The Jewel Box Project: Now They’re Dressers!

I’ve been eyeing old jewel boxes at Value Village. Cheap, scratched, missing the odd knob or two – just waiting for a makeover. I picked up a few and got hooked!

Group of Single Photosweb

There are always a fair number of them at the stores. They were made in the 1980s and have gone out of vogue.

The first task was to get rid of the insides – the tacky velveteen liners in the drawers, the foam-filled sections for rings, and the rotating hooks for necklaces. Each of the spaces behind the doors was lined with rough-cut mirrors, not the safest for small hands. Clearing this stuff out was a pain – the glue was top notch!

Removing the surface finishes was much faster. It was a matter of some stripper and sandpaper to smooth the surfaces, removing the doors to work on them separately. I ended up with 5 ready-to-finish frames and a bunch of doors and drawers!

Even though it takes a while to get these little wooden pieces paint-ready, I am always impressed by the workmanship. The components fit perfectly and the detailing is precise.

At any rate, on to the most fun! The colours!

I had a mess of jewel box parts on my painting table for weeks, all in various states of completion, drying and waiting while I did other things at the same time.


In the end, 5 wonderful doll dressers emerged.

frames-finishedweb finishedweb finishedweb


(Minor detail… I had to REPAINT the purple door and the green door because I had them on the WRONG frames! Oh well – a momentary lapse of attention created another couple of hours of work… sigh).


I can hardly wait to do some more!



Child’s Book Shelf

I bought this wobbly little shelf for $10, standing 30 inches high and 18 inches wide. Probably not worth it but I always like a challenge!

It’s small and narrow. The black paint covered red paint which covered green, and the wood was very rough; it took a lot of stripper and effort to get to the base. It’s a great example of used, rough-hewn wood repurposed into something “new”. It was probably once an old packing crate.

When I got to this point I just sat back and pondered. After minor repairs and priming, I knew it needed a back for interest and for stabilization. I decided upon a fabric rear wall and paints to match. Like so.18webAs always, painting was the fun part. Then I cut backboard and set about attaching the fabric (see this post for how-to’s) on an angle to match the line of those small inside shelf stabilizers.

The colours worked out beautifully and the little shelf now sits in my granddaughter’s bedroom!

Doll Box/Photo Chest

 7 x 4.5 x 4 in/18 x 11.5 x 10.5 cm

I found this little box in a second-hand shop, finished a dull black. The lid slid open only with difficulty. It’s a perfect example of why I strip pieces down to the bare wood and apply a new finish with a small paintbrush in order to reduce bulk. When completed, the lid slid easily back and forth.

Continue reading “Doll Box/Photo Chest”

Three Wee Boxes

   Before outside       Before Insides

  12-web      11-web

3-inch square boxes. Plain old wood. Nice lines.  Calling out for colour!

Removing the varnish was easy with a single layer of stripper and sanding. The small interior dimensions made it a bit tougher to reach the corners, but fiddling with clamps and folded sandpaper bits did the trick.

 3 Wee Boxes 03 04-web 06-web 07-web

05-webI don’t know what the wood type is, but it’s consistently found in these small pieces almost always made in China (though that doesn’t mean that the material also comes from there). In another life I’ll learn what all these trees are!

I didn’t see any nails. I didn’t see any glue.  Each piece fit together perfectly with each post hinge for the tops precisely inserted.

I painted the boxes in 3 distinct exterior colours, then moved each colour one box over for the interiors.  The photos show a work in progress.

   09-web 08-web 10-web

With the usual gloss varathane finish they were done! A Christmas present for a member of my family.


Painting the Flats: The First Step of the Finished Look

Your piece is repaired, primed, sanded, and wiped clean. Now you get to give it the look you envisioned. Though details are attention grabbers, it’s quality backgrounds and crisp lines that keep you looking. These are the first areas to paint.

Take a few moments to consider the shape of the piece: where Inside meets Outside, Flat meets Edge, Centre meets Border, Straight meets Curve, Inner Angle meets Outer Angle. Then choose the order in which you’ll work,  keeping the following goals in mind:

web3-backPaint simple large expanses first.web4 insidePaint interiors first. recessed-area-webPaint recessed areas and walls first, then outer contrasting borders.priming completedPaint awkward spots first.   latch afterPaint the expanse before the raised detail.

Rule of Thumb: You don’t want to reach across freshly painted areas to get to others. The paint may be dry but it’s still soft, scratches readily, and picks up debris easily. Therefore the top surface is almost always done last.

finished primer brushChoose your paintbrush. I have always favoured an angled brush because it works so well in corners. But you may prefer a simple straight edge. I also prefer a small brush – rarely larger than an inch – because it has smaller strokes and less paint on the brush. I am unusual in this regard so feel free to choose larger.

