When we received this small unassuming Mark 1 checkered canvas cabin trunk, we were far from imagining the discovery that awaited us. We have seen thousands of Louis Vuitton trunks , restored hundreds and it is rare to make a discovery of this nature.
This checkered trunk dates from 1890. It is an important year for Louis Vuitton. From this date, the first quality trunks are closed by "unpickable" locks , the mechanism of which is patented as indicated on the locks themselves. Each lock has a number corresponding to its own key. This number is unique for each trunk, unless a customer wishes to open all their luggage with a single key. The second quality trunks are closed with black lacquered steel locks , without engraving or key number.
This premium model had a steel lock, but it was engraved. This information intrigued us.
While cleaning the steel clasps, we found that there was residue that was red in color like copper . We therefore proceeded to disassemble in order to understand. All the clasps and the lock were copper !
This discovery was incredible!
We had already seen in the past locks in silver- plated brass (nickel-plated), in black-lacquered steel , nails in solid copper, but never a copper lock and clasps!
In order to confirm this discovery, we had the surface treatment analyzed in the laboratory by the best in the field, Bertin Aubert, an expert in Paris since 1936 in electroplating by electrolysis.
The analysis consists in highlighting the substrate and the original deposit thanks to the spectrum observed by an X fluorescence apparatus . This device analyzes matter without destroying it. Used to measure and identify one or more layers of coatings in the metal surface treatment industry.
The results confirmed that it was indeed a copper plating . We therefore had the metal re-coppered by Maison Bertin Aubert , in order to find the original finish.
The problem with copper is that it oxidizes very quickly, very very quickly, and since it is a coating of a few tenths of a millimeter , after about twenty cleanings the steel reappears. It is for this reason that there is no longer any trunk with visible copper clasps and locks.
These trunks were not "rare" because they were produced over a short period of time just after the patent for the groove lock in September 1889, ie only on checkered coated canvas trunks . They were not rare as were the aluminum trunks for example. But none has reached us due to oxidation. Normally we do not varnish our brasses because solid brass can be cleaned without damage. For this restoration we have broken the rule. Our wish is to be able to transmit this heritage to future generations by perpetuating the copper plating that we have had the oven varnished by the subcontractor by Louis Vuitton. Indeed the golden elements with strong wear like buckles and other bag accessories are varnished in the oven after being gilded with gold.
We have restored the groove mechanism of the lock. This is the very first version of a 3-groove lock. This one was in incredible condition considering its age, we only did an ultrasound cleaning.
We took the opportunity to cut an old key . It is always pleasant to hear the lock mechanism close and open to protect its contents.
This generation of Louis Vuitton rivets used in the 1890s is very special. The diameter of the brass head is unique as is the absence of Louis Vuitton * engraving . As always, the rod is made of steel. The process of restoring a rivet sounds simple, yet it is very complex. The metal risks breaking due to its plastic deformation (ductility of the metal). It is the know-how of the boilermaker.
These steps are essential to find all the properties of the metal and obtain perfect riveting.
The riveting or clinching is the heart of the business of the trunk maker.
This technique of assembly and permanent fixing, widely used in the 19th century; before the appearance of oxyacetylene welding, allowed a very resistant assembly and small footprint. Riveting will also be used for joiningsheets that heat does not deform unlike welding.
It was found for assembly:
It is still widely used today in aeronautics for its lightness and reliability, but also in the automotive industry because it is inexpensive while offering a substantial resistance voltage. It is therefore not for nothing that Louis Vuitton has chosen this method of assembly for its trunks. We recognize a perfect riveting when the head is not deformed and it is perfectly placed on the element that it reads again.
There is no mark around the head of the nail. Riveting is done in the traditional way with a rivet and a riveting hammer. The work is clean and precise.
129 years have passed between the time this trunk left the Louis Vuitton workshops in Asnières sur Seine and the time we restored it. We run after time to find the original state of the most beautiful luxury trunks. This restoration required the combination of the best craftsmen , in chemistry for electroplating , in briefcase for the know-how borrowed from carpentry, leather goods, upholstery ...
It was an amazing and exciting restoration !
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