Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hidden . . . and Found - A Restoration Project

When walking through an antique store last month, Leah spotted a beautiful old trunk and came quickly to tell me (I was a ways behind her) . . . I had been looking at one at a different store, but the one she had found was not only nicer and in better condition, it was cheaper, too! Needless to say, it came home with me, and I have plans to restore it . . . plans which have already begun actually. :)

This isn't the greatest angle, but I was trying to get a photo where both the front side and top could be seen at the same time.

A close-up of one of the front latches

The top

The side - it still has the leather handles and all of the original four wheels!

 The trunk had obviously been repapered inside at some point in time, and one of the first things I was going to do was to remove all the paper (which would also help get rid of the musty smell) . . . but then a thought came to mind.

 Oftentimes old trunks have lithographs on the inside of the lids . . . could there be? Is it possible that one could be underneath of the wallpaper?! Excitement built, and I started to carefully peel paper off of one side of the trunk lid and it was found that the trunk had been papered right over the original paper! I didn't get a very large section done before the glue was sticking so tight that both layers were being peeled off. So I stopped and thought.

This isn't the section I was working on, but you can see the original paper below the 'new' layer

 Well, the paper was partly loose on the other side of the lid, so why not work there? I peeled off one small piece, and saw color behind it. 

I caught my breath and slowly and carefully peeled a bit more paper off which revealed the sweet face of a girl staring back at me . . . the trunk had its original lithograph!

Now how to remove the paper from it? I worked on it for a bit, but then the glue stuck tight so I stopped to think and consult with Mom and Dad. Mom suggested cutting out around the lithograph edges, removing it, and then trying to get the paper off then.

So that is what I did, and then with using my fingernail to slowly chip away the layer of wallpaper that was covering it, more and more of the picture was able to be seen . . .

In progress 

With the lithograph safely removed, work began in earnest on removing the paper from the inside of the trunk. 

Mom helped me quite a bit at the beginning peeling off the paper that wasn't glued down well. And then over the course of the past month, I slowly worked to remove the remainder . . .

Soak with vineger, let set, scrape off a layer. Soak with vinegar, let set, scrape some more. Soak with vinegar . . . and you get the idea. :) The lid was the most challenging part to do with it being curved, and whoever did the second repapering used a lot of glue there!

Now it's all cleaned inside and ready for the next step . . . using steel wool on the outside of the trunk to try to remove the rust. Hopefully on a nice day in the next few weeks, I can haul it outside and start on that!


  1. Oh, how neat! I LOVE old trunks. It looks like Leah and you made a good find! Thanks for sharing the restoration process. I'm looking forward to an update, once you get the outside looking cleaner. :)

    ...Would you mind sharing what exactly a lithograph is? I know the word, and I've seen lots of pictures on the undersides of old trunks, but I really have no idea what they mean, or what they are for. It would be fascinating to know!

    Enjoy your new treasure. :) I'm always amazed at how much careful work you are willing to put into your projects. They always turn out so beautifully!

  2. oh how exciting!! I kept getting more and more excited with each picture lol I can't wait to see it all come together!!

  3. I had to look up in the dictionary to learn what lithograph means. Why do they put the lithograph in the old trunk? Why hide the beautiful picture of a girl? Nobody can't see the picture in the trunk because it's usually close all the time except when they need to get something in or out. Once you reburished the trunk, are you planning to put the lithograph back inside? Do you have any plans for using the trunk once it's finished? I can't wait to see the finished product. I know it's going to look beautiful!

    Sorry, I haven't posted comments in a long time but want you to know I still enjoy reading your posts.

  4. oh how exciting! The best kind of detective work. The emerging lithograph made me excited too!

  5. Wow, Sarah! What a project! I really admire your ability to look at a trunk like that and see all the potential in it. I would probably look at it and instantly think of the work it would involve! I can't wait to see it once you finish your restoration!


  6. Your all’s comments were so fun to read! Thank you Amber, Nabila, Leah, Rena and Bianca! And thank you for sharing in my excitement, too. :) I look forward to sharing more photos as this project progresses!

    ~ Amber ~ I’m not exactly sure how to explain what a lithograph is . . . it is basically a copy of an original painting, but it is made by an artist drawing a mirror image of the original onto a smooth stone or metal plate and then they can make prints of it. I hope that makes sense! Most old trunks would have a lithograph in them, and I read that sometimes one could even tell if the trunk was a man’s trunk, a bride’s, child’s, etc. just by what kind of lithograph was inside. Thank you for your kind words! These types of projects are so fun to do! This trunk could prove a challenge, though, as thus far, the rust has been rather difficult to remove. I have some other ideas to try which I’m hoping will work better!

    ~ Leah ~ I’m not sure why they put lithographs into trunks . . . maybe to make it more unique and pretty inside? I really don’t know! Yes, I do plan to put the lithograph back in once the trunk is restored. I’m also hoping to find a wallpaper similar to the original paper, too. Once the trunk is all finished, I plan to use it to store quilts, blankets, and things like that. I hope that helps to answer your questions! And thank you! :)

  7. It looks as if you've found a real treasure!


Thanks so much for your comment! Each one is read and enjoyed. :)