02-left-side-painted-webPosition your piece at a comfortable height with the working surface flat in front of you.

Rule of thumb: BACK – SIDES – FRONT – TOP

When one colour is to meet another, carefully consider which colour goes on first. Generally speaking, paint lighter colours first and try to have colours meet at defined edges

Get started!

A quick aside on paint brush strokes. I don’t understand why they are so often seen as evil. If properly applied, faint brush lines are the mark of a patient painter who takes pride in technique. But these lines must be even and straight, without changes in direction, without ridges, without gaps, without blobs and drips.

Fill your brush 1/3 to 1/2 full only… and remember these pointers:


Start where it’s dry and lift your brush where it’s wet. Putting your brush down in a wet area produces a blob of paint that needs smoothing out, plus the mark of the brush where it contacts the paint.

Move in one direction only. No criss-crossing. No angles. No curves or circles. No happy faces! All of these lay paint down unevenly which a second coat cannot erase.

Thinner is better. It smooths out better. It layers better. It reduces blobs and drips.

Generally move from the centre to the edge, with the brush moving over the edge into space.

Regularly check for drips and lightly brush them away. Pay attention to the edges. It’s easy to forget when you’re working away on the top… but if you don’t catch them now, you’ll be sanding them down later.

In recessed areas, paint the base first, then the walls. Start at the edges and move to the centre, then go back to the edges and up the walls to prevent pooling. Pay particular attention in the corners using very little paint on your brush.

When you’re done, let it dry overnight and examine it. You may want to run a very light fine sandpaper over the surface to remove tiny imperfections in smoothness.

No matter what the paint can says, you will ALWAYS need a second coat. The colour will be brighter and more consistent. And despite your near-perfect initial application, there will always be spots that you missed.

Move on to the next area and watch your masterpiece develop before your eyes!

Painting: An Introduction

rainbow box finished exteriors blue half moon chest finished drawers orange-wine table top detail blue-white bench inner side yellow side table detail

I’m talking about the final paint job here. Repairs are done. Stripping and sanding is done. Primer is on and had a few days to cure. You know exactly what you want to do.

You can fiddle with the preparatory work. But when it comes to painting, you need to get it right. Flat surfaces must be smooth. Edges and detailing must be precise.

You don’t need to be a born artist to do this. It’s a skill that can be learned. But it takes practice and it takes patience.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give is… TAKE YOUR TIME.  Don’t try to do the whole thing at once. Take breaks. Work on sections. Leave it overnight. Or two nights.

Next. Don’t get caught doing physical gymnastics to get at all the angles while your piece sits in one position on the floor.

finished left side interior  using the work surface  work surface bins with plywood

 Put it at eye level. Raise it so that you can paint while sitting on a stool. It’s a heck of a lot easier on your back and legs.

 Position overhead lighting so that shadows are minimized. Tip and turn your piece as you work.

 Move your stool around the piece as you paint. If this isn’t feasible, turn the piece so that each side is facing you as you work.

 Paint the top surface LAST. Turn your piece upside down first to paint the legs so that you when you turn it upright you can lightly sand any debris off the top.

 Work systematically. Side 1. Side 2. Back. Front. Inside. Legs. Top. Or whatever order works for you.

 Don’t try to handle a section that is wet, or even tacky. YOU WILL REGRET THIS. One smudge or fingermark will remind you of your mistake. Cuz now you have to repaint that area.

These are the general points. Next post… the specifics!

Lime Green Sides

lime green sides after fronts lime green sides before

These tables were pretty cheap.  Made of particleboard covered by thin veneer, they were unwanted leftovers from a living room set that had been sold. You see handles but no drawers. Those warped lower shelves were tacked to the legs with tiny screws. I decided to simply do away with them.

(That isn’t entirely true. They have become great bases for painting other small items in my workshop!)

lime green side leg beforeThe legs were made of… something.  I’m not certain what, except I know it’s not solid wood.

The first task was to sand all the veneer.  Though thin, it didn’t peel and it handled the sanding without trouble.  I was even able to round the edges slightly to take away the “scratchiness” of them.

A layer of primer went on, then it was on to the lime green.  Such a fun colour!

lime green sides primed  lime green sides first coat  lime green sides painting leg

I decided to add some darker green detailing on the legs to make these little beasts a bit snazzier. I also painted those fake drawer handles the same green after I sanded and spray-primed them. I’m pleased with how they ended up.

lime green sides leg detailing top  lime green sides leg detailing bottom

lime green sides hardware sanded  lime green sides hardware primed  lime green sides hardware done

Two coats easily covered the little tables and the obligatory coats of Varathane made them glow! They’re ready as great little conversation pieces!

lime green sides after fronts lime green sides after tops