How to Replace Damaged Metal on an Antique Trunks

Many old trunks have some type of sheet metal work on them. This is commonly referred to as tin because the sheet metal contains a high amount of the metal tin in it’s composition. Tin is nontoxic and resists corrosion from water.

Many old trunks have some type of sheet metal work on them. This is commonly referred to as tin because the sheet metal contains a high amount of the metal tin in it’s composition. Tin is nontoxic and resists corrosion from water.

Picture of sheet metal used to repair metal and antique trunk
Aluminum Flashing

Often times I receive a trunk that has either a severe dent or tear in the sheet metal that must be repaired. There are several ways to repair torn or damaged metal on an antique trunk.  If the sheet metal on the trunk is severely damaged I suggest replacing it all together.  I will also share two other methods on how to repair metal on antique steamer trunks in separate tutorials.

 

Replacing Sheet Metal on a Trunk

If you have determined that the sheet metal on your antique trunk is to far gone to repair then you will need to replace the old damaged tin with new sheet metal. I prefer to work with aluminum flashing for this type of work. It is cheap, readily available and very soft but not to soft. This allows you to be able to bend the sheet metal if needed with relative ease.

Step 0) Take a couple pictures of your old trunk before you start ripping things apart. This can be helpful when putting things back on your old antique trunk if you forget exactly how things were put together.

Step 1) Remove any hardware that may be over the damaged tin. This could include latches, corner guards or decorations. Simply pull the nails and then remove the hardware.

Step 2) Remove the old sheet Metal. There will most likely be a lot of nails holding the sheet metal to the trunk. You will have to remove all of those nails using a Tack Puller and End Nipper. Be careful when doing this because the edges of the sheet metal can be very sharp!

Step 3) After you have removed the damaged tin you will need to pull any remaining nails from the wood on your old antique trunk. If there are any cracks or damage to the wood that is now exposed you may want repair it with wood glue.

Step 4) Measure the size of the sheet metal that you just removed from your antique trunk.

Step 5) You will now need to cut your new sheet metal from your trunk out of new aluminum flashing.  Mark your measurements out on the aluminum flashing and then use a straight edge and a razor/utility knife to cut out your new sheet metal panel. You will not need to cut all the way through the aluminum flashing, simply scoring it with 3 passes of the razor blade will be enough. After it is scored simply bend the score a few times and it will break cleanly.

Step 6) Use a 220 grit sandpaper to smooth the edges of the aluminum flashing after you have cut it out.

Step 7) If you need to make a bend in your new part this when you will need to do that.  If you do not have a bending brake you will need to use clamps and a straight edge to make your bend.

Step 7) Next you will need to prime the aluminum. I suggest de-glossing the surface of the aluminum with 320 grit sandpaper and then wiping the sheet metal clean with a lint free cloth and mineral spirits. Allow to dry and then prime with Rustoleum Aluminum primer. Other non-aluminum primers may not adhere well to the aluminum. Allow to dry for 48 hours.

Step 8) After the primer has dried for 48 hours and is not tacky wipe away any dust with a lint free cloth. Next use Rustoleum Flat Black to paint the sheet metal for your antique trunk. Allow to dry for 48 hours.

Step 9) After the paint has dried for 48 hours and is not tacky you will need to wipe away any dust that has collected on the new paint with a lint free cloth. Next use a Rustoleum Flat Clear Coat to to coat the paint and to protect it. Allow to dry for 24 hours.

Step 10)  You will now want to position the sheet metal on the antique trunk. Get it into position and then use very small nails to hold it in place.

Step 11) Use a center punch to mark out and dimple the metal where you want to put your nails at.

Step 11) You may drill out each nail hole if needed with a very small drill bit, 1/16″. This will keep the old dry wood from splitting.

Step 12) Use antique nails as needed to attach the metal sheeting to your antique trunk.

5 thoughts to “How to Replace Damaged Metal on an Antique Trunks”

  1. When replacing sheet metal on bottom of trunk do you buy or can one find exact size of sheet metal or do you replace in sections? Also must all wood slates be removed? thank you

  2. Need to find a place that would a variety of sheet metal for the outside of my camel back Steamer Trunk

  3. How can I restore the embossed tin on my trunk? It’s all the same color on the top, sort of rusty colored, when the sides I can see the copper contrast that used to be.

  4. my trunk is pretty rusted in places, to the point of having small holes through it in one spot maybe 2″ square.. Several questions:
    1) possibility of using ‘liquid metal’ to ‘fill’ those holes?
    2) if a new piece is needed, what gauge would approximate
    3) how much should the new piece overlap the old?
    4) is there any sort of ‘underlayment’ to put >under’ the new piece to
    bond it to the old?
    5) how is the tneirey waterproofed?

    Many thanks!
    bt

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