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What is the meaning of a hope chest?
A hope chest is a piece of furniture traditionally used by unmarried women to collect items such as clothing linens in preparation for marriage. Alternate names like dowry chest, cedar chest, trousseau chest, or glory box are also used. The terms hope chest or cedar chest are commonly used in the United States. Australia and the UK use the term bottom drawer. Australia also uses the term glory box.
What is the history of the hope chest?
The hope chest’s origin is shared among multiple countries. 400,000 documents were found in the Cairo Genizah giving insight into the daily life of Egypt from the 9th-19th century. These documents included multiple marriage contracts, most of which mentioned dower chests, an early form of hope chests.
Cassone’s, or marriage chests, were common in 15th – 16th-century Italy. These showy chests were prized symbolic displays of wealth. They were even more valuable than the contents of the chest!
The Dutch Kast or the German Schrank is another version of the hope chest. These are tall wardrobe-like chests with double doors. They are typically larger than a hope chest and designed to be used regularly in the home after marriage. Image By Luis García, CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia.
What does a hope chest look like?
Most hope chests look like rectangular, oversized toy boxes. They have a flat top with a lock and key latch. Some styles have a bottom drawer or have a chest of drawers instead of a box. Most hope chests are made of cedar since cedarwood is a bug deterrent. The exterior is carved into a unique design according to the owners’ preferences.
Are hope chests still popular?
Yes! While not as popular as in years past, hope chests are still built! This tradition is especially alive and well among the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish. Modern hope chests can fit into any home!
What can you store in a hope chest?
Today, hope chests are more often used to store heirlooms. While they are not commonly used as a dowry payment anymore, many cultures, like the Amish, use hope chests as a gift to a young couple. Mothers will often add family treasures to the chest. Over generations, the chest accumulates more and more priceless family heirlooms.
How much does a hope chest cost?
Where can I buy a hope chest?
Order online from a small furniture shop if you want a customized hope chest or you can find generic hope chests on eBay and Wayfair. Some of the best hope chests manufactured today come from the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish. Each of the chests we sell is handcrafted by a small Amish furniture company in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. A team of 4-5 Amish craftsmen hand makes each chest to ensure quality and durability for generations to come.
How big is a hope chest?
The average cedar chest size is 42” long by 20” wide. We offer two sizes of hope chests. The small chest is 42” long by 20” wide by 19” tall. The large chest is 46” long by 20” wide by 21” tall.
What are hope chests made of?
Traditionally hope chests were constructed from cedarwood. Today, maple, cherry, and oak wood are also used. We sell oak, cherry, and cedarwood chests.
Do cedar chests keep moths away?
Yes! It is scientifically proven that the oils in cedar wood repel moths. These oils mask the smell of the moth’s food, keratin. Over time the wood loses its oil so you may want to purchase cedar balls or apply fresh cedar oil to the chest.
How to get the musty smell out of my hope chest?
Excessive moisture can or humidity can cause that musty smell. Air out the chest to remove any moisture from the wood. Vinegar removes mold and mildew spots. Wet a lint-free cloth with vinegar and wipe down the interior of the chest. After it is wiped down, let it air dry before closing the lid. You can also try placing a bowl of coffee grounds or baking soda in the chest to absorb smells. Read our blog post to learn more.
How to restore the smell in my cedar chest?
There are two ways. You can restore the cedar smell by lightly sanding the unfinished interior of the chest. Start with fine-grit sandpaper and sand until the fragrance returns and the wood turns redder. Vacuum the interior when finished.
You can rejuvenate the wood by applying cedarwood oil. The oil in cedarwood is what repels moths. The wood will absorb the oil and smell like new! Read this blog post to learn more! Image source.
How to pick a hope chest lock?
There are a couple of ways to open a hope chest without a key. The easiest way is to remove the hinges. Once the hinges are removed, pry open the lid far enough to reach in and remove the lock. If the lock is mortised into the chest use a flathead screwdriver to pry from side to side until it releases.
Another option is to use a bump key. Push the key one notch away from full insertion. Apply some rotational force then bump it the rest of the way in. For more information on using a bump key, you can read this article.
If that doesn’t work we recommend hiring a locksmith.
How to remove water stains from a hope chest?
There are two colors of water stains, white and black. If the stain is black the water has seeped into the wood. You will need to strip the stain from the top and bleach the wood. If the stain is white, the moisture is in the veneer.
You can try applying a solution of baking soda and water to the chest. Wipe it off with a damp cloth.
Another home remedy is vinegar and olive oil. Combine equal parts of vinegar and olive oil. Apply it to the stain and wipe in the wood grain direction. Repeat until the stain is gone. Use another cloth to wipe away the excess. Image source.
How to get mothball smell out of a cedar chest?
One of the best ways to remove the smell is to keep your hope chest warm and ventilated. If kept warm and ventilated the smell will eventually disappear but it will take some time. You can also try setting a bowl of baking soda, coffee grounds, or activated charcoal to absorb the smell. Febreeze also works but its effectiveness will wear off over time. Read our cedar chest maintenance guide for more information. Image source.
How to remove veneer from a cedar chest?
The first step is to remove the loose pieces of the veneer. Use gloves since the veneer is prone to splintering. Once the loose pieces are removed, use a putty knife to pry off the rest. Hold the tool horizontally to the veneer and be careful not to gouge the wood underneath. Use a hammer if you need more force. Applying heat with a blow dryer will loosen the glue to make removal easier. Once it is removed, use a putty knife to remove excess glue.
How to remove stain from cedar?
First, apply a chemical stain stripper to the exterior. Work in small sections using a paintbrush to apply the paint stripper. Let the stripper sit on the exterior until the finish begins to bubble. Once the finish is softened, scrape it off with a paint scraper. Sand the wood to remove any traces of finish. Once the finish is removed, continue to the next step. Check out this blog post for more tips. Image Source
How to stain a cedar chest?
First, remove the old finish from the chest using a chemical finish stripper. Once it is removed, sand the surface until it is smooth. Apply the stain to the exterior of the hope chest using a paintbrush. We recommend buying several small paintbrushes to reach into the detailed areas of the chest. Apply the stain in sections and wipe away excess with a cloth. If the color is too light, keep applying more coats of stain until you achieve the desired color.
How to clean the outside of a cedar chest?
For basic cleaning use furniture polish and wipe in the direction of the wood grain. If you have some mold or mildew spots try Murphy’s Oil Soap or white vinegar. Apply with a lint-free cloth. If your hope chest still isn’t clean, add ⅛” cup of TSP cleaner and one dump of bleach to a gallon of water. Soak a hand pad in the solution and gently wipe in the direction of the wood grain. Check out our blog on maintaining cedar chests for more ideas.
How do I clean the inside of a cedar chest?
Use a vacuum cleaner to remove any cobwebs or loose dirt from the inside of your chest. Wipe down the interior with furniture polish and a rag. If you have mold or mildew stains, wipe down the interior with white vinegar. Use a lint-free cloth to apply the vinegar. Check out our blog on maintaining cedar chests for more information.