How to Upcycle a Small Wood Box Using Transfers

This article shows you how to upcycle a small wood box by investing a little time using furniture transfers and paint.

If you are new to this blog: Welcome! My name is Anna and I share information on collecting antique/vintage items, refurbishing furniture and making small crafts/projects. The purpose of this blog is to share with you how to use creativity and antiques to make your home beautiful. In addition to information here on the blog, you can also follow me on the following social media accounts InstagramFacebook or Pinterest.

Back Story

A couple of years ago, I found this antique pine dresser that I refurbished. I purchased it from Re-Store, removed the old finish and sealed it with a wax. Attached to the top of the dresser, were some small boxes meant to store gloves. These are small little drawers on the top of furniture where women used to store their gloves. If you have watched the Netflix series Bridgerton, you will know in the 1800s that most women wore gloves as part of their every day attire.

Antique Pine Dresser with Glove Drawers

Today, women very seldom wear gloves, unless its 20 degrees outside and snow needs to be shoveled. So, I decided to remove the glove drawers on the top of the dresser in order to make it more appealing to the modern day shopper.

These little drawers have been sitting in my basement for some time. I could never bring myself to throw them out given they are at least 100 years old. Certainly these small wood boxes could be upcycled into something else? With that in mind, I set about reviving these little wood boxes and bringing them back to life.

How to Upcycle a Small Wood Box

Although I used some small glove boxes for this project, you can really apply this technique to any wood box you have. Some other possibilities include jewelry boxes, old silverware boxes, or even music boxes. Once you have found a box to upcycle, the next step is to gather our supplies.

Small wood boxes for upcycling


Most of the supplies used for this project can be found at your local craft store such as Michaels, Hobby Lobby or Joann’s. Where possible, I have provided links to online sources.

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If you don’t have a random orbital sander, you can always sand your wood box by hand. It just takes a bit longer.

Clean and Sand the Wood Box

The first step is to ensure the wood box (or boxes, if you have more than one) is clean. I used some Dawn dish detergent and water to clean the interior and exterior of the wood boxes. Once they were dry, I used the random orbital sander and 150 grit sand paper to remove the existing finish.

It took about 30 minutes to thoroughly sand each box. I hand sanded any areas the orbital sander could not reach. This included the edges, the interior, and the corners of each box.

Considering these little boxes could be 150 years old, the wood was in remarkably good condition. Once sanding was complete, I wiped down the boxes with a damp rag to remove any dust.

Apply Painters Tape

Depending upon your preference, you could tape off any areas on the box you don’t want painted. For this project, I taped off the bottom of the boxes and the interior hinges. I also taped off the interior edges of the boxes. This ensures the areas are protected from the paint dripping or bleeding onto the wood. I have found Frog tape consistently gives a nice clean line and flawless protection.

Applying Painters Tape

Of course, you could choose to paint the bottom of the box and the interior. In which case, you wouldn’t need to use painters tape.

Paint the Wood Box

Now it’s time to paint! Since I used MMS milk paint, I combined half a cup of Schloss paint powder with half a cup of warm water. You can use whatever paint works best for you. Chalk paint, mineral paint, latex paint, and craft paint are all possibilities. I use milk paint because it is nontoxic and environmentally friendly.

Applying the paint

You may need to apply multiple coats of paint depending upon the type of wood or color of your box. Red toned or dark woods may require multiple coats, of paint particularly if you are using a lighter color.

painted wood box

The image above shows how the wood box looked after the first coat of paint. You can see, in some areas, the coverage is a little splotchy. The second coat of paint ensured the splotchy areas were covered.

Wait until the paint is completely dry before moving onto the next step.

Apply Transfers

There are many transfer designs available. Some of my favorite designs are created by Iron Orchid Designs. Amazon also has a large selection of furniture transfers. These transfers with Eucalyptus and Flowers are pretty. These transfers with birds are also charming.

Furniture transfers for the wood box

Cut out the transfer image and place it on the box in the area you want. If you want to put it in the center of the box, you will need to measure the width and find the center point. Remove the paper backing and place the image onto the surface and then using the wooden or plastic paddle – rub the image onto the painted surface.

As you are rubbing -or burnishing- the image onto the surface of your box, you will notice the clear plastic will become cloudy. This is an indication the image has transferred on to the surface.

Apply Clear Topcoat

Once the images from your transfers have been applied to the surface of your wood box, you are ready to apply a clear topcoat. For this project, I used MMS milk coat with a matte finish. However, you can also use a polycrylic or any other water based finish. The topcoat will help protect the image and prevent it from being scratched or damaged.

Applying the topcoat to the box and transfer image

Once your topcoat has dried, your small wood box has been upcycled! Feel free to pin any of the images below.

Upcycle Small Wood Box

As you can see, I decided to line the interior of the boxes with some old sheet music.

Upcycle small wood box

I am not sure the original purpose of the small hole on the top of the boxes. Perhaps it was meant to ensure good air circulation? Perhaps there was some decorative element that one time was attached? If you have any insight -please share your knowledge with me.

I plan to use these little boxes to keep my desk organized. They will store stationary, pens, stamps, paper clips, and more. Every time I open the lid, I will be reminded of the elegant, long gloved ladies of Bridgerton.


Thank you for stopping by the blog today! I hope you found some inspiration.

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  1. I’ve never tried this technique but I’ve always wanted to, Anna. They’re amazing! I love that you can use a variety of transfers to turn them into beautiful home decor pieces and to gift them as well. They have such a lovely bespoke feel. Big hugs, CoCo

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