Posted 6 years ago
I believe it is from sometime in the early 19th century, do you have an idea? What was it's purpose, document box, ammunition box, Dr's strong box for controlled medicines, could it have Civil War ties? I need three original screws to replace three that were not replaceable, they have some amount of silver in them, I have had no luck locating any. Two about an inch for the handle and one about 1 3/4" for the top. Does any body have a picture, or maybe could draw a picture of what the handle might have looked like so I can try and design one that would be similar.
Hello, thank you for taking a look at my wood travel trunk. I am not sure of what it's original use was or correct identification? I think it might by a custom design but still for what I have not determined? It weighs 11 1/2 pounds and the dimensions are 14" x 11.5" x 12", solid and very sturdy, I am sure that it could carry a 16 lb. bowling ball with no issues for another 20 years.
I found it in a concrete block one car garage in a very small country town. My friend had leased the property for about a year to a family that I never knew or met but the garage and house seemed like a band of Gypsies had lived there. The garage was full of many articles of which had little to no value or use. In the middle of the dark, damp floor in what looked to be piles of old clothing and various debris sat this box.
I knew instantly that it was wood, confirmed when I picked up and felt it's weight.
It had the weathered remains of a reddish resin or epoxy/stain maybe even paint, possibly lacquer, that was darkened by being so dirty. All the hardware was rusted and black or a combination of both with red. It had suffered decades of neglect, like it provided as a busy security case or strong box for 75 years, then it was put on a shelf in an underground drainage tunnel for the next 75 years? At some point while in the drainage tunnel, some kids stumbled across it, and gave it coat of red, actually more of a maroon colored crappy paint job. Then put it back on the shelf or rock it was sitting on where it sat for another 50 years, then picked up and left on the damp floor of the old garage where I found it. That is truly a hypothetically theory, but the condition of the box was horrible!!!
That was four years ago and I have recently finished the restoration and searching for some answers. If I knew that it looked like this under all that neglect I might have sought some professional advice back then. The hinges and buckles were so corroded that they had become seized up and locked into position. I had to take it apart just to open it in order to evaluate the condition of the interior and search for any clues that might have been inside.
I was very careful in dismantling all the parts and hardware with hopes that the original pieces could be saved. The first picture has the remains of what use to be the top carry handle supports and one of the screws for the lid top that I had to destroy in order to remove it. The handle had become missing I believe around 60 years ago. I would really like to fashion a new handle but I cannot find anything near similar to this box in order to design a copy of the correct handle? I have an idea but any help on the original design, or if possible, a drawing or photo would be very welcomed.
I took all the possibly salvageable hardware and let it soak in a solution of mineral spirits in a pickle jar for about a year and a half. Even the hardware had that coating of red epoxy paint mixed in with what the rust had not eaten away yet. The interior was remarkably in pretty good condition, it had remained dry although the lock was just as ate up on the inside as out. Even though it had been closed for decades it had still accumulated a dark coat of dust and dirt.
When I did get to the clean up and preparation of the interior is when I really started to see some potential. The type of wood is unrecognizable to me, but very attractive and dense. The large one piece lid, sides, and base had to be harvested from a tree 100 years old or older. The only known wood of that nature around here in Indiana is considered, native, wood. The type of wood and where it might have been cut from would be a helpful clue? If you look on the floor, inside middle, there is a petrified stain of the remains of a large paperclip. I cleaned around it well, did not know it was there until I cleaned, it is not going anywhere.
The two piece top finished fairly easy and I think it was designed to have a finer, smoother appearance. The bottom was a different story and I wanted to leave it as close to the original finish as possible while still trying to sand away that red epoxy paint. I did nothing to the bottom and it really shows the mileage this box endured. I am certain that the majority of it's early travel life was spent on a stage coach. There are signs on the four corners that originally there were four feet or shoes attached. But they wore out in the first ten years or so then the bottom was on its own for the next sixty years of it's service. It is really pretty impressive how it is worn with deep smooth impressions leaving good evidence that this guy was always at full potential weight capacity. Maybe it is an ammo box?
I applied five coats of Red Mahogany stain to the top two pieces and about three to the lower four sides in order to give a similar appearance in the shades of the stain. Once I got started on the hardware, paint remover, sanding, polishing, and buffing I was blown away with the beauty that was under all those years of moisture damage. The finished screws you could jingle in the palm of your hand and remarkable resembled the same sound silver coins make when you jingle them in your hand. The hinges are the best brass I have ever seen, their appearance is as close to looking like gold as you can get, and not be.
I have a decent stock of screws from years past and I was able to find one large for the damaged original. Also I was able to find three or four that were in better condition for the lock and one or two replaced on the hinges. The lock returned to perfect condition but there is no maker marks or stamps to aid in identifying age. I had a barrel key that is correct for this lock but it will not turn the second set of tumblers, kinda wants to be close, but will not complete the turn.
I lost one of the brass screws for the buckles while polishing it on my old belt, soft wire brush, grinder in the basement. It was the last one to finish, caught the brush at a bad angle and poof, it was gone. I still look for it about every time I'm down there. I managed to find one real similar but hope to find that pesky missing one sometime. (update) I found it. The two screws I need for the handle are going to be hard to find, I have had no luck searching.
All total I have probably 60 hours in the restore and about $10 or $15 in materials. Thank you to anybody that took the time to read the book I wrote, I can get carried away with detail sometimes, but sometimes you need to give detailed information. Also extreme thank you's to anybody that might have knowledge to share with me about my many questions, concerns, and my personal evaluations that I have mentioned.