How to Fix a Hope Chest

Mason Howard

Hope chests were originally used to hold clothing and other items of young women as a kind of dowry while they awaited marriage. Today, in addition to being used for keeping blankets, bedding and other linens, hope chests are also revered for their antique quality. If you have a hope chest that has been neglected or has fallen into disrepair, repair it easily at home with a few basic restoration techniques.

You can easily restore a hope chest at home.
  1. Clean the hope chest thoroughly with a water-based wood cleaner to remove dirt and grime.

  2. Replace the hinges if they are broken or damaged. A wide variety of hinges are available from hardware sources. Try to find hinges that are intended for hope or blanket chests. Some fine hardware sources will also custom-make hinges to meet the specification of your old hinges. Use a screwdriver to remove the old hinges and affix the new ones in its place. If the old screw holes are stripped, you can use slightly longer screws, shift the hinges about 1/2-inch or fill the holes with wood filler. If your hope chest has knobs or handles and they are damaged, they are replaced in the same manner.

  3. Repair any loose slats or framework. Insert wood glue underneath the loose section then clamp it tightly with bar clamps or locking clamps. Leave the clamps overnight while the wood glue dries.

  4. Fill hairline cracks by using a soft towel to rub in matching shoe polish.

  5. Fill larger cracks, nicks and gouges in the wood surface with wood filler. Be sure to use a wood filler that is designed to adhere to a finished surface, otherwise the areas that you are filling will have to be sanded first. Use a plastic putty knife to force filler into these areas. Level off the filler so it is a bit higher than the wood surface.

  6. Sand the patched areas once the filler is dry using fine-grit sandpaper. Follow the wood filler manufacturer's directions for dry time. Curing may take up to 48 hours.

  7. Paint the patched areas with an acrylic paint color that matches the tone of your hope chest. Use a good quality artist's brush to apply the paint. Allow the paint to dry.

  8. Add sheen to the patched areas to match the original finish by spraying them with spray lacquer. Mask any areas not to be lacquered with newspaper and painter's tape.