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Resurrecting a beat up Machine rifle ammunition chest M1.
Having remembered reading and following embalmer's M1 BAR chest project back a few years ago gave me the motivation to embark on a similar project this summer (2019)

Bought a gutted and beat up B.A.R. magazine ammo chest on ebay and decided to make it into a restoration project for my WWII living history group's events.
As i've read, This chest would hold 15 B.A.R. mags as part of the short-lived US Army's M1922 "cavalry" machine rifle, for a total of 300 rounds of .30-06 ammo. The chest would be attached to a saddle pack on a mule or horse for transport.

As received in the mail....no leather handle, no wood dividers, no felt packing/padding material in the lid or floor.
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I found US arsenal drawings from 1927 showing how the chest was put together and the dimensions of all it's components from an old post on here from gatekeeper and embalmer, as well as first hand measurements shared with me by armorer. With this I began to fabricate the missing assemblies.......
 

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Stripped the steel shell as thoroughly as possible of rust, glue residue and chipped OD paint down to plain steel.

Primed it with a gray rust inhibitor from Rustoleum as a protective undercoat. With the shell coated it was now time to tackle the missing handle, felt and wood dividers

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Fabricated the leather handle first.... The darn brackets on the lid needed their rivets to be ground off unfortunately as there is no other way to stitch the leather on upper and under sides of the folded strap. I used 8 oz. good quality bridle leather I had leftover from rifle sling projects and tough bees waxed cord as stitching. As i'm becoming far-sighted the sewing about drove me batty. I tried to skive the under fold to eliminate some of it's thickness before stitching.
Will have to account for new "rivets" to secure the brackets later on......now onto the wood dividers, there are 2, spaced equally after the 5th and 10th magazines and affixed to the chest with 2 front and 2 rear wood screws each. I copied the contour of the divider on a pattern and cut them to width, height and thickness. I used poplar as it is strong and not hard to work with tools. Thankfully the arsenal drawings listed Oak, Ash, Pine and Poplar as manufacturing alternatives so my instinctive purchase at Lowes lucked out !
because the punched screw holes in the steel front and back left dimples inside the box I routed the front and back edges of the dividers to ease them over the dimples. Stained them as close as possible to color photos of original dividers.

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The felt "packing/padding" was a bit of a mystery as i've seen WWII era padding that looked like horse hair or bovine hair felt in brown but of course it's near impossible to just stumble upon that now, so knowing the thickness (1/4") I decided to buy industrial felt online from Buffalo Felt, wool F26 grade, 1/4" thick and 6 ft X 1ft in a single choice of charcoal gray.
I cut this in 3 sections for the floor pad and one length for the lid interior, plus a double thick (1/2" x 1 1/4") strip that is glued to the metal first, then the wide length draped and glued over that to act as a tensioning pad pressing down upon the 15 magazines once the chest is loaded so there's no shaking or rattling inside.
I then spray painted the interior with AJP WWII semi-gloss OD "jeep and equipment" paint bought at Army Jeep parts in Levittown, PA, before securing the wood dividers, "riveting" the leather handle and brackets to the lid and gluing the felt pads inside. The arsenal drawings called for Goodrich vulcanizing adhesive (yeah good luck with that) so I used E6000 clear drying flexible permanent cement bought at Michaels.

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Now to replace the stenciling.....
First I applied a coat of the AJP WWII semi-gloss OD to the exterior and let it cure.

I had options for both solid block lettering, as was originally on my box, or segmented letters as typical of a stencil font. Having found a vendor on Ebay who custom cuts stencils onto "oilboard" with a vintage stencil cutter, I opted for the segmented stencil font in 1/2" characters. Having a library of google images of original M1 chests with stencil font, I tried my best to center and space out the lines of text I wanted. "MACHINE RIFLE AMMUNITION CHEST M1 D3920" arrayed in 3 lines.
I decided to use my air compressor driven Badger airbrush using testors semi-gloss and flat black mixed to get the sheen I wanted. I feared using a spray paint can would cause bleeds under the oilboard and the airbrush could lay down a much finer coat repeatedly. Thankfully the oilboard remained pressed firm to the front and the lettering came out clear. (as a comparison is a photo of an original stenciled M1 chest to get mine as close as possible within my means)

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pic of original from Google images.... BAR chest i.jpg
 

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Final results, first empty, then with the interior filled with some real mags and wood "filler mags" for visual effect prior to bringing it out to it's inaugural display event at Paoli battlefield (Pennsylvania) on Saturday afternoon 09/21
I hope I did it justice, and hope this adds to reference material for anyone wanting to tackle a project like this :)

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Super nice restoration!!
 

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Fantastic work and great write-up! Thank you for taking the time to photograph and document the restoration.


Questions: Where did you source the rivets for the handle, what kind did you use, and how did you press them (hydraulic press or hammer and rivet anvil?)
 

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Super nice restoration!!
thank you all I appreciate that. Your help and info has always been key to several of my projects !

I realized I have so many accessories and extras to my weapons that I felt they are best served added to display boards for the public's viewing. I'm sure some spectators find it no more than minutia when they want to see guns, but they tell a story none the less. The shotguns totally spiraled out of control when I had the Winchester M12 civilian cut down and turned into a trench gun...then it became a quest to fill in with riot, trap and skeet versions among Winchester, Remington and Ithaca.
The "BAR" is an OOW 1918A3 converted over to an early WWII modernized 1918A2
The 1919 is a forum member built (J.B.M.) Sarco kit

I've dearly wanted one of the OOW discontinued A1918 WWI versions of their BAR SLR....maybe someday. Would be great to have them displayed side by side with the belt displays behind.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Fantastic work and great write-up! Thank you for taking the time to photograph and document the restoration.


