DIY: Reinventing Treasures from Generations Past

—A new use for treasures from generations past—

Horse Bit Box

Most horse owners have at least a few extra bits that haven’t been used in years. Even if you don’t happen to have any on hand, beautiful antique snaffle bits are easy to find both in antiques stores and on eBay. I purchased a set of five antique bits on eBay for just $15 including shipping. I knew that I would find a use for them…

  • Prep
  • Staining
  • Stripes 2
  • Stripes 1
  • Stripes 3 – 5
  • Bit 1
  • Polyurethane
  • Bit 2 & 3
  • Bit 4 & 5
  • Bit 6
  • Bit 7
  • Bit 8


  • Unfinished Wood Box
  • Snaffle Bit
  • Copper Wire (20 guage)
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Water-Based Clear
  • Polyurethane


  • Fine Grit Sandpaper
  • Large Foam Brush
  • Plastic Container or Cup
  • Rag or Paper Towel
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Fine Line Masking Tape
  • Small Paintbrushes
  • Palette or Waxed Paper
  • Large Synthetic Bristle Paintbrush
  • Wire Cutters
  • Drill
  • 1/16” Drill Bit



1. Sand the entire surface of the unfinished wood box with fine grit sandpaper. I used general-purpose 150 grit.

2. Wipe down the box with a slightly damp lint free cloth.


1. To save money, you can create your own stain using acrylic paint. To create a cherry stain-like hue, I mixed equal amounts of raw sienna and metallic gold paint (for a little extra luminosity). I then added water to the paint using a 2:1 ratio: two parts water and one part paint.

2. Apply the mixture much like you would a traditional stain. Use a foam brush and wipe excess paint away with a paper towel frequently to minimize the risk of creating obvious brush strokes.

3. Apply three coats and allow the paint to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Color Stripes:

1. Using a ruler, measure out and mark the widths of the stripes you would like to paint on the box. I centered the widest stripe and moved outward on either side since I wanted the middle of the snaffle to line up over the center stripe.

2. Tape along the edges of each stripe with fine line masking tape to create a guide. Using fine line masking tape allows you to paint everything at once without needing to re-tape.

3. Choose your stripe colors. I went with bright contrasting colors for spring and summer, but I also considered using natural tones that would compliment the beautiful rust patterns on the antique bit.

4. Apply about three coats of each color using a small paintbrush. TIPS: 1. Angular brushes work especially well for painting fine lines; 2. If paint is too thin, it will be more likely to bleed under the masking tape. To avoid watering down your paint, thoroughly dry your brush each time after rinsing.

5. Allow paint to dry completely between each coat (approximately 10-15 minutes for most acrylic paints).

6. After the final coat has dried completely, remove the fine line masking tape.


1. Wipe down entire box with a slightly damp lint free cloth.

2. Using a large flat synthetic bristle brush, begin applying thin coats of clear polyurethane. TIP: Use water based poly since acrylic paint is also water based.

3. Read the directions on your polyurethane to find out how long each coat needs to dry before applying another.

Use wire to attach the bit to the box:

1. Cut four 2-3’ pieces of wire using your wire cutters.

2. Wrap pieces around the ring on both sides of the mouthpiece. Leave about 2” of extra wire on each end.

3. Repeat on second ring.

4. After you have finished wrapping the wire around the rings, cut a 4” piece of wire and thread it through the center joint of the snaffle.

5. Place the bit on the lid of the box and use a pencil to mark where each end of the wire touches the box. These pencil marks are where you will drill holes in the box to thread the wire through, so make sure they are accurate and you have your bit positioned exactly where you want it.

6. Using a 1/16” drill bit, drill a hole through each pencil mark on the lid of your box.

7. Place the bit on the lid of the box again, and thread each wire end through the holes you just created.

8. Turn over the lid of the box and twist together each set of ends like you would a wire twist tie to secure the bit in place.

9. OPTIONAL: Line the top and bottom inside of your box with felt if you plan on using it to store delicate objects that could easily be scratched. I skipped this step as I am planning to use my box to store Equestrian Culture stationery.


This snaffle bit box makes the perfect office supply or jewelry organizer, especially if you line it with a sectioned tray. Use a special bit from an old horse to make your snaffle bit box into a beautiful keepsake for yourself or a friend. There are so many different uses for this unique project.


