Thursday, April 9, 2009


My father-in-law is a bit of an artistic genius.  He draws, paints, and among the many other crafts he is proficient in, he restores old trunks.  He has several at his house, and in the years I have known my husband I have seen him restore several more, usually those belonging to friends and family.  I never really expected to end up with one of my own, because my husband already has one.  A few weeks ago that changed, when I walked into FIL's house to see the sweetest little trunk he has ever brought home, and knew I had to claim it.  I told him right away that that was my trunk, had to be my trunk, and he agreed.  But rather than restoring it for me, we'd do it together, so that we could spend some quality time, and he could pass on his craft.

They're not much to look at when he first brings them home.  A century of wear and tear means scuffed wood and torn paper, scratches and bad paint jobs.

The tray is a total loss, so that will be thrown away.  The first step is to remove the hinges and take off the top.  Then, piece by piece, the hardware is stripped from the whole trunk, starting with the lid.  One the hardware is off, the support slats and tin covering can be removed.

It's a painstaking process.  When the trunk was nailed together, the pieces were against a block so that the nails would hit the block and curl over, locking them in.  Trying to pull them out would be like ripping out a barbed fishhook, and would destroy the wood.  So, each nail needs to be located under the paper lining and cut with a Dremel tool.  Then a hammer and spike are used to drive the nail back through the wood, so that it can be pulled out by the head.  Once the nails are gone, the hardware can be removed.  More nails much be cut before the wood slats and tin plates are taken off.

And that's it.  Underneath all the plating is a bare wooden trunk.  

But we did find one hidden treasure: a patent stamp from the year the trunk was built.

I'm planning to post pictures and updates on the trunk as we go along.  So far we're only partially done with stripping it, and I expect it to be a long process.  It'll be a lot of fun, though, so if you're curious about how it's done or what it will look like at the end, keep checking back.

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