At Birdz of a Feather, we're all about upcycling and making the most of what we have! If we find something in the garbage that we think we can makeover, we don't hesitate to try! My husband found an old tool cabinet in the garbage which was so beat up I thought it may be beyond repair. He thought it might be a good little cabinet to keep my craft stash in, but I had a better idea for it since he assured me there wasn't anything about it that he couldn't beautify!
I needed somewhere to store my silver jewellery and wanted to try out an idea I had to keep it from tarnishing before I had a chance to wear it (more about that solution later). This cabinet provided the perfect home for my jewellery - and purses, once we added a shelf. With a lot work, we were able to breathe new life into it and upcycle it for a new (and prettier) purpose. One less thing for the landfill!
Step 1: In the Beginning...
Here's how it looked before - on both the inside and outside. It took quite a bit of body filler, sanding, some primer and a few coats of paint to transform it - which all goes to prove that you CAN turn a sow's ear into a silk purse afterall.
Step 2: You Will Need...
- 3 long handles (two for the drawers and one for the side to act as a grab bar)
- Hinges sized to the same as the old ones (if still in good working order they don't need to be replaced)
- Locking mechanism and catch (if still in good working order they don't need to be replaced)
- Rolling casters (2)
- Metal legs (2, we got ours at Ikea)
- Sand paper - various grits (we used a range from 180 to 120)
- Paint sprayer if available (or brush and roller)
- Body filler such as Bondo or wood filler
- Sheet metal or metal mesh (make sure it's magnetic)
- Earth magnets
- Small and large plastic zip bags
For the Shelf:
- Melamine board
- Iron-on edge tape
- Drill and drill bits
- Painters tape
- Rubber roller
Shelf pins (4)
Step 3: To Start
Start by removing all the drawers, doors and hardware. We removed the wooden knobs, hinges and also the locking mechanism.
Give everything a good sand on all surfaces - both inside and out. My husband used auto body filler to smooth out all the deep dings and fill them in, but wood filler would probably work too. Use according to directions, then sand the filler absolutely flat and add a coat of primer to all pieces, inside and out. We used some paint we had on hand as a top coat and my husband applied it with a sprayer for a professional finish; he did two coats. If you don't have a sprayer, a brush to get into the corners and a foam roller works well to achieve a smooth finish.
Step 4: Working a Little Magic With a Lot of Elbow Grease
After the piece was puttied, sanded and painted, we replaced most of the hardware: long metal handles instead of the wood knobs, hinges and also the door locking mechanism so we had a key. The second picture shows a closer look at the detail of the modern handles added to the drawers.
It's handy to have a cabinet that can be locked when storing jewellery. When we occasionally have strangers in the house, it's a bit of added peace of mind to secure the doors to protect items that aren't necessarily worth a lot but have great sentimental value!
To get the cabinet open, you have to use the key to release the right side of the door. The left side can then be opened by reaching in and squeezing the catch to release it (the last picture shows the door locking mechanism and its components).
We turned the cabinet into a rolling cart of sorts by mounting wheels onto the right side for mobility while legs on the left side help keep it stationary when it’s in place. We also added another handle on the opposite side to act as a grab bar so it could be lifted and re-positioned. The trick to keeping the cart level is in making sure that the legs and wheels are exactly the same height. I like the looked of combining them, but if you can't find legs and casters that are the same height, you could use four casters or legs instead.
Step 5: Before and After Transformation of the Exterior
Here’s the before and after transformation of the outside of the cabinet, but there is more to be done on the inside!
Step 6: Inside Transformation - How to Store Jewellery and Keep It Tarnish Free!
The inside of the two doors is where the transformation really gets smart. My husband cut metal panels to fit the inside dimension of the doors; make sure there's room all around so it still closes easily! He spray painted the metal panels with a durable car paint and then installed them with screws to the insides of each door. We then added a bunch of high quality earth magnets.
I used resealable plastic pouches in two sizes to organize my jewellery. Large pieces such as necklaces go into the larger plastic bags and then small pieces, such as earrings, in the smaller ones. If I have a matching set, I just double up by inserting the small bag of earrings into the bag holding the larger item to keep them all together!
