Cut Out + Keep

Faux Wood Altoid Tin Box

Classy, finished wooden box minus the wood. • Posted by Stephen L.

Don't let the number of steps scare you off, this is a straightforward project that doesn't require much skill with either Sculpey or painting to make a good looking final product. If you have some basic craft supplies around the house, this is a very inexpensive way to make a nice knick-knack box. If not, it is still under $20 (for the non-optional supplies) and most of the materials can be used again for this and other craft projects.

You will need

Project Budget


5 h 00


Medium tutorial wood tin 20073 Medium tutorial wood tin 2  20001 Medium tutorial wood tin 20074 Medium tutorial wood tin 2  20004


Don't let the number of steps scare you off, this is a straightforward project that doesn't require much skill with either Sculpey or painting to make a good looking final product. If you have some basic craft supplies around the house, this is a very inexpensive way to make a nice knick-knack box. If not, it is still under $20 (for the non-optional supplies) and most of the materials can be used again for this and other craft projects.


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    After emptying and cleaning your Altoid's Sours tin, spray a light coating of Krylon Fusion spray paint over the outside. Remove the lid to make sure the entire outside of the bottom piece is covered. Set the lid aside. It can be handled in much the same way that the base can be handled, or be decorative/unique. I'll leave that for another tutorial.

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    Using 2 oz of Premo Sculpey (I use Premo Sculpey, you can use Fimo, or even basic white Sculpey, though I think Sculpey III or Super Sculpey are too soft for this to be done easily) Mix a light brownish color. You can use White or Ecru by themselves. Here I mix 1/4 block of Burnt Umber with 3/4 of a block of white. Mix the clay thoroughly either by hand or with a Pasta Machine. Remember that any tool you use on Polymer Clay should not be used for food.

  3. After mixing the clay, roll it as flat as you can, about 1/8" thick. If you have a pasta machine, just use one of your thickest settings. If you do not have a pasta machine (and if you want to work with Polymer Clay, it is probably in your best interested to get one, Michaels and AC Moore in the US sell them for around $25 (and their 40%/50% off coupons can be used to make them $13 or so)) then you can use a cleaned glass bottle as a roller. A rolling pin will work too (especially plastic or ceramic) but again, you cannot use it for food after you have used it on clay because the plasticizers will leak into it. (Polymer Clay is non-toxic, but really shouldn't be ingested) When it is rolled flat, place the bottom of your tin against the clay and using your blade, cut around the base using it as a pattern.

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    Press the clay against the bottom of the tin and make a firm bond. Smooth the excess up the sides slightly if necessary. Only trim with your blade if you have cut poorly, in general a little extra is fine.

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    Now, roll out a long strip with what remains. Starting at the end of the strip (cut a square edge if you need to) roll it up around the tin until the end already on the tin makes contact with the clay still laying on the table (basically wrap it around the tin to find how long you need the strip to be. Mark that spot and cut it, then cut the whole strip to be the correct height. You can do this with a ruler or by eyeballing it. Give yourself a little bit of slack to account for the non-straight sides. Line the strip up so that it is mostly flush on the bottom and any excess is above the lip. Press it in place all around, smoothing as you go, while trying to keep from pressing into it as much as possible (a smooth continuous surface makes the sanding easier). Blend the edges on the bottom and cut off any excess above the lip with your blade.

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    Continue to smooth the bottom until it is fairly flat. Do not worry if this is perfect, but definitely attempt to avoid making any indentations in the clay. You want only hills, no valleys. (This makes sanding easier). If you do get some small indentations, it just means the sanding step will be a bit longer.

