Tarnish Free Jewellery Cabinet Upcycle

If we find something in the garbage that inspires us (or even just challenges our common sense to leave it there), we don’t hesitate to try to find another use for it. The worst that can happen is that the project is an epic fail that ends up back in the garage again. But we won’t let that happen on our watch!

When Hubs found this old tool cabinet in the garbage, it 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). Wouldn’t we all love tarnish free jewellery?!

This cabinet provided the perfect home for my bling 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!

In the Beginning…

There was nothing redeeming about this cabinet 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.


You Will Need…

  • 3 long handles (two 9 1/2″ length for the drawers and one 14 1/2″ to act as a grab bar for the side)
  • Hinges the same size 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 if you can order a new key)
  • 2 rolling 3″ or 4″ casters (depending on the height of the other legs. You can buy also them with or without a brake)
  • 2 Capita metal legs (we got ours at Ikea)
  • Sand paper – various grits (we used a range from 180 to 120)
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Paint sprayer if available (or brush and roller)
  • Wood filler such as Famowood or body filler like Bondo
  • Sheet metal or metal mesh (make sure it’s magnetic)
  • Screws
  • Earth magnets, various sizes
  • Small and large plastic re-sealable bags (mine are approx. 2 1/2″ x 4″ and 3 1/2″ x 6″ but use the size that suits you best)

For the Shelf:

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.

Hubs 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 an off-white paint we had on hand as a top coat and applied it with a sprayer for a professional finish; hubs 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.


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 picture below shows a closer look at the detail of the updated handles, legs and and caster wheels 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 picture below shows the door locking mechanism and its components).

C_Door locking mechanism

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.

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!


Inside Transformation – How to Store Jewellery and Keep It Tarnish Free!

The inside of the two doors is where the transformation really gets smart. Hubs 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.

Jewellry Cabinet 008_bof.jpg

We then added a bunch of high quality earth magnets.

Jewellry Cabinet 009_bof.jpg

I used resealable plastic pouches in two sizes to organize my jewellery. Large pieces such as necklaces go into the larger plastic bags. 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 larger bag. It’s a great option 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!

Jewellery '08 002_bof.jpg

While the beauty of this system is that my jewellery no longer tarnished 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.

Add a Shelf for More Storage Space

Adding a shelf makes the transformation even more useful; who doesn’t want more storage space? You can buy a pre-made shelf and cut it to fit, but making your own is easy with our instructions. Click here to find out how we did it!

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.

Jewellery Cabinet 031_bof3.jpg

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!

Jewellery Cabinet_after 008_bof.jpg

The before and after is quite dramatic. Especially when you consider the piece was found in the garbage and looked like it should have stayed there!


This is a beauty and the beast transformation! I guess it’s really what’s inside that counts ?.

Jewellery Cabinet 001_bof.jpg

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9 thoughts on “Tarnish Free Jewellery Cabinet Upcycle

  1. Hi! Great project, fantastic job you two did! Just wondering, you said the last picture would show the locking mechanism, I’m not seeing that. Can you show or explain how the left door is held closed? Thanks!

    • Hi Susan – thank you for that ‘catch’ (pun intended 🙂 I’ve now inserted the picture showing the locking mechanism and catch. I hope that helps; let me know.

  2. Thank you Sara. I have never seen the ‘gravity door holder and catch’, very smart. Thanks for the picture of it, this will make it so much easier to buy one!!

  3. This is ingenious! I have way too much (nah, never) jewellry, and I don’t see/wear it often enough. I put some fancy hooks on the wall to put my necklaces on, but this would be better. I actually have a small phone table that this would work for. It’s not being used, and has a drawer under the top, but the bottom is open. Just would need to put back, sides, and door on it – you really have me thinking! It would free up my dresser top from all the over-flowing jewellry boxes and I’m thinking I may put this small table on top of my dresser (easier to reach, rather than bending with not-so-great knees).
    Thank you for the idea!!

    • You’re welcome Susan. A girl can never have enough jewellry – or shoes for the matter 🙂 The phone table sounds like a great idea! If you do it, send me pics and I’ll add it to the post to inspire others!

    • Thank you Linda; this one was pretty challenging but well worth the time and effort. My silver jewelry has never looked so good. Storing them air tight really does cut down on the tarnish!

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