Makeover | Retooling a toolbox

painted wood toolbox

I found this toolbox at Goodwill a couple weeks ago and thought it would be the perfect container to corral my scattered collection of craft paints.

painted wood toolbox
It was made of pine, nothing fancy, definitely not antique. But it did have one special embellishment, courtesy of the previous owner: a small verse hand carved into one end.

painted wood toolbox

Yes, it says what you think it says. It’s a little hard to read in the above photo because of a strategically placed knot in the wood, but here’s a close-up:

Now, I don’t like to be judgey, but I think the previous owner had some taste issues. Or maybe some anger issues. On the plus side, it appears he was a good speller.

painted wood toolbox

Nevertheless, I opted to sand down his prose and paint over any remaining vestiges of it with a coat of white primer. Then I decided to add an engraving of my own.


For those of you who did not take 4th Grade Social Studies in the Wisconsin public school system, 1848 was the year Wisconsin joined the union.

I printed out the year and taped it to the side of the box. Then I traced the outlines with a sharp pencil.

When I peeled off the paper, I saw the engraving was not as deep as I’d hoped. So I grabbed this tool and started re-tracing the lines:

I don’t know what the name of the tool is. I picked it up at a garage sale a long time ago and have used it for a lot of odd jobs over the years. It’s got a ballpoint on each end, and it really dug into the wood.

At this point, I decided to take a break.

Or, rather, Calvin decided I should take a break. I sometimes think he enjoys my projects more than I do. Every time he jumps up on my work table, I give him the stink eye and say “Calvin” in the same tone of voice Jerry used to use on “Seinfeld” when he greeted his neighbor/nemesis Newman.

Unfortunately Calvin does not seem to understand that that means he’s not wanted. Or maybe he does and he’s an evil genius pretending that he doesn’t know, just so he can make my life difficult. Either way, I end up having to halt production while he walks all over whatever I happen to working on, scratching his face against any hard surfaces, sitting on things and performing other acts of cat villainy.

Eventually he left, and I was able to finish tracing.


Then I gave the box a coat of paint.


I used grey because I wanted it to be a neutral color and have a vintage vibe.

painted wood toolbox

The next day, I had a serious case of painter’s remorse. The grey looked so sad, and the numbers seemed wimpy.

1848 toolbox

So I painted over the grey with black, filled in the numbers with white and then distressed the whole toolbox, to make it look like it’s been sitting around for 167 years.

9 Replies to “Makeover | Retooling a toolbox”

  1. Looks a lot better than the original curse-engraved pine box, that's for sure! (Oh, how that photo made me laugh!) Your writing is fantastic…

  2. The stylus is used for dry embossing stencils, but it can also be used for scribing, which is what you did! No misappropriation of tools … THIS time. I have yet to find a box such as this!

  3. Love the transformation! I have two 'Calvin' like critters that like to be involved in all of my projects as well . . . enjoyed your post!

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