Refinishing the trunk (post 1 of possibly more)

Several years ago (13 March 2010, to be exact) Justin and I rescued a trunk from a little knickknack shop that was going out of business. It was painted this hideous color beige, but it was solid wood, unfinished on the interior of the trunk, and the hardware marked it as unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

We brought it home intending to remove that hideous paint, restore it to its former beauty, and stain it a darker color to match our décor. We love natural wood grain, but we prefer mid- to dark tones instead of the more blonde colors.

We did some research into what we’d need to do, went out and picked up the things we thought we’d need, and then mostly just sat there looking at it. Justin spent some time on it, fighting with it and getting really frustrated. I sat and watched his frustration, wondering if there was a way I could help without stepping on his toes and taking over his project.

This is the before shot from when Justin started working on it. It’s dated 9 November 2010.

And then the trunk sat there in the living room for a long time, half stripped, half not, mostly looking ugly. But with potential.

Until Sunday when I said that it was a beautiful day and I’d like to give it a shot trying to get that thing cleaned up.

And I did a little research, but not very thorough, because I failed to read about what you’re supposed to do after you’ve applied the paint remover and scraped it off. So I tried that, got frustrated, didn’t know what I was doing wrong, got wrapped up in our vines project (almost literally), and let it sit overnight while I went and did more research on the internet.

Turns out, I was on step 1 and 2 of a 32 step project or something like that. It’s not just put on the paint stripper and take it off with a scraper. OH NO. It’s much more involved than that.

Now, I did have the first bit right, at least:

  1. Apply paint stripper to the painted surface and let it sit there until the paint starts to bubble and is easy to remove with a scraper.
  2. Remove all the loose paint using a scraper.

Here, let’s include some photo evidence. First off, this is the paint stripper that we’re using:

I put it into a throw-away container to dip my brush — an old one because apparently this stuff eats brushes.

This is what the paint on the trunk used to look like:

And this is after the paint stripper was applied and removed too soon, or the paint was too thick, I’m not sure.

This is the tool I used as a scraper:

And yes, I know those are not the right gloves for this job because they have cloth on the back, but the rubber ones I was using either got a leak or started collecting chemicals another way because my fingers got drenched in more than just sweat and I got chemical burns on the back of my knuckles.

Anyway, I applied a second coat of the paint stripper, waited again, and went at it again with that scraper. This is how that one went:

Better, right? But still not good enough. There’s a lot of paint left.

So here are the next steps that I was missing (and I would number them 3 and 4, but WordPress doesn’t let me change numbering, apparently).

  1. Take some steel wool or a scratchy sponge, dip it in mineral spirits (or paint thinner, I guess; we’re using mineral spirits because that’s what Justin bought – I think it depends on what stripper you’re using) and take that to the surface to scratch away the remaining paint.
  2. Once the paint is gone, go over it again with mineral spirits on a clean cloth. And then dry it with another clean cloth.

Doing that takes it from the picture above, to this picture here:

So much better!!! The first time I did that and saw how great it turned out, I was just amazed at how much better it looked!

These is the mineral spirits I was using for this part:

I poured that into a container, too, and then used a scratchy sponge exoskeleton (I pulled out the actual sponge and just used the scratchy outside) for most of the flat surfaces, an old tooth brush for around the detail bits like the hinges and the moulding at the bottom, and a wooden skewer stick to really get into tight spots.

And, of course, nothing works better for good thick rags than cloth diapers.

We ran out of mineral spirits before I could finish the last two feet of the trunk and go over it one last time to make sure it was good and cleared. We picked up more mineral spirits when we got the truck on Monday, but with all the other projects that day, I never got back to the trunk. But sometime soon, I’ll be able to go back and finish removing the paint.

One of my problems is that I can’t remove the hardware so I’ve got to figure out how to get the paint from around and on top of those things. The hardware is all connected to the wood by long nails that go through to the other side and then got  bent over and pounded down into the wood.

There’s no way I’m getting those things off. Eventually I’ll have to figure out how to make those surfaces look better. But I’m not even sure what kind of metal they’re made of. This is the latch faceplate on the front.

Here’s a hinge.

So it’s not a swift process, by any means, and I’m still a LONG way from being done with this.  I’m not even sure what all the steps are going to be yet.

I do know that the next step after all the paint is removed is to sand the whole thing. We did some research on Monday and figured out that we want a random orbit sander (the round-headed one) with  three different sandpaper grits. There’s no way we have the patience to sand this whole thing by hand three times over. So we did some research into the one we want to buy and have that sitting in our Amazon cart while we think about the expense a little bit and shuffle around our budget a little bit.

But I’m excited! This looks SO MUCH BETTER than it did just a couple days ago! I can finally really see how beautiful it’s going to be in the end.