I found an old metal breadbox for $1.50 at a thrift store a few weeks ago.
It looked so sad, I had to bring it home and fix it up. It had a few dents in it that needed to be pounded out, and it had been painted a nasty pinky-beige color.
Apparently it had been used to store salt, soda and tea at one time, but hopefully not recently, because it smelled like a wet basement.
I washed the breadbox out and let it sit outside in the sun — with the lid open — for a couple weeks to dissipate the smell. Once the box was odor-free, I gave it a couple coats of gloss white enamel paint.
I painted both the outside and the inside.
Vintage bread boxes typically have the word “bread” printed on the front of them, but I wasn’t planning to put sliced baked goods in mine. I wanted to use the box for general storage, so I decided to just paint “etc.” on the front. I printed out the text (Bookman Old Style) on my computer.
Then I scribbled onto the back of the paper with a No. 2 pencil.
I positioned the word where I wanted it on the front of the breadbox and traced around the letters with a pencil.
When I removed the paper, the outline of the letters magically appeared.
I filled in the outlines with some black craft paint.
After erasing a few errant pencil marks, the box was done.
Here’s what the back looks like.
For now, the box is sitting on a table on my back porch.
I put a bag of potting soil and some gardening supplies in it.
I’ll bring the box inside in the winter and probably use it to store craft supplies like glue, markers, glitter, felt, popsicle sticks, etc., etc.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is buying souvenirs.
My husband and I bought this little (6″ x 8″) tile painting when we were on vacation in Mexico in the spring. (I blogged about our trip here, if you’re interested.)
We were walking after dinner one night when we happened upon a small arts and crafts market where there was a man painting these tiles with his fingers. The guy could do a painting start to finish in about 5 minutes. Did I mention he was using just his fingers? It was amazing.
We watched him work for quite a while and eventually bought this piece. The paint was still wet when we carried the tile off.
When we got back home, I wasn’t sure where — or how — I was going to hang our new memento. As you can see, there’s no hanger on the back. And I was a little leery about using adhesive strips. It is a tile, after all. If the adhesive doesn’t hold, the tile would shatter when it hit the ground.
Last week I finally dug through the pile of half-done (and never-started) projects in my basement on the off chance that I had a shadow box or frame there that would be (close to) the right size for the tile. Here’s what I found:
I bought this picture for next to nothing at a garage sale a while ago, intending to paint over it and make it into a sign of some kind. Luckily I never got around to it because, look:
The frame was the exact right width for my tile. Even the color matched.
All I had to do was mark where the tile ended …
… pry off the end of the frame …
… and cut along the line I had marked.
Unfortunately, I don’t always cut straight, so I had to sand off the unevenness.
Then I re-attached the end of the frame …
… and glued the tile inside with some e6000.
The tile fits perfectly inside the frame — and the frame has a hanger on the back.
So I am one step closer to getting some art up on my empty wall.
In between a parade and a picnic and some fun with friends and family over the weekend, I did a quick makeover on World’s Ugliest Stool.
This is what the sad little stool looked like when I bought it at a thrift store a couple weeks ago.
Yes, I actually paid money for it — although, in my defense, it was only $2.
I liked the stool itself. The crazy, stained velourlike upholstery, not so much.
I raided the husband’s toolbox for a screwdriver and a pliers and stripped off the ugliness in about 5 minutes.
I considered leaving the stool unupholstered. But as I was planning to actually sit on it on a somewhat regular basis, I thought a little padding would be nice.
I would have reused the original foam if I could have, but this is what it looked like: lots of random little pieces. The poor stool. Not only was it ugly on the outside, it was ugly on the inside, too.
Fortunately, this stool is going to replace a different one in my kitchen that is falling apart and is destined to be thrown out. So I unupholstered the old one and cannibalized the foam from it.
Then I found a scrap of drop cloth left over from some pillows I made. (I blogged about them here if you’re interested.)
I wanted to paint green stripes on the fabric — to match the green pieces of wood under the seat — but I didn’t have the right shade in my paint box, so I attempted a custom mix with what I had on hand: a 10-year-old tester pot of Glidden Willow Leaf, a bottle of Christmassy green craft paint, another bottle of white and a bit of leftover textile medium (to keep the paint from cracking).
