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Somewhere in this forum I have a post about a rifle and in the middle of that post is a discussion about putting a finish on some Russian wood ammo boxes.  I have done it again.  Here are some discussion posts about more "finishing" of wood ammo boxes.  To keep pictures close to text I will do several postings.

I bought some wood ammo cases from Sportsman's Guide (.com).  These are sold as 'new; never issued.'  I personally suspect the GSA never accepted/bought them;  rejected them.  There is space between some of the boards of 1/16 to 1/8 inch or possibly more.  Lids do not fit quite exactly right on some.  Otherwise,  they are built to Mil Spec and are very strong.  For some purposes the slight ventilation can be good to help keep contents dry or allow volatile gasses to escape. 

Each box has a Mil Spec latch and one hinge.  I kept the latches in place;  they are adequate for my needs.  One hinge does not do well;  two are necessary.  I took the hinges off and then cut notches to put two on each of two boxes by notching the box with a small saw and a wood chisel in the same manner as the OEM installation.  I put the hinges at the outer ends of the lid rather than inboard of the top ribs.  I just did.  It works very well.  The OEM screws have a square drive.  I was lucky to have picked up a little set of power drive bits recently that had several sizes of square drive tips along with an assortment of other kinds of driver tips.  Just a little pack of a handful of the drive bits,  brand name is Pittsburg which would indicate I bought them at Harbor Freight;  although I seem to have a memory of picking them off a rack while wandering through the hardware aisle at Target?  On a whim.  I reused the OEM screws for these original offset hinges.

For the other boxes I used 4 inch strap hinges from Harbor Freight. The price at Harbor Freight was half the price at the Big Box stores.  I used #8 sheet metal screws to attach the strap hinges.  A clearance hole is needed for the screw shaft cores but the constant diameter sheet metal screw is much stronger.  I used a drill bit that was barely too small. I put my strap hinges on the backs of the boxes and under the lids at the ribs on on the lids.  I didn't bother to notch the boxes for the strap hinges. The 1/16 lift is not noticeable and with the other problems in the construction of these boxes it is irrelevant.  I put a little Gorilla Glue on the boxes and lids under all the hinges to help hold the hinges in place as an experiment and to lock the screws in place.  A small amount of glue applied with a Q-Tip and a drop of water (catalyst);  oozed and squeezed out for too long.  I wiped and cleaned it for an hour and went to bed and in the morning there was much more white glue ooze that was already too stiff to deal with.  Whatever.  One screw-head on each strap hinge hits the edge of the top of its box.  I did some quick inletting to create clearance using a box knife and then colored the notch and varnished it with a Q-tip for a brush.

I also bought rollers and swivel castors rated at 75 pounds each at Harbor Freight;  much cheaper than anywhere else.  Total load capability of 300 pounds should be much more than I will ever need.  I wiped and lubed my rollers and castors with my gun oil (Mobil One Full Synthetic with 5% Kroil) to make them permanently moisture/corrosion proof.  I put wheels under three boxes and left the other two be.  I intend to double-stack those on the ones with rollers. 

Click on the pictures to make them bigger.



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A couple more pictures.  These are the Mil Spec hinges with the reused OEM square-drive screws and the way I installed the strap hinges.  The color difference of the lid on one box with Rustoleum "American Walnut" stain thinned by half with Mineral Spirits and the consequent unevenness of that color as well as the difference in the color of the Minwax stain.

In the first post the colors of the boxes in the picture of the group of boxes are:  full "American Walnut" on the right;  the others are "Gunstock."  If looked at closely, the dark box on the right and the middle lighter color box seem to sit on top of the grass while the remaining two sit down in the grass.  That is because of the rollers under the first two.  The lid on the box on the left is half-thinned "American Walnut."

Each box was coated with a stain or stain & sealer,  allowed to dry for an hour or two or overnight, and then given a heavy coat of Helmsman "Satin" Spar Varnish for all-weather all-conditions use.  I started with Rustoleum "American Walnut" stain;  think it is too dark.  Tried thinning it against Rustoleum's advisory.  They are right.  It will thin but it has bad effects on the final result if much thinner is added.  I switched to Minwax "Gunstock" stain & sealer.  Lighter color is better.

The cardboard boxes the wood boxes came in did service as paint stands.  A couple of tin cans rescued from the kitchen trash served for holding the Mineral Spirits for cleaning the brush and for mixing paint.  Working in the backyard was nice because paint spills were of no consequence.  Sometimes in the three different days when I could work outside I had good sunlight and sometimes I was mostly in the dark in twilight.  The stain shows the consequences of lighting,  bad wood with squirrely grain of twists and knots,  hurried work or darkness.  I used a few pieces of firewood to set the boxes on to keep them out of the grass while paint dried/cured.

The box with the Mil Spec hinges has the last lid.  Minwax stain on the box;  the last lid popped up from being shunted aside along the way after the Minwax stain was used up and it was getting quite dark.  Mixed some "American Walnut" by half with Mineral Spirits and did the staining.  The color diff is one way to identify different boxes.  ;D 

I carefully cleaned the glue ooze for a couple of hours on the hinges and then went to bed.  In the morning the additional ooze from overnight was too stiff to mess with.




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I bought the boxes online mail order from The Sportsman's Guide . com;  military surplus section.

The dimensions in the catalog are interior dimensions.  My outside measurements are  ~17 1/2 inches wide;  almost 15 inches front to back; ~19 inches tall or ~22 inches with the wheels I added.

I estimate real cost at ~$25 each,  delivered,  ground.  I think the current catalog price is ~$17.

Sportsman's Guide has a lot of specials and closeouts including wood military surplus ammo boxes.  It is worth opening a (free) subscription to their advertising to keep track of the specials.  If you see something you might want offered as closeout or special or something like the wood ammo boxes,  buy quickly.  They never last long.  Regular catalog items will be there for a while. FWIW:  I have no interest in this company;  I have occasionally bought things from them for a long time.

If you varnish your ammo boxes,  I used most of two quart cans of stain and a lot of a gallon of Spar Varnish (from Lowe's) for 5 boxes.  A week later they are still sitting outdoors under a wide roof overhang outgassing fumes (but just a little now) as the varnish cures.  I also bought two pairs of Lowe's chemical handling gloves for painting and am glad I did.

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  • 3 weeks later...

One more picture.

Here are my new ammo boxes stacked where I am filling them with stuff that has been blocking a closet.  On top of the stack is one of the Russian 7.62x54R ammo boxes from the last time.

The wood of the Russian boxes soaked up stain and varnish like a sponge.  The wood of the new ammo boxes soaked up a lot but not nearly as much.  The Minwax 'stain with sealer' kept the absorption of Spar Varnish reasonable.

It is interesting that the Russian boxes use a minimum of metal.  The ribs on top and bottom slide into tongue & groove dovetail slots.  The side-walls are fitted together with tapered dovetails.  Nails are used to hold the handles in place and to attach the bottoms.  The American-made (Ohio;  pine) ammo boxes are assembled with a whole bunch of nails.  The wood of the Russian boxes was rough and I sanded a lot between coats of varnish.  The face wood of the American boxes is smooth and I blew off sanding.  I can tolerate the rough cut ends of the boards. The American-made boxes only got one heavy coat of varnish which seems sufficient.

As always I resized the pic (with Paint.net;  free for individuals for non-commercial use) from an original cell-phone-camera size of 1.2 Meg down to 117 Kb for this post.


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