Vintage Suitcase Refurbish Part 1-

I have said before that I have a deep fondness for vintage things, particularly luggage. Last year I turned a fairly trashed suitcase into a custom awesome suitcase for my youngest with the help of 6 rolls of duct tape.

My sweetie stumbled into a set of vintage suitcases. Actually, it was two sets of pairs and a set of three. One of the sets really spoke to me. The brand is Horn, and they were really trashed. Still, I saw all this potential. Take a look at the larger one:

wpid-20150103_210051.jpgThere is a hole in one side and the fabric is just gross- I’m pretty sure those little black spots are mold and it is just shredding. wpid-20150103_211749.jpgI scrubbed the one I did for my youngest last year with Odoban and it came clean.

wpid-20150103_210128.jpgIt didn’t take very long for me to see that there was no cleaning this. I didn’t take pictures of the inside, and I really wish I had, but I’ll deal with that later. (That’s a New York Port Authority sticker, FYI)

My first thought was that I was going to Modge Podge fabric over it. I love Modge Podge. I have done all sorts of creative things with it. I went looking for fabric. Originally I thought I would find some sort of travel related fabric but then I stumbled across the celestial print. It caused me to have a major nostalgic moment.

My oldest is all sorts of tall, skinny, and gawky. Always has been. I used to make her clothes when she was a toddler because NOTHING off the rack fit her. Even sweats were a mile too short if they fit her waist. I used to let her pick her own fabrics and she just LOVED bib overalls. I made her some that were tropical tree frogs, some that were white with ants, some with trucks, some with birds, and a whole bunch with the very same celestial print. She loved it so much I made her halter tops and shorts and dresses all out of the same fabric. The fact that it is still going strong 18 years later meant that not only was it nostalgically amazing, it would be easy to replace if need be. I bought several yards of the fabric, which is very, very affordable.wpid-20150103_213242.jpg

wpid-20150103_211742.jpgI stripped off the dry rotted leather binding first, then started taking off the canvas fabric. I found that the best way to do this was to put Goo Gone on the fabric, rub it in, give it a few minutes and start scraping. It was gross. Seriously.

wpid-20150103_212638.jpgwpid-20150103_232952.jpgI ended up with this. I sanded it down. Nice wood. See the bird’s eyes?
The frame is pine, but the sides are a maple plywood.



I was back and forth over whether I should try to piece it closely, or if I should just Modge Podge it and then trim it down or what. I ultimately decided based on past experiences trying to adhere an exactly shaped piece of fabric to something that it would be best to just put it on, let it dry and then trim the excess. I covered the first side in a heavy coat of Modge Podge using a brush. Once it was covered, I spread the fabric over it and then used a brayer to make sure there were no wrinkles, bubbles or anything.wpid-20150103_214747.jpg

At which point I decided I hated it.

See, in the coarse of stripping and prepping the suitcase, I discovered several really cool aspects; the frame is a single solid wood board that was cut and glued to angled corner pieces. It had amazing grain. The sides were a kind of maple lauan plywood that had some birds eye going on and would cost a fortune to get now. I’m going to cover this?


wpid-20150103_232945.jpgSo after I tore it all off, I sanded the sides down to baby smooth, then I put it away and left it for 5 months, which is how I managed to forget to take interior photos. When I dug it out, I didn’t check to see what photos I had already taken, I just assumed. The corners had been cracked when got it, so I dug out the wood clamps and fixed that, but it was clear that I was going to have to use some sort of reinforcement on the corners.

After it had a few days to cure, I took a cutting wheel and a Dremel with an extension and cut off all the rivet securing the metal doo dads that were all over for components that were lost or broken. After I got all of the bits off, I sanded it down again, and hit it with a little extra fine steel wool. Smooth!!! Time for some stain or something to refinish it to show off the wood.

Thus ends part 1.  I’ll get to part 2 soon. I actually have the exterior mostly finished at this point, so it shouldn’t be TOO long this time.




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