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Note: This is a sequel to one of my previous articles.
You can give your old worn-out junk a new lease on life and have fun doing it.
It just takes a little imagination and being mindful what the personal and societal costs are for throwing so much stuff away.
You’re saving money and, in the process, saving the earth by rescuing stuff that would only end up in a landfill.
Upcycle the following materials into beautiful and utilitarian projects:
1. Old Tires
There are so many cars on our highways.
Worldwide, one tire is discarded per person, per year.
That’s way too many tires.
If we all do our part to try to upcycle them, we could reduce this senseless waste.
Turn a tire that’s seen better days it into a festive Christmas wreath. If you don’t have any tractor-trailer tires lying around in your backyard, you might be able to find some in a junkyard.
This would be perfect to add a bit of holiday cheer to a mailbox at the end of a driveway. For more ways to save on Christmas, check out this article.
- Tractor trailer tire
- Green paint
- Artificial Christmas greenery
- Dollar store bow
- Shatterproof Christmas ornaments
- Find a large tractor trailer tire.
- Hose it down.
- Punch a bunch of holes in the bottom of the tire with a drill. This lets water drain out.
- Paint the tire a green color.
- Add artificial greenery and a big bow from the dollar store. Put the greenery outside the inner edge of the tire.
- Add some shatterproof ornaments. Attach it to a stand and you’re good to go!
This decorative planter will make your neighbors jealous! It’s just the thing to liven up a boring front yard.
Flowerpot (make sure that it’s not too wide to fit inside the tire opening)
- Wash a tire with soap and water. Rinse it off. Let it dry.
- Use wood glue to fasten a round piece of wood to the tire. Make sure the wood is the same size as the tire.
- Let the glue dry.
- Use a glue gun to fasten sisal rope around the outside of the tire.
- Drill four holes through the round piece of wood. Attach furniture legs to each of these holes. This will be the bottom of the planter.
- Add a few drainage holes.
- Place a flowerpot in the opening. Then, plant some flowers.
Need a way to spruce up that backyard shed? Then, make a wall planter for it. The rubber is a naturally insulating material, so it’ll keep your plants warm on chilly nights. For the best effect, choose a plant that’ll really fill up the opening once it’s mature.
- Automobile tire
- Drill holes in the bottom of your soon-to-be wall planter so water doesn’t accumulate.
- Paint your tire any color you choose.
- Hang it on a wall of an outdoor structure.
- Put some decorative plants in the bottom of the tire.
Tire Play Dome
Inspired by visionary Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, this is a unique piece of playground equipment that every kid will love.
- Automobile tires
- Nuts and bolts
- Bolt tires together to form a dome.
- Bury the bottommost tires in the ground to anchor your structure.
- Paint each tire a different color. Let the paint dry. Now, it’s ready for your kids to play on!
This is a fun and eco-friendly way to brighten up your patio. Use this idea for end tables or bar stools inside your home.
- Two automobile tires
- Round glass top
- Paint two tires the color of your choice.
- Stack them on each other.
- Place a glass top slightly larger than the tires on top of the tires.
- In bad weather, bring the glass top indoors so it doesn’t break.
2. Retro Rotary Phones
Today, when mobile phones and their never-ending notifications demanding our attention rule our lives, retro phones can fill us up with a nostalgic longing for the past.
Take that old retro phone sitting in your garage or attic and transform it into something both aesthetically pleasing and useful.
Take that old corded phone your mother used to use and turn it into a pair of delightfully retro bookends. These organizers will add a touch of whimsy to any bookcase.
- Two rotary phone receivers
- Two pieces of square scrap metal
- Spray paint
- Cut the cords from the receiver.
- Use some scrap metal for the bases and paint them.
- Glue felt on the bottom of the bases.
- Screw the phones to the bases in an upright position.
Make this retro lamp out of an old rotary phone, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a time before mobile phones existed.
- Old rotary phone
- Wire cutters
- Curved metal rod
- Two pieces of electrical wire (one long and one short)
- Pivot joint
- Two candelabra light sockets
- Take the top of the telephone off its base. Cut out the wires.
- Unscrew the phone caps. Drill a small hole to start. Then, make a bigger hole. This is where the light socket will go. Make sure that the light fixture fits snugly in the hole.
- Wrap the cord around a curved metal rod that’s hollow inside.
- Strips the ends of the longer wire and stick it through the hollow rod.
- Add a pivot joint to the rod so you can adjust the tilt on your lamp.
- Attach the rod with the pivot joint to the phone receiver.
- Put the light sockets into the receiver holes.
- Connect the electrical wire that runs through the rod to the light socket in the bottom receiver. Connect the smaller one to the same fixture.
- Thread this smaller wire through the middle of the phone receiver and connect it to the second light socket.
