Industrial style jewelry box makeover

From jewelry box to apothecary cabinet

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’ve become a little obsessed with cement lately. Or, more specifically, with Henry FeatherFinish Underlayment Patch and Skimcoat.

I bought a 7-pound box of the stuff last fall to spread on some faux pumpkins, and I was so happy with how they looked afterward, I started wondering what other objects I could coat in concrete. The list of things I’ve tried so far includes a tabletop, a pair of junk rabbit ears, a foam wreath and a flocked bird.

I’ve come to the conclusion that pretty much everything looks better encased in concrete.

When I started mixing up a new batch last week, my cat took one look at my container of wet cement and immediately turned tail and ran.

Ha.

She needn’t have worried. I didn’t have anywhere near enough cement to cover a 17-pound feline. Besides, I had other plans for it. I wanted to use it for a jewelry box makeover.

Dated 1980s Early American style jewelry box before makeover

The deconstruction process

How do you turn a 1980s Early American style jewelry box into an industrial apothecary cabinet? You start by stripping all the excess frills and fripparies off.

I removed the skirt on the bottom with a few hammer whacks.

Dated jewelry box with wooden skirt partially removed

Then I wedged a screwdriver under the Chippendale drawer pulls and pried them off.

Screwdriver prying up Chippendale style handles on an old wooden jewelry box

Each handle was attached with three tiny nails. Some of them popped out as I was prying. The ones that didn’t I pulled out with a pliers.

I also removed the trim around the drawer edges with a pliers.

Pliers removing wooden trim on drawer as part of a jewelry box makeover

Once I had all the extraneous geegaws removed, I sanded the drawer fronts to remove the glue residue and a few stubborn wood shards.

Woman's hand pushing electric sander over small wooden drawers as part of a jewelry box makeover

I didn’t worry about puttying the holes or sanding off the finish, as I knew the cement skimcoat I was planning to do would cover everything.

Sanded jewelry box drawers

At this point, I decided to give all the pieces a quick coat of grey spray paint. It probably wasn’t necessary, but I thought if any of the wood ended up showing, it would be less noticeable if it was the same color as the concrete.

Wooden jewelry box spray painted with grey primer

Applying the cement

Before I started applying the cement, I stuck a piece of masking tape behind each of the holes in the wood. That way, the cement would fill in those spots and not seep through the back.

Here’s the FeatherFinish skimcoat I used:

Box of Henry FeatherFinish Underlayment Patch and Skimcoat

To mix it, you just add 1 part water to 2 parts powder. Then you spread it on whatever you’re skimcoating like you’re frosting a cake.

Skimcoat being applied to top of jewelry box

I used a putty knife to spread the cement and smooth it out. You want to get the finish as smooth as possible while the cement is wet because once it dries, ridges and rough spots are very noticeable.

Woman's hand holding a putty knife and applying a cement skimcoat to the top of a jewelry box

The color of the cement lightens up as it dries.

drawers with partially dried cement on them

Here’s what the jewelry box looked like after it was dry:

jewelry box makeover after the cement skimcoat has dried

It wasn’t bad, but there were some high spots and ridges that bothered me, so I sanded them down.

woman's hand holding sandpaper and rubbing it across drawer fronts

Sanding left some parts of the box darker than others, and that bothered me, too, so I mixed up another batch of cement. I made the new batch more watery than the first one and spread it on very thin, using my fingers instead of a putty knife.

jewelry box drawer with watery coat of cement being applied

Adding the drawer pulls

Happily, when the second coat dried, the surfaces were smoother and more uniform than they had been after the first coat, and I was able to move on to the next step: adding new hardware to the drawer fronts.

I had bought some small card holder drawer pulls from Amazon (they were 3 1/4 inches wide x 1 5/8 inches tall). To attach them, I first measured and marked where I wanted them on each drawer.

woman's hand holding a pencil and marking the location of screws that will hold drawer pulls in place

Then I drilled holes …

holes being drilled into drawer fronts for hardware

… and screwed the new hardware into place.

screws going in to drawer pulls to attach them to the drawer fronts

Midway through attaching the drawer pulls, it occurred to me that I should apply a topcoat to the concrete. If I’m going to be opening and closing the drawers a lot, the oil on my skin would eventually discolor them unless they had some protection, I reasoned.

I didn’t want to use polyurethane because I thought that would make the concrete shiny. Instead I opted for clear furniture wax. I applied to two coats, buffing each one after it dried.

waxing drawer front with clear furniture wax

The wax darkened the concrete a little, but it retained its matte finish.

Ta da

After I put the drawers back into the chest, my jewelry box makeover was complete.

small industrial style apothecary cabinet

I didn’t change a thing about the the interior of the drawers. Isn’t that blue corduroy amazing?

apothecary cabinet with drawers open

It was almost too pretty to cover up.

apothecary cabinet with drawers open and filled with trinkets

But as a collector of random trinkets, gee gaws, and shiny baubles, I am always in need of storage.

apothecary cabinet with drawers full

I still have to make cards to put inside the drawer pull frames. But I will deal with that another day.

industrial style apothecary cabinet

For now, let’s just marvel at how great the cabinet looks.

Concrete covered jewelry box with label holder pulls

And remember how different it looked in the beginning.

1980s wooden jewelry box with Early American style skirt and hardware attached

Almost hard to believe it’s the same cabinet, right?

Sadly, this project pretty much emptied my box of Henry FeatherFinish. I’m a little bummed about that, but I’m sure the cat is relieved. 😂🤣😂

I might buy another box because it’s been fun to work with. If I do, do you have any suggestions for other things I should try using it on? (Inanimate objects only, please.)

— Lisa

6 Replies to “Industrial style jewelry box makeover”

  1. I have a jewelry box just like this waiting for a makeover. Love how you upcycled yours into an apothecary cabinet! I see you collect heart shaped rocks too. LOL Isn’t the search fun!

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