I’m not sure if I needed the textile medium (as I don’t plan to put the fabric in the washing machine), but I already had it, so I figured I might as well use it. (Better safe than sorry.)
After mixing the paint, I taped off the center stripe and painted it.
Once the center stripe was dry, I taped off a narrower stripe on each side of it. No measuring done here; the stripes were just eyeballed. (I sure wish the eyeballing method worked better for sewing and woodworking.)
When I was done painting the narrow stripes…
… I pulled up the tape.
The greens were not a perfect match, but close enough.
After ironing the fabric to heat set the paint and textile medium, I centered the fabric on the foam and centered the foam on the seat.
Then I flipped the stool over and started stapling the fabric and foam to the underside of the seat.
I trimmed off the excess foam and fabric as I stapled. Drop cloth fabric frays like crazy, so I had to be really careful when trimming it.
Luckily I had some Fray Check on hand. I squeezed the Fray Check onto the raw edges as I trimmed the fabric to prevent it from unraveling any more.
Hopefully it holds up.
Here’s a gratuitous shot of Calvin, who was sitting in the driveway about three feet behind me the entire time I was working on this project. He’s a senior citizen these days, so he doesn’t do any hunting or prowling anymore; he just sits and watches me work.
Here’s the finished stool.
It was a pretty simple project that took me less than an hour from start to finish, but it’s a big improvement over what it looked like before.
In my last post (which you can find here), I wrote about my love of galvanized metal and my success with aging some of my bright, shiny new pieces using vinegar.
Today, I’m going to write about the failures.
Here’s what I started with on the day of the de-shining: eight new containers (all picked up at thrift stores and garage sales) that I wanted to dull the finish on to give them a vintage, timeworn look.
I misted the pieces with vinegar and tried to continue turning and remisting them (for even coverage) for about 15 minutes. Then I rinsed them in water. I was working outside because, well, if you’ve ever smelled vinegar, you know why.
Most of the pieces (five of the eight), turned out perfectly. The shine was gone, leaving a beautiful flat finish.
But a few of the containers, including the two pictured above, were virtually unchanged after their vinegar bath. So I decided to move onto the hard stuff with them.
Toilet boil cleaner: It’s not just for toilet bowls anymore. It’s also good for de-shining your galvanized metal. Or so I’ve heard.
According to the label, The Works is a mixture of 9.5 percent Hydrogen Chloride and 90.5 percent other ingredients.
I’m no chemist, but I’m guessing it’s the Hydrogen Chloride that knocks the shine off of metal. Unless the “other ingredients” are Atrazine, Napalm and/or Hexavalent Chromium. Either way, I figured toilet bowl cleaner had to be more powerful than vinegar.
I spread the cleaner onto the still-shiny containers. And then — and this might be where I went wrong — I went inside to start supper. The plan was to come back outside to turn and recoat the containers in a couple minutes.
But I may have gotten distracted and left a few too many minutes tick by before I got back outside. The good news is when I checked on the pieces again, the shiny coating was gone. The bad news is that the containers also had weird shiny stripes and rust spots on them.
At this point, I wasn’t sure if the shiny stripes were caused by that area being “underbaked” (so the shiny coating was still there) or “overbaked” (so not only the shiny coating but also the flat layer beneath it had been stripped off). Hoping it was the former, I spread more cleaner on the stripes.
Turns out, that was a mistake. Almost immediately, I could see the weird stripes spreading and more rust spots developing. I rinsed the cleaner off as quickly as I could, but the damage was done.
I blame my family. If I didn’t have to feed them every day, I would have more time to focus on the important things in life like spreading toilet bowl cleaner onto metal containers, and this whole fiasco could have been avoided. Sigh…
Onto Plan B.
“When life gives you lemons, paint over them,” I always say. So I sanded off as much of the rust as I could and raided my basement for supplies to whip up a quick batch of chalk paint.
But first I finished making supper.
I mixed a couple tablespoons of Plaster of Paris with a couple tablespoons of water in an empty cottage cheese container from the recycling bin. (And just to clarify, I’m making chalk paint here, not Tuna Noodle Surprise. I don’t take pictures of myself cooking because that would be weird.)
