The Power of a Hand Tool.

Hand Tool – a tool held in the hand and not operated by electricity or other power.

While driving to work, something on the radio sparked a memory from childhood. I have many cherished items in my home and while I try not to be materialistic, they REALLY mean something to me. Perhaps the best examples would be the pieces of furniture made by my grandfather or great grandfather. The family history of those pieces, where they lived, how they were made, is wonderful. The physical reminder of those creative men makes me proud…and happy.

One smaller item that I have come to cherish is a screwdriver that my Dad gave me. It lives in the hot pink tool box along with other useful hand tools. Its first home was a small tool box Dad gave me when I moved into my first apartment. It was full of the basics for hanging pictures, putting things together, and killing spiders (you get creative when necessary). The screwdriver has 4 heads, two flat head sizes and two Phillips head sizes. The handle is yellow with the old Hechinger Co. Logo on the side. The Hechinger Co. was a hardware retail chain whose home headquarters was located in Landover, MD. They were in business from 1911-1999 and was at one time the main hardware and lumber store in Laurel, MD where I grew up (we always just called it Hechingers). It is the location where my Dad went to purchase the lumber he used to build stuff. He built lots of things when I was younger. He built bookshelves, a sandbox for my sister and I, rabbit hutches, and a microwave cart for my mom when we got our first microwave. I can remember riding on the divided lumber cart until we reached the lumber aisle, a memory that surfaces when I use my screwdriver.

My Dad doesn’t really build things anymore but I always admire his creative side and the ability to do so. I assume much of that was taught to him by his father, who built many of the aforementioned treasures. Perhaps my desire to build and create started at the local Hechinger, with my Dad, riding on a lumber cart.

Wine Bottle Vase

 

Wine bottles are the easiest things to upcycle. The corks, caps, and bottle can all be used to make something else once the wine is gone. Don’t drink wine? It’s pretty easy to find used bottles around from other things. Try reusing a salad dressing bottle, milk bottle, or any narrow-necked glass container. Need some unique home decor? You only need to look to your empties for some inspiration.

Materials for this project:

  • wine bottle
  • twine
  • sticker or embellishment (optional)
  • Mod Podge
  • sponge brush
  • piece of pallet wood, cut to fit
  • split ring hanger
  • ceiling plate
  • threaded rod, cut to about 2.5 inches depending on the width of the bottle
  • wall hanger (picture frame hanger)
  • wood screws

First, start with a bottle that has a nice shape for a vase, or just one you happen to like. The narrower the bottle, the easier it will be to mount to the board. Paint Mod Podge on the bottle starting from the bottom and tightly wrap the cord/twine around the bottle, painting more as needed. Mod Podge is basically glue and although it will dry clear, you will be able to see it on the glass in any open space. Once you have wrapped all the twine you like, let it dry for a while to set. Add your sticker or embellishment to the bottle where you determine the front to be.

Second, cut your threaded rod to the length needed to keep the bottle hanging straight from the board. It needs to be long enough to screw into the split ring hanger and the ceiling plate, holding the bottle away from the board. You can cut a length of it with a hacksaw or a cutting wheel on your Dremel tool (that is what I did).

Third, cut a board from a pallet that has a unique and interesting shape to be several inches longer than your bottle on either end. You can stain it, paint it, or leave it bare. Use wood screws to attach the ceiling plate to the board. Attach the ring hanger to the bottle neck and then thread it onto the rod.

Last, attach a wall hanger (like a picture frame hanger) to the back of the piece of wood to hang it with and you’re done! Simple, unique home decor.

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Wine Cork Bulletin Board

My daughter doesn’t have much wall space in her bedroom and wanted someplace to be able to pin up small mementos, cards, etc. There is a narrow space next to her closet that a typical bulletin board would not fit in so, of course, I decided to make one. The cost? $10

Similar to the wreath, I cut wine corks in half with a sharp knife and used hot glue (multi temp) to attach them to a piece of Styrofoam. You can cut Styrofoam into any shape that will work for you. The glue holds well to the foam, better than other backings I have found.

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I simply glued them in a two over two pattern since they are roughly the same size. You may need to cut the corks to fit near the ends so they will be flush to the edge. Alternate the cut ends for a more even look. (I learned this later, sad face). One of the most interesting things I learned with this project is that you can cut open the rubber corks and hot glue them as well. In the past, I didn’t use them because they would not stick with the glue but this was the first time I tried gluing the inside of the cork and it worked! (note the black corks below)

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Once the foam was completely covered, we needed to figure out how to hang it on the wall. I pinned ribbon around the edges to hide the foam and add some color. The photos are a little misleading in that you CAN see some of the foam through the corks. I think this is because I didn’t take the time to cut them and make them fit tightly. You can certainly do a better job on yours! My daughter will just be covering the gaps with stuff. I used eye screws at the top, screwed into the corks. Then the same ribbon was threaded through to make a hanger.
  

