Sunday, May 31, 2020

Steamer Trunk Project

Remember that century-old steamer trunk I found in the basement? Well, I want to display it but when I found the trunk it was in very poor condition. So I decided to restore it -- a process I've never tried before. To accomplish this I researched a lot about restoring wood and metal. But before delving into that subject, let me report that I discovered the trunk's original owner -- and he has a fabulous name.

On top of the trunk are initials: "B.A.B." I learned they refer to Bernard Aloysius Beirne, an Irish immigrant. Aloysius! Government statistics say the name Aloysius is very rare, with babies getting it less than 0.001%. That's one in 100,000. Or about the chance of you being named in my Will.

Bernard Aloysius Beirne was born in 1886 and lived most of his life in New Jersey. He died in 1960. Bernard was Maura's grandfather. He owned the trunk in his youth, using it around 1905-1910. Remember, these trunks were popular from 1880-1920.

Back to the restoration. Restoration involves materials, techniques and physical labor. I researched how to remove rust and mildew, how to stain and finish wood, etc. Apart from picking the right materials, the process requires a lot of elbow-grease. I enjoyed doing it because you can visually see results of your effort. Here's what I did:

- Clean dirt and dust
- Pull off frayed canvas and wood
- Scrape off inner lining (decayed paper)

Metal parts (clasps & hardware):
- Hammer in loose nails
- Replace some missing nails
- Re-attach lid hinge
- Lubricate closing latches with WD-40
- Lubricate metal wheels on bottom with WD-40

- Scrub with wire brush
- Brush on vinegar and salt mixture; leave overnight; wash off
- Sandpaper metal to remove final bits of rust
- Sandpaper wood to smooth surface and remove aged surface

- Stain wood with wood stain
- Apply wood lacquer to protect the wood and give it a glossy finish
- Apply second coat of lacquer

Here is the final result and the trunk's new resident who lives rent-free. The process took a full week because of its multiple steps.

What do you think? Have you ever restored anything?


  1. You did a great job and now you have a one of a kind antique.

    1. Thanks! And, yes, every time I look at the trunk I see my personal effort which is deeply satisfying.

  2. My goodness, that's a LOT of work!!! Well done to you!
    Aloysius is a great name!!!

  3. Awesome!! And a very worthwhile restoration.

    Does restoring my aging apartment count? Lol. I've repainted my bedroom (white unfortunately. Only allowed shades of white) Used expanding foam to seal up some holes. Rehung my paintings. Deep cleaned. Generally going to extreme to make the best of the situation.

    Growing up I had a friend whose dad was a historical restoration specialist. Looks like you became one in your spare time!

    Also THAT NAME is one for the books.

    1. Good for you. This process was fun, which was its goal.

  4. All that work was well worth it! Gorgeous results and that teddy looks like he is in his 7th heaven!!!!

  5. Oh my goodness you did great work, it looks amazing!

  6. That looks awesome, Ally! You did a fabulous job on it.

    1. I appreciate the compliment. Thanks, chica.

  7. I Love it, Restoration is something I've done on some things and others I leave 'As Is'. I own several Antique Trunks and they are still great for storage. Some have the most amazing graphics inside... and others pretty ornate outside too. He did indeed have quite the Name!

    1. Thanks. This trunk needed some care; it was too run-down in its original condition to be left as it was.

  8. What a fascinating story, and I love the restored trunk. As an aside, my great-grandmother's name was Aloysia! xxx

  9. When I was a kid, my uncle used to have one, full of old newspapers.

  10. Tremendous job, Ally! You've reached back across the chasm of time and breathed new life in Mr. Beirne's steamer trunk, ensuring it is able to live on for many more years to come and preserving a part of this man's (and his family's) life + history in the process.

    Autumn Zenith ♥ Witchcrafted Life