Effects of storing cartridges in an oak cabinet


There have been several threads on the forum in the recent past where suggestions were solicited for the best way to store a cartridge collection. In each case, it was pointed out that oak is a poor choice if one decides to store the collection in a wood cabinet. The cartridges in this picture show the effects from what I believe was long term storage in an oak cabinet. These were part of a collection I bought this past weekend. While there was nothing super rare included in the damaged cartridges, there were some nice ones, including a .44 long rimfire with a raised US headstamp (on the top left), and a .32 lipfire (top right), both $10 to $15 cartridges.

From the top left: .44 Long rimfire, .44 Short rimfire, .41 Long rimfire, .38 Long rimfire, .38 Short rimfire, 9mm Flobert, and .32 lipfire

From the bottom left: 11mm Egyptian, .41 Swiss rimfire, .455 Webley Mk II, .44 Colt, .44 S&W American, .44 Webley, and .38 Long Colt.


Guy do you have any type of time span 1 year,10 years 50 years?


Is it against the LAW to clean these specimens? I suppose these would now be classed as “accumulator” rounds. If they’d only left them in their sealed box. . . . .


wow it sure eats the lead away. Makes me wonder where the lead goes, does it just evaporate into the wood?


Kim–The lead is turned into Lead Oxide, a fine white powder, like you see on those bullets and on the cases.


Lead oxide is red or yellow. This is mostly lead carbonate.


I have seen this in my own cabinet made of pine, it started in about 2 years time. My fix was to either rub the lead on a cake of wax or dip the lead in hot wax down to the case mouth and it stopped.
I was also told by a advanced collector years ago that if you have a enclosed cabinet (with doors) it makes it worst, and if you have something with no door or back it wont happen at all.


Steve–Air circulation is the secret. The more the better. Any pine that is strongly aromatic when cut is almost as bad as oak. I have had good luck with White Pine, but I would avoid Red Pine or Southern Yellow Pine. Other good choices if you must use wood are Douglas Fir or Spruce. I would also avoid hardwoods such as Maple. Birch would probably be OK.


I have no idea how much time was required to cause the damage, or exactly what the storage conditions were. They were part of a collection I bought that was being disposed of from an estate. Fortunately, there are some good items in the remainder of the collection that are not damaged.

My own experience with wood drawers for storage was that it doesn’t take long for the oxidation to start, and coating the bullets with something to slow the process is helpful, but not foolproof.

I suppose I could have wiped them off for the picture, but the time spent taking the photos provided only a short reprieve for most from being dropped in the garbage.


Have posted this before. Sealed my oak cabinet before using it and have been using it at least 30 years without any oxidation problems. Ron are you sure these were stored in wood. A fellow brought a bunch of cartridges to the Prescott show several years ago that had been individualy wrapped in newspaper for years they looked just like that. Try using some Sani Wax on them in a soft cloth it does wonders and seals them from more damage. It cannot be seen, that is it does not leave a wax coating in the bullet or case.




I had a wood cabinet - a beautiful thing with cut off .30-06 heads for drawer pulls (two on each of twenty drawers, as I recall). It was sealed with what look like marine varnish or lacquer. I don’t know what kind of wood it was. Lead bullets became mildly frosty within about two weeks. Within six months, they would be leaving bits and pieces of the oxidation in the shelf if you picked them up. I gave the cabinet away. You have been lucky with your wood cabinets - by and large, they are the pits! I suspect it is the type of wood, and perhaps the cartridges get an air flow. Also, not quite as damp in the air all year as where I live.

John Moss


Mark me down as one who will not use wood storage of any kind. I’ve had some that worked fine for up to a couple of years and others that started eating the lead bullets in a couple of weeks. I even had several boxes of 22 LR where every bullet in the box turned white. And we all know how much we cherish our 22 LR box collections. ;)

No more wood for me. (there’s probably a good joke in there somewhere)

Guy, don’t throw those cartridges away. You can sell them as the rare Lead Carbonate Bullet variation from the Republic of Lugash. ;)



I have an old type cabinet which appears to be oak that I have used for almost 40 years and have had no problem with oxidation of either the exposed lead on my 9mm bullets or of the cases. I have had odd cartridges go bad on me but it was always a function of that specific problem, not of the cabinet. I guess it may be the age of the cabinet (a very old one) or perhaps it was treated to prevent oxidation of the printing blocks. Just luck I guess.

Luck is always better than skill.




I don’t doubt that gases from various woods can be corrosive, but there have to be other variables that make the difference. I had the cabinet below built in 2000 by a local and reputable cabinet maker. I told him the purpose of the cabinet, my concerns about corrosion, the value of what it would contain and what I might have to say to him and around town if the cabinet proved damaging to the contents. His response was “no problem.” I believe the drawer sides and bottoms are ash or something of that nature and I don’t know what he used to seal it. I can say nine years later that I have indeed had no problem. And yes, that is a (50-year-old and recently resealed) oak floor under the cabinet. My 2¢. Rich


And here is my 2 cents…I have built all my cabinets of wood over the years…NEVER oak…and have not had any problems…ALTHOUGH…I have noticed something interesting. I have in the collection, many .30-40 Krag Guard Loads, with the 218 grain lead bullet…they are as pristine as the day they were loaded at FA 100 years ago. I also have some commercial specimens where the lead exposed at the soft point bullet tip was oxidized when I received them. I usually take an oily rag and clean them up as best I can, and most return to “factory new” appearance with a little gentle rubbing. However, after sitting in the drawers for a month or so, these particular specimens begin to re-aquire a dusting of oxidation. Soooo…my observation is…if it was pristine when you received it, it will stay that way, but if it was oxidized to a certain degree, it seems to want to continue to do so, regardless of storage conditions.