Creative Spaces

Where do you create? What type of space inspires you? Perhaps you need clean lines and lack of clutter to find that creative zone. Or, maybe you need the chaos of beloved items surrounding you. Each creative person needs some kind of space to work in. Writers, painters, sculptors, jewelry artists, film makers, and designers all do their “thing” someplace different. What is that space for you? I’ll share mine, and there are several, with you. Please feel free to comment with your favorite space to create, even if it’s the kitchen table.

One of my typical creative messes.

One of my typical creative messes. I love to be surrounded by jewelry findings, beads, and tools.

When we moved into our new house, I was very excited about having space for a craft room. Prior to the new house, I used any space I could and usually had to clean up after myself in order to use the space for it’s intended purpose. I now have a space where I can leave things out, all over the desk, and not have to put them away. Having a chance to see the beads and findings, ribbon, tools, ect. offers more potential for creativity than if they are all packed away neatly. This goes against everything in me though. I like to have things put away, in their place, neat and tidy. Except crafts.

We have a lovely back deck that is covered. This is the second space I use and love. In the spring and summer, there are beautiful flowers outside in both our yard and the neighbors yard. It’s a great place to be creative. I often draw, read, write, paint, and make jewelry outside. Natural light is very important to creativity. I asked my friend Karen, who is an awesome creative person, where she preferred to create. “Places with the most natural light possible”, she said.

 

Another wonderful thing about our new house is the garage. I have never had a garage before. My parents home does not have one so this joy is new for me! We don’t use our garage for the cars currently so there is plenty of space to set up projects. I am not a woodworker, but I do love trying new things and tools are no exception. My friend Jason from East Coast Upcyclers recently shared a table saw with me. I am excited to (carefully and with all safety attire) try it out.

A creative space can be anywhere that makes you feel inspired, comfortable, and ready to make something beautiful!

Chandelier Crystal Necklace

When my sister moved into her current home a few years ago, I went over to help her with some renovation jobs before they moved everything in. One of the things I got to do was rip out very ugly carpet and remove staples galore from the wood floors underneath. As we were working on this, she commented on how she hated the old chandelier in the dining room. Thinking back on it now, I should have asked for the entire chandelier, painted it, and sold it again. They are a bit trendy now. Instead I asked only for the crystals from it. They were glass, not plastic as new ones are and they were pretty. All they needed was a bit of cleaning. Each crystal dangle consists of two pieces held together with wire headpins. The larger piece is what was used for this necklace.

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First, the crystals needed to be taken apart and cleaned. I used soap and water to clean them. They had a little bit of rust from the wire and a lot of dust from the years. They clean up pretty easily though. Then I got to work decorating the crystal to add it to a chain. In this case I used a bronze/copper looking chain and wire wrap. I added wire through the existing hole, made a loop for hanging and then tightly wrapped the wire around the crystal from the top towards the middle. There is no specific place to stop wrapping it. When I was happy with where it ended, I formed a small spiral with the wire to finish the wrap. I then added the five dangles of red, orange, and brown Swarovski crystals to a copper jump ring and attached it to the spiral. Finally I added 28″ of chain. The size of the crystal made me think it should be long but it doesn’t have to be. There is a lot of potential for other colors and chain options. I have also used some of these crystals to make suncatcher ornaments for my coworkers. Each had different colored dangles.

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Necklace with 28″ chain.

Finished necklace with colored dangles.

Finished necklace with colored dangles.

Yardstick Tray

Yard sticks. Three feet of give away advertising space. 36 inches of space to let people know where to shop for a new car, a bank loan, or much needed hardware. Before snazzy new ways of measuring, such as the metal measuring tape came along, these sticks of wood were the go-to for figuring out how long something was. Now, they mostly end up in the corners of pantry closets or hanging on a hook in the garage. I thought it would surely be easy to collect enough of these old, unused sticks for free to construct a craft project. Boy was I wrong! Apparently, creating furniture and art out of yardsticks is trendy right now. I had a terrible time finding them and when I came across any for sale in antique stores or flea markets, they were anywhere from $3-$15 a piece. What?!

I was on a roll after my Dad found 5 of them at his house and did NOT charge me for them. My goal was to make a yardstick tray, the full length of 36 inches by whatever height the number of sticks I found would equal. The tray was to be used for our ottoman, which is soft and difficult to put a drink on. Over my spring break, I decided to get started. Below are the materials I used.

