the ugly, old, rusty, crusty ones.

I’ve long been a fan of old metal toolboxes.

But I have to say, it’s rather rare to find them with an original painted finish in a good color.  The ones in nice colors tend to be priced a bit higher too.

So I’ve been known to make do with the ugly, old, rusty, crusty ones that no one seems to want.  I clean them up and give them a paint job, like this fun one that I painted as a gift for my Secret Santa recipient at work last year.

That was such a fun one to fill up!

Another of my favorite painted toolboxes of all time was this one that I also did last year just before Christmas.

Over the summer my friend Sue found a nice little pile of the rusty, crusty toolboxes for me to work some magic on.  I’ve been hanging onto them until the weather got too cold to paint out in my workshop, thus requiring me to move my painting production indoors.

Well, it snowed this past weekend, so I decided that meant I could get going on these.

But wait a minute, back up a bit … a week ago Friday it was 80 and sunny here in Minnesota  (yep, we went from sunny and 80 one week, to snow the next, that’s how we roll here in the Midwest where there aren’t any moderating influences from a nearby ocean).  Knowing that cold weather was coming, I prepped all of these by washing them in the yard using my garden hose and spray on Dawn dish soap.  I let them air dry and then gave them a coat of Dixie Belle’s B.O.S.S. in clear.  I’ve used B.O.S.S. to seal up rusty toolboxes before and it seems to work well.

Today’s q tip:  Only use B.O.S.S. as a sealer if you’re going to paint over it.  If you want to just seal a rusty toolbox without painting it, use one of the clear top coats.

I worked on toolbox no 1 first.  It was definitely the rustiest of the lot.  I started out by painting it in Dixie Belle’s Midnight Sky on the outside, and Sawmill Gravy on the inside.  If you’re going to try this at home, I have to warn you, painting a toolbox inside and out can take a while.  Not because you’re spending a lot of time painting, but because you’re spending a lot of time waiting for paint to dry.  You have to let the top dry before you paint the bottom, let the inside dry before you can shut the lid, and so on.

Anyway, once I had it painted I added some bits and pieces from the Somewhere in France transfer from with prima.

I also added a gold bee to the top from their Gilded Home & Nature transfer.

As you can see, I did leave some bits in their original rusty condition.

Finally, I lined the inside of the box with some of with prima’s decor tissue paper.

The inside of the box is sealed with Dixie Belle’s Gator Hide, which is also the product I used to decoupage the tissue paper.  The outside of the box got a coat of clear wax (Gator Hide can leave black looking filmy or streaky).

I also completed toolbox no 2 over the weekend.  This one is painted in Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth on the outside and Peony on the inside.

Isn’t that pop of pink brilliant?  I just love it.  I used some decor tissue to line this one too.

Next I pulled out the IOD Label Ephemera transfer and added some wording to the outside.

The bees are from the Classic Vintage Labels transfer from with prima.

The crown is from the Lovely Ledger transfer, also from with prima.

I ended up adding a quick coat of Dixie Belle’s Midnight Sky to the handle to clean it up a bit.

Initially my plan was to take both of these in to the shop to sell.  I need another painted toolbox like I need a hole in my head … but … I really love how this 2nd one turned out!

I liked it so much that I rearranged my living room shelves in an attempt to accommodate it.  But no, it really didn’t work there, so I will take it off to the shop after all.  Probably on Wednesday.

You can check out my ‘available for local sale’ page for pricing info.

As always, if any of my local readers want to snatch it up first just let me know by either leaving a comment or emailing me at

Thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co and with prima for providing some of the products used in today’s makeovers.

26 thoughts on “the ugly, old, rusty, crusty ones.

  1. Oh those are fabulous! I have a couple that are just sitting in the back of my shop and now they are going to get updated! I love the paint color midnight sky, it’s a beautiful black with blue undertones. Fantastic updates, thanks for sharing.


  2. The tool boxes are so pretty, I’m now thinking about painting mine. Are the ceramic vases painted as well? If so, what type paint did you use?


  3. Both are awesome and that pop of pink is pure genius! I love the reindeer box from last year. Hoping the transfer is still available.


    1. I don’t tape them off or remove them (not sure you even could, I think they are riveted in place). I just paint around them carefully. As soon as the paint is dry, I use a fingernail to scratch off any spots of paint that might have gotten on the hardware. If you do that right away before the paint has time to harden it’s fairly easy to do. Another tip is to put a little clear wax on the hardware before you start painting, that way paint won’t adhere.


  4. Very nice! You know I am partial to painting boxes. Question on the Dixie Belle BOSS…you said to use it only if you’re planning on painting the box. Is that because BOSS has color to it? What is a sealer you recommend if you don’t paint the box? Does a clear wax work as a sealer? I don’t mind the look of rust, but a very rusted box can render the box unusable, and I want the boxes to be functional as well as cute. I have a couple of unique, but very rusted boxes I’d like to work on. Also like the look of leaving the locks/hardware rusty. Do you seal the hardware as is, or just leave them be? Again, very inspirational boxes!!!


    1. Very good questions Kathy! First up, the B.O.S.S. comes in both clear and white. But even if you’re using the clear (which I was), it leaves a milky looking film on your piece that isn’t attractive or intended to be left uncovered. I also wouldn’t recommend just using wax if you want your box to be functional (and I totally agree with you there) for storage or whatever. Wax won’t seal rust in, it will just make it semi-water resistant for a while. I have used Miss Mustard Seed Tough Coat Sealer (here’s a post on that) on a rusty toolbox. It has a nice matte finish and worked quite well. If you want a little more shine, you can also use any of Dixie Belle’s clear coat sealers. They come in flat, satin and gloss, so just choose your sheen. As for the hardware, I do add a little clear wax to them just to spruce them up a bit.


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