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Recipe for Preparing a Trunk for sale at an Antiques Shop

November 14, 2010

My daughter, Carolyn, has been writing a Blog about the life and adventures of an American in Sofia (Bulgaria).  She has been doing this Blogging thing for about three years and I’ve been writing for about three months.  She has about a hundred times the daily readership that I do, so… I decided to copy her to increase my readership.

Now when Carolyn writes about going out to places in the country like Rhodope to look at all that nature (and Bulgaria) has to offer, then I write about going out to the country to look for antiques.  About a week and a half ago, Carolyn was in Rhodope and she found a nice pumpkin.

Carolyn is still trying to decide what to do with her pumpkin.  So she asked her readers for ideas of what to do with it.   Carolyn seems to have a good following when she writes about food and her friend Nick devotes an entire Blog to food, cooking and recipes.  So I thought that maybe I should write more about food, cooking and recipes and it might increase my readership.

Last Wednesday I went looking around in the country and I didn’t find a pumpkin but I found a nice antique trunk that I bought and took to my workshop.  I could have written a Blog asking my readership what they thought that I should do with it but that might be copying Carolyn too much.  So I just went right to work on it and here is my recipe:

One Trunk scrubbed clean & "gently patted dry"...

How to Prepare a Trunk for sale at an Antiques Store

First you should acquire a vintage Trunk that is in reasonable condition.  If you are talented enough, patient enough and have enough time almost any old Trunk will do.  But if you are trying to make a living working with antiques then it might be good to make at least minimum wage for your restoration efforts and you should be more selective in your choice of trunks.  Therefore I prefer Trunks that are not rusted out on the bottom, have no major splits or cracks,  have all of their hardware, and don’t smell funny inside.


This Blog Post is only intended for entertainment purposes.  The steps are accurate but they are not completed detailed.  YOU MUST BE AWARE OF AND/OR TRAINED IN THE SAFE USE OF EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS BEFORE YOU WORK ON A PROJECT LIKE THIS!


  • Old Trunk, one with wood slats and a kind of chubby top is good
  • Replacement Parts and fasteners
  • Cleaning solutions
  • Scrapers and sandpaper
  • Furniture wax


  1. Thoroughly clean the Trunk, inside and out, with a Shop Vacuum
  2. Use household cleaner and a rag or scrub brush to clean the exterior surface of the Trunk – especially in any decorative grooves
  3. Rinse Trunk with clean water and “gently pat dry”
  4. Let dry – at room temperature – for twelve hours
  5. If the interior of the Trunk has a musty smell, place a clothes dryer cloth in it – that will often take care of the odor
  6. “Marinate” new machine screws in a metal darkening solution to give the screws an aged look – stir every once in a while
  7. Make necessary repairs – replace loose clincher nails with 6/32 machine screws, washers and nuts – cut off the screw end sticking into the trunk with a hacksaw and tap (peen) with a hammer to remove the sharp edges and burrs
  8. Check hinges – clincher nails often work loose and the lid will get floppy – replace with machine screws as above
  9. Check handles – replace broken handles with a piece of a leather belt or a horse harness – machine screw loose places as necessary
  10. Check metal – hammer loose raised metal down and secure with furniture tacks
  11. Scrape the paint off of the wood slats to reveal the natural wood and emphasize its’ grain patterns – BE AWARE THAT ANY OLD PAINT IS PROBABLY LEAD BASED – USE APPROPRIATE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS – PLEASE!
  12. Sand the wood slats to remove any rough spots – first with 100 grit and then with 150 grit sandpaper – see lead paint caution above
  13. Dust off and/or vacuum up any dust off of the Trunk
  14. “Spread” a high quality furniture wax that is the “consistency of honey on a warm day” over the entire Trunk – for best results, immediately buff vigorously
  15. “Kneed” your choice of leather conditioner into the leather handles
  16. Price the Trunk appropriately and enjoy the proceeds

The Results of a great Trunk restoration recipe...


New (Vintage) Trunks generally had painted metal surfaces and varnished or natural wood surfaces.  That is why I generally clean the paint off of the slats.

Trunks with (chubby) curved tops originally cost more but they also had at least two advantages.  First the curved tops would shed rain better when they were on the top of a stage coach.  Second they would have to be placed on the top of the pile of trunks in the hold of a ship (because you couldn’t stack other trunks on a curved top).  Therefore your trunk wouldn’t get “squished” and it would be unloaded first.

If this Recipe seems like it is too hard or it is too much work, I would be willing to sell you the Trunk that I just restored.  Then you could send links to this Blog to your friends and say “look at what I just bought…”

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