How to Restore an Old Steamer Trunk? Step by Step Guideline

Have you found an old steamer trunk in the attic or have you inherited one? A piece not to be missed, a piece of furniture and a very useful container to order sheets, curtains, towels and everything you need to store them. To be able to restore it, it is not necessary to be skilled carpenters or artists but to use simple and particular techniques. This is how an anonymous steamer trunk becomes more cheerful and lively if it is properly repainted and decorated. Or it wears antique with special treatment. Alternatively, it can also be made modern by covering it with decorative paper or stamps. In the same way, it is possible to transform it into a delicate rich container of floral motifs. In the following guide, I will explain how to restore an old steamer trunk.

How to restore an old steamer trunk?

You will need:

  • Ancient steamer trunk
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Soft cloth
  • Medium sandpaper
  • 1 75 mm brush
  • 1 25 mm brush
  • 1 liter of base color satin enamel
  • 1 liter of transparent oil paint
  • White spirits
  • Blotting paper
  • Decoration paper
  • Stencil
  • Palette
  • Soft pencil
  • Adhesive tape of paper
  • Scissors
  • Shellac
  • Brush

how to restore an old trunk

Wash the trunk

The first objective to concentrate on is to wash the trunk which, surely, will have been worn out or yellowed or filled with dust and visible dirt over time. Remove all accessory parts from the steamer trunk, such as keys, studs, iron edge protectors, hinges and decorative elements in general. Get a sponge and a bottle of ammonia, soak it and pass all the surfaces, keeping the sponge only damp, not wet. Be careful to clean both the external and external parts well. If there is some sticky paper, you can remove it with a cutter; in the presence of stickers or drawings, writings, glued, use a product to remove the upholstery that you will find in a shop of paints and glues.

Remove the paint

If your steamer trunk is painted, it is necessary to remove the paint with a paint stripper, it is found in all stores specializing in this sector. If you are inexperienced, it is better to do a test, in advance, on a small section of the trunk: the paint stripper has the effect of making bubbles, leave it to act and then pass with a spatula. Not before, however, to wear gloves and remember to keep a certain distance because the paint stripper exhales toxic and harmful substances for health. Whatever technique you choose to use, remember to wash the work tools and dry them carefully.

Sand the trunk

Once the trunk has been cleaned, sand it down. Put on the gloves and level the walls and corners with sandpaper until the wood is smooth. In reality, there are alternatives to sandpaper, but this is the simplest solution for those who are beginners and want to try to restore something. Put on the gloves and calmly scratch the trunk, until the external walls are uniform and smooth: in this case, I recommend that patience and calm are weapons to unsheathe and keep! A good result is often obtained after working for hours.

Fill the imperfections

Thus, imperfections and holes can emerge from the trunk. Evaluate according to this line: if they are minimal, leave them because you risk highlighting them, in order to saturate them and minimize them. If, on the other hand, they are rather evident, the advice is to use the white stucco that you will then paint, instead of the brown one which hardens immediately and cannot be changed anymore. If your trunk is made of wood, you can make the natural veins of the wood stand out bypassing the surfaces with a cloth and cooked linseed oil. Give a hand, then, allow to dry for a few days, then, if necessary, repeat the operation. Cooked linseed oil can also be used in the future to restore brightness if the trunk has become opaque. For metal parts that have been removed, they will also have to be sanded.

Paint the trunk

At this point, you have to paint the trunk. Start passing the anti-rust on the handles and hooks. Leave to dry for at least 12 hours. After the time, take back the accessories and give a coat of iron or gold-colored iron paint. pass all the accessories with gold-colored iron paint and let stand another 12 hours. To give an antiqued appearance, you can pass the tar which must be dabbed gently with cotton balls. Then prepare the surface well and start painting the trunk. If you have chosen a satin glaze, the base must be oil treated.

If instead, you have decided to use acrylic paint, this must be water-based. On the acrylic base, you can then use transparent oil paint. Then pour a small amount of color into a container and add a little thinner. Take a can and pour all the previous mixture with the paint. Mix well and add the thinner, until you reach a rather creamy consistency. Spread the transparent varnish over the entire surface of the trunk, following the veins. After the work, let it dry for twenty-four hours.

Decorate the trunk

Finally, you need to decorate the trunk. For the interiors, it is possible to cover the trunk with fabric and foam or upholstery or colored paper. Instead of the exterior, for a creative trunk, it is fine to do the classic decoupage or apply stencils. While if you are good at drawing, trace the decoration you have chosen directly on the steamer panel.

Otherwise, it is recommended to bring a soft pencil on the wood, first drawing a squared pattern. At this point, go over the decoration with a dark pencil, with respect to the background, so that a delicate three-dimensional effect stands out. Once the enameling of the decorations has been completed and allowed to dry, it is advisable to complete the work by spreading a layer of glossy transparent paint on the panel.

Before starting to decorate the trunk, do some tests on a steamer plate. In this way, you will understand how to use colors. Then do several experiments to make sure you get the desired effect. Before starting, draw horizontal lines and decide how much space you want to draw between the decorations.

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