  • thin piece of plywood large enough to be the base for all of the yardsticks.
  • Wood glue – I used Elmers
  • yardsticks
  • a saw of some kind – I used a circular saw to cut the plywood and also a hand saw
  • small tack nails, small L shaped brackets, or small screws

First, I laid out the sticks to determine which side I wanted to show. Some of them had the same info on both sides, some did not, and some were damaged on one side. I preferred the sides that had the city and State of the business. I also looked for the sides with the most character. I found that not all yardsticks are the same depth. So when they are laid flat next to each other, some of them stick up higher than others. This is an issue if you want to put a drink on the tray. I ended up having to put the thicker ones at each end.

Gluing the sticks to the plywood.

Sticks in a row.

Once the base of the tray is finished and dry, the edges need to be applied. I chose to use additional yard sticks to trim it out. You could use thin wood or a large picture frame as well. If you want to add hardware, such as handles, you will want to have wooden ends wide enough to attach them. Once the sides are attached, you may want to stain the sides and bottom of the tray if you didn’t do that to begin with.

Underside was stained.

Underside was stained.

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I am still considering putting a large piece of glass on the top to make it more table top like, however, that will also make it very heavy. If you have made one of these, or anything else using yardsticks, I would love to hear about your project and how it turned out for you.

Wine Cork Wreath

Wine corks are so easy to come by. I had my friends and my Aunt save and send me their used corks but you can also ask restaurants to save them for you. I have made keychains, ornaments, and wreaths out corks and I thought I would post the latest wreath I made here. This one was a request from my Mother In Law. She loved it.

 

Wreath base and corks all ready to go.

  

I cut the corks in half length wise with a sharp paring knife.

  

I used all purpose hot glue to attach the corks to the wreath base.

  

Cover the base with corks in an interesting pattern. Be sure to show the best, most interesting corks near the top.

    

Add ribbon and a bow to finish it off. You can screw in an eye hook as a hanger as well.

 

Ugly Oak from ’83

HAPPY NEW YEAR! – Bring on new projects.

The new house looked exactly as it did in 1983 when they built it. Everything is oak, everything. The family who lived here before us, lived here for 20 years and did not upgrade anything. One area that sorely needed upgrading is the bathrooms. I have already completely redone the powder room on the main level because, let’s face it, that is the one that everyone will see and use when they visit. We have two full bathrooms on the second floor however and they have identical vanities with builder grade oak cabinets, white(ish) sinks, and not quite matching counters. They also have oak 5 bulb light fixtures, and oak 3 mirror medicine cabinets. Those may be another post. (FYI – I hope not to offend anyone who likes oak, it’s just that none of mine looks very good and is quite worn and dated).

For this brief post, I just want to document painting the vanity cabinet in the master bathroom. It is a band-aid really as we hope to redesign the space someday. I just couldn’t take the oak anymore. This only took a few hours and then overnight to dry completely.  Here is how it looked before painting.

Before painting. Worn oak.

Before painting. Worn oak.

Here is a better picture of the ugly.

Here is a better picture of the ugly.

It is really simple to paint these cabinets. I chose a dark red color but any color will work. First remove the doors and sand down all the surfaces lightly with 180 grit sanding block or paper. Wipe everything down with a damp cloth after to get the sanding dust off. Then I used a 2″ bristle brush but any brush size will do. You don’t need a wide brush because you want to get into the corners pretty easily.

Contrast between old and new color.

Contrast between old and new color.

I applied two coats to all surfaces and I chose to paint both front and back of each door. I did not paint the inside of the cabinet. Once you have finished and let the paint dry 24 hours, you can attach the doors. Now is a great time to change out any hardware if you like. I chose not to but I did sand the hinges to brighten them without showing all the brass.

Hinges with old grime and tarnish.

Hinges with old grime and tarnish.

Vanity After.

Vanity After.

Hinges after being sanded with the same sanding block.

Hinges after being sanded with the same sanding block.

This is the paint I chose in satin finish. I barely used much of the quart.

This is the paint I chose in satin finish. I barely used much of the quart.

Pallet Wall/Headboard

Upcylcing pallets and pallet wood is HUGE right now. If you Google “pallet wall”, you will find tons of beautiful pictures of walls covered in rustic looking pallet wood. This is where I began. I saw pictures on Pinterest of headboards made from pallet wood that I thought were so cool. Our master bedroom has a huge wall with nothing on it so I thought this would be a fantastic way to have a focal piece behind the bed. Of course, I think I can do anything I see online and the decision was made. This post will walk through MY experience. I know there are a lot of blog posts about doing this same thing, I read them, but I feel each experience is different and can offer helpful hints along the way. The only thing I had to purchase for this project were screws. I had all the other tools and the wood was free!

