Coral Arch-Top Chest

coral arch top chest original paint  coral arch top chest with bunny

This chest was a learning experience.  A fascinating but slow one. It took so-o-o long to strip,  so-o-o long to repair, so-o-o long to paint.

The first rather startling note was its small size… about the height of a coffee table.

The second was the thought “Oh, my goodness.  Would it be wrong to paint over all this work?” The painting was created by some bygone craftsman (craftsperson??) with beautiful attention to detail and subtle mixing of paint tones.

However, for me there were irreparable problems.  Despite the workmanship, it was not at all to my liking and I was now the owner. The paint surface had deteriorated over the years with many cracks that could not be fixed.  The trunk itself was damaged… missing veneer, broken hinge areas, cracks through its pressboard frame.

coral arch top chest crack lines coral arch top chest paint cracks coral arch top chest back wall damage coral arch top chest damage coral arch top chest veneer missing

If painted anew, all the lumps and bumps would still show.  But it would have character. So forward I went!

coralarch top chest painting part removed

First step: paint removal.The outside was fairly easy (the inside was dreadful – more about that later…). The base coat (perhaps the forerunner of today’s primers) was a golden coloured layer that was essentially impermeable but useful as an undercoat for my primer. The lumpy pressboard beneath was of rather inferior quality, hence the layers and layers of paint on top.

Nevertheless, I got through it all and it ended up looking like this.

coral arch top chest stripped front viewNext, the interior.  A lesson in the permanence of Chinese lacquer! If an impenetrable glossy black look is to your liking, then it was perfect – virtually indestructible.  But it was certainly not a great colour match for a future doll-like treasure chest! coral arch top chest original interior black lacquer

Removing the lacquer was painful (psychologically!) – lots of scraping and scrubbing as stripper softened it enough for tools to work. Ultimately it was only an incomplete accomplishment.  Short of damaging the underlying frame, I had to stop at a partly removed stage, then rely on 2 coats of primer to cover.

coral arch top chest interior stripped coral arch top chest interior primed

On to the repairs.  Filler went in, clamps went on. Drying. Curing. Sanding. More filler.  More sanding.  But ultimately the results were acceptable.

coral arch top chest repair detailing

coral arch top chest clamp repair detailscoral arch top chest with filler started

coral arch top chest top with filler 

The outside of the chest got primed with my bubblegum pink primer, left over from the quart I had stupidly tinted for a previous project.  I still had loads of it.  I had developed the opinion that this colourful underlay is not required for purity of top coat hues, but that’s a story for another time. I knew I’d be painting the outside coral pink and red.

Anyway… on to the painting… finally. Coral pink inside, two tones of red outside, blue highlights. Then 3 coats of Varathane.

coral arch top chest partly painted coral arch top chest primed and red paint

coral arched chest

Perfect for a little girl’s treasures!


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