Friday, March 18, 2011

The Gerstner 52, etc

Stuff I learned at work:
Gerstner 52
There used to be a hierarchy in the personal equipment of engineers, draftsmen, and tool and die makers. All of these people had to furnish their own tools. The status of a engineer, or at least imagined status, could be measured by how fine and elaborate the materials and inlays of his slide rule were. I had a basic Keuffel & Esser. The draftsman, by the quality and brand of his drafting set (I was a Koh-i-noor man). The machinists had the most expensive tools. I worked on the edges of the tool and die world, daily interacting with them. I don't know the brand of tools they had, but they were proud of them. I do know their tool chests. If they had the bucks it was H. Gerstner and Sons all the way. Since 1906, four generations crafting beautiful boxes made of quarter-sawn oak. Perfectly functional, a place for everything. And beautiful.

For instance the large center drawer is a glove fit for the Machinery's Handbook. Not the Machinest Handbook, it is Machinery's Handbook. It is a 3" thick, small-print bible of facts, figures, specs and charts for everything you really need to know in life. Mine was a leather bound 20th Edition I inherited from Karl Wettlaufer when he retired. He inherited it from someone else. It had both their notes and my notes. (One was a formula for how low in the water a duckboat of a given weight and volume would set.) I suppose you can get it on a CD now, but how do you make margin notes and write obscure formulas in the back cover of a CD? I miss it. Maybe I should go back and claim it.

Star 7-drawer cabinet
But back to the Gerstner.  There is a Gerstner Owner's Club. A new Gerstner 52 is $900+. Really nice old ones sometimes more.  They have introduced a second tier line that's made in China, but guys, it ain't the same. The Chinese have also knocked it off a bunch of ways under different brands. I caught an old one for my bicycle tools on Ebay. It was being presented as a Gerstner, but everyone in the market knew that that was bogus. It a Star, always a notch below the Gerstner. It'll function as well, but the drawer construction is not quite as good, the oak is only quarter-sawn where it needs to be, the mirror is round. The felt is shot, but it's was in the $100 range, not $500+. No one collects Stars. I'll survive. But if I knew Pete Nielson was going to be stopping by, I'd hide it. 

Jack Gabus just sent me this picture, just to let us know, he's still an old school soul.  I think I have my slide rule down in the shop somewhere ...  for prying off paint can lids.

The Gerstner 92XL in cherry with brass trim for ONLY $1480.


Silk Hope said...

When my wife's uncle buys the farm (not in the offing BTW) we will inherit four of the thoes beasts and all of the inhabitance there in.

An immigrant from Denmark, Came to the states in the 50's and worked for Rockwell for 35 yrs

Gunnar you ought to see the crap in his garage. One rube goldberg after the next. It was his bicycle you posted on your blog.

Gunnar Berg said...

Most machinist tools are as obsolete as a T-square or a slide rule. At one time I thought it was a great trade and would always be needed. CNC milling, EDM, etc have almost rendered them obsolete. The skill set moved from the machinist upstream to the computer programmer. I'm a little bewildered by the demand for tool chests. There can't be that many bicycle nuts.

Silk Hope said...

Are you kidding. People love that stuff. it is akin to the Hamms beer signs with running (lighted ) water. It reminds everybody of easier days (or so they thought).

And as for bicycle nuts, there are a lot of them out. Most just won't fess' up.

Hell my nephew just bought an nos team Z lemond on ebay today...he's hooked.