Steamer Trunk Handle Repair

Jenni Ingram
by Jenni Ingram
5 Materials
30 Minutes

I love a good vintage steamer trunk. I love restoring them imagining where they may have traveled in their time. This one was rough to start with, but I knew with a little TLC I could make it shine all over again. In most cases the handles on old trunks have disintegrated and broken away. Replacing the handles make the trunks so much more functional. Wait until you see how this one turns out!

Flat top trunks make great tables!

My trick with these canvas covered trunks is to remove the canvas revealing the old wood underneath. Once the canvas was gone, I was ready to replace the old handles.

I used a flat head screwdriver, or a prying tool to remove the old handle caps and tacks. 


Under the caps you'll see the end of the old leather handle and a couple more tacks holding it in place. Pry these out and clean everything out. Now you are ready to install your new handles.

For this handle I used a little trick. One of my husband's belts had just broken, so I cut it down to size and used belt pieces for my trunk handles. You could also grab a thrift store belt if you don't have an extra one in your closet. You can also buy authentic looking leather handles online at The Brettuns Village Trunk Shop.

Cut a little hole in the end of the belt, then screw it back into the trunk. I added some glue to the back of the belt and a short screw to go through the belt into the trunk. Then hammer the old tacks back in.

And just like that you have a brand set of handles!

What a difference!

Check out the entire trunk restoration process below.


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Jenni Ingram
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2 of 33 comments
  • Kathie Epeneter Kathie Epeneter on Apr 08, 2019

    So informative and the photos are great. You've give me confidence to remodel my old trunk instead of selling it.

  • Barb Barb on Sep 13, 2021

    I just bought 2 Steamer trunks and will restore both. Never thought of using belt for handles, but great idea, thank you!!