Susan @SalvagedBySusan
Susan @SalvagedBySusan
  • Hometalker
  • Crawfordsville, IN

Rusted Vintage Trunk Makeover

I was given this vintage, rusted metal trunk (for free) from one of my co-workers late last summer. He had it sitting around and, knowing him, the challenge this would have presented probably amused him. But I was up for it.
Or so I thought.
It was musty and smelly…
rusted vintage trunk makeover, cleaning tips, painted furniture
rusted vintage trunk makeover, cleaning tips, painted furniture
and pretty rusty.
rusted vintage trunk makeover, cleaning tips, painted furniture
I had some citric acid leftover from my soap-and-sundry making days, so I used that and water to make a paste (no measurements). I scrubbed at the rust with the paste, some steel wool and a wire brush.
rusted vintage trunk makeover, cleaning tips, painted furniture, The bottom has been scrubbed the top has not
The bottom has been scrubbed, the top has not
Then I tackled the inside. It was…a chore. I may have cried a few tears of frustration. There was a wallpaper type lining in it that wanted to come off in teeny-tiny little pieces, even with multiple vinegar baths. Then I tackled it with multiple course grit sandings…power sanding and hand sanding. It was stubborn…very, very stubborn.
rusted vintage trunk makeover, cleaning tips, painted furniture
After filling in the big dents with Bondo, I primed it with Rust-oleum Rusty Metal Primer and painted the trunk using Sweet Pickins Milk Paint in Suitcase.
For the trim I used Rust-oleum Hammered Finish in Brown.
The inside got stained because after how hard I worked to get that paper off, I wasn't going to cover it back up.
rusted vintage trunk makeover, cleaning tips, painted furniture
I'd like to think it now has a few more years left in it.
rusted vintage trunk makeover, cleaning tips, painted furniture
Susan @SalvagedBySusan

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 11 questions
  • Jeff Schwersinske
    on Apr 3, 2016

    I did same,trunk 1860 like liner out,use auto wipe on it like old trunk,did you get key? thanks info key.Jeff

  • Myra
    on Apr 6, 2016

    This is crazy, but I have a trunk like that of my grandmother's that passed away when she was over 100 years old..... and that was probably 20 years ago when she passed. I have kept my old albums in this trunk, but recently put it in my garage to do "something" with. Thank you for your post,..... I am now inspired! Started scraping the paper yesterday, which was a horrible chore. But my question is, do you any suggestion on how to fix the broken wood on the lid? Thank you!

    • Ste13773046
      on Jan 21, 2017

      Many years ago(50) I got an old humpback metal trunk from my grandmother. the metal was embossed with an acorn pattern. My dad had read about using shoe polish on the metal. We sanded the wooden straps and stained them and lightly steel wooled the metal. Then I rubbed old fashioned shoe polish on the rusty metal part. It came out great. I put a clear sealer all over it and we replaced the leather handles on the sides. I lines the inside with fabric. It still sits in my den with old family treasures. I have another one to do and now I am inspired to get started.

  • Cfr2230743
    on Jan 22, 2017

    Where can I get citric acid?

Join the conversation

3 of 159 comments
  • Stephanie Rountree
    on Aug 5, 2017

    Wow - lots of work, but such a great transformation! Hope it stays in your family for decades to come.

  • Itsmemic
    on Mar 8, 2018

    great job ! I have 3 trunks in terrible condition I keep promising myself to do something with. You've inspired me ! 2 are just wood though...THANK GOODNESS !! I think I'm going to drag it out of the attic and see what I can do with it ! There are no locks or hardware on it...just hinges. I wonder if I can buy trunk- like hardware. Any suggestions?

    • Dpbeee2
      on Sep 24, 2018

      Better yet, try Amazon. They dont have a big selection, but its practical. I painted mine with bronze metallic paint from Rusteoleum..

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