I added about a half a cup of “other ingredients” (i.e. leftover white latex paint) to the Plaster of Paris/water mixture.
Then I painted the containers, inside and out.
The chalk paint took a few coats to cover, but it dried quickly, so I just kept moving from one container to another until everything was covered.
When all was said and done, here’s what I had: five (there’s a small bucket inside the beverage tub that you can’t see) beautifully de-shined containers and three that were painted white.
The white pieces looked a little blah to me, so I pulled out some old stencils…
… and taped a couple of them onto the containers with painters tape. (I didn’t have any stencils small enough for the little rectangular box, so that one didn’t get any embellishments.)
I used regular acrylic craft paint for the stencils.
In case you were wondering about the significance of the 0 and the 3, there is none.
I just liked how the numbers looked.
To protect the paint, I sprayed a couple coats of matte polyurathane onto the containers.
When I was finally done with the de-shining/painting/stenciling/polyurathaning process, I carried my supplies into the house and set them all on the kitchen counter. Then I called it a day and went up to bed.
My husband evidently cleaned up after me because when I opened the fridge the next morning to get the milk out, here’s what I saw:
I have a soft spot for galvanized metal. I think because it reminds me of my childhood on the family farm.
We always had stacks of 10-quart galvanized pails that we kept in the vestibule connecting our milkhouse and our barn that were used mostly when feeding our calves. Our cows drank out of a galvanized tank when they were outside. Our chickens ate out of galvanized feeders.
As galvanized metal became popular in home decor over the last few years, I started buying pieces to use around my house.
This frame is one of my favorite galvanized pieces, just because it’s a little unusual.
I also have a lot of galvanized containers that I use to hold plants and gardening tools.
Virtually all of the galvanized pieces I own were bought secondhand for a couple dollars or less.
Some, like my watering can, are vintage.
But most of the pieces I’ve picked up are relatively new.
Sometimes the new pieces are a little too bright and shiny for my liking, so I was thrilled to learn that other bloggers had discovered a remedy for that: vinegar.
Following in my blogging brethrens’/sisters’ footsteps, I decided to give the vinegar trick a try on some of my too-shiny pieces. I put vinegar in a spray bottle and misted it onto the metal. Then I tried to keep re-misting and rotating the pieces around for even coverage over the course of about 15 minutes.
When I was done, I rinsed everything with water. The process was a little stinky, but I have to say, it worked, as you can see by the before and after shots of my once-shiny new beverage tub.
It also knocked the shine off the top of this small bucket — and cleaned up the white limescale buildup on the bottom of it.
Here’s another “before” shot of a vase.
And here’s the much-improved “after” (with some of my pretty pink peonies in it).
Unfortunately, not all of my results were perfect. But that, too, is another story. And I’ll save that one for a separate post.
Today’s post is all about carpentry, a subject that I know absolutely nothing about.
But I’m all about learning new things. And after my brief foray into the World of Wood, I think I can safely say I would make a really great carpenter if wasn’t for all that measuring stuff. (I’ve always been a firm believer in the eyeball-and-estimate method.) Plus, I’m a little weak in the “sawing” and “hammering” departments. But other than that, I’ve got potential.
My Adventures in Woodworking began with this pieced piece that I had put together back in 2008 (my “earth-tones period”) with a thrift store frame, some old lath and 16 ounces of wood glue.
It hung in a couple different spots in my house, but as I gradually shifted to a more neutral color pallet, the pieced piece started to seem a little loud and crazy. A couple years ago, it got carried down to the basement where it languished in Project Pergatory: the dark corner where I store all the projects in need of doing or redoing.
Then one day, as I was contemplating whether to hang a plant or a wreath on the empty space next to my front door (above the green chair), inspiration struck: Why not cut a monogram out of my pieced piece for that spot?
Before the inspiration wore off, I went online to Font Squirrel to look for a big chunky font with an angle-y C that was within my budget (i.e. “free”). Sports World (available here) was the winner.
Once I had my font downloaded, I typed a C in Photoshop (and warped it out of shape a bit to make it slightly taller and thinner). Then I printed the monogram out on standard letter-size paper, placed it behind a transparency and traced around the edges with a black Sharpie.