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    This should be where you stand at the end. The clay at the top is what is left after you fill in the lettering in the lid and make a roughly level layer, so don't be surprised if you have a bit more clay left than what is shown. You shouldn't have less. Bake this, lip down, for the manufacturer recommended time. I baked it for 20 minutes at 250F and let it cool in the oven for 20 minutes before pulling it out. I bake it on an unglazed tile I bought for $1.50 from Home Depot. You could bake it on the oven rack directly, or put tinfoil on a cookie sheet and bake it there (just make sure not to bake it on a bare cookie sheet unless you want to dedicate that sheet to the cause. A glass corningware pan also works well.) Just make sure to bake it lip down or you will get shiny spots on the bottom (which means the clay has deformed). Let it cool fully before doing any more work on it. This should take at least an hour, though you can speed it up by putting it in the fridge or freezer for a little while (~30 minutes). Baking at night and letting it rest overnight is a very easy way to make sure you wait long enough.

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    When fully cooled, move to the sanding. This is by far the most labor intensive task, but even so isn't particularly hard. Now we need to sand away the excess clay and clean things off. This will go much faster with a Dremel, but it can be done without one, it will just take much longer. The vast majority of the clay that needs to be removed is the clay that will keep the lid from closing. There is a small lip at the rim, and all the clay we keep will need to be flush with or inside that lip. Using the Dremel's coarse sanding wheel, and using the lip as a guide, sand the region shown in the photo. I tilt the dremel slightly towards the inside of the tin to avoid oversanding the bottom. Don't worry too much about small slips, or getting it perfect.

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    This is done. No it doesn't look perfect, nor will it with that coarse attachement, we need to move to the hand sanding now.

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    Now pull out your 100 grit sandpaper. Sandpaper comes in large sheets, you will almost certainly not want the full sheet for this. Sanding blocks often take 1/4 of a sheet, and your hand sanding will be easiest with less. Cut out the pieces in sizes that work for you (I often fold the pieces I hand sand (as opposed to block sand) with). With the 100 grit, we can dry sand, later we will need to wet sand. This will make a lot of dust, stay away from your workspace unless you like cleaning dust off of it for the next month. First, using a sanding block, or affixing some sandpaper to a table (handheld can be done but is more problematic), sand down the bottom. This should be done as flat as possible and in one direction (back and forth) as much as possible. We are using this single direction to set up the "grain" of our wood. The best time to deviate from a single direction is in the very beginning, but it should sand down fairly quickly and easily, so try and just sand it down in one direction the whole time.

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    Next, using a small handheld piece of 100 grit sandpaper, clean up the sanding around the lip. Use circular motions and sand at least until you can see the lip all around the tin. Now, try fitting the lid on. WARNING: If the lid resists, do not try and force it on, or you will have a great deal of trouble removing it, and may in fact have to damage your lid, or clay or both to remove it. Continue sanding until the lid slides on and off relatively easily (as easily as it did before you modified the tin)

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    Now, using long round strokes, smooth the sides of the tin and give it a good round shape. you can do this either hand sanding or block sanding, just be careful to continue around the block in smooth motions. When it looks good to you, start focusing on rounding the edge. Here it is important to pay attention to your grain lines on the bottom of the tin. Round the edge at the end of the lines and continue the stroke up the side to give that side a vertical grain which lines up with the bottom grain lines. On the sides, slide the sandpaper along the corner you are rounding to reinforce the horizontal grain. This is what you should have. Rinse the whole thing off to remove any clinging dust and dry with a cloth or paper towl. Inspect.

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    Here is the horizontal grain you want to see for the "sides".

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    Here is the vertical graining. notice the bit above the ledge is just horizontal. It is a real pain to make this match all the way up, and since the tin stays closed most of the time, I decided not to do so.

  15. Now using your 320, then 400 grit sandpapers, and a sink full of lukewarm water containing a drop of dish soap, re-sand the whole tin. I recommend using the block where you used it before and hand sanding where you did before for this step. You do not want to or need to remove all the sanding marks from before. If you did, simply go back over the final product with your 100 grit lightly to recreate/reinforce your grain lines. Normally you would want to step up through 150 and 220 before your 320, but that WOULD remove your grain lines, which you don't want to do. This section may seem not to do much, but it has two purposes. One, it will allow us to buff the final product to a higher shine, and two, it will help the clay hold the paint better.

