A Vintage Cheese Box Repurposed into Farmhouse Toy Storage
We live in the prairie provinces covered with hundreds of miles of farms, but not one cheese factory that I know of. The only reason I knew what a cheese box was is because I saw a makeover on Waste not Wednesday. The fantastic thing was I stumbled upon a vintage cheese box in the back of an unlit garage at an estate sale. I had one of those gleeful yabba dabba dooo moments. The kind where I once again fell in love so excited and then looked at the condition once I got my treasure home. I did some quick research online and found out they started using cheese boxes to ship cheese in 1890 and no idea when or if they quit using them. I just love this old clunky cheese box regardless of its original condition, check out how grimy the bottom ring is, yuck!
Supplies for Refinishing an Old Round Cheese Box
Besides an old cheese box you will need the following supplies.
Dawn soap, scrub brush, 150 grit sandpaper
E-6000 Glue and Wood Glue
1/4″ shingle nails
4 small swivel casters
Fusion Mineral paint in Lamp White, or other white paint, rag, paintbrushes
How to Refinish a Vintage Round Wooden Cheese Box
The bottom half of the cheese box is in good shape, just rough and very , and I do mean very dirty. Lets begin with the bottom before I share how to fix and repair the damaged top. To refinish the bottom clean it inside and out with some Dawn dish soap, a little hot water and a scrub brush. After it got wet, the brown paper came off, as did some avocado green Mactac. I scrubbed, rinsed and then wiped it with a rag three times before the gunk all came out. So far so good. I repeated the process on the inside which only took two rounds of cleaning. Let dry thoroughly, I left mine overnight.
Once the cheese box is dry sand it with 150 grit sandpaper . Wipe off all the dust. You can decide how much sanding your cheesebox can handle depending on its condition. For this cheese box it is now sliver free, but certainly not shiny smooth.
I would have loved to refinish my cheese box down to the natural wood, but the wood was too dry and brittle for me to chance stripping it. Instead I gave it a white paint finish using the dry brush method, allowing little bits of the natural colour to peek through the finish. The paint I chose is Fusion Mineral Paint in Lamp White, but any white paint would work.
Painting Using the Dry Brush Method
Pour a little bit of the paint onto a small container.
Dip just the very tips of your paintbrush into the paint.
Wipe most of the paint off onto a rag.
Gently apply the paint to the wood surface. Every time I do this I am surprised by how much paint the dry brush still holds.
Apply the paint in sparse layers until you have the look you like.
Let dry thoroughly and then cover with one coat of CLEAR Varathane. Let dry.
Adding Wheels to the Cheese Box Storage Bin
As luck would have it I also found a set of 4 small swivel wheels at another garage sale for $1. As the bottom of the cheese box is thin the wheels were attached with 1/4″ screws. My wheels are placed according to a clock at 12, 3, 6 and 9.
This part was so easy, now its time to tackle the lid.
Refinishing the Lid
My cheese box lid was in rough shape, the worst part being the large uneven gaps between the central slats and the outer wood ring. The outer ring was missing 80% of the nails holding it in place. I began by removing all the nails and removing the ring. Once removed clean and sand the outside of the ring the same way as the bottom. Set aside.
The tops wood slats were very gouged and had chunks missing. The underside had some ugly mystery stains. Aren’t those the worst? Beeyuck.
Using the original slats as a guide I created a circle on 1/4 inch plywood to support the slats. Unfortunately the slats were too uneven and warped. I wasted a day trying to get them to fit together before choosing to replace them with thin tongue and groove I had in my stash pile. Each piece of tongue and groove was cut to match the old wooden cheese box top.
Once cut the new slats were glued together.
Once finished I used the old lid to trace a 1/4″ circle in plywood, and then adhered the glued statsto the plywood. Clamp in place and allow the glue to dry completely.
Reattaching the Outer Ring to the Lid
Start on the inner side glue the inside of the wood ring with E-6000 glue and then nail in place. As my cheese box was missing the majority of the original nails, I found the most rustic nail I could find at Lowes, They are tiny 1/4 inch shingle nails. Work you way around the lid, nailing the ring to the plywood top adding nails every 2″. If some of the existing nail holes are damaged skip them for now.
Once you have the entire outer wood ring nailed use large clamps to hold the ring in place. Let the glue dry overnight.
The next day fill in all the too large holds with wood filler and insert the 1/4 shingle nail right away. Wipe off any wood filler that squeeses out as you insert the nail.
As my ring was warped there were some gaps between the slats and the bows in my vintage wood ring. I filled the gaps as much as possible using wood filler.
Let the wood filler dry. Once dry sand it smooth with 150 grit sandpaper. Paint the top like the bottom using the dry brush method.
Optional Toy Fabric Banner
For my farmhouse storage container, I added a removable banner that says toys. It is very simple to make with a few simple supplies.
Pretty fabric, Sharpe Pen, cord, hot glue and iron on interfacing.
Cut four pennant shapes 4″ by 5″ in the fabric, and four more in the interfacing.
Lay the fabric pennants good side down, cover with the interfacing.
Fold over the two sides of each pennants and iron to create hems. Repeat for the remaining pennants.
Cut a 4 foot length of thin cord across the top of the fabric pennants.
Fold the top of the pennants over the cord iron to seal. Do this for all four pennants.
Hot glue and fold over the corners of each pennant, hold in place until cool. Using a black Sharpie pen add the letters. I did mine freehand. If you unsure about doing lettering freehand, do the letters in chalk first, and then trace with the Sharpie.
As a final thought I am pretty sure you will be able to find a cheese box in much better shape then this one. It was worth the work redoing the lid as cheese boxes as so rare in Edmonton. If your American, or Eastern keep an eye out. I am pretty sure you can find one with a nicer lid. I am absolutely in love with this one.