Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tiling a Tray With Popsicle Sticks

I bought this tray from a secondhand store a while back. (But it didn't look like this then.) 
The "before" picture of the tray is below.
 I loved the size of the tray...
 ... and the dovetail joints... 
... and the black metal handles. What I didn't like was the Christmas scene. I wanted to use the tray year round, and the Christmas trees and holly looked a little odd when I was carrying it outside to the patio table or the grill in the middle of summer.
 I decided to cover the offending seasonal scene with some wooden tiles made out of popsicle sticks. I already owned the sticks, and some of them had already been stained (for a previously abandoned project). 
I measured and marked the sticks to cut them into small pieces for the tiles. Initially I tried cutting the sticks with craft knife. Then I switched to a guillotine paper cutter. Then I used a garden pruner. All were problematic.
Finally, I tried a sharp scissors. Sure wish I would have started with the scissors. I could have saved myself a lot of time and aggravation if I had.
When I had all the pieces cut, I painted the bottom of the tray black, just in case there were gaps between any of the pieces.
Then I stated dry fitting the pieces together.
I used a simple two horizontal, one vertical pattern...
... and mixed the light and dark pieces randomly.
It was kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
I was hoping the rows would fill out the tray evenly...
popsicle stick tray
.. and they did (with a few minor trims on the last row).
popsicle stick tray
When I was all done placing the pieces, I had to go back and glue them down, one at a time.
wood tiled tray
Evidently my cuts were not all precision accurate because there were lots of gaps between pieces.
wood tiled tray
The gaps made the perfectionist in me a little twitchy, so I had to break out the wood filler.
wood tiled tray
I smooshed the filler into the cracks with my fingers...
wood tiled tray
...and wiped off the excess with a damp paper towel. (Ah, so much better.)
popsicle stick tray
Then I put a coat of wax over the top of the pieces...
popsicle stick tray
...and the tray was done.
Here's the before one more time.
popsicle stick tray

Thursday, June 25, 2015

De-shining galvanized metal

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.
aging galvanized metal
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. 
aging galvanized metal
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:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Galvanized Bucket List

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. 
We even had an old galvanized wash tub that we'd get down out of the attic whenever we hosted a party. As a kid, I used to wonder why it was called a wash tub when all it was ever used for was to hold a barrel of beer and ice.
 Then my mom explained to me what the wash tub used to be used for... That's my oldest brother in the photo, taking a bath in what appears to be our living room, before our house had a bathtub. Or a bathroom.
When my then-18-year-old (not-yet) mom married my (future) dad in 1955, she moved from her parents' farmhouse, which had all the modern conveniences (i.e. an indoor toilet) to my dad's four-bedroom, zero-bathroom bachelor pad with an outhouse in the backyard. Obviously, the woman was in love.... But that's another story.

Back to the subject at hand.
When galvanized metal became popular in home decor, I happily started buying pieces and using them indoors and out.
 Mostly my galvanized containers are used to hold plants and gardening tools, and, following family tradition, the occasional barrel of beer.
Virtually all of the galvanized pieces I own were bought secondhand for a couple dollars or less.
galvanized metal containers
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.
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