Get ready for back to school with this DIY pencil case upcycle. Repurpose a vintage metal lunch box into a chic and sturdy pencil case or art box with a little paint and stencils.
Those of us of a certain age remember our metal or plastic lunch boxes from childhood. I had a Strawberry Shortcake version that I adored. Now I see different versions of these popping up in thrift shops and flea markets. They bring back so much nostalgia that I thought it might be fun to find another way to use them.
Recently, I scored a few metal lunch boxes without art or characters at the flea market. These date back before my childhood and were probably used by adults as a work lunch box. And while this vintage style lunch box seems impractical for carrying food nowadays, it can be easily repurposed into a sturdy pencil case or art box for our kiddos.
- Americana Multi-Surface Satin Acrylics 2oz – Coastal Waters
- Americana Multi-Surface Satin Acrylics 2oz – Flamingo
- Americana Multi-Surface Satin Acrylics 2oz – Canary
- Americana Multi-Surface Satin Acrylics 2oz – Turf Green
- Americana Reusable Adhesive Stencil 10×10 – String of Lights
- Metal or Plastic Lunch Box (spray-painted a solid color before you begin)
- Foam sponge and/or stenciling brushes
Whether you are using a metal or plastic version, first start by spray painting your vintage lunch box a solid color. This will give you a blank canvas to work with.
The easiest way to add artistic elements is with stencils. I chose this set of Edison-style light bulbs… because…. I DESIGNED THEM MYSELF! Yep, I helped DecoArt come up with new stencil ideas and this particular design is based off one of my sketches. It’s so cool to see something like this come to fruition and I’m grateful to DecoArt for the opportunity.
I love that these stencils are adhesive-backed. I decided to trim out the shapes I wanted to use and chose Coastal Waters and Canary for the bulb.
You can use some cosmetic sponges for applying the paint, or you can use a stenciling brush if you have one. Just make sure you use a light, up and down tapping motion to apply the paint. I love the softness of stencil art, don’t you?
I penciled in a saying to go with my lightbulb stencils and then went over it with a sharpie.
I wanted to add a bit more color, so I added pink dots in Flamingo paint with a toothpick for a pop-art look on my stencils.
The cool thing about the new Americana stencils is that they are super flexible. Feel free to use the shapes however you choose. Here, I took one of the “light strings” to add an accent shape in the corner of my box with Turf Green paint.
On the back, I decided to repeat the light bulb pattern all over.
Depending on what condition the inside of your lunch box is, you could either paint it or add some craft paper to cover it. Since this lunch box is metal, I added a few magnets too.
It’s a great way to store school supplies as a pencil case or art box at home or at school.
And, because it’s super solid, you can expect this pencil box to last all year long. Cheers to more school supply organization!
I was lucky enough to score a second one of these vintage metal lunch boxes so I’ll be sharing another upcycle project LIVE on my Facebook page August 30! This time I’m using some food truck themed stencils to make a snack box.
You won’t want to miss it! So go give my Facebook page a ‘thumbs up’ and stay tuned for more details.