Next, I took the transparency down to my basement, where I keep my old-school overhead projector.
And by “old-school,” I mean it literally belonged to an old school, which apparently has moved on to newer technology and donated all of its overhead projectors to a thrift store, where I bought this one for $5.
I put my transparency on the projector, propped my pieced piece against the wall and taped a sheet of white posterboard on top of it. Then I turned out the lights and…
… the magic happened. (I love old-school technology.) I traced the C onto the posterboard…
…and cut it out to use it as a pattern.
I traced around the C in chalk and removed the pattern.
Then I broke out the jig saw and started cutting off the excess wood.
I sawed off the edges first and then attacked the center.
At this point, I decided to measure the width of the wall next to my front door to make sure my C would fit there.
Turns out the C was about 2 inches too wide. Grrr. (Note to self: Next time, measure FIRST.)
I had to figure out how to make my porch 2 inches wider or my C 2 inches narrower. After weighing all the options, I decided to saw off an inch from both sides of the C. And then, because it looked kind of lopsided, I whacked an inch off the top and bottom, too.
I could have/should have called the project done at this point. But I didn’t. I wanted to put a frame around the C, so I checked in with the engineering department (aka: my husband) to find out how to go about doing that.
He suggested attaching 1×2’s to the back of the C first, so I’d have something to nail the frame into. Easy enough. I laid the C face down on an old towel to protect it while I hammered the 1×2’s into the back.
For the frame, I needed boards that were narrow (about 1/4 inch) so they didn’t add much width to the C. I was originally hoping to use lath, but those boards would not be tall enough. Meanwhile, 1×2′ s were the right height but too wide.
I did not see any boards in the husband’s stash that looked to be the correct dimensions, so I asked him if such a board existed in nature and/or the Fleet Farm lumber yard.
Short answer: Boards do not come in the dimensions I needed.
Long answer: If one is not afraid to operate a table saw, one could easily rip 1×2’s down (run them through the table saw lengthwise) to make them the right dimensions. If one suffers from tablesawaphobia, it helps to have a really, really, really nice husband who will do it for you. (Thanks, honey.)
With the boards for the frame ripped down to size, I began the slow, painstaking process of nailing them to the 1x2s on the back.
I cut and attached the long, straight pieces first, then went back and filled in the shorter, angled pieces. I cut the pieces with my jig saw, which was relatively easy. But nailing the pieces together was not.
All of the crazy angles made it really hard to get leverage when swinging the hammer to drive the nails in, especially for someone with my level of carpentry skills. Suffice it to say, many mistakes were made, many nails were bent and many curse words were uttered during this step.
I also started to question my judgement in choosing to marry a man whose last named started with a C at this point. If I was making a simple T or I or E, I could have been done with the frame in half the time. I believe the man causing all of my frustrations sensed my inner turmoil (or maybe he just heard my cursing) because he came to my rescue more than once when I had stubborn nails that refused to go in or bent nails that refused to come out.
Despite all the frustrations and bent nails, and with much help from my husband, I eventually got all of the frame pieces attached.
The workmanship is far from perfect, but I am very happy with the finished product.
To all of you who own stock in the Rust-Oleum company: You’re welcome. I’m pretty sure your profits are going to be waaaay up this quarter, courtesy of the deluge of painting projects I’ve undertaken. My most recent one: metal patio chairs.
I had four of these chairs that were part of a patio set we bought about 15 years ago. The table was taken out of commission a couple summers ago when strong winds blew the umbrella down, shattering the glass tabletop in the process. Unfortunately, when I pulled the chairs out of storage (under our porch) this spring, I saw the elements had taken a toll on them, too.
The rust on one of the chairs in particular was so bad, it was beyond repair. The other three chairs seemed salvageable, though.
The paint was flaking off where the rust was the worst.
I chipped off the flakes and sanded down the bad spots.
I had some rusty metal primer left over from another project a couple years ago.
The primer was still good, so I mixed it up and painted it on the chairs.
The primer alone was a huge improvement.
After the primer dried, I spray painted the chairs black. The finish is a bit rough on some of the spots that were really chippy, but it’s a great improvement over the rust.
