Craftsman 7−Drawer Machinist's Tool Chest

Craftsman 7-Drawer Machinist's Toolbox (restored) - Airplanes and Rockets

Vintage Craftsman 7−Drawer Machinist's Toolbox, c1976, after restoration.

Craftsman 7-Drawer Machinist's toolbox advertisement in 1976 Sears catalog - Airplanes and RocketsEarly in 1982, fresh out of the U.S. Air Force as a 5-level Air Traffic Control Radar Repairman (AFSC 30351), I was fortunate to land a job as an electronics technician at the Oceanic Division of Westinghouse Corporation in Annapolis, Maryland. It turned out being more of a high level electronics assembly job building printed circuit boards, chassis, wire harnesses, sonar transducers, and integrated systems, mostly for the U.S. Navy. A fairly extensive collection of high quality hand tools were required in order to get results which would pass rigorous Navy inspection standards. Snap-On was the supplier of choice because at the time they made extremely high quality (and expensive) small pliers, wire cutters, screwdrivers, wrenches, nuts drivers, etc. I don't know whether there are still roaming Snap-On tool trucks visiting businesses anymore, but at the time we got a weekly visit. Onboard was a tool refiguring workbench for sharpening cutters, repairing screwdriver tips, and other things.

Restored components of the c1976 Craftsman 7-Drawer Machinist's Tool Chest - Airplanes and Rockets

Restored components of the c1976 Craftsman 7−Drawer Machinist's Tool Chest.

Craftsman 7-Drawer Machinist's Toolbox (top open) - Airplanes and Rockets

Craftsman 7−Drawer Machinist's Toolbox - top open.

Cleaned and groomed felt surfaces.

The toolbox of choice was the Kennedy line with the brown crackle paint, was prevalent in the "HK" area where I worked and dominated the machine shop benches as well. As with Snap-On, Kennedy was expensive, too.

Being a poor boy, I bucked the norm and bought most of my tools from Craftsman because back in the day, Craftsman made a very adequate line of small hand tools. Their toolboxes were every bit as good as Kennedy. I paid about half of what if would have cost to assemble the required collection of tools. I did need to buy a Snap-On flush side cutter because it was the only thing available that would produce a peak-less cutoff of a tinned wire or component lead. MIL-SPEC standards prohibited the center peak created by non-flush cutters because solder was very thin on the sharp edge and presented an opportunity for oxidation. Otherwise, my tolls bore the trademarks of Craftsman, Utica, Channellock, and even Radio Shack. My work passed muster with the on-site Navy inspectors with success equal to work done with the Snap-on tools. I still have and use all those tools mostly for hobby purposes.

At some point I sold my original Craftsman 7−Drawer Machinist's Toolbox, and then later on decided that was a bad idea. Having the tools laid out in shallow drawers make searching for and grabbing the right tool much easier than having them hanging on pegboard or in coffee cups sitting on the workbench. It also keeps them dust-free.

Fortunately, as with just about everything else ever made, eBay proved to be a good source for finding a replacement. When re-acquiring items from my past, as I have done with many things from both Melanie's and my earlier days, I usually wait to find an exact replacement (same era, color, size, etc.), and in as good of a condition as reasonable. In the case of the Craftsman 7−Drawer Machinist's' Toolbox, I decided to opt for a slightly earlier model because it bore the older Craftsman logo on the front. A search for it online shows it was last sold in 1976 (six years before I bought mine), so it is at least that old.

That was sometime around 2016. I paid $100, including about $35 in shipping. The tool chest was in pretty decent condition, with no significant dents or scratches, and the paint was nearly immaculate. After removing all components, a thorough scrubbing of all outside and inside surfaces was done. A coat of Armor All was applied to all surfaces except the interior drawer bottoms. All Also, the felt in the bottoms of the drawers were in excellent condition. A good vacuuming and some mild scrubbing has them looking nearly like new. There was a little rust on the hardware, but Rust-Oleum Rust Dissolver took care of that.

My c1976 Craftsman 7−Drawer Machinist's Tool Chest is used on a daily basis since it holds tools used for many projects, ranging from building model airplanes and rockets to digging splinters out of a finger. It sits next to my hobby bench.



Posted September 2, 2023