For silver jewellery, this resealable bag system is ideal. Who wants to spend time polishing? Not me. If you squeeze the air out of the bag before it’s closed, your silver pieces will stay tarnish free – just be sure to close the bag tight and they will always look great!
While the beauty of this system is that my silver jewellery no longer tarnishes between wearings, I can also easily see what I have when I open up the doors. The magnets make it a cinch to keep it all organized.
Step 7: Add a Shelf for More Storage Space
Adding a shelf makes the transformation even more useful; who doesn't want more storage space? Making your own melamine shelf is easy.
Start by measuring and marking the inside of the cabinet where you want the shelf on each side; green tape helps to make your marks and can be removed when done.
My husband prefers to drill the holes in two stages, starting with a pilot and then finishing the hole with a larger sized bit. Before drilling the four pilot holes, add some green tape to the drill bit to mark the depth to ensure you don't drill too deep (determine the depth of the hole by holding the drill bit against the shelf support pin).
Switch to a wider bit (to match the circumference of the shelf support pin). Apply some green tape to the new bit to mark the depth to drill (as you did with the pilot hole). Test it out first by drilling a left over piece of scrap board to make sure the shelf supports are going to fit properly into the hole.
Proceed to make your final holes in the cabinet and insert a shelf support into each one.
Step 8: Apply Edging to Shelf
Mark the melamine board to the depth you want (ours was 10 3/8″) and length. Deduct 1/8″ from the length measurement for clearance on the sides and cut out the shelf. We used a circular saw with a straight edge clamped to the board to get a straight cut. At this point, you’ll have raw press board on the outside edges and will need to apply some iron-on tape to give it a finished look. We only taped the front edge, but you could also do the sides if you choose. Since you don’t see the back, it isn’t necessary to edge it with the tape.
Heat up an iron to high.
To apply the edging, clamp the shelf into a workbench (if you don't have one, find a 'partner in grime' who will offer up a second set of hands to hold it as you work). Cut a piece of iron-on edge tape slightly longer than the length of the shelf (you’ll file all the excess off later). Test it for fit, then place the tape glue side down over the edge; centre it so that it overlaps slightly along all edges. Apply the iron to the tape and keep it moving to melt the glue. Make sure you get all the edges and don’t stay too long in any one area or you’ll run the risk of burning or melting it! When ironing is complete, apply pressure along the length with a roller to ensure good adherence.
Step 9: File the Edge
Let it cool completely before moving onto the next step. The first picture shows how it will look before the extra material is filed away.
There are power tools you could use to trim away the extra material, but my husband went ‘old school’. Take a fine file or rasp and run it at an angle in a downward/forward motion along the edge of the tape. Continue filing off the extra material along all edges until the tape is totally flush with the shelf.
Be cautious when filing at the ends; ours wasn’t quite glued down and we had to iron it again to reactivate the glue before proceeding. If it’s not glued down properly you could accidentally rip a chunk off and expose the fibreboard underneath, which would be difficult to disguise.
Take the shelf out of the clamp and then you're ready to install!
Step 10: Install the Shelf
Rest the left side of the shelf onto the shelf supports with the other end angled upward. Then slide the right side over the supports until it drops into place. If the shelf is too tight to lower into place, you forgot to leave the 1/8″ clearance – that’s what gives it enough play to install it. You’ll have to shave a bit off and try again.
Step 11: Before and After Transformation of the Inside and Final Reveal
As you can see, the shelf now provides more storage space for anything you like. I initially added some linens and magazines, but then realized it was perfect for my purses and a few shoes stored in boxes! The before and after transformation is quite dramatic when you consider the piece was found in the garbage and looked like it should have stayed there!
If you're interested in more upcycle ideas, our blog - Birdz of a Feather - has plenty of DIYs that show the transformation of both our home and garden. You can subscribe here :) If crafts are your thing, check out our posts under the Craft Rehab category.