Next, I tackled the cushions, which had acquired a weird pink cast over the years. It almost looked like they were rusting, too. I scrubbed them down with hot, soapy water, sprayed them with a bleach cleaner, and used a few Mr. Clean Magic Erasers on them…
…to no avail. The pink was not letting go…
… so I decided to just paint over it. I’m not sure what the cushions are made of, but they clearly have some kind of waterproof coating that feels more like plastic than any natural fiber. I used a Rust-Oleum paint (Leafy Green, satin finish) that said it would bond to plastic, and it worked like a charm.
After two coats of paint, the shadows of the old stripes are still visible underneath, but it’s a subtle two-tone green that looks nice, so I think I’m going to stop here instead of doing a third coat and trying to completely obliterate the stripes.
Each chair used two cans of black spray paint, and each cushion used two cans of leaf green. The paint cost about $3 per can. So (if I’m doing the math right, which is never a sure thing), each chair cost $12 (not counting the cost of the primer which I already had) to make over. That seems like a good deal for three “new” chairs.
My mailbox has been in a sorry state for quite a while.
Paint was chipping off of both the metal mailbox and the wood post that it sits on.
I finally did something about it this weekend, and I didn’t have to spend a penny. I had all of the necessary supplies (half a can of black satin spray paint; a smidge of leftover white primer and paint from the last time we painted the trim on our deck; and a partial roll of low-tack painter’s tape) in the basement.
After scraping off all the loose paint with a putty knife and giving the pieces a quick wash, I taped off the red flag and silver metal hardware. Then I sprayed the box with a thin coat of black paint.
I didn’t tape off the white post because I was going to paint that as soon as the black dried (and that only took a couple minutes).
The satin finish on the mailbox ended up buttery smooth. Next, I coated the post with some white primer (the old-fashioned way: with a brush) and when that dried, I covered the primer with paint (also the old-fashioned way).
If you’re wondering why the post has holes in it, it’s because it used to be part of my son’s backyard swingset/jungle gym. When he got too old for it and the set started showing its age, my husband disassembled it and reused some of the pieces. I kind of like the holes; they add a little character to the mailbox.
I wanted to paint our house number on the side of the box, so I went inside to create a template in Photoshop. I decided to use Century Gothic and upped the point size until the numbers were 7 inches tall. Width-wise, they just fit on a legal-size sheet of paper.
I rubbed a piece of white chalk across the back of the paper, then positioned the numbers where I wanted them on the mailbox and taped them down.
To get the chalk to transfer onto the mailbox, I outlined the numbers with a sharp pencil.
When I peeled off the tape and paper, the numbers were faint but readable on the side of the box.
Unfortunately, some of the paint peeled off along with the tape. (Grrr.) I decided to fill in the numbers with white paint first and worry about touching up the black later.
It took a couple coats of white for the numbers to cover the black box.
I touched up the spots where the tape had removed the black paint by squirting a dab of the spray paint into an empty plastic container, then painting it on with a detail brush. After I wiped off the rest of the chalk dust, the mailbox was ready for action.
Here’s the flag side:
And here’s the number side:
There are a couple of tiny tulips just poking up through the ground right now. When it warms up a little more, I’ll plant some other flowers and a vine of some kind there, too, with hopes that the vine will climb up the post.
I found this toolbox at Goodwill a couple weeks ago and thought it would be the perfect container to corral my scattered collection of craft paints.
It was made of pine, nothing fancy, definitely not antique. But it did have one special embellishment, courtesy of the previous owner: a small verse hand carved into one end.
Yes, it says what you think it says. It’s a little hard to read in the above photo because of a strategically placed knot in the wood, but here’s a close-up:
Now, I don’t like to be judgey, but I think the previous owner had some taste issues. Or maybe some anger issues. On the plus side, it appears he was a good speller.
Nevertheless, I opted to sand down his prose and paint over any remaining vestiges of it with a coat of white primer. Then I decided to add an engraving of my own.
For those of you who did not take 4th Grade Social Studies in the Wisconsin public school system, 1848 was the year Wisconsin joined the union.
I printed out the year and taped it to the side of the box. Then I traced the outlines with a sharp pencil.