Questions: Where did you source the rivets for the handle, what kind did you use, and how did you press them (hydraulic press or hammer and rivet anvil?)
Here is my secret to the "rivets"..... since I don't really have a great workshop, nor access to any presses and stuff, I cheated due to the fact the interior of the lid is lined with packing felt, it would cover any original rivet peens, so I figured why not think outside the box and work with what I can get. I was lucky a local hardware store had 3/16" or 10-24 threaded carriage bolts. The shallow round head mimicked the rivet curve almost exactly. I cut the threaded section just long enough to clear the inside of the lid AND be able to accept thinned down 10-24 hex nuts. I also filed the square lug under the carriage head into a round so it'd go into the holes in the lid smoothly. I thinned them down with a file so they didn't add any noticeable bulk under the felt. I added nail polish to the threads before torquing the nuts tight to act as cheap loctite.
I'd like to think from the exterior you'd never know the rivet heads are now carriage bolt heads.

yes, yes... I cheated ! lol :rofl:
 

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Here is my secret to the "rivets"..... since I don't really have a great workshop, nor access to any presses and stuff, I cheated due to the fact the interior of the lid is lined with packing felt, it would cover any original rivet peens, so I figured why not think outside the box and work with what I can get. I was lucky a local hardware store had 3/16" or 10-24 threaded carriage bolts. The shallow round head mimicked the rivet curve almost exactly. I cut the threaded section just long enough to clear the inside of the lid AND be able to accept thinned down 10-24 hex nuts. I also filed the square lug under the carriage head into a round so it'd go into the holes in the lid smoothly. I thinned them down with a file so they didn't add any noticeable bulk under the felt. I added nail polish to the threads before torquing the nuts tight to act as cheap loctite.
I'd like to think from the exterior you'd never know the rivet heads are now carriage bolt heads.

yes, yes... I cheated ! lol :rofl:
Now THAT is pretty clever! Thanks for taking the time to explain that. It's always good to see creative work-arounds for unique problems. Rivets are a challenge without the proper rivets and tooling to install them.

They look like rivets to me! Excellent work!
 

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Here is my secret to the "rivets"..... since I don't really have a great workshop, nor access to any presses and stuff, I cheated due to the fact the interior of the lid is lined with packing felt, it would cover any original rivet peens, so I figured why not think outside the box and work with what I can get. I was lucky a local hardware store had 3/16" or 10-24 threaded carriage bolts. The shallow round head mimicked the rivet curve almost exactly. I cut the threaded section just long enough to clear the inside of the lid AND be able to accept thinned down 10-24 hex nuts. I also filed the square lug under the carriage head into a round so it'd go into the holes in the lid smoothly. I thinned them down with a file so they didn't add any noticeable bulk under the felt. I added nail polish to the threads before torquing the nuts tight to act as cheap loctite.
I'd like to think from the exterior you'd never know the rivet heads are now carriage bolt heads.

yes, yes... I cheated ! lol :rofl:
Cheated? More like improvised!
Amazing display and setup. It gives me a little hope for the future knowing that this hobby has people like you to keep the memory alive.
 

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Resurrecting a beat up Machine rifle ammunition chest M1.
Having remembered reading and following embalmer's M1 BAR chest project back a few years ago gave me the motivation to embark on a similar project this summer (2019)

Bought a gutted and beat up B.A.R. magazine ammo chest on ebay and decided to make it into a restoration project for my WWII living history group's events.
As i've read, This chest would hold 15 B.A.R. mags as part of the short-lived US Army's M1922 "cavalry" machine rifle, for a total of 300 rounds of .30-06 ammo. The chest would be attached to a saddle pack on a mule or horse for transport.

As received in the mail....no leather handle, no wood dividers, no felt packing/padding material in the lid or floor.
View attachment 92855
View attachment 92857
View attachment 92859

I found US arsenal drawings from 1927 showing how the chest was put together and the dimensions of all it's components from an old post on here from gatekeeper and embalmer, as well as first hand measurements shared with me by armorer. With this I began to fabricate the missing assemblies.......
749th tank battalion,
Great job in your restoration. During your restoration, did you ever come across a front latch for this BAR magazine box. I am restoring one and the front latch is broken.

Thanx,
delta6
 

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I bought one of those chests about 30 years ago. I do not remember what I payed for it. I think I got it from a guy at a gun show. I have it full of BAR mags. Have the chests become scarce? I do not want to sell mine. But I am curios, do you have any idea what they are worth?
 

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I bought one of those chests about 30 years ago. I do not remember what I payed for it. I think I got it from a guy at a gun show. I have it full of BAR mags. Have the chests become scarce? I do not want to sell mine. But I am curios, do you have any idea what they are worth?
The last one that I recall, that I saw for sale was around $250.
 

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Machine rifle ammunition chest M1--price estimates

Unrestored $60 - $150 depending on condition is what I typically see them going for on eBay.
I have evidence that "redroth" sells at VERY reasonable prices--maybe that trend extends to his estimates...
Taber
 
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