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My Trunk That Needed Help, Got it, Trunkman!

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Trunks2341 of 2596Civil War Era Child's TrunkPre-Civil War Trunk ...probably :)
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    Posted 9 years ago

    (42 items)

    I'm thinking no one is mocking my old trunk now! Thanks to Jim's hard work, it's fit to come into the house and out of the corncrib. *L* Thanks for your input and advice, trunkman.

    Ok, don't anybody start mocking my poor old trunk. This thing was old when I started using it 45 years ago to carry my saddle and other heavier pieces of tack to the shows. It has been well used, not abused but it has a LOT of miles on it and about 23 years worth of carrying tack. It looked like this, colorwise, when I got it out of my grandmother's attic back then. I have no idea how old it might be or what it originally looked like. It's 3 ft long, 2 ft high and 21 inches from front to back. I didn't really know what kind of pictures you'd need, trunkman so I just picked a few. The metal seems in pretty decent shaped except for what looks like surface rust. The black areas, I'm not sure of. I can't tell if it is painted leather or perhaps cavas/duck material. It does sort of remind me of the leather on turn of the century stuffed seats. I'm not familiar with trunks so school me on that. I believe the slats are oak. The walls, top and bottom are about 1/2 -3/4 inches thick. The only hardware missing is the latch on the front, but it wasn't there when it was given to me. I can't find any name, number or other identification on it anywhere.
    I'd like to at least make it presentable so I can bring it into the house and take it out of the barn. Yes, I know it's dirty but I wanted to get the pictures up for you. I can clean it up and take other pictures of whatever you need to see. I haven't cleaned it because I honestly didn't know what to clean it WITH! So, I throw myself on your mercy and humbly ask for your input. It seems to me that it would like to be black with the oak slats, but I don't know if that's what it originally looked like or not. Thanks for offering to give me some help. I really appreciate it!