First, the materials; (for headboard 76″w x 50″ h)

  • pallet wood – I took apart about 6 pallets. I got them FREE from a local retailer. You should always ask before just taking them.
  • measuring tape
  • hammer
  • crow bar
  • reciprocating saw (saws all)
  • circular saw
  • drill
  • painters tape
  • screws – some folks have used a nail gun but I found that nails did not secure to the wall very well
  • palm sander and sanding pads
  • level

The first thing I did was to measure the space I wanted to cover and mark it with blue painters tape. That way I knew how much wood I would need.

Once you have a stack of pallets and your tools, don your safety gear. Safety goggles, gloves and closed shoes. Basically follow any safety rules you would give your kids…especially if they are watching. Remember also that pallets are giant piles of wood. Nasty things like to live in giant piles of wood…like spiders, the nastiest of all and you know they will strike but you don’t know when.  Am I off topic? WEAR GLOVES.

The hardest part of this project was actually taking the pallets apart. I wanted to keep some of the cool nail holes so I didn’t just want to saw through each plank. I worked very hard to pry the boards loose with the hammer and the crow bar. I admit that I did end up sawing through a lot of pieces because I got fed up trying to get them apart. I personally had a hard time with this step and it took me several weekends to get through enough wood to start. I hope you will not have as much trouble on your pallet adventure. As you remove the boards, separate them by size and width. Each row of boards will need to be the same size across but you can vary the width per row.

Pallets are a variety of colors. If they are left outside, they will have a weathered gray look. If they are used inside, they will be lighter in color. Some have paint on them and some even have cool markings from vendors. Choosing a variety will make your wall look more awesome. Here is a photo of my work space (my garage).

Work space and laying out the boards.

Work space and laying out the boards.

I used a palm sander on each board after cutting it to the length I needed. This smooths out any splinters and takes a layer of dirt off the surface. There will be a lot of saw dust from cutting and sanding. As you lay out the boards, remember that there will be imperfections, gaps, and a variety of depth overall. This adds character to your wall. I painted my bedroom beforehand so that any gaps would just reflect the wall color. If you own a planing machine, you could eliminate some of that by planing the boards straight. However, that is boring.

pallets and separated boards

pallets and separated boards

Laying out the headboard to size.

Laying out the headboard to size.

It is a bit of a puzzle to find the boards that go well together and then lay them out so that the seams don’t match up. I had to cut a few longer boards in order to vary up the seams. Once you have enough boards cut, sanded, and fit together then you are ready to start attaching them to the wall.

If you are starting at the ceiling, it will be your guide but if you are not, such as in my headboard, use a level when attaching your first row so you have the top line straight. (Even with a level, mine is not straight. Oh well.) I attached them to the wall myself, one board at a time. I drilled a hole at each end of each board for the screws. Some people have used a nail gun to attach the boards. Attach as many rows as you need to create the look you want. After seeing it in place, I added an extra row at the top.

I think if I were going to do it again, I would have created a frame for the boards to attach to instead of hanging them right on the wall. I cannot move the bed now and my husband laughed at me. However, he thinks the wall is really cool. There is a very small chance I will continue the wood up to the ceiling in the future. Thanks for reading!

Finished Headboard

Refinished Cabinet

My husband’s parents generously gave us some old furniture they no longer needed after their move to the beach. (I wish I could move to the beach.) One piece was an old cabinet. It has one drawer and two doors underneath. It was in need of refinishing and looked pretty worn. (see before photo) I asked first to make sure my Mother-In-Law had no objections. Better to know that ahead of time.

Before

Before

This project evolved many times. At first I planned to just sand it down and refinish it with a dark color. Then I was going to paint the whole thing red. After that I was going to paint the cabinet red but refinish the top to show the wood grain. Each step changed my mind. After sanding the whole cabinet, I could see that the grain was really nice and it would not show if I painted it. I chose a walnut stain color. It was at this point that I decided to put a design on the top. There was a stain that would not come out in the shape of a circle and I thought that would make a great flower center. And so it began.Durring Durring

I ended up using an ebony stain for the shading. With stain, the longer you leave it on, the darker the color will be so you have to judge how long to wait before wiping off the stain. This part takes the longest because you have to keep adding stain until you get the design where you want it. I used small paint brushes for the flowers so that I could control how much stain went in certain areas. Using a clean cloth, I just wiped off the stain in an outward direction from the inner parts of each petal. In order to keep the light original wood color, I had to coat the entire top with clear polyurethane after the design was complete. The whole project took 2 days, over the weekend.

After some new knobs and stain on the rest of the cabinet (after a good sanding), the finished cabinet looked amazing. Fortunately my Mother-In-Law thought so as well.

After Cabinet

After Cabinet

 

After Top

After Top

The poly really brought out the nice wood grain and now the piece is a beautiful addition to our family room.