Equine-Themed Tin Candles

This project continues the theme of repurposing antiques and thrift store finds the “Horse Bit Box” started—again turning what could be trash into treasure. Even though I have never made candles before, transforming these little equine-themed tins into adorable candles proved a much easier task than I had anticipated. I collected the tins for a mere two to three dollars each on eBay and at thrift stores, purchased some candle-making materials, and had the entire project finished in a few short hours.

  • Step 1
  • Steps 2 & 3
  • Step 4
  • Step 4
  • Step 5
  • Step 6
  • Steps 7 – 9
  • Step 10
  • Step 5
  • Step 12


  • Tins
  • Soy wax
  • Optional: Fragrance oil (optional)
  • Wick spool
  • Wick bases
  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • Glue gun, double sided tape, or wick stickers
  • Pencils and hair elastics or rubber bands to hold wicks straight
  • Melting pot—pitcher, pot or old saucepan
  • Larger pot to create double boiler
  • Mixing spoon
  • Cooking thermometer
  • Newspapers to protect work surface
  • Paper towels
  • Optional: Silicone sealant

I purchased my candle making materials including the soy wax, fragrance oil, and wicks at


1. Clean the tins thoroughly with dish soap and water. It is important to remove any residue before turning the tins into candles. You do not want to end up with potentially dangerous fumes resulting from any materials the tins may have originally contained. My Propert’s tin still had old saddle soap in it that needed to be cleaned out.

2. Check the tins for leaks. Fill each tin with water and let them sit. Leaks will become apparent within minutes. If the tins are not water tight, they can be made so easily.

3. Optional: Fill gaps or cracks in any seam quickly and inexpensively with waterproof silicone sealant. Allow the sealant to dry for the recommended amount of time before moving to the next step. I purchased a small tube at a home improvement store for just four dollars.

4. Assemble your wicks. Cut the wick to about 1” to 2” longer than the height of the tin. Thread the wick through the opening in the metal wick base, and crimp it closed with needle nosed pliers. Larger or oblong tins may need more than one wick in order to melt the wax evenly.

5. Adhere the wicks to the bottoms of the tins using either a dot of hot glue, double sided tape, or wick stickers.

6. Secure the wicks in place to make sure that they stand up straight in the candle after the wax has solidified.

For my larger tin, I wrapped two pencils together using a hair elastic. I positioned the elastic close to one end, laid the pencils across the top of the tin, and threaded the wick through the open end.

For the two small tins, I simply wrapped two hair elastics around each one and brought the wicks up through the middle of the two elastics.

Align the wicks so that they are centered and parallel to the walls of the tin.

7. Create a double boiler using one small and one large pot. I purchased a small pouring pitcher from to use as my smaller pot. It made pouring the wax into the tins much easier.

8. Measure and weigh your wax using a kitchen scale, then place it in the smaller of the two pots. I used one pound of wax to fill the three tins I purchased (together, the three have a volume of approximately 16oz. total).

9. Fill the larger pot with a few inches of water and heat it on the stove on medium heat. It does not need to/should not come to a boil.

10. Place the smaller pot, now filled with wax chips, in the larger pot. Keep your thermometer in the smaller pot the entire time to measure the temperature of the wax as it melts. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Once the wax is fully melted and reaches 175–180 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the heat.

11. Optional: When the wax cools to 140 degrees, add your desired fragrance oil and stir until it is fully mixed into the wax. One ounce of fragrance oil to one pound of wax is the recommended ratio.

12. Pour the melted wax into the tins when the wax has cooled to 125 degrees.

13. Immediately wipe clean the small container you used to melt the wax in, your thermometer, and the wooden spoon you used to stir the wax with a paper towel while the wax is still melted. This make cleanup take less than five minutes!

14. Once the wax has solidified, trim the wicks to 1/4”. Wait one day before lighting the candle.

Safety precautions and warnings: This DIY project is meant for adults only and is not safe for children. Only burn candles within sight. Do not place candles on a flammable surface, as the metal tins are prone to heating up as the wax burns. Do not allow children and pets near the candles and keep away from drafts and/or vibrations. Always trim the wicks to ¼” each time before lighting the candles.