Vintage Bentwood Trunk

August, 2020

I was asked to create something unique that could be given a house warming gift to someone who loves to travel and as luck would have it, this particular piece had been patiently waiting in line to get the Little Sausage Home treatment. This had belonged to my Nana, Eileen Emily Jenno and was use during her nursing training in the 1940s. But since then it's been mainly used as storage in lofts and garages collecting dust and it was time it had a new purpose and a new home.

I started by severing the last remaining leather hinge to separate the two halves, making it much more manageable to work with. I stripped out all the old, musty, peeling lining paper and gave it all a good clean. Then it was on to the outside, where the leather handles needed some urgent emergency care. I used a saddlery leather balm to revive them as they were so dry and cracked. After several applications they finally resembled leather again. Next it was a case of reviving the wood and metalwork, which had grown rusty over time. I used methylated spirits, steel wool and a lot of elbow grease to remove the years of grime and restore some of the shine before finishing with a dark wax to show off those bentwood bands.

After adding some new hinges, a set of modern steel hairpin legs, painting the original hessian covering in a hard wearing black acrylic paint, I focused on the inside. First using a heavy weight lining paper to smooth out all the bumps, it was decided that not only would the antique map paper suit the trunk it would also suit it's new owner perfectly. A new internal plywood base that was stained to match the bentwood banding was fitted, in part to hide the new fixings required for the legs, but also to give it some structure. As a finishing touch I created some elastic strapping inside the lid to provide an area for extra storage in keeping with the style of the trunk.