When I peeled off the paper, I saw the engraving was not as deep as I’d hoped. So I grabbed this tool and started re-tracing the lines:
I don’t know what the name of the tool is. I picked it up at a garage sale a long time ago and have used it for a lot of odd jobs over the years. It’s got a ballpoint on each end, and it really dug into the wood.
At this point, I decided to take a break.
Or, rather, Calvin decided I should take a break. I sometimes think he enjoys my projects more than I do. Every time he jumps up on my work table, I give him the stink eye and say “Calvin” in the same tone of voice Jerry used to use on “Seinfeld” when he greeted his neighbor/nemesis Newman.
Unfortunately Calvin does not seem to understand that that means he’s not wanted. Or maybe he does and he’s an evil genius pretending that he doesn’t know, just so he can make my life difficult. Either way, I end up having to halt production while he walks all over whatever I happen to working on, scratching his face against any hard surfaces, sitting on things and performing other acts of cat villainy.
Eventually he left, and I was able to finish tracing.
Then I gave the box a coat of paint.
I used grey because I wanted it to be a neutral color and have a vintage vibe.
The next day, I had a serious case of painter’s remorse. The grey looked so sad, and the numbers seemed wimpy.
So I painted over the grey with black, filled in the numbers with white and then distressed the whole toolbox, to make it look like it’s been sitting around for 167 years.
I’ve always wanted a vintage typesetter’s tray. The trouble is, the ones I’ve seen for sale have been on the large side, and the walls in my house don’t have any large-sized spots left to fill.
So until I can persuade my husband to buy a bigger house or to build another wall in our current one, I am making do with a small (12″ x 17″) shadow box.
It’s not the vintage typesetter’s tray of my dreams, but it serves the purpose. And I kinda like it. I brought it home from a thrift store a couple years ago. Here’s what it looked like then:
I think I paid 50 cents for it. Which was probably 49 cents more than it was worth.
I wanted to display some of my old type blocks, which are all very dark, in the box, and I knew they would show up better against a light background, so I broke out the white paint.
The faux brass hardware on the corners I painted black and then layered a little silver Rub ‘n’ Buff over, in an attempt to make them look old and worn.
Then, because I can never leave well enough alone, I distressed the wood and backed a few of the squares with some whitewashed newspaper.
I put a few blocks of vintage type, an old camera lens and a miniature wooden shoe, among other treasures, inside my new box. The type blocks are from antique stores; the wooden shoe and the camera lens were thrift store finds.
The lens came in a leather case which is absolutely fabulous.
I wish it would have fit in one of the cubbies, but it was a little too big.
An old wooden-wheeled caster with a beautiful worn patina — one of a whole box full of mismatched casters and wheels that I found at a thrift store one day — is perched in the top corner. Below the caster are a couple of square nails that I appropriated from my dad’s toolbox when I was a kid. (And by “toolbox” I mean “various coffee cans, peanut butter tubs and old pails” that he used for storage.)
A beat-up silver trophy holds a collection of blocks. The trophy is plastic and came from a thrift store for a few cents. The blocks — which spell out H-E-A-R-T-S — are a family heirloom of sorts. The really old ones were part of a vintage game. When my mom was young, she added to the set by making a few extras herself. The old Z children’s block is another cheap thrift store find.
In the bottom section of the box, I have a couple of black dice, some numbers, a few old slides and a vintage bike license plate. The license plate came from eBay. Everything else is from thrift stores.
The 2015 is part of a set of letters and numbers that obviously went with a sign blank at one time. The letters were originally white, but I painted these black to contrast with the white shadowbox.
The rest of the letters are stored in a glass bottle.
I am fascinated by the old Kodachrome slides. This is one of my favorites: It features two guys in khaki clothes and (what might be) pith helmets sitting next to a camp fire. I imagine they were on safari in Africa when the photo was taken. Or maybe they were just sitting in their backyard roasting marshmallows.
In the bottom of the shadowbox, I have a C that was lime green plastic when I bought it. I spray painted it black, then covered it with some Spanish copper Rub ‘n’ Buff. It looks like it’s some kind of aged metal now (until you pick it up and realize it’s light as a feather).