Trash to Treasure Chest!




Introduction: Trash to Treasure Chest!

About: IT Manager and CAD Designer with a keen interest in technology for the visually impaired.

Like many people around the world I have a fairly large number of pre-recorded VHS tapes that are now redundant. I had been hoping to find somewhere to donate these but the charity shops will no longer take them.

The local recycling services will not take black plastic so it seemed that the only items that could be recycled were the white clamshell library cases.

Then Instructables announced this year's 'Trash to Treasure' contest. This gave me the incentive to think again and I realised that the clamshell library cases are in fact sophisticated boxes with built in latches and an attached plastic film for retaining paper labels / covers.

This Instructable describes a simple storage system created from these VHS clamshell library cases for small to middle sized objects. The use of two redundant VHS library cabinets, each holding up to 20 clamshell cases, allowed the creation of a 'Treasure Chest' to hold useful and interesting items for future projects. A redundant laptop keyboard also features in the build.

It also describes the use of an incredibly useful piece of software to track the contents of the Treasure Chest (and anything else).


  • VHS clamshell library cases
  • VHS Storage Cabinets (the type that can store tapes in their clamshell cases)
  • Discarded computer keyboard

Step 1: Preparing the Clamshell Boxes

Carefully remove any self adhesive labels for the outside of the box and clean off any residual adhesive.

Remove any existing paper cover by sliding it out from under the plastic film around the box. This is easier if the lid of the box is fully open. If the paper cover is only printed on one side, it could be reversed and a suitable label printed or written on the white side before being reinserted.

I decided, however, to print bespoke spine labels to give all of the boxes a uniform look.

The labels were created in Microsoft Word. I created a table with the following parameters:

Number of columns: 6

Number of Rows: 1

Column width: 2.7cm

Row Height: 19.7cm

Border colour: Light Grey (this is just a guide for cutting)

In each cell I typed a unique letter and digit combination to identify each box. The letter indicates which tray the box is in and the number indexes the box within the tray. Each tray holds up to ten boxes, so they are labelled for tray A from A0 to A9.

The font used is Arial 72pt with the cell contents centred vertically and horizontally - see attached example.

The sheets were printed out and the individual spine labels careful cut apart using a linear paper cutter.

The labels were inserted under the plastic film over the spine of each box. These stayed in place well, but if this is not the case, the addition of some double sided adhesive tape would solve the problem.

Step 2: Assembling the Treasure Chest

The boxes were placed in the correct locations in the two VHS tape storage cabinets.

Each tray required a letter label on the front.

I was going to print suitable labels and stick them on. I realised, however, that I had a complete alphabet of plastic letters hiding in my junk box in the form of a dead laptop keyboard. I carefully removed the required letters and attached them to the front of the trays using a hot glue gun.

The finished chest is shown in the photographs.

Step 3: What Treasures?

The system can be used to store many different types of objects, but my Treasure Chest contains mainly electronic and computer components such as:

  • Spare 2.5" hard disks (discarded after Solid State Drive upgrades)
  • Arduino Nano controllers and associated boards
  • Integrated circuits
  • Leads
  • USB Memory sticks
  • PC Sound Cards (If full height, the back plate has to be removed to fit in box)

If a box is to contain static sensitive components, I first put the components in an anti-static bag. Alternatively the box could be lined with aluminium foil or conductive foam.

Larger components, such as a laptop power supply, can be accommodated in a double clamshell case. These double boxes require two of the small plastic separators in the storage cabinet tray to be cut away - see photo.

If you are wondering why I made B2 a double width box, it was because the separators had already been cut away at that position for a double VHS library case when it contained tapes.

Step 4: Keeping Track of the Treasures

For many years I have used a fantastic piece of software called Evernote. This is a cloud based free-form note taking application. Data is organised into Notes (similar to index cards), but within each Note the information can be laid out in any way desired. There is no need to use pre-defined fields.

Information can be typed-in, copy and pasted from other applications, photographs added, files attached etc.

Evernote indexes every word on the Notes, and even recognises and indexes hand written words in photographs. Evernote incorporates an advanced search system so the required information can be recovered easily.

As it is cloud based, the Notes can be accessed from many different devices (e.g. computers, phones, tablets). Sensitive text on Notes can be encrypted.

As my treasure chest will have a high turnover of components I created an Evernote Note to record the contents of the boxes. I laid this out as a table.

Column 1 is the tray letter, Column 2 is the box number and column 3 contains the description of the contents. Note that different items can be stored together in a given box - the Evernote search utility will still find the item.

An example search for 'Nano' is shown in the screen clips. Initially all Notes are listed. As 'Nano' is typed into the search field, the list is filtered to show only those notes containing this word. In this case, a single Note - the Treasure Chest Index. When this is opened by double clicking, 'Nano' is highlighted showing that the Elegoo Nano boards are in tray A box 4.

As items are added and removed from the Chest, the Note can be edited to reflect this.

I do not have any formal connection to the publishers - I am just an enthusiastic user of this indispensable piece of software.

Step 5: Final Thoughts

This Instructable has described a useful storage system that is very easy to set up.

It has shown a use for VHS clamshell cases and storage cabinets, along with keys from defunct laptop keyboards.

The use of Evernote makes it easy to keep track of the items in the Treasure Chest.

As VHS tapes have become obsolete there must be millions of clamshell boxes around the world that will probably end up in landfill waste sites. Hopefully this Instructable will help to reduce the number!

This is my entry in the Trash to Treasure contest. Please vote if you have found it interesting.

Evernote is available in free and paid-for versions here:

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    2 years ago

    Hi Alex. Thank you for the kind words. I initially made the treasure chest purely as an entry for the Trash to Treasure contest but have since found that it is incredibly useful and I use it every day.

    As mentioned in the Instructable I use the program 'Evernote' to track the contents of the boxes so many different items can be stored in each box. I urge all makers to try Evernote - it will change your life!

    I could sub-divide the boxes with plastic dividers - I will look into this when I have finished building my 3D printer.

    You may be interested in a previous Instructable I wrote. This describes a storage system for smaller items I created from a wash pod box and upside-down ziplock bags:

    Pete (Wingletang).

    Alex in NZ
    Alex in NZ

    2 years ago

    Neat idea! Storage for lots of small things must be the most common problem among makers. Thank you for sharing your idea, and good luck in the competition :-)