in with a Stanley knife or an old hypo syringe (no needle). Anything that will get the glue right through the joint/s. If you have it right it will ooze out when you clamp it up and you need some wet rags to wipe off all the oozings which should be most of what you have applied if you got it right in there.


Bo'sun25/09/2020 09:26:19
602 forum posts
2 photos

A couple of suggestions:

When straightening the bow, I'd be inclined slightly over bend it to cater for "spring back". How much is subject to a little experimentation.

As for getting glue into joints, an artists pallet knife does a fine job.

Good luck, and be careful of spelching/breakout when finish planing/sanding.

KWIL25/09/2020 09:47:40
3549 forum posts
70 photos

Personally I prefer Aerolite 306, with its separate hardener, useful if you have a large job with much glue to apply as the hardener is applied to one face and the glue to the other. In this way the set time commences only when the two are in contact. Set commences around 25 minutes. You can cheat and sometime allow hardener to be applied externally to set a joint, not  the best way but it does work.

Cascamite has open time of around 3 hours allowing lots of assembly time.

Aerolite invented in UK in 1934 and was used to build DH Mosquitoe aircraft for WWII

Edited By KWIL on 25/09/2020 09:49:10

John Haine25/09/2020 09:48:44
4623 forum posts
273 photos

One of these (in worse condition) restored on "Repair Shop" last week. Involved removing the top, splicing in a new bit of oak, and forming joint fingers. Joint was not glued!

KWIL25/09/2020 09:51:13
3549 forum posts
70 photos

If working with Oak, beware, keep ferrous material away (ie metal bound brushes etc) as severe staining will take place.

ega25/09/2020 10:00:41
2496 forum posts
200 photos
Posted by KWIL on 25/09/2020 09:47:40:


Aerolite invented in UK in 1934 and was used to build DH Mosquitoe aircraft for WWII


Also, I think, for the wooden Marcos?

Good to see these traditional adhesives still in favour. I have found Cascamite rather brittle for some jobs; successfully used Aerolite for gluing Formica to chipboard.

not done it yet25/09/2020 10:07:08
6733 forum posts
20 photos

What we don’t know is what is on the inside of the box, possibly expanding with the weather? I would not use Cascamite for this job - there are better, more modern - alternatives that may actually be waterproof.

Unless it is easily pushed back into place, there may me considerable sustained force on any glued joint to end-grain. Just look at the surface area of the joints (which would be glued when made), compared to the ends where you can get glue into the joint.

A stretcher, inside the box, to form a compartment, is likely needed to keep it in place. Unless the box is dismantled and re-glued.🙂

Bo'sun25/09/2020 10:08:54
602 forum posts
2 photos
Posted by KWIL on 25/09/2020 09:51:13:

If working with Oak, beware, keep ferrous material away (ie metal bound brushes etc) as severe staining will take place.

Also beware that the tannic acid in oak can corrode ferrous fasteners. Although, whether it's still an issue in old dry Oak I don't know.

KWIL25/09/2020 10:26:44
3549 forum posts
70 photos

Aerolite 306 is waterproof, it is a adhesive for marine ply and used in the boat building industry.

There was special hardener for use with Formica which softened the formica backing to allow a better bond. Yes I found Cascamite brittle, its all to do with the mixing, all too easy to get a "powdery" mix.

Edited By KWIL on 25/09/2020 10:27:01

Derek Lane25/09/2020 10:36:04
720 forum posts
165 photos

As above with such a small amount of bow re-gluing and holding in place should do the trick. The only thing will be that the old joint if previously had glue on it will need cleaning off to allow the fresh glue to stick to the wood making a stronger joint.

Oak will hold tannin for many years even after it has dried so be aware of that a coat of varnish will help prevent some of the staining of the wood as well as metal tools

Samsaranda25/09/2020 10:49:31
1399 forum posts
5 photos

I used Aerolite when I built a canoe, about 60 years ago now, I found it a good glue to use and it’s pedigree speaks for itself having been used to hold De Havilland Mosquitoes together.
Dave W

ega25/09/2020 10:57:52
2496 forum posts
200 photos
Posted by Samsaranda on 25/09/2020 10:49:31:

I used Aerolite when I built a canoe, about 60 years ago now,...

I had a similar experience, mine being built in the loft and only just managed to extricate it via the hatch when done!

Pete White25/09/2020 13:11:54
162 forum posts
16 photos

Cascamite and aerolite, takes me back, not as far as Mosquitoes though. Epoxy resin is the choice of a lot of boat builders and repairers these days. I used some cascamite on some windows recently, it always was a pain to mix in the right proportions.

There are lots of modern alternatives that would do the job just as well to my thinking, it is a tool box afterall . Am I missing something? PVA?


Edited By Pete White on 25/09/2020 13:14:18

Brian Abbott26/09/2020 12:28:04
491 forum posts
93 photos

Thanks all for taking the time to reply.

I took the option just to re glue the joints and clamp which seems to have worked ok.

Now in the process of sanding it all back.

What’s my best option to varnish it?, should I just use something like ronseal satin with a built in stain?

thanks again.

Bo'sun26/09/2020 12:43:11
602 forum posts
2 photos

Hello Brian,

No, no, no, don't use a stained varnish, they are awful. I've never seen a decent finish with them. Anyway, why cover up the beauty of natural Oak? Nothing wrong with a satin varnish, but I'd be inclined to use something like Danish Oil.

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