How to Replace Leather Trunk Handles

How to replace leather trunk handles is a very common question I get. Most trunk handles were made over 100 years ago and the handles are either now missing or broken. There is no way to restore or save handles on most trunks because of the age of the leather. I occasionally find a trunk that has wooden handles. There are no current suppliers that I know of that sell wooden handles and it will be best to either save the original ones or replace them with leather handles.


 Determine the type of leather trunk handles that you need

Handles can come in a variety of thicknesses and it it is important to have a handle that is strong enough  to support the weight of the trunk.

There are three common types of  leather trunk handles. Slotted, wide end and solid. After you determine what type of leather trunk handle is needed follow the directions below. There are some other types of leather handles that your trunk could have on it but for the most part it should be one of the handles listed below. I have come across a few trunks that have had wooden handles on them but it is very rare.

Picture of a slotted handle showing how to replace leather trunk handles

Picture of a slotted handle showing how to replace leather trunk handles.

Picture of a wide end handle showing how to replace leather trunk handles

 How to replace leather trunk handles – Slot and Wide End Handles

  1. Pull the nails from the end caps or loops. Be careful not to damage the wood behind the end cap and leather handle. Use a tack puller and End Nipper to remove the nails.
  2. Replace the handle loop or end cap. You can use clench nails or screws. Make sure that the screw is not to long or it will stick out inside the trunk. If it is to long you can cut the end of the screw off with a rotary tool or cut off wheel.
  3. Repeat this process until you have replaced the leather handles on both sides of your trunk.

How to replace leather trunk handles – Solid Leather Type

  1. Remove nails from end caps using a tack puller and and end nipper. Be careful not to damage the wood behind the end cap and leather handle.
  2. Remove the old handles.
  3. Drill holes trough the old handle.
  4. Use nails or screws to attach the new leather handles. If the screw is to long simply cut off the part that sticks out on the inside with a rotary tool.
  5. Replace the end caps with nails.
  6. Repeat these steps until you have replaced all of your leather trunk handles.


How to replace leather trunk handles – Tips & Tricks

  • Make sure that your new leather trunk handle is thick enough so it will not break when the trunk is lifted up.
  • When removing the metal loop or end cap from the trunk make sure to not force the nails out. Use a pair of end nippers to slowly rock the nail out.
  • Do not try to use any type of glue or adhesive on the handles. I promise that it will not hold up.
  • Make sure that the finished side of the leather handle is a facing out and the rough side is facing in.
  • Always drill a small hole in solid leather handles and do not over tighten screws
  • If you are using clinch nails make sure the nails are 1/4″ longer than the thickness of the trunk and handle combined.
  • If you want to use screws to attach the new leather trunk handles I suggest using coarse threaded drywall screws.
  • Make sure that you use at least two nails or screws on the end of each trunk handle ( a total of 4 screws or nails per one handle)
  • Do not try to bend over (clinch) modern nails. Modern steel has to much carbon it and they will not bend over tight enough. You must use old fashioned clinch nails (hand cut nails)


Learn More About Trunk Restoration & Refinishing

More Trunk Restoration Information

How to Restore an Antique Trunk – Learn how to restore a trunk yourself

Recommended Restoration Tools – Wonderful tools that can make a restoration much easier

Pictures of Restored Trunk – See some of the work we have done

How to Paint a Metal Trunk – Learn the best way to paint trunks

Trunk Restoration Tips – Useful tips to help refinish your trunk

How to Repair Damaged Metal – Learn how to repair dented tin and torn metal

How to Clean Out The Inside Of A Trunk (Video) – How to remove paper and refinish the inside of your trunk

=”text-align: left;”>Learn More about Trunk Values & History

Antique Trunk Inormation

View Trunk Catalogs From The 1800’s – Real catalogs showing trunks for sale from the late 1800’s

Antique Trunk Values – Find how much trunks are really worth

FAQ About Antique Trunks – You have questions, we have answers

Restoration Services – Let us handle all your restoration needs

Hand Crafted Trunks For Sale – Check out our trunks we make by hand


8 thoughts to “How to Replace Leather Trunk Handles”

  1. Trying to restore old US Navy Trunk, vintage 1940’s. Leather handles are cut off but remaining pieces of leather remains inside metal endcaps. Can not get caps off. How can I dissolve rotted leather left inside the nailed metal caps/holders. Do not care if new strong leather straps are used as replacements. May just use something decorative not to br ised for lufting trunk.

    Thank you for any ideas.


  2. How do i replace leather seams on my trunk. Seems to be in place with rivets from corner to corner. I can find tons of info on replacing handles but no info whatsoever on actual seams on the outside of the chest… can you help me please? using a family chest for my daighter to take to college and its in really bad shape… apparently my parents stored in an outside shed near a broken window… the entire trunk is in pretty good shape except for a couple of the leather seams…

  3. Hi, where would I find the leather straps to replace old ones? This trunk had been
    In the attic for decades so the straps just got brittle from the heat. This trunk also
    Has some decorative short pieces of leather that serve no purpose than just decoration.
    2.will apple Cider vinegar work to get the old paper and odor out of the inside? You
    Suggest 3to 1 water and vinegar.

  4. I have a storage trunk that has leather handles on the side , middle metal piece that has a key hole which when closed locks.. My question is, I have NO key! How can I open it without breaking that middle lock piece..

  5. What about using wood filler in the spot where the a nails once were before replacing them so they don’t pull out? My old trunks have really loose end caps with just the bit of inside leather left, no handles at all.

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