Restored Steamer Trunks

My wife loves old steamer trunks. The problem with most of them is that they are in poor condition - after all they can be over 100 years old. Plenty of time for rot, damp, and mildew to take their toll.

My wife loves old steamer trunks. The problem with most of them is that they are in poor condition – after all they can be over 100 years old. Plenty of time for rot, damp, and mildew to take their toll.

Here is the interior of one of the trunks I restored. Too bad I don't have a photo of the inside with the moldy wallpaper attached. And the smell - phew! I used scraper to remove the old paper, then my orbital sander to remove the majority of the remaining nastiness. It is tough working in the corners, thank goodness for the Craftsman Nextec multitool! You can see the clenched nails used to put the trunks together in the photo.  My wife wanted to use the trunks to store old quits in, so I needed to cover up the nails, make it smell good, and protect the contents. It chose the time tested solution of lining the trunk with cedar.

Here is the interior of one of the trunks I restored. Too bad I don’t have a photo of the inside with the moldy wallpaper attached. And the smell – phew!
I used a scraper to remove the old paper, then my orbital sander to remove the majority of the remaining nastiness. It is tough working in the corners, thank goodness for the Craftsman Nextec multitool! You can see the clenched nails used to put the trunks together in the photo.
My wife wanted to use the trunks to store old quits in, so I needed to cover up the nails, make it smell good, and protect the contents. It chose the time tested solution of lining the trunk with cedar.

This truck had a simple cylindrical lid. I was able to cut 3 inch wide pieces of western red cedar and plane them down to a thickness of 1/8 inch. This made them flexible enough to follow the curve of the existing wood in the lid. I applied yellow glue, and then used some creative clamping techniques to hold the new pieces against the old while the glue dried.

This truck had a simple cylindrical lid. I was able to cut 3 inch wide pieces of western red cedar and plane them down to a thickness of 1/8 inch. This made them flexible enough to follow the curve of the existing wood in the lid. I applied yellow glue, and then used some creative clamping techniques to hold the new pieces against the old while the glue dried.

Here you can see the inside of the lid with the cedar applied.  I am an old canoe builder, so I am very familiar with using marine epoxy. I use it fill in missing knots, bond cracked wood and as a gap filler as required. If you look closely you can see some of my work in the bottom and sides of the trunk. Notice where I used duct tape as a dam to hold epoxy in place until it hardens.

Here you can see the inside of the lid with the cedar applied.
I am an old canoe builder, so I am very familiar with using marine epoxy. I use it fill in missing knots, bond cracked wood and as a gap filler as required. If you look closely you can see some of my work in the bottom and sides of the trunk. Notice where I used duct tape as a dam to hold epoxy in place until it hardens.

Here the finished product. I bought a pack of aromatic cedar used for lining closets at the Home Center. I provided me we enough cedar to line two different trunks. This stuff is thicker than the cedar I used in the top, so it does increase the trunk weight, but its not used as a suitcase anymore and does not get moved often. The aromatic cedar makes the trunk smell good and provides some protection against moths.

Here the finished product. I bought a pack of aromatic cedar used for lining closets at the Home Center. I provided me we enough cedar to line two different trunks. This stuff is thicker than the cedar I used in the top, so it does increase the trunk weight, but its not used as a suitcase anymore and does not get moved often. The aromatic cedar makes the trunk smell good and provides some protection against moths.

The other trunk I restored had a camel back lid. The center portion of the lid is higher than the sides. This made restoring the inside of the lid a little trickier (more like stripping a canoe hull). I used 1 inch nominal strips which had to taper down at each end. I could only glue 1 strip in at a time until the glue dried.

The other trunk I restored had a camel back lid. The center portion of the lid is higher than the sides. This made restoring the inside of the lid a little trickier (more like stripping a canoe hull). I used 1 inch nominal strips which had to taper down at each end. I could only glue 1 strip in at a time until the glue dried.

Here the inside of the lid is finished and the broken leather handles have been replaced. Compare the relative size of the lid end pieces and the brace in the middle and you can see the camel back shape.

Here the inside of the lid is finished and the broken leather handles have been replaced. Compare the relative size of the lid end pieces and the brace in the middle and you can see the camel back shape.

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