Steamer Trunk Restoration – A Quick Walk-through
Steamer trunks were built to last and with a little TLC they can often be revitalized and used for many years to come. Although some may opt for having a professional refinish their piece, below are some helpful tips for those who choose to take on the task themselves. There are a couple major things you want to be aware of when starting a steamer trunk restoration so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do some research before you start any project.
Begin with a good cleaning
Depending on where and how your trunk was stored it may have layers of dust and dirt to remove in order to reveal its true condition. Clean wooden areas with an oil-based wood cleaner, tin parts using a little dish washing liquid and water, and leather areas with saddle soap or a leather cleaner followed by a leather conditioner. Be sure to dry off all areas after cleaning.
Assess the condition
Decide how you would like the trunk to look once it’s finished then look it over to assess what type of condition it’s currently in. Are the leather handles falling apart? Does the tin contain minimal rust or is it rusted beyond repair? How does the wood look; should it be stained? Would you like to change the color? Will any parts have to be ordered?
If the tin is not rusted through try removing the rust using a wire wheel, wire brush or sandpaper followed by a fine steel wool for a smooth surface. Paint the surface using a satin or gloss paint followed by an oil based
sealer for protection.
If new parts are required
Some parts of the trunk may be deemed damaged beyond repair in which case you may decide to remove and replace the part. Materials can be found through vendors that specialize in trunk restoration. Keep any pieces that are removed as a template for replacements. Parts on steamer trunks were often attached using nails. Removing nails from an old steamer trunk should be done cautiously so as not to cause unnecessary damage to the piece and more work for yourself. Before pulling on a nail from the outside locate it on the interior where it has likely been curved over back into the trunk. Lift the curved portion up using a tack puller or try to cut it with nippers then gently pull out the nail from the outside with a tack puller and pliers. When purchasing antique parts you usually have two options. You can purchase actual antique parts from sites such as eBay or you can purchase Steamer Trunk hardware that has an antique look but is brand new from Amazon.
What about the inside
To remove the lining on the inside slice along the bottom edges and try to pull up the lining from the corners. Then use a scraper to remove any pieces that do not come up easily. While the lining is up you can check the condition of the wood and clean the inside with a mix of bleach and water to remove any undesirable odors. Reline the inside using your choice of attractive paper or wallpaper. Keep in mind that what you do to the inside could affect the value. So, if you are planning to sell the trunk you may be better off leaving the original wood rather than adding a wallpaper. However if you only want it for personal use then you are free to personalize it all that you want.
Steamer Trunk Restoration – More Information
If you are thinking about making money on the side by restoring steamer trunks then you may want to do a little more research. The book listed below, Antique Trunks: Refinish, Repair, Restore-Revised and Expanded comes highly recommended for its 360 degree overview of steamer trunk restoration. The book includes beautiful color photos as a through process that will help you identify the manufacturer of your trunk and guides you through which parts to select. One reviewer had these kind words to say about the book, “(I) have restored, refinished and sold many antique and vintage trunks. A big part of my success has been “Antique Trunks” because of the excellent historical background, trunk information and pictures.” The book also received 13 of 16 five star ratings with the lowest rating coming from someone that purchased it because they wanted to restore a quilt but it contained no information about quilts which left them disappointed.
There are other books about steamer trunk restoration but he majority of them are out of print therefore they cost well over a hundred dollars. If you are looking for a more general book about antique restoration you may want to check out Antique Furniture – How to Find it and Fix it. This product is not available on Amazon and includes three videos that teach you how to reupholster antique chairs.