While at a garage sale (my friend / wedding officiant was having, of all places) I found this very sad little steamer trunk. Time had not been kind to it and I wasn’t sure if I could do anything to help. Since I knew the guy and he gave me a nice price I figured I would give it a shot.
Here is what I started with.
My previous trunk fixing experience involved repairing and cleaning the canvas covering over the wood with saddle soap. Here the protective coating wasn’t salvageable. It seemed to be paper like but could have been severely dry rotted canvas. Over this was a coat of black paint which also covered the hardware. The exposed wood cross pieces were just dry and beaten up.
The inside was, well disgusting. It had a layer of think paper covering everything inside. It was half coming off. And oh, it smelled. Awful.
Since I was going to remove all the grossness I wanted to know the right way to refinish the wood underneath. There are companies that restore trunks back to there original condition that also give a lot of great advice. The first helpful (but sad and yucky) thing I learned was the glue used to adhere the canvas/paper was made from dead horse parts as glue was back then. This means a) it was water soluble and b) it smelled awful when you got it wet. So with a spray bottle full of water and a scraper I went to work.
Next we had a smell to worry about. It was an awful combo of mold and dead horse glue. So it went outside in full sun after being doused with water and vinegar and scrubbed down. After a few days the smell was gone and it was ready to be finished.
Through my research I learned that traditionally trunk makers would use Tung Oil to protect and finish the wood. The oil soaks into the wood and then hardens to protect the wood from water. In it’s pure form it totally non-toxic. The stuff at the home improvement stores usually have some kind of toxic drying agent in them which in theory will evaporate and leave a non-toxic finish. But since I am going to be there breathing in the air as it dries I opted for the pure stuff. I bought mine here at The Real Milk Paint Co.
Character here is a matter of taste on a piece. This thing looked so cool that I wanted to leave the black marks on the wood from the hardware. This wasn’t a strict restore job but more of a beautifying treatment.
So here you are, the steamer trunk all finished.
And the inside.
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