- Put bulbs in the sockets and place the phone caps back on the receivers.
- Attach the lamp neck to the base with a hex nut. Use twist on wire connectors to attach a lamp switch to the electrical wire at the base of the lamp. Then close up the bottom of your project.
There, you’re now the proud owner of a beautiful retro lamp that’s as unique as it is functional.
No dialing this rotary phone, because you’ve got a succulent plant growing where right where you would perform this action. But even if you can’t use it for its intended function, the plant has a funky new home.
- Rotary phone
- Spray paint
- Using a screwdriver, remove the base of the phone.
- Pry the inner dial from the phone’s center so that you create a hole for your succulent.
- Paint the telephone and let dry.
- Once it dries, reattach the phone to its base. Don’t screw the bottom to the phone. This makes it easy to take care of your succulent.
- Put your succulent in the center hole.
3. Old Dishes
Old dishes of every imaginable variety are everywhere. It would be a shame to see them unceremoniously thrown away in a dump. But with the following ideas, you don’t have to! For these projects, porcelain dishes are best.
Instead of buying a treat stand at a high-end home goods shop, make it yourself. This treat stand is so inexpensive to make. But if you use the right dishes, it will look impressively fancy.
- Three plates
- Two candlesticks
- Gorilla glue
- Get three plates and two candlesticks. The plates can be different patterns, sizes, and colors.
- Glue a candlestick to the top of one plate with Gorilla Glue.
- Take another plate, and glue it to the top of the candlestick that’s on top of the first plate. Attach the other candlestick to the top of the second plate.
- Glue the third plate to the second candlestick.
- Let the stand dry before adding treats.
Put your favorite treats on the stand and set them out for your next party!
Broken China Keychains
Ever break a dish or bowl you love? It happens to me all the time. I never want to get rid of the broken pieces. I don’t know why. It’s not like I’m into making mosaics.
I dream of one day finding a dealer who’ll eagerly take the million glittering shards off my hands. But alas, I never do. I should use them in upcycled projects.
If you have broken plates or bowls and don’t know what to do with the pieces, you could upcycle them into keychains.
- Rotary tool
- Protective eyewear
- Broken china pieces
- Put on your protective eyewear. Grind down the sharpest edges of a china piece with your rotary tool. Then, smooth down the sides of the shard.
- Use an abrasive finishing buff attachment to smooth the edges even more. Wetting the sides of the pieces helps.
- Grind a hole through the shard with a carbide grinding attachment. Dip it in water every few seconds as you make your way through the hole. The water cools off the tile and helps the rotary tool to cut through.
- When you have a perfectly round hole, put metal keychain rings through each piece.
- Now, your keychains are ready for your keys.
These flowers made from old dishes will look great in your garden. Use plates to make porcelain versions of dandelions, sunflowers, or even better, a flower that only exists in your imagination.
- Dinner plate
- Translucent serving dish (make sure it’s smaller than the dinner plate)
- Drawer pulls from old dressers
- Paint the dinner plate any way you’d like.
- Drill a hole into the center. Make a guide hole first. To do this, drill a hole smaller than your actual one. And, then make the real hole with the drill bit that’s the next size up. A little water poured onto the plate makes the drilling go more smoothly. Make sure the hole will accommodate your drawer pull.
- Use pipe for the stakes. Drill a hole on both sides of your tube where your plate will go. Gently bend the pipe upwards so your plate will face the same direction.
- Attach the plates to the stake using a drawer pull and some washers. The smaller serving plate goes in the center so that it looks like a flower.
Decorative Mandala Plates
A mandala is a circular pattern with radial symmetry and a spiritual symbol used in Buddhism representing the impermanence of things. Their mesmerizing beauty inspires spiritual seekers everywhere.
Choose whatever colors and patterns you’d like for your art.
- Old plates
- Acrylic color
- Black spray paint
- Dotting tool
- 3D cone outliner
- Neon liner
- Get rid of any vestigial dust particles by using a soft cloth.
- Apply two to three coats of the black spray paint to the plate.
- Draw a dot on the plate’s center with a ruler and a pencil. Divide the plate into symmetrical segments by drawing diagonal lines through the center.
- Take the compass and stick the arm with the pointed end in the center. Draw a circle around the center. Keep adding rings that keep increasing in size.
- Decide on a design motif. Then, draw it between the lines of your concentric circles so that it fills up the spaces between lines. You can add petals, circles, dots, or whatever strikes your fancy.
- Dot the design elements with the cone outline tool. This will also give your design a 3D effect.
- Fill up the blank spaces. For small dots, use your 3D outliner cone. For bigger dots, use acrylic paint and a dotting tool.
- Varnish it. Mount the plates on a wall or display them on a table with a stand.
