Refinishing a Vintage Trunk

2 Materials
3 Days

Do you have an old vintage trunk in desperate need of a new look? Let me show you what I did with mine.


I began with paint stripper, but that was a complete waste of time. This blue paint was stubborn as can be! There were also very few smooth areas to scrape the paint off. The wood is in rough shape, and the metal is bent and buckled all over.

The decorative slats were broken and loose, so I decided to remove them and make the refinishing process a lot easier.

My orbital sander is my best friend! Because of all the nooks and crannies, I thought the mouse sander would be the best tool for the job, but I soon realized that it was not strong enough to get rid of the blue paint without sanding for days on end. I did not have the patience for that!

The inside of the trunk was covered in some sort of decorative paper at one point in time. Only a few tiny pieces were still visible. It was so old and brittle that it turned to dust as I wiped over it. I decided to sand it all away and clean the inside well.

Because of all the uneven surfaces, I decided that a few remaining bits of blue paint wouldn’t be the end of the world.

I quite liked the look of the raw wood and metal. I did consider leaving it this way, but I was also curious to try out one of Dixie Belle’s new wood stain colors: Golden Ash.

Staining the Wood

Dixie Belle”s No Pain Gel Stain is an absolute joy to work with. No pain indeed is the best name to describe this product. I am also a fan of this new color, Golden Ash. It’s a rich dark brown, and I think I will use it again (soon) when I refinish my dining room chairs.

Usually, I would use a foam brush or sponge to apply stain, but for this rough surface, a paintbrush worked best.

After applying the stain, you need to wipe away the excess. In this case, there was not that much to wipe away. This guy was thirsty!

Applying Gilding Wax

If you know me, you also know that I always sneak in a bit of gilding wax somewhere. I could not resist brushing it on all the metal edges and hardware.

It’s a bit flashy, I know. My kids say it looks like a treasure chest.

I do like the new look. It still looks vintage but a little more classy.

I am going to move it down to the basement and use it as storage for all the throw blankets we use while watching tv.

Miss Blossom approves! She is here for it.

She also tried out the inside because it’s very similar to a box, and there are soft and snuggly blankets in there!

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  • Linda Porter Linda Porter on Jun 07, 2022

    Love this! It seems the trunk originally had a rounded lid, but when finished looks like the lid is flat. I have a trunk with a rounded lid that I’d like to refinish, but I would prefer the lid to be flat. any suggestions ?

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2 of 11 comments
  • Carole White Carole White 3 days ago

    What a cool trunk especially now that it's all cleaned up! Your kitty is very striking; never seen that gorgeous coloring on a cat before!

  • Wishy washy maybe Wishy washy maybe 2 days ago

    It's gorgeous! I've refinished

    quite a few larger trunks. I lined them with calico fabric.

    Used deleted Elmer's glue.

    I'm always afraid of chopping off finger when the top drops,

    so I attach a trunk hinge that locks the top up.

    Yours looks much small...