Restoration Project for Beginners

by Kaye
4 Materials
2 Hours
Hello, while shopping at my favorite store (any resale store is my favorite), I found a perfect piece for someone looking for a easy starter project for restoring or upcycling wood. In case you are wondering, I was not smart enough to start small.

I found an old cheese box for $5.00 and decided to add it to my farm memorabilia collection. As I was raised on a farm in Wisconsin, I was able to ask my dad for some of his smaller tools and equipment. Together with my husband, we have restored and placed them in our family room.

New cheese boxes can be purchased on line from a company in Wisconsin
Dufeck Wood makes cheese boxes in a variety of shapes and sizes.

While whomever painted the trout did a great job; I am just not a fish lover. To remove the fish paint and hand printing, I used 150 grit sandpaper wrapped around an old sanding sponge. Wrapping sandpaper around a hard sponge provides a nice handle for sanding.

Old pieces can be very fragile so it is best to gently sand all around the piece until you are sure about the structure.
This piece had some age and use warping. While the warping and aging made it more attractive to me, it also made it more fragile. An interesting point on this cheese box is the nails are all brass to prevent rusting.
In this picture, most of the paint is removed, and you see a faint outline of the fish. As I planned on stenciling and possibly staining the piece, I decided that I could live with the outline in favor of removing more fragile wood.
When stenciling, paint leaking under the stencil and causing a blurry edge is always a concern. Normally bare wood will hold a terrific edge, however; this time the wood was so dry I was concerned it would run into the wood and blur.

Additionally, wood really likes to blotch from staining so it is critical to always apply a pre-conditioner before applying stain. I was hoping the pre-conditioner would pull double duty for me on this piece.
I applied the pre-conditioner on just the top. The wood grabbed it so well and gave it such a nice refreshed look I decided to apply pre-conditioner on the entire piece.
After the pre-conditioner dried (normally it does not need to dry, just time it), I applied the stencil. I thought I purchased a stencil that was the correct size, but apparently not. SO, I decided to over-stencil.

After stenciling the cow with black chalk paint, I saw it was way too dark and added layers of tan and white acrylic paint. Chalk paint makes a great clean line but the wood really grabs it.

I usually use blue painter tape when stenciling. It just seems to have more stick and less "can't get it off".
When I finished stenciling and wiped down the piece, it did not look aged/used enough so I went back to sand paper. I kept sanding gently until I felt it looked appropriately experienced.
A close up of the final product reveals the uneven print I was trying to achieve. I am a little concerned about the wood health and will try to keep an eye on it. If the wood gets too white, I plan on staining or glazing it.
Here is the final product sitting on a rehabbed hay rake seat. The seat was still there on the hay rake although my dad pulled it with a tractor. I'm not THAT old. Next to the seat is the old wood dolly my dad used to move gunny sacks of oats back and forth from the grist mill.

Thanks for viewing my piece.
Resources for this project:
BangQiao Round Cedarwood Storage Box with Lid for Small Parts,Crafts and Jewelry
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Frequently asked questions
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  2 questions
  • Millie Cochrun Millie Cochrun on Apr 22, 2018

    What preconditioner did you use?

  • Dlagardens Dlagardens on Apr 23, 2018

    What preconditioner did you use? It's not listed in your supplies.

    Great job!


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3 of 29 comments
  • Moira MacDougall Moira MacDougall on May 11, 2018

    Just letting you know that I live very close to the Bitterroot River in Montana, a champion trout catching river. I did a double take when I saw the original painting on your box.

    • Kaye Kaye on May 11, 2018

      How interesting! The fish was very well done. I sure hope I didn't "erase" an artist's work!

  • Vicky Corey Vicky Corey on May 11, 2018

    I would love to see the rest of your farm decorations! What little I saw is so special with memories. I just think it's a great way to keep your memories alive. It looks wonderful. I love the way it turned out.