Wooden Tool Chests Hold Craftsman's Legacy

Liz Conway
April 7, 2021
A wooden tool chest, lined with green felt.
Photo by
Don Gregory
Dayton, OH

In a society where many things we use are disposable or replaceable, Gerstner products go against the grain. 

H. Gerstner & Sons remains as the only wooden tool chest manufacturers in the United States. They have outlived many competitors in their century-long history and are now celebrating 115 years of excellence in Dayton, OH. Gerstner customers can count on a high quality product that will last not just a lifetime, but several lifetimes. Their wooden tool chests are passed on through the generations and are given new life each time they are placed in the hands of a new owner. 

Harry Gerstner founded the company in 1906 and named the company “H. Gerstner & Sons” before he ever had children. Unfortunately, he never had any sons to fit the name, but the business has employed many Gerstner family members throughout their history. The company is in the good hands of a 4th generation family member, John Scott Campbell, great-grandson of Harry Gerstner. 

What keeps a business going for over a century?

For Gerstner USA, it comes down to a few simple principles. Quality craftsmanship and customer service. These philosophies led to their early achievements and fuel their continued success. 

“We strive for craftsmanship, always.”

- Paul Burgess, Director of Marketing 

H. Gerstner & Sons facility stands in the same spot it has for over 105 years, not far from the famous Wright brothers’ workshop. Dayton at the turn of the century was a land of innovation and manufacturing, and Gerstner was there to supply local machinists with the necessary tools of the trade.  Paul Burgess, says “Dayton has always been a manufacturing prowess, a hub of manufacturing.” Gerstner even survived the great Dayton flood of 1913, but they lost all record of their first 7 years in business. 

Their wooden tool chests were originally the go to machinists’ chests, with tool organization and transportation being the main purpose. Now they are used by people of all different professions and hobbyists from Barbers, to cigar enthusiasts, to jewelry makers. Their classic design can fulfill many purposes. 


Have an old beat up Gerstner chest that could use a bit of sprucing up? They offer full restorations to bring their chests back to their original glory. Oftentimes they will use the same tools that would have crafted the original chest decades ago. Many of their tools have been in use since their inception. 

On the wall of their production facility hangs an instructional board, outlining one of their often used processes. It  has remained on their wall since the 1940’s because this particular process has gone unchanged. They have implemented a few modern touches here and there but much of the work is still done in the original way, by hand, with an incredible attention to detail. 

Looking forward

As they head into their next century of business they plan to keep the quality and processes that work, and innovate when there is an opportunity. This kind of thinking only adds to their high level of quality and is not meant to outsource or diminish it. 

They have implemented new technology such as cutting wood with a CNC machine and laser cutting the felt that lines each drawer. They even take customer suggestions when it comes to new designs and uses. 

Their tool chests have remained popular through the years with machinists and hobbyists alike. As many people have been sprucing up their home offices they've seen an increase in demand for their chests to be used in aesthetic ways to add to their home or office decor. Their wooden chests have proudly sat on the workbenches of machinists across the country for the past 115 years, and they will continue to fill homes and offices for many years to come. 

To shop their entire collection, visit

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