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    Now we are ready to paint. After fully drying your clay. (Towel off and then let sit for 10 minutes under an incandescent light will work well), mix up a fairly dark grey wash. A drop of white and black mixed with water until it is about as thick as skim milk. This is called a wash coat, and we will be making quite a few to give the various grain details and depth to the wood finish.

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    Apply with your largest brush (this is an inch wide brush, but you don't need one this wide). The pattern on the surface doesn't matter much, you want to get this paint down in the grain. If you need to, wait 5-10 minutes and apply another coat until you feel the grain is all filled with pigment. Don't worry if you get the whole surface grey as we are going to be sanding off the paint that isn't in the grain lines.

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    This is what it should look like when dry. Now sand it with your 400 grit sandpaper. Hand sand this step or you will remove more paint than you want. This shouldn't need to be wet sanded, because there shouldn't be all that much sanding that is needed, but if you DO need to wet sand, wait a bit longer before sanding to make sure the paint is really dry, and also only wet the sandpaper. The best part about these paint steps is that you can almost always correct them if you screw up. (Either by sanding or repainting)

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    This is a view partially sanded down. Notice that you can see the individual grain lines standing out from the background color.

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    Now make a similarly thin yellow wash (maybe a touch of raw sienna, but pure yellow is fine). Those blank spots with no grain lines are the result of block sanding the bottom some (a very short amount of time). I leave them and it doesn't affect my final product too much, so don't stress out if you screwed up some small patch here or there. You might need to put on a couple of coats, but really we just want a mild yellow cast. Let dry.

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    Now mix White and Raw Sienna

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    This is the color we are looking for (all colors are to your taste, these were experimental when I created this particular tin)

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    Now mix it with the yellow wash from the previous step and a little bit of water to make a slightly thicker wash, more like 2% milk this time. It should be almost orange.

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    This time we want to pile up some pigment around our brush strokes. This may take some practice. If you look closely at this photo, you can see that some places that the brush lines overlap, there are small mounds of the wash. Make sure to run your wash coats in the direction of the grain, so that these overlaps reinforce the grain direction. Let dry completely. This will take longer than the last couple of coats due to overlapping sections. This technique is a little hard to instruct over the internet, but practice and you should get it without too much trouble. If you need to, use a paper towel to wipe off wet coats that don't do what you want. Turn your brush at angles if you need to.

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    Now mix your Cardinal Red and Burnt Umber

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    This is the color and consistency of the was we are looking for. Now we want to add some color to the clay as well as more grain lines.

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    Give the clay a quick all-over wash, then turn your brush sideways and paint on grain lines. This is very similar to the last technique and can be used on that step. It helps to let it air dry for a little bit before making these lines.

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    This is what it should look like when dried. This is our "Base wood"

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    Here is another shot of our "Base Wood" Your base wood is really up to you. This is where experimenting is fun. Do you want a whiter wood? Use lighter shades. Darker wood? Darker shades.

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    Now we are making "stains" out of our paint. Here we want to stain our "base wood" with a solid even color. Here I mixed a redder brown out which is somewhat cream like in consistency.

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    Apply the stain evenly. You see how it gives a much stronger pigment to the whole surface? If you made your wash too thin, just make multiple applications, waiting for it to dry in the meantime.

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    I decided it wasn't quite dark enough, and a little too red, so I mix up a slightly less red wash of the same consistency.

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    Repeat the previous process.

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    To get a high shine, a paste wax or other wax can help a lot. You can and should wait for the paint to dry fully (overnight is best) and then buff it lightly with a cloth, but you will at best get a dull shine. Put a little wax (shoe polish will work, clearly brown is better than black) on a cloth and rub it onto your painted tin.

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    Wait for it to cloud over, then buff with a cloth.

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    Here is our finished tin.

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    Here is an option on how to finish the lid. It requires a stamp and a product called Translucent Liquid Sculpy, but gives a very nice "Image under Horn" illusion. Experiment and see what you can come up with.