Project Complete: Steampunk Box

Late this winter, I saw a steampunk trinket box. Made out of plastic resin, it looked like the perfect size and durability for an plugs-and-cords catchall. But the price! I wasn’t paying almost $9 per square inch. (Sounds like the rent in San Francisco, California.)

Instead I bought a plain pine box and a baggy of gears from a craft store. Luckily I kept the receipt, because soon I found a secondhand box in the Salvation Army store.


Decades ago, this treasure chest-style cedar box made an attractive (and popular) souvenir from Harrison, Michigan. Those imitation brass bands and the yellowish finish look awfully 1970s!

Beneath the dents and tarnish, the box was well-made. In particular, the sturdy hinges and tiny finishing nails impressed me. And the price was right: less than $4.50!

I bought a dark polyurethane. Then I gathered odds and ends: sandpaper, one-coat stripper, cheap brushes, and odd bits like a rusty key.

Stripping and sanding took a long time because I waited on the weather.* I applied the polyurethane one beautiful May day.  And speaking of mayday,  the first coat was a disaster! As it dried, flecks of pollen marred the smooth surface. Oh, the hazards of living in a bucolic wooded area!

Another round with varnish-remover and sandpaper. Then the tedious task of cleaning and polishing hardware with cotton swabs. I scuffed the finish around the latch and on the sides.

Finally I dug out epoxy and began gluing decorations to the surface. My favorite addition was an electrical connector made from a sliver of US nickel, which my grand- or great-grandfather found cheaper to create than buy for five cents. (A familiar story!)



My version of a steampunk box, relatively less gear and more box!

*Despite what manufactures imply, well-ventilated rooms are not a thing in my area. If such a room is discovered – usually in the heart of winter – we arm ourselves with caulk and insulation to fix it. However, some of us have screened porches  or what locals call “Florida rooms” (what my people call a solárium.)

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