Antique Trunk Restoration: The Brettuns Village Guide to Mixing and Applying the Finish Coat


Antique Trunk Restoration: The Brettuns Village Guide to Mixing and Applying the Finish Coat

Antique trunks are fascinating pieces of history that create a sense of nostalgia for many. They were once an important part of people’s lives as they were used to hold clothing, jewelry, and even letters. 

Today, antique trunks continue to hold value and can be great centerpieces for many interior decoration styles. But like all vintage pieces, their cosmetic condition is key to their value. 

Antique trunk restoration can be challenging, but with the helpful hints below you can proudly display your beloved antique trunk.

Step 1: Prepare the Trunk

The first step to a nice looking trunk is proper preparation. 

  • Clean the antique trunk’s surface using a mild cleaner and a soft cloth. This will ensure the surface is free of dirt, old paint, and grime. 
  • Remove rust.
  • Sand the surface gently with fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface. 
  • Wipe off dust with a tack cloth (or use your air compressor).
  • Don’t be afraid to use water and even soap when cleaning the trunk. Consider using the garden hose – that’s what we usually do.
  • Let dry/air out for a few days before you proceed with the finish coat

This step is crucial, so resist the temptation to take shortcuts. Your trunk deserves your utmost attention and care.

Step 2: Understand Your Trunk’s Construction

An antique trunk is a complex combination of pine boards, metal or leather coverings, cast corners, tacks, nails, and possibly more. Each of these materials reacts differently to changes in heat and humidity. 

Over time, your trunk has learned to adjust to these changes. It’s crucial to retain this flexibility while restoring it to avoid new cracks and loosened nail holes.

Step 3: Forget Conventional Wisdom About Finishes

Choosing the right finish coat for your antique trunk is crucial. A finish coat is a clear protective layer that covers the surface of the trunk. 

Many people believe that a can of polyurethane or varnish is the ideal finish for an old trunk. However, our experience at Brettuns Village suggests otherwise. 

These finishes tend to block the trunk’s pores, causing the boards to crack. The antique trunks that have stood the test of time typically used a simpler finish coat.

Step 4: The Secret Brettuns Village Finish

Now, for the moment, you’ve been waiting for: our secret finish recipe. It’s a simple mixture of one part pure tung oil and one part mineral spirits.  If you buy a can of Minwax Tung Oil it has already been thinned, but we cut it in half again. This helps the tung oil to dry and provides excellent protection against stains (like when Aunt Marge tipped over her wine on the sofa).

You can add some solvent-based stain to achieve the desired color. We usually recommend a golden oak stain. Mix these ingredients in a coffee can, and you’ll have just enough to finish one trunk.

Step 5: Apply the Finish

Apply the finish mixture using a good brush. This method ensures you reach all the nooks and crannies of your trunk. Once applied, wipe off any excess with a clean cotton rag and leave the trunk to dry in a dust-free area. 

Our secret finish can be applied to wood, metal, leather, paper, or any other material found on your trunk. It leaves your trunk looking great while maintaining its ability to expand and contract naturally.

Restoring an antique trunk is a labor of love that requires patience, diligence, and the right tools. At Brettuns Village, we’ve been guiding enthusiasts like you since 1988, learning from our mistakes and successes along the way. We’re confident that our secret finish recipe will give your antique trunk the breath of fresh life it deserves.

Ready to start your restoration project? Shop our range of trunk tools and hardware at Brettuns Village today! With our expert guidance and quality tools, you’ll be well-equipped to restore your antique trunk to its former glory.