Junk on a Trunk

I recently received an email from my darling friend Kalin with the subject line "helpppp." With that many "p"s I knew we were dealing with a serious problem- like whether leggings are fashionable or just ironic (both, clearly), or if it is acceptable to bring Miller High Life to a wine and cheese soiree (hellooo, it's the champagne of beers...).

Sure enough, we have ourselves a conundrum. Says Kalin,
Ok, you gotta help me here.
We got an old trunk... and it's needing to be cleaned up and whatnot. Here's the problem: it's metal and wood, and has some weird rust going on...
So i'm thinking scrub it, but i think maybe it needs some paint. I'm guessing the color is just going to be weird and uneven in a not pretty way. If i paint it what color would be good (also, what paint adheres well to metal)? I'm thinking leave the wood...well, you know, clean it off, stain it if it doesn't look so pretty.
I don't know. You should help. I'm sending pictures. Please????
And she did indeed send pictures...

Oooh, is that potential I see?

...under layers of weird rust?

I'm going to go ahead and assume that Kalin got this brilliant idea from yours truly... but I suppose it's possible that she was inspired by old-fashioned trunks popping up on AT or in our favorite retail stores, like Pottery Barn:

The oh-so spiffy Voyager Trunk, which will set you back $799.00.

Kalin, here's my advice: This a trunk with great vintage appeal, but unless you're hankering for a Tetanus shot... you're going to have to get cleaning. Your trunk won't ever be pristine again, but you can certainly make an improvement!

Visit the hardware store and pick up a wire bristle brush, several small and angled paintbrushes, rust converter (or, at the very least, a rust remover), a quart of oil-based paint in the color of your choosing, and some blue painter's tape.

No matter which route you go, you'll be working with some really reeky chemicals. So, my dear, if you don't want to murder those honors level brain cells, I suggest taking this project outside. Start by brushing off as much of the flaky rust as possible, and wiping down the entire surface with damp cloth. Make sure that you dry the surface thoroughly before you move on to the next step.

Tape off all of the wood, trim, and hardware and treat the panels first. If you decide to use rust converter, you'll want to follow these instructions. Rust converter acts as a primer, and will give you a better protected finish in the long run. If you use a rust remover, follow the instructions on the bottle. Either way, your finished surface will not be perfect. You'll have some pitting that might make it a little difficult to paint over.

I suggest picking a paint color that is dark and NOT glossy. A glossy finish is just going to draw attention to all the little bumps and imperfections. Paint in very thin layers to avoid drips and puddles- a dead giveaway of a DIY paint job.

When your paint is dry, you can turn your attention to the trim and hardware. I'd say... don't do much. Touch it up a bit with rust remover, call it good, call it "patina."

Improving the look of the wood should be the easy part. I'd just sand it all down lightly (especially if it's splintering at all), and give it a quick rub with some brown wax. This should preserve the distressed look while evening out the color.

When you're all finished, you'll want to endeavor to preserve the results of your hard work- prevent rust in the future! If you're using this as a coffee table, pick out a cute tray, or at least a set of coasters. You might also consider putting a protective mat of some sort underneath it. Spills happen, and, (I speak from unfortunate experience here) rust stains are impossible to remove from carpet... without scissors. Heh.

Hope that helps, Kalin! Can't wait to see it when I come visit you in Portland!!

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