• Steel
  • Leather


  • Cleaning
  • Hammering
  • Glueing
  • Soldering
  • Sewing

This 84-year-old WWII Sandhurst steel army trunk belonged to my client's grandfather and needed repair and restoration. My client did not want me to make it look new. Instead, he wanted the finish to look authentic and show its wear. I could clean but not paint it, and the scratches would remain. However, this trunk required many repairs to make it safe, especially around children.

There were many issues. The lid didn’t fit properly, the chest had a broken locking mechanism, the corners had come apart, and the lid was missing two leather straps to prevent it from crashing open and tearing the lid off its hinges.

cleaning and straightening 

To begin, I had to clean the dust and dirt and did a lot of tin bashing to make the sharp protruding metal edges safe. The trunk then needed strengthening. The original soldered split seams needed new soldering to come together. It required a lot of hammering with an I-beam to straighten the beat-up metal. I even had to use my blacksmith flatter, a hammer typically used to flatten heated material. I used it in this case because of its heft and ability to move the creases in the steel.

Adding leather straps to secure the cover

The lid was off its hinges because there had been no support for the lid, and it flew backwards. New leather lid seals reduced closure noise and gave proper spacing and less shock to the fragile metal panels. The chest needed new leather hinges and a leather lid seal to keep its authenticity. I lock-stitched the leather straps by hand to reinforce the glued hinge parts and sewed the leather with a sewing awl. I then stained the leather to make it look genuine.


Unfortunately, some panels could not be soldered together at the bottom of the trunk because the heat would have scorched the original paint. Therefore, I used epoxy in some of these areas.

It is impressive that this chest lasted 84 years, having been shipped by sea and so well used.

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