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Restoring A Louis Vuitton Wardrobe Trunk

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Trunks1077 of 2591Grandmother's TrunkI've acquired this trunk. I wondered if this picture inside is significant.
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    Posted 5 years ago

    (35 items)

    I may have mentioned in an earlier post that we had been selected by a very high profile, famous California family to restore a collection of their antique Louis Vuitton trunks. They had recently 'unearthed' this batch of LV's at a storage site which had been forgotten about, for decades. All of the trunks had massive amounts of toxic mold, water damage and, it looked as though some had fire damage. The elements had a field day with these pieces and rotted out sections were not uncommon either. This, I'm guessing 1930-ish, full-size wardrobe trunk had mold growth that looked like large swaths of cotton were growing out of it when it arrived at our shop and we gave it full days of dry heat exposure to kill off as much of the toxicity as possible, before blasting it with chemical combinations that would have been considered 'unsafe' during WW1. Luckily, we took great precaution by wearing gas masks, full body suits and attacked the piece with rifles and long bayonets! Once the mold had been defeated, we took our prisoner into our shop where we systematically stripped out it's interior under bright lights and photographed each section carefully as it wasn't going to allow us to remember the complexity of its build otherwise. The disadvantage to restoring one of these is that you-don't-take-it-apart, period. You have to work WITH it. Remove, clean, repair what is possible and then be a magician with the rest. Interior panels were most likely built into the trunk WITH lining attached. The challenge then is to make it every bit as durable as when new, and without the 'secret' glues used to make an LV, you've got to invent your own. As you can see in the 3rd photo, we managed to get amazing adhesion with the new lining and please don't ask how many tries it took! Once lined, we had the fun job of cleaning all of those wonderful little engraved Louis Vuitton nails, along with the multiple draw bolts, hinges and corners...and 0000 grade steel wool is the only way to do it. You rub for hours on end and then you rub more and then you keep at it until your fingers start to lose any feeling at all and you wake up in the middle of the night thinking that you are still scrubbing brass and then you completely lose your mind..(not me though, RIGHT?!) Sand the slats, finish them with special varnishes as well as the exterior surfaces and t h e n y o u r e a l I z e t h a t t h e
    m a I n l o c k h a s l o s t I t 's s p r I n g, and won't close or hold down the top lid! So, you take the mechanism apart, cut a piece of saw blade the exact right size, fit it on the interior lock skids, preen it back together and wonder why you ever got into the restoration game in the first place! Actually, it's one of the most rewarding projects that we've ever worked on and having been able to be a part of the extending (resurrection, really) of the life of this historically important piece, makes us thankful to have had the opportunity. We love our jobs!

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    1. jscott0363 jscott0363, 5 years ago
      Looks and sounds like you had quite a task on you hands with this one. But, what stunning results you have with this one. Job well done and simply beautiful!!
    2. newcollector633 newcollector633, 5 years ago
      And what a resurrection it is...superb! Let's me know there is hope for my Katrina Survivor as well!! Still haven't done anything with it...listed it for sale and will hopefully hear something soon...just too much for me to take on, and it, like this LV collection you are working on, with its original history and then the more recent history of survival deserves special consideration. You all do amazing work, and your love for your job shows in your pieces!!
    3. trunkman trunkman, 5 years ago
      Once again the results are stunning... such a nice write up of the process too -- really enjoyed the read... keep up the fantastic work!!!
    4. Drill Drill, 5 years ago
      Great humor! made my day, just goes to show what all that scrubbing can do.
    5. greendog greendog, 5 years ago
      nothing personal randallbar I think you do exceptional work, just not an LV trunk fan, don't see what all the hoopla's about, but that's just me you do great work.
    6. randallbarbera randallbarbera, 5 years ago
      Hey Greendog,
      Thanks for the kudos! Your trunks are pretty amazing, nice work! I think that if you were to take apart, restore, rebuild or repair a lot of Louis Vuitton trunks, you would have a great appreciation for them. There are no American made trunks that equal an LV and the only trunk better than an LV (in my opinion) is a Goyard. Check out the book LOUIS VUITTON: 100 Legendary Trunks.
    7. greendog greendog, 5 years ago
      It's not the quality or construction of the LV, I'am sure it's top of the line, personally It's the look for me, the ones I've seen all look the same. men't no offense, like I said you do fantastic work. I personally would take a beautiful Martin Maier oak slat trunk over a L.V. trunk anytime, but that's just me. And I will check out the book, thank's.
    8. CaddyGirl58 CaddyGirl58, 5 years ago
      Absolutely, AMAZING work!! I'm having a time restoring mine. But I love it so much.At least for me I have the luxury to stop and start as I please. Not so much for a client. My hat is off to you Randall!!
    9. Drill Drill, 5 years ago

      Randall A rare invoice image
    10. SEAN68 SEAN68, 5 years ago

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