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Upgrade Vintage Tool Chest with Ball Bearing Slides Using Plywood?? by Bill70j

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I have a 70's vintage Craftsman tool chest, a gift from my wife way back when. It has old metal-on-metal friction drawer slides that have never worked. It' a chore to get the drawers open.

Upgrading to ball bearing slides seemed easy enough. But how to mount the new slides without welding? I'm no good at welding sheet metal, plus I didn't want to ruin the finish. The solution kept coming back - use wood. In a metal tool cabinet?

It worked out well. The chest sides are more rigid with glued-in plywood, and maple slide mounts add strength.

Here is an inside view of the 3-drawer chest with the old metal-on-metal friction slides.
1 - Old Chest Slides.jpg

Here is a new ball bearing slide compared to the old friction ones.
2 - New Ball Bearing Slide vs Old.jpg

After cutting out the old slides, I had a cavity to fill and new slide mounts to install. I used 3/4" baltic birch plywood and glued it to the chest using polyurethane construction adhesive, then glued 1/2" hard maple to the plywood for the mounts.
3 - Cavity Filled with Plywood and Maple Slide Mounts.jpg

Here are the new slides
4 - New Chest Slides.jpg

The old slides were welded to the drawer box sides, so I had to cut out the spot welds.
5 - Cutting Out Spoptwelded drawer Slide.jpg

Here is the new slide. I secured it with a 1/8" thick X 1/2" wide steel flat bar on the inside of the box, running the depth of the drawer, tapped 8-32, then nutted. Made the box sides much more rigid.
6 - New Drawer Slide.jpg

And here is the finished product. No wood to be seen. I have spent the last hour pulling out the drawers, and sliding them back in. Nothing like the feel of a nicely gliding drawer.

. 7 - Old 70's Vintage Craftsman Tool Chest w New Slides.jpg
 
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Comments

#3
That is a neat idea. In fact mounting the ball bearing slides this way is better than welding. Also you didn’t alter the appearance of the box


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#4
Great job on the ball bearing retrofit. I own several older Craftsmen boxes with the friction type slides, and have found that a good solvent cleaning and lubrication every 10 yrs or so makes a huge difference in operation.
 
#7
So, where did you source the slides from? I've been wanting to do that to my old craftsman boxes so they'd match the new craftsman boxes I have.
 
#8
I got a good price here, but had to buy a 10 pair box. I have also bought them one pair at a time here. Despite the price difference between the two ($4.75/pair vs $13.30/pair) I can see no difference in quality or performance.

I have found that most full extension ball bearing slides have the same critical thickness of 1/2", and call for a clearance between the side of the chest and the side of drawer of 1/2" + 1/32" - 0". That is the dimension of the Craftsman chest I modified.

I had the same incentive as you. There was a huge difference between the friction slides in this older Craftsman chest and the ball bearing type of my newer Craftsman chests.
 
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#9
I got a good price here, but had to buy a 10 pair box. I have also bought them one pair at a time here. Despite the price difference between the two ($4.75/pair vs $13.30/pair) I can see no difference in quality or performance.

I have found that most full extension ball bearing slides have the same critical thickness of 1/2", and call for a clearance between the side of the chest and the side of drawer of 1/2" + 1/32" - 0". That is the dimension of the Craftsman chest I modified.

I had the same incentive as you. There was a huge difference between the friction slides in this older Craftsman chest and the ball bearing type of my newer Craftsman chests.
Thanks! This item on my to-do list now has a little more grounding! Thanks again!
 
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