Vintage Suitcase Refurbish Part 2

This may end up a 4 part series at this rate. Once I committed to finishing the wood rather than covering it, I had to get it ready for a finish.  After days and days of sanding with the finest sand paper I could find, I ran super fine steel wool over the suitcase until it was baby smooth.

I also polished up the hardware that I didn’t remove with the angle grinder. The latches, and brackets for the handle are solid brass. The hinges and feet are steel and surprisingly heavy duty.  The spring on one of the latches was broken, but I oh so carefully unbent the tabs and lo and behold, the spring is still inside, and the end is broken off. It took a frustrating amount of time to bend a catch back on to the end of high quality spring steel, but I finally, more or less, got it. It doesn’t have the *SNAP!* that the other one does, but it does spring open now rather than need to be pried open.

I went shopping for a finishing product and finally found a WATER BASED sealer. The wood was so beautiful I really didn’t want to change the color any, I just wanted to seal it. wpid-20150513_203449.jpg

I bought this Minwax.  Do you see the magical words beneath the word Minwax on the label?  Water based.  Yes!  Soap and water cleanup. Not that mineral spirits aren’t fun… ok, they aren’t.  They suck and have a tendency to create collateral damage.

Interestingly, the second I opened the Minwax,  I realized that it smells suspiciously like Modge Podge.  It is like a really thick polyurethane in texture,  and you have to keep stirring it while using it. I put 8 or 9 coats on it, let it dry completely and then sanded in between coats. It did exactly what I hoped it would and gave me a good finish but still allows the grain to show through. It did darken slightly, but not a whole lot.

I also realized that taking photos of suitcases are a problem. If the camera is too close, it fills the frame and you can’t really tell what it is; too far out and no detail. Sigh. I am hardly ever in natural light since I work too much; however, I did take it outside to get a good picture of it after the last coat. See how pretty!





Such a nice wood grain. The entire exterior frame is a continuous length of pine. You can literally follow the grain around the outside and only the corner inserts break it up.

wpid-20150513_191309.jpgI have this pile of stuff that I intend to use on this project. I may or may not use it all, but this is the arsenal I am working with at this point.

Some of the things that need to be addressed on the exterior are as follows: Corner bracing, covering the hole, and binding the edges.  First things first, I decided that the hole was the easiest to deal with so I tackled it first.

I had filled the hole with wood filler and it managed to become MORE prominent after I sealed it. wpid-20150513_193015.jpgI had this medallion for hiking sticks that I thought *MIGHT* cover it. Not quite. wpid-20150513_191712.jpg

I took one of the round leather pieces I picked up for another project and stained it with the Old English scratch cover. It isn’t shiny, but it darkened it considerably.  I flattened the medallion, and screwed it onto the leather piece. Looks pretty nice, I think. I screwed it over the hole and it looks great! I was inspired by the original port authority sticker on it when I got it.

wpid-20150513_193519.jpgI used small brass screws to attach it, so it isn’t going ANYWHERE.

I am minimalist by nature, but I also travel a lot and like souvenirs…. just minimal ones. We had been collecting stickers and putting them on the glass of the car, but cars are transient and it gets hard to see out of. We also (clearly) collect hiking medallions (the oldest collects iron on patches which we put on her “adventure jacket” and the youngest collects hat pins which go on her “adventure hat”). I have been back and forth about whether I can start putting the stickers or hiking medallions on the suitcase. I DID just refinish it and it might ruin the finish, buuuuuuut… I don’t know. I might, I might not. On the fence. It turned into an argument at home with the youngest thinking it is a great idea and the oldest appalled that I would besmirch the wood.

I have some leather strips to act as corner binders.  The corners were formed by cutting the wood and a 90 degree angle and gluing them to a piece of what looks like corner moulding.  Then they were taken to a sander (and there are still scars, must have been 80 grit or something- I never got all of the scars out). Those glue joints are at least 40 years old and pretty much caput. I re glued and clamped them, but I really must reinforce them.  I looked at several options and decided that the leather wrapped around the corners and screwed down would be the best route.  I will probably use metal brackets inside.

The strips came from some leather utility holsters given to me by a friend who does line work. I used my handy dandy cutting wheel to remove the rivets. I stained them with the same scratch cover. I haven’t put them on yet, but it will be soon. They are in the picture above with the round leather disk.

The original case had a leather edge binding. I haven’t been able to find anything like it. I eventually found a sisal webbing in the upholstery department. It was sisal colored with some black stripes woven into it. I did not like the color AT. ALL. My oldest went and got some dark brown RIT dye and dyed it for me. wpid-20150513_202411.jpg

It was WAY too wide before she dyed it, and I intended to turn the edges under and sew them down making it narrower. AFTER she dyed it, it is still a smidge too wide, but not enough to worry about; it will just be an extra wide edge binding. With so many coats of sealer, the original holes for the stitching needed to be drilled out. I put my smallest bit in my dremel and drilled them out. Only the bottom at this point because I had to make some internal structural repairs to the inside that still need to cure.

The next post should be a look at the completed exterior. I am going to tackle the interior after that and it is HORRIBLE!!!  Take a look:wpid-20150513_184026.jpg

This is the inside of the lid. It looks a little different now; I had to make a structural repair after I took this photo. The inside was super nasty.

wpid-20150513_184019.jpgThis is the inside of the bottom. The plan is to sand the inside down, and put the Minwax inside to seal whatever funk might have seeped into the wood to stay there. I’m going ot use the celestial print I originally intended for the exterior inside. I just have to decide what kind of pockets and which brackets and doo dads I want to put back on. I’m thinking that the bracket for coat hangers in the top will go back in, and I might replace the separator that kept your stuff secured in the bottom. It just really depends on how much exasperation it causes. I’m still thinking it all out.

I pulled out modern and vintage luggage to assess internal formating.  I will probably study study study and then wing it. It is kind of how I roll.  I found a somewhat terrifying compressed construction adhesive that is kind of like super glue paste that I intend to adhere the lining with. I am just back and forth on how much sewing I want to do.   Hopefully the next post will be a completed exterior and an least partially completed interior. One never knows. I *STILL* have the small case just like this to deal with, so I really need to get a move on.  The youngest also decided she wants to gut the interior of her duct tape case and duct tape the inside. I might just let her. We will see. I think she wants something to do so she can sit with me while I’m working.  She’s a cute kid when she isn’t driving me crazy with her slovenly nature.

The next photos might be a twofor!!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. atkokosplace says:

    What a lovely restoration project. It’s beautiful. Have a great weekend.

    1. Thanks! It’s coming along!!

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