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    1. trunkman trunkman, 9 years ago
      Thanks for posting your trunk chinablue. The good news is that your trunk is redeemable. Some parts however will be a little tricky to work with. Your trunk is covered with canvas which will be very easy to take off by the looks of it. The rust on the steel is another matter. Here is how I would approach this project. First I would take a drill bit metal brush (or brass circular brush) and take off as much rust as possible from all of the metal parts making sure I do not gouge the wood in the process. I think that it might be too pitted to bring back to just metal with some gun oil on it -- if so once the rust is off then I would paint it a semi-gloss black if it still seems too far gone (last resort). Then I would strip all the wood with a scraper and paint stripper (circa 1850) and then go to grades of steel wool to complete the job. The wood looks very weathered which means it may blacken with stain, so you may have to choose a dark stain once it it stripped and sanded. I would take the canvas off probably after I have sanded the wood slats. Take a sharp exacto knife of box cutter blade and cut very closely along the seams. The glue that keeps the canvas on comes off with water so soak it with a rag first if it doesn't just peel off. Wet the residual glue with more water and scrape the rest off. If the wood underneath is water damaged no amount of sanding will fix that -- so again you may have to go with a dark stain. I have a trunk that was weathered damaged and the steel was in rough shape like yours -- I will post it for you to show you what the damaged wood would look like with a dark stain. Your trunk appears to be early 1900's or maybe late 1800's if the end pieces are cast iron. Your other alternative is to clean the whole thing with some soap and water. Then repaint the canvas, wood slats and metal pieces to your liking. Your trunk realistically is a little far gone to get a great restoration -- but not too far that you can't make it entirely presentable. It looks like a fun challenge to take on. Good luck! (hope this helps and feel free to ask another question.)
    2. chinablue chinablue, 9 years ago
      Thanks for all the tips and info trunkman! And thanks for not laughing at it. I was honestly a little ashamed to post it. I know it's rough, but I hate to just let it keep going till it's gone. It has WAY too many memories to let that happen. Would the canvas have been original or is it something that was place on it later in it's life? And would it have been painted originally or would it have been left it's natural color? Guess I need to get started with some wire bristles and an exacto! Thanks again. I sincerely appreciate you sharing your knowledge. :-)
    3. trunkman trunkman, 9 years ago
      What makes any trunk great is the history we bring with it. A little TLC and you have another set of great memories to add. The canvas on that is all original. The oak slats would have been stained but not painted, and the tin would have been painted. Hey eye4beauty, you post a little comment but forget to give a little click of the old love -- What's going on here...
      PS. Even if you just gave it a good scrub with soap and water it would be transformed. I am happy to see it -- thanks for the post!
    4. chinablue chinablue, 9 years ago
      Thanks to everyone for the love, even if given under duress. *LOL* Trunkman, I had wondered about cleaning it with soap and water before I took the pictures, but was afraid to do it. I guess I could have just asked you. As long as I've had it, it was never actually 'wet' or out in the weather because it housed some very expensive leather items, but it certainly had a lot of opportunity to draw dew and moisture when at the shows. And I have NO idea what it was exposed to before I got it. One question. When I do furniture I always remove any hardware. When I do this trunk, should I leave it all together and just be careful where I let that wire brush travel?? Sorry if that's a dumb question, but I want to do this the right way. :-)
    5. trunkman trunkman, 9 years ago
      Removing hardware like this is outside of my skill set and I am way too impatient to go that far. I always work around what is there. I find that a few more nicks and scratches on these old beauties is hardly noticeable but I am hardly a perfectionist. The wire brush on the drill can get away from you so start on a big space and at the back to get a handle on it and use two hands to hold the drill. Get the trunk up on a table at a good working height -- gives you more control over the drill working at a comfortable angle. Wear safety goggles too. If a drill makes you uncomfortable you can always try a wire brush or coarse steel wool.
    6. chinablue chinablue, 9 years ago
      Out of your skill set? Oh puleeze! Impatient, I'll buy. As soon as it's not either 100° or raining, I'll drag this puppy out into the back yard and have a go at it with the wire wheel. Steel wool tests MY patience, so I only use it under duress. *LOL* Thanks again for your help and advice.
    7. trunkman trunkman, 9 years ago
      You simply must post the result! It can only look better...
    8. chinablue chinablue, 9 years ago
      I promise, I will. It may be a while but I'll certainly let you see what your advice and my sweat does for this old trunk when it's done. :-)
    9. mikielikesigns2 mikielikesigns2, 9 years ago
      trunkman could retire if we sent him all of our old trunks to work on, but that would take all the fun out of it for him.
    10. chinablue chinablue, 9 years ago
      Thanks for the love BELLIN68, mikielikesigns2 and miKKo!
    11. chinablue chinablue, 9 years ago
      Well, Jim is feeling well enough to do some scraping and sanding so this trunk is nearly stripped down! I'll try to post some pictures after it's stripped down and before it's stained and finished. All that's left is to get the last of the blue paint off...THAT has been the worst part of it all! Thankfully he's as persistent as he is. :-)
    12. trunkman trunkman, 9 years ago
      Looking forward to the finished result -- keep scraping!!!!
    13. chinablue chinablue, 9 years ago
      Jim has spent the last few weeks working on the trunk. It's been a good thing for him to do to get some strength back in his shoulder and arm.. and it's made a world of difference in the trunk! We should have some pictures posted shortly. :-)
    14. trunkman trunkman, 9 years ago
      Looking forward to progress on all fronts -- here' to health love and life! (and nice old trunks)
    15. chinablue chinablue, 9 years ago
      I would never have thought this poor old trunk still had any life left in it! But thanks to Jim's work and trunkman's encouragement and help, it looks like it will be around for hopefully another 100+ years!
    16. trunkman trunkman, 9 years ago
      Fabulous, fabulous.fabulous -- well done!!! That is very exciting to see such a transformation. Hope will find a cherished spot in the home and out of the barn!
    17. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 9 years ago
      Really nice job chinablue & yea trunkman. T-man, I have reproduced a lot of antique furniture, been shown some tricks & come up with some of my own. If you want to know how to get out of weeks of putting on a French polish finish, I was shown how to do it in hrs.. After cleaning steel/iron straps do you use Ospho before oiling or painting? It works. Creosote usually associated with utility poles makes a nice wood finish that is water-proof. We should swap knowledge sometime as I'm sure you have your own tricks also.
    18. jimborasco jimborasco, 9 years ago
      The stain soaked in like a sponge, but the tung oil made it pop.
    19. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 9 years ago
      jimbo---, don't know who the message referred to but I gave up on tung oil over a decade ago. It acts like oil based paint in humidity & doesn't want to dry. I can see why you might have problems if applied over recently applied stain but don't understand "made it pop".
    20. trunkman trunkman, 9 years ago
      The tung oil sheen looks great. I do not have humidity problems living up north so for me tung oil on hardwood works great. Blunderbuss -- you are way ahead of me on knowledge base for finishing know-how. I basically have a few tried and true techniques for trunks but that is about it. I have never heard of French polish finish. I am a bit of a hack with all of this -- so stay on my tail in case I give someone some bad advice.
    21. jimborasco jimborasco, 9 years ago
      OK...When i said "pop", the tung oil made the color richer, not changed, just really stand out. In 2 hours it was dry.
    22. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 9 years ago
      Hey, t-man, I'm not trying to step on toes but just combine experience & knowledge. After a dutch furniture maker told me the short-cut, I stopped the french polish but this is how I remember. After the surface has been sanded & washed & sanded & washed about 4-10 times until no grain rises, you mix tung oil & turpentine 1 to 3 parts. You spend hours & days rubbing this in until the pores are filled flush. 14 coats is common depending on the grain & you have to wait a day or 2 between applications so this can take months. Fine antique furniture was done this way for 100's of years. It gives a mirror finish with not grain pores showing. High class was used to it & anybody who dared put a wet glass on such was probably(and should be) taken out & shot.
      A dutch furniture maker of fine classics that I met in St. Kitts told me the secret was carnauba wax. Shoe polish today used carnauba wax & he said they even used diff. coloured shoe polish to get off-colour wood to blend. I bought all the neutral polish on the island & then found that mold-release wax(for fiberglass) was carnauba wax. Fills the grain in a few coats & when somebody puts a wet glass on it, wipe it with alcohol & rewax the area. I would like to share ideas & experiences. I can't tell somebody how to treat wood by pics though. Oiling iron in salty air doesn't last as the salt will migrate thru it.

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