Q: We have an old steamer trunk that belonged to my great-grandparents. It is in excellent condition inside and out except for the leather handles on each side, which have rotted away. My husband has replaced them with strong climbing rope. Of course, this ruins the appearance. We were told that the bolts that held the leather handles must be cut off, then new leather can be put on with new hardware. Is there someone who could come to our home and do this?
A: Almost certainly, the leather was not held on with bolts that need to be cut off. The handles on steamer trunks are typically attached with clinched nails — nails hammered in from the outside and then bent over tightly on the inside.
Colonial Restoration Studio in Gaithersburg (301-948-6652 ; colonialrestorationstudio.com) has replaced handles on hundreds of these trunks over the years, said Dave Hawksford, who runs the shop along with his son, Jarrod. The shop offers in-home repair of cedar chests in Silver Spring, as well as in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac and Rockville. But steamer trunks need to be taken to the shop to be outfitted with new handles. “You have to take the paper off on the inside,” Hawksford said, and removing the handles requires special tools that they keep at the shop.
Raymond Burkett, who runs a furniture restoration business in Takoma Park (301-589-2658), also said that he can replace handles on steamer trunks but only in his shop. Because the trunks were built to be lightweight, he said, the wooden parts are thin. So it’s a challenge to remove the bent-over nails without damaging the wood.
Hawksford estimated the cost at $150 to $190; Burkett said it might come to about $200. Steamer trunks typically fit in a passenger car, but if moving the trunk yourself isn’t possible, both companies offer pickup and delivery, with the price for both trips in Silver Spring totaling $75.
If you’re handy and want to do the work yourself, check out the website of Brettuns Village (207-782-7863; brettunsvillage.com), a company in Maine that offers dozens of styles of leather handles and other trunk replacement parts, the tools needed to remove clinched nails, and instructions for doing the work without damaging the wood.
Van Dyke’s Restorers (vandykes.com) also offers replacement trunk handles.
Q: We have an exhaust fan in the ceiling of our 1930s brick Colonial kitchen. The circular opening measures 9½ inches in diameter. The fan, which we believe is original to the house, turns on from a switch on the wall. But it makes a loud squealing sound. Is it possible to replace the fan with one that would still fit the current opening? It vents to the outside on the side of the house.
A: A Dayton ring exhaust fan with a nine-inch blade diameter might work. This model comes in a circular frame with an outside diameter of 9 5/8 inches and an inside diameter of 9½ inches. Grainger, which owns the Dayton brand, sells it for $109.47.
Chris Nakis, who responds to technical questions related to heating and air-conditioning equipment for Grainger, recommended calling an HVAC contractor or an electrician to check before you order whether this fan is likely to work. Retrofitting a fan into an existing opening sometimes takes some fussing, and an experienced contractor is likely to figure out a solution. For example, the mounting tabs might need to be bent or even cut off, he said.