The before of my next project.....a refinish/refurb

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Project by lazyfiremaninTN posted 09-24-2007 07:16 AM 2750 views 1 time favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a trunk that has been in my wife’s family for a long time, don’t know exactly how long. It has leather handles that are not condusive for carrying. It appears to be made out pine or some similar wood. My plan is to strip and then refinish, replace hardware, and install a new system of handles to make it easier to move. Any help, suggestions, comments or complaints are welcome. I will try to keep yall up on the progress.

And yes, I will attempt to keep the mistakes to a minium.

Later All

-- Adrian ..... The 11th Commandment...."Thou Shalt Not Buy A Wobble Dado"

18 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4546 days

#1 posted 09-24-2007 12:40 PM

oh what a wonderful trunk. I wonder how old it is…

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4348 days

#2 posted 09-24-2007 01:25 PM

Van Dyke’s has all kinds of trunk restorer’s parts and pieces. The leather handles look like owner added replacements. Good Luck

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14181 posts in 4369 days

#3 posted 09-24-2007 02:07 PM

the trunk has developed a nice patina. recommend not stripping it. Try a generous coat of boiled linseed oil and see how it looks to you. I you like it let it dry and a few days later add another coat rubbed in with 0000 steel wool. Follow with paste wax. The handles on the ends can easily be replaced. As Thos said, Van Dykes has the best selection of trunk parts.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4604 days

#4 posted 09-24-2007 02:43 PM

I agree with Dan. An oil of some sort should renew the look of that finish while still maintaininf its antique appearance.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View TomFran's profile


2960 posts in 4380 days

#5 posted 09-24-2007 04:06 PM

I can’t tell by the picture if the trunk is dusty, or if it has a finish that has become cloudy due to exposure to moisture. It is possible that it is either a shellac or lacquer finish, which would become cloudy if it was exposed to dampness.

You could find out what the original finish was by attempting to reamalgamate the finish by using denatured alchohol or lacquer thinner. Just go to some area of the trunk that is not too conspicuous, and try the test. If it is shellac, it will reamalgamate with denatured alchohol. If it is lacquer, the lacquer thinner will redissolve it.

If it was a lacquer finish you could spray straight lacquer thinner on it, which would remove the “blushed” finish and reamalgamate the old finish. Or, you could just spray a “wet” coat of lacquer on it, which would do the same thing and add an extra coat of finish.

It all depends on what you want the finished project to look like. If you want to restore it to what it might have looked like before the finish was degraded, you could do the former procedure to restore it. If you wanted to keep that “antique look” you could just try wiping some lemon oil on it. But, if that finish has been degraded by exposure to moisture, my personal experience is that, no amount of anything rubbed on it will remove that cloudy appearance.

I just recently repaired the finish on a coffee table that had been damaged when a hot pizza was placed on it. The pizza produced moisture, which made the lacquer become cloudy. I waited for a nice low-humidity day, and shot a fresh (wet) coat of lacquer on it which restored it to a like-new condition.

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View lazyfiremaninTN's profile


528 posts in 4339 days

#6 posted 09-24-2007 08:34 PM

Tom- that is dust, not moisture…

I think I will take yall’s suggestion and try the oil (sounds easier than sanding and then staining)

Questions- Can I use fill putty in old screw and nail holes and still use the oil??? or should I leave them as character? I also think that it had a quater round trim piece around bottom that has fallen off, replace or leave off?


-- Adrian ..... The 11th Commandment...."Thou Shalt Not Buy A Wobble Dado"

View TomFran's profile


2960 posts in 4380 days

#7 posted 09-24-2007 10:40 PM


It all depends on whether you want to preserve the antique look of the piece. If you think that it might be a highly valued piece, and that you would destroy the value of the piece by cosmetic improvements, then leave it alone. But, if you think that you would like to improve the looks of it, and that it would look better to you if you fixed a few things up, then go ahead and repair a few of the blemishes.

I know that when it comes to priceless antiques, the less you do – the better. And, that whatever modifications are done, they must be consistent with the style of the piece.

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14181 posts in 4369 days

#8 posted 09-25-2007 12:52 AM

I like the overall look of the piece. I would try the linseed oil (buy it from Lowes or Walmart) and not mess filling in any holes. Putty would never look right.

Lee Valley some reasonable handles too. I’ve always liked their products

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14181 posts in 4369 days

#9 posted 09-25-2007 12:56 AM

whoops above link would work and my laptop’s software will not alow to save any edits..

this link WILL work LEE VALLEY=

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Karson's profile


35188 posts in 4786 days

#10 posted 09-25-2007 03:46 AM

I agree to just spruce it up but don’t make any modifications that would destroy any intrinsic or sentimental value.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4376 days

#11 posted 09-25-2007 09:53 PM

I agree with the guys here, LazyFF. Up here in NY we’re surrounded by antiques dealers and the first thing they will tell you is that any change is bad. Get it appraised first and then think about cleaning up the finish only. You may discover that you have a new tablesaw sitting there!

We have an old abused Steamer Trunk up in the storeroom that someday I hope to address. Problem is then, what to do with it!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Dex's profile


52 posts in 4204 days

#12 posted 12-13-2007 07:58 AM

I know this is an old post, but I agree with the oil bit. One nice finish that I have had luck with is a formula I got from The Woodwhisperer. Sand it down, then seal it with a couple of coats of shellac. Then use this to give it it’s top coat: a mixture of 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 oil based varnish, 1/3 mineral spirits. This is the link to the video:

-- If it ain't country, it ain't music!

View bigpops0259's profile


320 posts in 4535 days

#13 posted 01-06-2008 05:49 PM

Nice trunk, I redid one of these once, added some walnut banding to set off the horizon lines. good luck.

-- Marty Ohio

View BillG's profile


82 posts in 3936 days

#14 posted 12-15-2008 10:26 PM

Like most antiques, any attempts to refinish them lowers their value. Only make changes where absolutely needed to preserve the trunk. I would have it looked at by an antique dealer befor doing anything. You may have a trunk with significant value.


-- Bill G - West Springfield, MA

View tsmith's profile


28 posts in 3841 days

#15 posted 02-17-2009 10:22 PM

Here’s a novel approach.

Leave this one the way it is.
But use it for a pattern to create another one just like it.

I have also heard that change is bad to antiques. That included ANY CHANGE.
I ruined the value of a 1890s dinner table by sanding and linseed oiling the finish.

I now have a 1870s coblers trunk that has a leather exterior and newspaper interior. I have NO intention of changing it. I will keep it away from the dog though.

-- tsmith - Garland, TX.

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