My wife bought a trunk at a yard sale. I'll call it a humpback trunk, as it
has a rounded top. The thing is in actually decent shape. The filigree
stamped top pieces are all there, and all the wood is in good shape. It is
a light gray in appearance.
I want to just make the thing look a little better. No restoration or
anything like that. What do you suggest for this. Should I use a varnish?
Shellac? Stain and then clearcoat? I would like a one shot deal that will
come out with all the wood being fairly even, and not having dark places
from the stain. The wood is a little rough, but I could sand a bit if I
should wipe on the stain with a rag.
What would you do?
I will get one shot to make it look better or mess it up.
If the chest's wood looks good as is, why stain it? Sanding rough
areas may leave discolored spots, something you say you want to avoid
having. Yet, I suppose, you want the wood smoother than it presently
is. Does, or did, it have a clearcoat on it? Do you necessarily need
a clearcoat on it? Would it look good without a stain or finish on it?
Instead of sanding, rub it hard with burlap or denim wrapped around a
block of wood. This will smoothen it without really removing anything
relevant, as with sanding... similar effect as long term wear, but lots
of rubbing is necessary.
Should you opt for no stain or topcoat: For a furthering of the smooth
feel, you might like Tre-Wax. Apply (test) Tre-Wax (follow directions
- comes in clear or tinted appliques) on a spot and see if you like
that. Tre-Wax dries fast and is not water resistant, so it will wash
off easily if you later want a topcoat, of some kind, on the piece.
Tre-Wax leaves the surface really smooth, even on raw, unfinished wood,
including aromatic cedar. Apply this testing, and any stain testing if
you go that route, on the bottom of the piece, before commiting to
One thing I would do is determine what type of finish it had on it. Odd
things happen when you mix finishes
It could be that the wax treatment would be all you needed, or even
something as simple as Murphy Oil Soap just to clean it.
If the thing has any value as an antique, leave it alone. Any changes or
upgrades in the finish diminishes the value . . . HOWEVER . . . if you don't
care about that and simply want to make it look good, there is a procedure
that makes for a very rich, old-timey look. It goes like this:
Get a can of international orange exterior grade paint. (SCREAMING ORANGE).
Give the sucker a coat and let it dry for about a week. It will look (I
guarantee you) GAWD AWFUL. Then go to an art supply store and buy a small
tube of artists oil - color = burnt umber. Squeeze it into a container and
mix in enough paint thinner to make it the consistency of heavy cream. With
a semi-cheap paintbrush, paint the burnt umber over the orange paint . . . a
very thin coat (one coat only), trying to remove the umber with the same
paintbrush as you applied it with. This will leave small narrow streaks of
the orange paint peaking through the oil paint. It will give the impression
of very rich, semi-antique wood. Let this dry for about a week and then
coat with some sort of polyurethane.
I've used this on whiskey barrels (for planters) and a ship's hatch cover
(for a coffee table). It improves the appearance but is definitely not
something you could classify as fine craftsmanship.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.