DIY: Tack Trunk Renovation

I have some super exciting news for all my readers! I want to introduce you to my first guest blogger, who will be a regular feature on HunkyHanoverian. Joanne is a DIY queen, who will be sharing a new horse-related DIY project with us once a month, including required materials and instructions for making your own. She has tons of great content lined up for you guys, so be sure to check in often to  learn how to do some awesome and inepensive DIY projects. Enjoy!!!


By: Joanne Scott


Hey y’all!  I’m so excited to be sharing my DIY trunk improvement project with you today.  I am a 30-something DQ-wannabe who grew up riding hunters.  I have a passion for improving or redoing things, from tack trunks to home improvement projects, and everything in between!


My hunter heart jumped for joy when a Warner’s tack trunk randomly popped up on my Facebook feed – great neutral colors – my exact monogram – and a price tag of only $85!  My ever-loving, DIY partner-in-crime husband humored me and drove three hours south to pick this bad boy up.  Sure, it was in rough shape, but all the bones were good and it was love at first sight.



Since I have this hoarding DIY mentality, I had all of my materials on hand:


  • Black and Decker “Mouse” hand-held sander with 80 grit sandpaper. Mine is similar to this
  • Blue painter’s tape (like this)
  • Stain (I used General Finishes gel stain in “Georgian Cherry
  • Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane in “Clear Satin
  • Plastic gloves
  • Husband’s old white undershirt, cut into pieces
  • Acetone nail polish remover and cotton balls
  • Generic Magic Erasers and a bucket of water




The trunk’s issues included numerous Koppertox stains, chewed side trim pieces, a tray with some rock hard residue built in (fixed mysteriously by my dad aka Mr. Wizard!), and years of dust and grime.



I started by sanding the front trim pieces down to the bare wood.  The front bottom trim had knicks, gashes, some random paint and marker stains…  I also sanded off any area that had been chewed on to restore the trim piece to one smooth layer.



To use traditional liquid stain, found at any home improvement store, you need to start with bare wood that’s been opened up with pre-sealing condition.  I quickly changed courses after I saw how long just one trim piece took.  Gel stain is new magic in my DIY book – it doesn’t require bare wood and in most cases can go on a sealed piece of wood with just a light scuffing of sandpaper.  DONE!  I hit the remaining pieces of trim with my Mouse sander to rough up the surface and then wiped off all pieces with a wet rag.


I initially stained the interior of the trunk a lighter stain color but wasn’t thrilled with the results and had several friends chiming in that a darker color would enhance the trunk, as well as cover the Koppertox stains.  



Luckily, my latest project (a king-sized sleigh bed redo) had left some General Finishes gel stain in “Georgian Cherry” and there was plenty left for this trunk.  Please – try not to be intimidated by these glamourous photos of my workshop!  Anyone with a garage that fits zero cars can do this project!


I used painter’s tape to tape off any metal pieces that were close to the wood so I wouldn’t accidentally hit it with stain.  I’m 100% not into prep but this was a life saver.




Helpful Hints:

Before you start staining – make sure you have gloves on!  In retrospect, I would try to find some kitchen type gloves that come further up the arm, but I used blue surgical gloves purchased from Costco.

Stir the gel gently with a paint stick – you never want to shake stain like you do with paint because it bubbles!  Once stirred, dip your gloved hand with a rag into the container and get a glob onto the rag.  Use the rag to make long horizontal strokes, covering the piece with stain.  The longer, fewer strokes you make – the better your finish will be.  Immediately wipe off any excess with a separate clean rag.

Allow your stain to dry overnight.  It will look kind of splotchy – don’t panic!  Come back on day 2 with another round of staining in long, horizontal strokes.  You’ll notice the stain evening out with just enough grain showing through.  Remove painter’s tape after your last coat of stain has been applied.

On day 3, utilize the same gloved-hand, rag method to apply the wipe on polyurethane in the same long, even strokes you used for applying the gel.  I recommend a minimum of two coats of poly; this adds an extra layer of protection.  The can of poly will advise on the wait time between coats, but I just wait until the next day.

Finally, your trunk is ready for its new life!  But wait… you hit some areas with stain and are freaking out that your hard work is now RUINED.  Never fear – grab a cotton ball with some acetone and use it to remove any stain from the metal pieces.  This method also works if your glove rips mid-work and your hand is covered in stain.  Not that I would know…

To clean up the vinyl, I used a water-soaked generic Magic Eraser and lots and lots of elbow grease.  The dirt really was ground into this one, but scrubbing picked most of the discoloration up!  I wasn’t too worried either – it was going into a darkish corner of our barn, where new dirt would accumulate.




I hope this tutorial will help you next time you find a diamond-in-the-rough tack trunk!  With a little time and effort, you can have a trunk that will be the envy of your barn friends and at a price that can’t be beat!

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  1. Wow!!! What a great find! You are so talented! Mine would never turn out like that! I was lucky enough to be gifted a custom trunk from a friend getting out of horses but haven’t had the heart to spend $350+ on replacement panels. I settled for a custom cover (haha!)

  2. Tell me this….why is it that the hunter jumper people have such smart and snazzy tack trunks. I see them at shows in Florida and they have matching fly sheets and curtains for the tack rooms etc etc. We dressage divas just have plastic roll-on-wheels tack trunks that are practical but not very snazzy or smart. These ones look very nice when ‘renovated’.

    1. Hi Anne! I agree Dressage trunks are lacking, but there are some great options to spruce up your rolling plastic trunk, like custom covers. You can find some on Etsy and Smartpak also offers covers in custom sizes. The trunk I had in place of this one is a Rubbermaid-type special! 😉

  3. Very cool looking redo of a trunk. I love those trunks and can’t believe you found one with your own monogram. that was meant to be. the finished product looks great!

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