Craftsman restores luster to faded antique trunks


January 06, 1994|By MICHELLE HOFFMAN

He's known simply as "The Trunk Man."

Tim Deal restores antique trunks. The portable closets have traveled a long way to feel his touch. They've ridden the iron rails and hit the dusty trails by stagecoach.

Some have been through wars. Others have seen stars. But most have come out of retirement for the face lift only his hands can perform. They wait comfortably in Mr. Deal's Taneytown home to be the next to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Exacto knives serve as his scalpels. He uses them to scrape off old, peeling finishes without slicing into the wood. Edges are squared and built-up dirt and paint in ornate designs are routed out with dentist-like care.

A wire brush removes rust, and a new skin of flat rust-resistant paint is applied to the body to prevent a new generation of decomposition.

Mr. Deal highlights the dainty embossed tin flower and grapevine patterns that decorate the trunk without using a tool. Instead, he arms himself with a tube of gold paint, which he gently sweeps over the design with his forefinger.

He said it gives him better control to spread the paint more evenly than a paintbrush would. "I try not to make it look gaudy," he said. "I just give a little life to it [the design].

"I'll tell you, the biggest key to this is patience," he said. "I am big on doing the best I can do to bring out the beauty of the piece. I never cut corners. I believe in quality."

Mr. Deal does not need to boast about his expertise. He lets the quality speak for itself. The word-of-mouth advertising has gained him clients, who have returned and referred him to new collectors.

In fact, he has had so much business that he has turned his restoration project into a family affair.

He involves his children, Sean, 13; Zach, 11; and Kaitlin, 9, so he can spend time with them and teach them his trade. Sean sands rough edges and helps lay and cut wood precisely so that it fits inside the trunk as a tray. He also researches the patent dates of the trunks so that information may be written on a 3-by-5-inch card that is kept with the finished pieces.

Zach paints the background to the trunk and scrapes away the once-protective inner paper that is now crumbling.

Mother Deborah relines the inside walls with wallpaper, which is stronger than the original. Kaitlin is an all-around helper. She has the hard part of vacuuming and general cleanup.

All three children are fast learners. However, they do not work so hastily as to forget to work safely. Goggles are always worn, and Mr. Deal is always present to supervise.

The piece of which Mr. Deal is most proud is a 1910 wardrobe trunk that he turned into a bookcase. He has also restored an 1850 Jenny Lind trunk, as well as various other bureau, steamer and dome trunks, some of which he has had to reconstruct from scratch when they were brought to him in pieces.

"The people who bring me their trunks have had them in their families for generations. They have a lot of value to them. They don't know what to do with them because they are in such poor shape . . . but they don't want to throw them away. Then they hear about 'the trunk man,' and they give me a call."

The pride Mr. Deal takes in his work is immeasurable. "The biggest thing for me is when a customer picks up their trunk and I look into their face to make sure they like it," he said, his own face beaming.

"Most of them say, 'That cannot be the same one.' They can't believe it."

An admitted workaholic and perfectionist, Mr. Deal assures his clients, "I will do anything I can to make you happy."

Mr. Deal can be reached at 751-1474.


Attention Taneytown residents:

Don't forget to put your Christmas tree out Saturday for pickup.

The City of Taneytown Utilities Department and Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company will pick up the trees free of charge. Trees should be placed along the curb or edge of the street in front of your house by 8 a.m.

Please make sure they are bare -- that is, free of ornaments and tinsel.


Whether you set your tree out for pickup or take it to the recycling center at the Taneytown Memorial Park, remember to stop by the Taneytown City Office at 17 E. Baltimore St. and pick up a coupon to receive a seedling.

You do not have to be a Taneytown resident to bring your tree to the recycling center. Trees must be cleaned of decorations. All trees will be ground into mulch.

Coupons will be available at the city office Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Seedlings will be available for pickup at the city office April 7 and 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


This Saturday, St. Joseph Church, on Frederick Street in Taneytown, will hold its first bingo of the year.

Soups and sandwiches will be served at 5:30 p.m. Early bird games start at 6:40 p.m.; regular games begin at 7 p.m.

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