Friday, April 10, 2009

Hand Ink Stamp Pencil and Note Holders

I ran across a box of old wooden handled hand stamps at the antique store here in town a year or two ago and they were so cheap I had to buy the whole lot. The actual stamp parts on most of them where gone, so it was a smooth surface, which gave me the idea of mod podging something onto the faces of them, and sitting them upright like a little piece of art for a shelf.

On some of them I applied pieces of old maps from an outdated atlas along with illustrations cut from old encyclopedias. I then applied phrases with bright letters cut from unused beer labels,
I found them on ebay and now have about 2000 of the things.

On others I attached some vintage fabric dye labels, another ebay score. They have everything on them from birds, pictured, to one that shows an Indian woman being mauled by a Tiger.
I supose that's what sold fabric dye in the 1800's.

This was a really simple and quick project but when I got done with them I was a little bothered by the fact that they really didn't have a purpose, they didn't seem to BE anything. So, I took them out to the garage. I drilled holes in some and made pencil / pen holders, and then I used looped wire on others to make business card / note holders. I like them much better now that each of them has a purpose, and they look pretty dang cool to boot.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Picture Frame Terrarium - Mini Conservatory

About a year or so ago Target had this awesome little metal terrarium for about a week. That's how Target is, if you don't get it when you see it, it won't be there next time. I had planned on buying Mrs. Hughes one but didn't get to it in time. Since then I had been thinking on how to build one for her and one day it occurred to me that it would be much easier to make if I didn't have to cut glass or figure out a way on how to get the glass to fit and stay within the frame. Basically, I wanted a lazy man's terrarium.

It took me some thinking but I finally realized that picture frames would be perfect, if, there was a configuration of them that would work without having to alter their shape. I got messing with the numbers and realized that if I used an 11"x14" frame for the sides, that an 8 1/2"x11" document frame would work for the ends. Then I guessed that I could use 4, 5"x7" frames for the top. My only real concern was how to get them all to fit together and be a solid structure.

I took a trip to Goodwill but had trouble finding the 11"x14" frames or the document frames. But I did manage to find two 10"x13" frames, which meant I could use the more common 8"x10" frames for the sides. I searched and found 4, 5"x7" frames pretty easily. For this terrarium I used all wood frames with a similar style, but I would guess you could use all metal ones if you could find them.

Through some trial and error I figured out it was hard to nail the frames together with my nail gun due to the angle that was on the back of them. I wound up just kind of tacking them together with the nail gun and then I used clear silicon to adhere them. I made an L shape out of one of the big frames and one of the side frames, did the same thing again and then attached the two Ls together. Then I put a tonne of silicon on the small frames and leaned them to create the top, I used a square dowel at the peak to even everything out. The glass was removed on all frames to make putting it together easier.

Once the silicon dried I filled in all of the cracks and spaces between the frames with wood filler, I used a lot of wood filler. Especially between the roof and the walls. I then gave it several coats of white paint with a large brush and let it sit for a few days. The handles were attached before I painted, they are just dresser drawer handles. I painted over them as well. Once everything was dry I put the glass back in from the opening on the bottom. This took a little work and I was just lucky that the way everything went together didn't block where the panes went back in. I used silicon around the edge before putting the glass in, and then I used silicon on the other side of the glass as well. I used a caulk gun for all but the last large pane, my gun wouldn't fit in the box anymore so I had to just use my finger for the last one.

Once the paint dried I went over it with a coat of dark furniture wax. I rubbed most of that back off using Goo Gone until I got it to the color I wanted.

I plan on building a crown molding base for this, I just haven't gotten to it yet. Once I get them written out I will post full instructions for making this on

More soon! ~ The Upcycler

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mason Jar Lantern, Glass Insulator Lantern

I bought a couple of old blue mason jars with zinc tops at the antique store down the street recently with the intention of cutting the bottoms off of them to make cloches. Turns out cutting glass is hard, duh. So, I didn't get too far on that upcycle. However, Mrs. Hughes and I were in the herb shop down on main street in Franklin this past weekend and they had some awesome glass globe lanterns with black metal hoop handles. They instantlly gave me the idea to turn my mason jars into lanterns.

Honestly I thought it would be a pretty easy thing. I decided to use a metal coathanger instead of going to Home Depot and purchasing wire. Cutting and straightening out the coathanger was pretty simple. The hard part came in bending the round part that went around the lip of the jar. I had to bend it in a circle plus add two little openings for the handle ends to fit through, then, I had to fix it to where the two ends of the round piece met and hooked around one another tightly, since this bangle around the jar lip is what would hold the handle in place, and, it would be hung from it's handle.

I happened to have some craft wire from an old project that is covered in what I believe is hemp. I think they use it for branches for floral arrangements. I wrapped the handle to my lantern with that, but you could probably use actual hemp, or maybe even rafia. A good coat of wax over it would probably waterproof either well for use out doors.

You will need something to sit on the bottom of the jar to act as a wax catch for your tea light or candle. I used an aluminum cupcake wrapper, I tried to use a baby food jar but it was a hair too big to fit into the opening of the jar. If you melt the bottom of the candle a little and then sit it on the wrapper first it's a lot easier to get both into the jar at the same time. Remember to remove the paper part of the wrapper.
For what appeared to be a simple little project bending wire just the way you want it can take some time. I think this turned out great though and plan on making several more. After showing it to Mrs. Hughes she gave her approval. I was sure that she would deem them too country for use around our house/back porch, etc... but it looks like this is one upcycle we will get some good use out of.

After completing the Mason Jar Lantern I remembered an old glass utility pole insulator that I had bought a while back and thought it might make a good lantern as well. Turns out I was right, actually, a tea light fits into the hole perfectly. If you decide to make either one of these lanterns I would suggest that you add a piece of wire or twine to the top to tie the handle to the hook you hang them on. They are pretty heavy, the insulator is actually heavier than the quart mason jar, and would hurt pretty good if one fell and conked you on the head.

PLAN B If you aren't inclined to cutting and bending wire, few are, then here is another great idea for mason jars, or, any jars you have around the house. I actually saw this in Southern Living last month in use on a farm table for a picnic, except they used a handmade wood box instead of a soda pop crate.
Find yourself an old soda crate, any brand will do as long as it's wood and doesn't have a lot of dividers in the middle. Open in the middle is best. Collect up all of your old unused jars or half empty jars from the fridge. Old flower vases that you aren't protective of work well too. Fill the pop crate with the vases, jars, bottles, even metal vegetable cans with the labels torn off work, and arrange them to your liking. Now head down to your nearest field and pick some wild flowers, or cut a few Dogwood limbs, Saucer Magnolias, etc... you get the idea.

More soon,
The Upcycler