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Refurbishing vintage steel Kennedy into a Supreme Toolbox

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Albeit a quick one, this project wouldn’t have been completed without the shelter-in-place order since March. I’ve stayed home long enough to begin cleaning out the garage, a to-do item that I’ve put off since 2018. Sh*t was getting serious. Supreme toolbox time.

While throwing stuff away from my garage dump workshop, I found this worn metal box. It was covered in sawdust and speckles of paint. It was also missing a tray. 

I’ve read enough Marie Kondo to only keep things that spark joy, so I was ready to toss this out.

But upon closer inspection, I saw a beautiful piece of hardware. It was a vintage Kennedy all-steel toolbox in red wrinkle. It had plated, though slightly rusted, locking clasp and steel core handle.

So, I’ve come up with the idea. And it had got to do with all the red.

This project was a nod to the silver lining of shelter-in-place. 


Like with all refurb projects, we start with cleaning. It didn’t take much besides WD-40 and elbow grease. Water and shop cloth to clean off the dust and dirt. I used WD-40 and steel wool to get rid of the light rust and some of the white speckles.

The entire process took 30 minutes.

I worried that using a stronger solution like acetone would damage the original red coat. So I ended using steel wool for the paint spots as well. While it was effective, the trade-off of the constant rubbing was that it smoothed out the textured surface.

Not bad, yea?

The toolbox retained some of its “patina” over the years. Thought about touching it up with red paint to reinforce the clean look often accompanied by the Supreme brand, but eventually decided to keep as is. The weathered look was much more forgiving and certainly added more character to the box. Like I did with my Zaku. Nevertheless, I’ve always admired makers that can create an as-issued look with gloss and pristine finishes.

This was the Kennedy K-19 tool box.

Post-measurement was to create the proper graphic for the toolbox.

Photoshop mockup

I intentionally used the extra-large Supreme font, which was Futura heavy oblique with about -5 kerning, to cover the front side of the toolbox. The “S” that protruded out onto the lid makes the design more dynamic. I also liked how the locking hardware covered part of the texts. Though, this part turned out to be a nightmare to execute cleanly.

A simple way to figure out the correct measurement of the design for a flat object like this is by taking a straight front facing image of the object. Then calculate the proportion accordingly. I knew the box was 19 inches. The graphic was about 91.4% of the box. Hence, I needed a 17.3 inches wide “Supreme” for the toolbox.

I used the Silhouette Portrait decal cutter with Oracal 651 outdoor grade vinyl decal.

The texture surface was tough to adhere on. So after setting all the decal in place, I sprayed the entire box with a gloss clear coat to add an extra layer of protection and to help press the stickers in place.

Patience was key. Particularly when it comes to spray painting. Spray evenly and 8-12 inches away from the object. Multiple coats. I then sped things up with the blow dryer.


The all steel Supreme toolbox.

Till next time.

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