Saving a piece of history.

We are happy to be at a stage when it is time to furnish our conservatory. We acquired an old wooden trunk from a friend, and decided it would make a perfect table. It had been spending many years in a shed and unfortunately some wood worm had got into parts of it. The first step in our saving operation was to treat it with wood preserver. We did that outside in the summer and left the trunk in our shed for a few months to make sure there was no live woodworm left.The long pieces on the bottom needed replacing.


This trunk was commissioned in Ireland for our friend’s great grandmother before she left for America. She travelled there and met her husband, also an Irish man and they decided to move back to Ireland and the trunk made the journey back with them. One of their daughters was our friends Grandmother who died a couple of years ago, aged 100 years. We cannot be sure about the exact age of the trunk but we must assume it is from a time before the Titanic sank.


When we first saw it we found it very beautiful, despite the damages and splashes of paint it had acquired over the years. It had a very rough coat of paint and weak pieces where the woodworm had got to it. Because of its state it was not possible to renovate it in a ‘proper’ way so we decided to turn it into a usable piece of furniture and save it from ending up on a bonfire.


All the metal was rusted and worn and we painted it with an oiled based gloss metal paint. Unfortunately we do not have any pictures of the metal before we painted it.


We cleaned the whole trunk and scraped away the loose paint, before filling the damaged wood with wood filler. After that was dry we added a first layer of chalk paint in a blue-green colour. Our favourite chalk paint is made by Annie Sloan but unfortunately our local stockist was closed and we got some chalky finish furniture paint from Rust-Oleum. We found it very good as well.



When it was dry we added a second coat of chalk paint in a green colour called Bramwell and let it dry.


There was a section of old newspaper glued onto the top at some stage and we decided to keep some of it as a reminder of the trunks age.


 It was time to have some fun with finishing waxes. All furniture painted with chalky paints need at least one layer of wax to seal the paint and build up a durable surface. We waxed the whole box in a layer of Rust-Oleum finishing wax and buffed it to a sheen.


We sanded away some paint from places where the trunk would naturally wear for a distressed look. As we did not want the trunk to look too new we decided to add some dark wax from the Annie Sloan range of waxes. As you can see we painted the wax on with a brush in places where it would normally catch a build up of dust and particles. We used a rag to rub at the wax, spread it out and tone it down.




We added another coat of clear wax and buffed to a sheen. We ended up with a durable strong finish but at the same time we are quite close to the original look the trunk had acquired over the years. We used fine wire wool to rub away some of the paint on the metal and revealed the lovely designs.





If you have not used chalk paint we can highly recommend it. It is an eco friendly paint and there are lots of tutorials online. Check out Annie Sloan’s page for a good inspirational starting point.


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