Gerstner & Sons

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It’s so satisfying to finally find something you’ve been looking for. For the last three years, I’ve been searching for a box to hold my shoe care supplies, but nothing was quite right. Ephtee was too expensive and Orvis too small and boring. Luckily, StyleForum member Nutcracker tipped me to Gerstner & Sons, an American chest manufacture based in Dayton, Ohio. Their “12 Repair Kit” model came to me two weeks ago and it’s near perfect.

Gerstner & Sons has all the makings of a good American heritage story. They were founded in 1906 by a woodworker named Harry Gerstner. He earned his reputation by designing and constructing well-made tool chests for machinists, which famously included the Wright Brothers. When he started the company, there were perhaps dozens other American manufacturers, but as allocations for metal went towards the war effect, there were just fifteen by the end of World War I. That number dwindled further in the 1960s as companies closed down or moved on to other productions, and today, there’s just one – Gerstner & Sons – which is still owned and operated by the same Gerstner family.

A quick Googling around and you’ll find machinists talking online about how much they love their Gerstners. The little compartments made for everything, the quality construction, and the near indestructibility. Many of these have been passed down from generation to generation. Of course, mine isn’t a machinist chest, it’s one of the company’s hobbyists cases, which I’ve converted into a shoe care box. It’s made from American cherry, which has been hand finished with a light fruitwood stain and then lacquered. The bottom drawer is shaped, planed, and fitted by hand to ensure smooth operation, and the top has a metal spring that gives a satisfying “pop” when the latches are unlocked. The interior is felt lined to protect from moisture and abrasion, and the bottom is fitted with bumper feet, to protect any surfaces this might rest on. It’s truly a solidly well-made piece of work.


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Nearly everything I have goes in here. Polishes, conditioners, and cleaners go into the long back slot. At the front, there are some brushes, a deer bone, and a solvent dispenser that I used to bull shoes (which I admit I bought after seeing this video). In the little tray, there are miscellaneous items, such as daubers, edge dressing, and a suede cleaning bar. The bottom drawer holds larger tins of waxes, a big horsehair brush, and a chamois polishing cloth. The only thing that won’t fit is my leather polishing mat, so I keep that outside.

Of course, the box isn’t perfect. I wish I didn’t have to stack the polishes in the back, but rather had a separate compartment for each, so I could get to them easily. But with sixteen cans of polishes, I’m not sure that would have been feasible. Anyway, when I asked if they could make me something custom, Gerstner & Sons quoted me $1,000, which was way out of my budget.

Brand new, this box costs $350, but the company holds multiple sales events per year. Mine is a “factory second” and ran $200 plus $50 for shipping. I can’t see any damage on the chest, and am told that “worse” factory seconds are held at the warehouse, where they’re sold at even lower prices. You can find out about their sale events through their Twitter and Facebook pages.

They also have something called Gerstner International, a lower line of chests that’s sold at more affordable prices. Those are constructed in China (rather than Dayton, Ohio), made out of plywood (rather than white oak), and finished with a veneer (rather than hand stained). I think it’s worth holding out for their mainline chests, but if you want something more affordable, this seems to be the same design I have and I think this might also serve nicely. 


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