Flea Market Fabulous


Asian chest

Photograph:  Elizabeth West

I have been looking for a nice linen chest for AGES.  Either they’re too expensive (cedar chests), too big (trunks), too small (also trunks), too dirty on the inside (trunks again), or I saw something I liked and didn’t have the money.

Currently, I have a small wicker chest with a bashed-in top.  My linens have no hope of fitting in the tiny thing.  I plan to measure it and get a piece of wood and foam and make a little seat on top (easy), then sell it in my garage sale.  I’m sure someone will like it.

I noticed the chest in a booth full of older furniture and odds and ends, just hanging out.  Two light kitchen chairs perched on top of it, and I had to move them before I could open it.  It’s a policy of mine to always open trunks, chests, file cabinets, etc. before I buy them, to see if there’s dirt or damage I don’t want to deal with.

You’ve seen Oliver (my car), in this post.  He’s not very large; I really did not know how I would get it home.  But the lady whose booth the chest was in had a truck, and she was actually onsite today.  She offered to bring it home for me and helped me get it into the house.  This lovely woman was so helpful!  She told me she was very happy the chest was going to a good home.

She told me she got it at a sale, and apparently it belonged to an Asian lady’s mother who had died.  She said it was made of camphor wood.  It’s not heavy, just long and awkward.  It just needs a little cleanup and some TLC for the watermark on the top, but otherwise it’s in good shape and solid.  Not bad for $100!

Camphor tree in Osaka prefecture, Japan

Camphor tree in Osaka prefecture, Japan

Image: KENPEI/Wikimedia Commons

I did a little research on camphor wood; it comes from the Cinnamomum camphora tree pictured above and was common for chests and containers made in the Far East.  The tree is native to China, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.  It’s the source of camphor, the natural version which was used in mothballs and itch creams, and the wood repels insects.  That makes it ideal for a storage chest.   I wondered why it was so aromatic when I opened it; it didn’t smell like cedar.  I just assumed it had been stored with mothballs or something similar inside.

I can hardly wait to get it cleaned up and filled up!

4 thoughts on “Flea Market Fabulous

    • Thanks!

      I’m thinking about stripping it because the old finish is so nasty. I just gave it a bath, which of course brought out all the nicks, streaks, chips, holes, etc. Well, it does need a little repair work, but that’s okay.

      Not sure if the actual chest is camphor wood, but the lining definitely is–my nose is completely unstuffed. >_<

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