Sure, hangers are great little doohickies to hold your dry-cleaning, but if you have an overabundance of them and want to use them for something else, try these projects that use both wire and wooden hangers.
Wire hangers area particularly cheap and easy find.
Put a hanger on a knob on a bathroom cabinet, and you have an instant magazine and newspaper holder. Both wooden and wire ones will work, but the wooden ones look better.
Hang it wherever the reading material will be in arm’s reach.
If you have a selection of designer eyewear, repurpose a wooden hanger to hold them all. To do this, simply attach it to a wall and hang your eyeglasses off it.
Now, you’ll always know where your glasses are at all times.
Mount wooden hangers upside down on a bathroom wall. Hang bigger towels off the hook and smaller ones off the hanger rod.
Snip a wire hanger and form it into a shape to hold plates. This would be the perfect way to display the decorative mandala plates I told you about earlier.
Place two magnets on your fridge. Take a section of a snipped wire hanger and twist the two ends into shapes like spirals or stars.
Place the wire against the magnets and use it to display greeting cards.
5. Tin Cans
If you’ve got a ready supply of tin cans hanging around, you can use them to make all kinds of products. So, stop feeding them to your billy goat and get some projects made.
Fourth of July Windsocks
Spray paint red, white, and blue designs on a tin can. Attach red and white streamers made from an old plastic tablecloth with duct tape to the inside of your windsock body.
Painted Halloween Pumpkin Tins
Take an old coffee tin and paint a pumpkin face on it.
Glue colored pencils to the outside of a tin can. This’ll look great on your kid’s study desk.
Tin Can Lamp
Punch a pretty pattern of holes in a can. Spray paint the tin can a color you like and stick a battery-operated candle inside.
Paint an old tin can white, add some pretty trim, and decorative trinkets. Then, add some flowers.
6. Wine Corks
If you’ve been saving corks from all that wine you’ve been drinking, use them in the following projects. Corks add a rustic look to any project.
Wine Cork Birdhouse
- Wine corks (around 150 should do)
- Gorilla glue
- Glue the corks together end to end to form four walls.
- Build a floor.
- Glue the walls and floor together.
- Build a roof.
- Glue the roof to the top.
This is a cheap way to display your favorite photographs.
- Wine corks
- Bendable craft wire
- Mini clothes pins
- Exacto knife
- Wallet size photos
- Fabric dye (only if you’re going to color your corks)
- If you’re coloring your corks, follow package directions. The corks will take about five days to soak up all the color.
- Thread a wire through a clothespin. Pinch the wire ends tightly together so the clothespin can’t move.
- Keep twisting in a spiral until it’s as long as you want it to be. Twist one wire around the other.
- Use the Exacto knife to make a small puncture in the cork for the wire.
- Carefully stick it into the cork.
- Repeat this for another wire/clothespin combo. You’re going to have two wires sticking out of the cork so you can display two photos at the same time.
- Add photographs.
Place Card Holders
Turn saved wine corks into wine or cheese labels for a wine and cheese tasting. You can also use cork card holders to label food at a buffet. Or, as place settings for a wedding or party.
- Wine Corks
- Sharp knife
- Using a sharp knife, place one end of the cork on a flat surface.
- Hold the other end of the cork with your thumb and forefinger to keep it steady.
- Trim off a small piece of the cork lengthwise so the cork will lay flat on a table. Make sure that if there’s writing on the cork, you cut the cork so that people will be able to read the writing.
- Carefully cut a slit in the cork lengthwise. Make sure that the cut is wide enough to hold a place card.
Wine Cork Candle Holder
This is a stylish way to burn all your favorite candles.
- One large glass cylinder
- One small glass cylinder (make sure you can fit this into the larger container)
- Wine corks
- Place the small glass cylinder into the larger one.
- Put the wine corks around the small cylinder.
- Put a candle in the small cylinder.
- Place corks between the outside of the small cylinder and the inside of the large one.
- Add a candle to the small cylinder.
Wine Cork Vases
Besides the corks, this project calls for some old vases lying around your house.
- Rectangular or cube-shaped glass vases
- 40-70 wine corks of similar length
- Heavy duty craft glue
- Turn the vase on its side.
- Lay the corks on the side until you’ve got a configuration that’s going to work. You may have to use a knife to trim some corks.
- Glue the corks to the side of the vase.
- Let the corks dry before moving on to the next part of your project.
- Repeat until your entire project has been covered with corks.
- Finish by gluing corks vertically down the side.
Tying It All Together
You’re smart if you upcycle.
Don’t just toss out materials you can upcycle into beautiful projects. When you repurpose an object, your carbon footprint is less than if you recycled it. Plus, you save so much money.
Upcycling is great for decorating on a budget.
Be frugal and figure out ways to use what you have to make birthday gifts, Christmas presents, and so much more!