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Restoring an old tool chest

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Gant

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Newbie alert; I just retired and took up woodworking. My first solo project is the restoration of my late father-in-law’s tool chest. He was an engineer’s pattern maker for a printing works, the chest is probably his apprentice piece from the 1950s (although some of the tools were older as they were his father’s, a joiner). Unfortunately it has got damp and the base has rotted. However I have hit a snag; many of the screws have rusted and either crumble when I try to remove them, snap, or just refuse to move. Do you have any suggestions on how I can get them out?
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Blackswanwood

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You could try heating the head of the screw with a soldering iron. The expansion due to the heat and then contraction when it cools may loosen them.

That’s a project worthy of the Repair Shop!
 

Awac

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  1. A good fitting screwdriver, and some kind of grip, mole grips are good. Some screw drivers have a small square shank near the handle which fits a spanner. Hold the screwdriver down with pressure whilst clamped onto the shaft and turn. Tighten slightly, and then loosen, repeat.
  2. Impact drivers are amazing but have to be used wisely, especially with soft brass.
  3. A pin and punch and tap it around.
  4. If key in head is completely ruined. High strength glue dot on head to small rod.
  5. Drill the head off, then use thin nosed pliers to turn it out (you might have to dig around it), any wood damage, drill clean and insert wood with glue.
This is what has worked for me in the past. Good luck.
 

Cheshirechappie

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Just to add to the above - unless you absolutely have to remove screws in order to effect essential repairs, leave them be. From the photos, it looks like you can clean, refinish and put the chest back to working order without dismantling it at all. Don't risk more damage unless you're forced to.
 

Gant

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Thanks all for your help. I’ll try some of these suggestions. Unfortunately the back of the lid is sprained from being opened too far so that the lock doesn’t engage any more, so ideally I would like to remove the hinges and remove the top to repair it. I will try to see if I can apply glue and clamps without taking it off. Also a couple of the blocks in the lid used to retain the tools are damaged, and I need to replace them; they will have to come out.

More photos to follow as I work on it, I promise.
 

--Tom--

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A screwdriver bit in a brace can be useful for letting you keep downwards pressure while you apply a lot of torque quite qently. If the slots aren’t clean it’s worth a bit of time with an awl to get them tidy so you get good contact with the screwdriver bit.

If you can leave them be though I would
 

OldWood

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Welcome - and a nice project to take on.
One of keys to this type of dismantlement that is not always known is to tighten the screw first. My first go-to would be the brace and screwdriver bit going back and forth, and then heat with a reasonable (ie not electronics scale) soldering iron, repeating as above. It may well be that impact driver is the modern way to go - I don't have much experience of them but my brother in the trade speaks highly.
I wouldn't worry to much if the rusted through screws break - a bit of careful drilling and then plugging the hole with a glued in tapered bit of wood will repair that.
Rob
 

thetyreman

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that is a very well made chest, well worth repairing, I'd highly recommend buying a wera screwdriver flathead bit, I've tried quite a few and they give the best grip without slipping I've had yet, make sure you clean out the dirt from the slot as well.
 

Cabinetman

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I was taught to use the screwdriver at an angle to clear out any rubbish in the groove and then put the "well fitting" screwdriver in the groove and hit it hard with a hammer, this loosens it just a little bit, usually works. Ian
 

jcassidy

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+1 for hitting the screwdriver a thump with the hammer, as per Cabinetman. I have a small ratcheting screwdriver with a hole in the handle (for hanging up? I dunno) and I find slotting another medium-sized screwdriver through that hole provides all the torque I need. I either just get a better grip to apply more pressure, or in extremis I use it as a lever to help turn the handle whilst bearing down on the screwhead.

I think an impact driver would either just wrench the head off the screw entirely, or slip out of the slot and wander over your wooden edges. I've done both. Total pain.
 

TheUnicorn

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I have a small ratcheting screwdriver with a hole in the handle (for hanging up? I dunno) and I find slotting another medium-sized screwdriver through that hole provides all the torque I need. I either just get a better grip to apply more pressure, or in extremis I use it as a lever to help turn the handle whilst bearing down on the screwhead.
i would assume that is exactly what the hole is for
 
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