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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Taylor Trunk refinish?


QUESTION: Hello Mr. Miller,

I just became the owner of a 1908 Taylor Trunk.
My boss's mother had it for sale at her yard sale and knowing I was looking for a trunk to put in my living room she contacted me and I got it for $75.
I am thinking about restoring it as you can tell it had been painted brown on the outside with some of the hardware having a lil bit of rust to it.
Would using a refinishing stripper be the best way to take it back the natural wood and just using a natural stain or tung oil and a gun oil to bring out the shine on the hardware?

The handles are gone but the brackets are still in tack as well as the nail that kept them in place so I was thinking maybe using a leather belt and cutting new handles and hopefully taking the nails out and putting back in...good idea??

The inside does not have the inner box/tray, the lock is missing the parts on the trunk body (not unusual I understand) and the inside is a bit musty smelling with cracks in the paper lining.

I appreciate very much your time and thoughts on this as I plan on keeping it and passing it on in the family some day.

ANSWER: Hi Phyllis,
The pictures of your trunk did not come with your question so you might try sending them again. The brown paint may be the original brown color of the canvas covering which was often used by Taylor. So it would help to see that before I tell you what I would do. I usually remove the canvas, but some people prefer to repaint it. The hardware can be cleaned with some steel wool or a fine wire brush and then coated with some clear finish or tung oil to protect it. It helps to replace the handles with an original style which can be found online, especially from I use three layer stitched handles for these trunks as they are quite heavy.  You should clean the interior good, or even wash it with a damp cloth and then let it dry very well. Sometimes you will need to remove the old lining paper or cloth to get the musty smell out, but sometimes you can spray it with some fabric cleaner spray and let it dry good. There are more than one way to do these and it depends mostly on what you prefer the trunk to look like. I like to clean out the old lining and then refinish or reline the interior so it will be much fresher. The wood slats on the outside can be refinished or cleaned with some steel wool and wood polish.  I hope that helps some.

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inside lid
inside lid  

QUESTION: Hopefully the photos come through this time

Taylor Trunk
Taylor Trunk  
Yes, the pictures show up this time. This is a typical Taylor canvas covered trunk, well made and very strong. They called some of these the XX Professional trunks. They are one of the few companies that usually stamped the date on the inside label when the trunk was sold because it was guaranteed for several years. The canvas covering is glued tightly to the wood trunk and can be hard to remove but not impossible. I would not use paint stripper on the canvas covering as it would make a real mess. The canvas was painted in colors like brown and dark green. It is not a bad thing to keep the trunk original and just clean it with a mild spray cleaner and soft cloth. Some people do remove the canvas and refinish the wood, which can be beautiful, but is also difficult work on the Taylor trunks because they used very strong glue. It can take many hours work to soak and remove the canvas from these trunks. If you decide to try that I recommend you start on a piece on the back to see how it does. The metal hardware usually doesn't need more that some buffing with steel wool to clean any surface rust. Then it can be coated with clear lacquer or tung oil varnish which can be wiped or sprayed on. I would recommend replacing missing or broken handles. The interior can also be cleaned with a mild spray cleaner and soft cloth and then let dry completely. Moisture is the worst thing for these old trunks. I can't tell if the wood slats are painted but often they were not painted and can be cleaned with some wood polish to get them looking nicer. The trunk has the original metal label on top, which is usually brass or nickel plated brass. Taylor made this style trunk from the 1880's until the 1920's.  

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Marvin D. Miller


I can answer questions related to antique trunks, their age, manufacturers, styles, patents, etc, including all types of trunks such as steamer trunks, saratoga trunks, Victorian trunks, slat trunks, toy and doll trunks, stagecoach trunks, valises, hat trunks, and others.


I have over 40 years experience in trunk restoration, collecting, and research. I own the most extensive collection of historical documents, catalogs, maker's labels, cards, etc. related to antique trunks. I am always updating my inventory of historical documents and antique trunks.

Association of American Antique Trunk Restorers, President.

Primarily on the website Cotton & Quail Antiques newspaper (Southeast). Antique Journal magazine.

Bachelor of Arts from the University of Georgia. I have conducted extensive research related to the topic of trunk manufacturers and trunk styles in the U.S. and Europe.

Past/Present Clients
Have consulted for the Pawn Stars TV show on antique trunks. I have sold antique trunks to museums in California and Florida and to customers around the world.

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