Have an antique wooden trunk with painted writing on it.

by Irene
The wood was raw so was told to preserve wood. Used a concoction someone suggested (? think it included linseed oil). Now the wood is stained and you can't read the writing. Can I get rid of some of the staining without ruining the printing? It showed the departure from LeHarve to New York.
Shows front of truck with writing barely visible.
This is a picture of the hasp (2) on top of the trunk.
  10 answers
  • Bev Bev on May 30, 2015
    I too have a trunk that I'm afraid to touch.... I'd like the writing more distinct. The letters are written in a very faded gold color. It came from Denmark to "Amerika" in the early 1800's.
  • Eileen Eileen on May 30, 2015
    I know they sell wood "bleach" but would definitely test a small area first, I would hate to see the lettering fade. This might be a question for a local woodworker. Have fun &enjoy
  • Vickie Vickie on May 30, 2015
    I have no idea what to do but just wanted to say, that is one amazing piece and I really like the look of the letters with the darker stain, and that hasp, oh gosh, pure love! I personally wouldn't do anything else to it, it looks amazing as is in that photo, just enhances the vintageness of it!
    • Irene Irene on May 31, 2015
      @Vickie I love it, too. My problem is the writing isn't clear enough to read. It even has the name of the woman who was doing the traveling.
  • Mary Mary on May 31, 2015
    Contact an antique dealer locally, most are very nice and might have the answer needed. I wouldn't touch it until speaking with a pro. Worse case scenario, you have to wait till it's in your budget to have a professional restorer fix it. Also contact antique wood specialist and ask opinions most aren't greedy and will be honest. It never hurts to ask many till you feel comfortable with one. It might be a dyi fix,but depending on personal value, monetary value etc I would take my time before jumping the gun. So to speak. For future reference on antique wood pieces I use and trust Howard's feed and wax. Beyond that and looking at numerous factors I never stain myself unless I know it's value...sentiment or monetary. Best wishes and Blessings!
    • Irene Irene on May 31, 2015
      @Mary I hadn't intended for it to be stained. The home made product given to me was just supposed to preserve the wood, not stain it. As soon as I put it on I realized I had made a mistake, but as I started on the front, I had no choice but to continue. Never take a friend's advice.
  • Charlie Charlie on May 31, 2015
    Could you paint the already existing letters, so they stand out. Just trace over with a carpenter's pencil and then paint the letters so they are permanent?
  • Mary Mary on May 31, 2015
    Aww Irene so sorry! Actually when I posted that last night I didn't edit or really even think before my happy fingers tapped the comment button. After I did I thought I shouldn't have used the word stained! Anyway, if in a couple of weeks you still haven't decided what to do. Reply on here and I'll help you research through some reputable antiques dealers that don't mind helping for free because they truly love antiques and care about their preservation for future generations. I'm in the middle of a very hectic schedule or id look into it now, if I get a chance sooner I will too! Of course only if you want me too? And I am a little above amateur antique lover conservation ist so I would love to help you figure out what to do (= Blessings and didn't mean stain as you did in accidental preservation cleaning, sorry again! Sincerely, Mary
  • C C on Jun 01, 2015
    I had an old wooden shipping box that I used to store my 33RPM record albums in and found that Formby's Tung Oil low gloss brought out the faded lettering on the box. I found the low gloss better to use as you could control the amount of gloss by using more coats. it was very easy to use as you simply wiped it on with a lint free cloth like an old handkerchief or a folded up piece of old sheet. It does contain linseed oil but does not have the negative effects of pure linseed oil. The piece is beautiful as is but a low gloss would enhance the finish, in my opinion , and seal the wood as well. However I would try the Formby's on the underside of the box, assuming that you stained it as well because I'm not sure of how it would react to the kind of linseed oil you used. Whenever you use one of these home made products it's always better to try it out on a piece of wood like the one you are going to use as different woods handle any kind of finish differently . The wood on your box appears to be pine which is a rather soft wood which stains easily and should be sealed at any rate to prevent any further staining.
  • Sally Webster Sally Webster on Jun 02, 2015
    Your trunk is a beautiful antique. Do not do any more to it. Print the photograph out on your printer (8.5 x 10) and put the photo on a light box. I bet you will be able to see what the letters are. Like a previous answer, trace with a pencil and repaint the letters carefully. Do not outline each letter like a first grade alphabet, skip some spaces and make some of the lines not real straight. that will give a worn old look. Don't use a black, black ink/paint color. I have re done a lot of old furniture and trunks. Formby's Tung Oil is excellent. So is Min Wax Antique Oil finish. Good luck !
  • Alecia Hartman Alecia Hartman on Jun 04, 2015
    I would not try to repaint the lettering. I would definitely try to find out how to remove the finish or leave it as is. Did you put a topcoat (varnish, lacquer etc) or just oils?
    • See 1 previous
    • Alecia Hartman Alecia Hartman on Jun 05, 2015
      Turpentine, acetone or thinner may remove the linseed oil but I'm not sure what it would do to the lettering. I would contact someone who restores furniture/antiques or maybe even a woodworker to see what they would suggest.
  • Rob33825664 Rob33825664 on Jul 19, 2018


    Has anyone have new ideas how repair wooden trunk the best way?

    I am professional writer at MeowEssay and now I wants to decorate my office in English style of 17-18 centure! Recently I bought similare antique wooden trunk with painted writing on it.

    But it need's repair, he is even in a worse state than your?

    Any new Tips?