Update to Coat/Hat Racks

I thought I should post an update since I have been spending a lot of time making drawer pulls and Coat/Hat Racks. I’ve made a few more that I wanted to share with you. The first two are 3D printed bases that are covered with polymer clay cane slices. I dipped them in polyurethane a couple of times added some gold leafing and dipped again about 4 more times. I love the depth that is created by the multiple coats of polyurethane. Each coat has to dry at least 2 hours, so this can take a lot of time. Of course most of that time is spent literally watching the paint (polyurethane) dry.

3D Printed blank covered in polymer
3D Printed blank covered in polymer
Celestial-wooden ball covered in polymer

3D printed blank covered in polymer

No Smoking Plaque

My brother asked me for a simple laminated cardboard “No Smoking” sign. Of course I had to go bigger (at least nicer) and decided to make a plaque. I used vinyl lettering on a glass backsplash tile I bought at Home Depot.
The only snag was that he wants to hang it on the wall. I’ve seen and made lots of these plaques for addresses and for Mother’s and Father’s Day. Of course they didn’t say No Smoking. I used plate stands to display the plaques I’ve made. I have seen where others have glued picture hangers or pop can tops on to the back. I don’t trust that the glue won’t degrade because I don’t think the tile will survive falling on his concrete porch.

So I designed hanger clips that I could print on my 3D printer. They needed to be easy to use, quick to print, subtle, and dependable. These took less than 30 minutes to print and used about $.013 worth of filament. You simply line them up as shown in the picture to the right and attach them to the wall with one or two screws each , Then slide the tile into the slots at the bottom. They are small enough to be inconspicuous and because it supports the plaque from the bottom, there is little danger that the plaque will fall. You can download this file here to import into your 3D printer’s slicing program.

hanger clips for glass tiles
Tile with hanger clips

Covid-19 Visor Shield Mask

Happy New Year all!!! I’m not unhappy to see 2020 in the rear view. What a crazy year it was! While many of the events of last year were some of the scariest I’ve experienced, it wasn’t all bad. I’m sure everyone can name several times from the last year that they enjoyed or learned something important. I got to spend tons of time with my parents. I know I will look back fondly on those memories and be grateful that we had so much time together.

However Covid has not released us from its deadly grip. Apparently Covid-19 has mutated and created a new strain. The CDC doesn’t seem to think that it is any more deadly than the original but it is more contagious, meaning it’s easier to pass on; easier to catch. From the reports I’ve heard, the scientists believe the vaccines they created that are being administered now will more than likely work on this mutated strain, Of course they are not positive because even though they were able to create the vaccines, there is still so much they don’t know about the virus.

There are a lot of people who aren’t going to receive the vaccine; either by personal choice or because of medical conditions. Me, I can’t wait until I can get the vaccine. I know I’ll still have to wear a mask to protect other people, because the scientists don’t know yet if a vaccinated person can still be a carrier and pass on the virus to a non-vaccinated person. I don’t mind wearing a mask though. I can’t imagine the guilt I would carry if I made someone else sick.

I have a friend who is pregnant, so she won’t be able to be vaccinated. She has to go to the office every day and there have been a couple of people who don’t really understand how quarantine works. They go get a test because they have been exposed and then come into the office before they even get the results back. She is truly afraid that she is going to be infected and feels pretty helpless.

To try to give her some peace of mind I used my 3D printer to print up those visor type of masks with a clear plastic shield. I used PLA filament, which is a plant based plastic that is biodegradable. It will last a very long time as long as it doesn’t sit in water. I then punched holes in an office transparency and attached it to the four pegs on the visor (red circles). In the back there are loops to attach a hairband if the visor feels too loose (green circles). I clipped curves at the bottom of the plastic shield to keep the corners from poking her when she turns or lowers her head.

She will still have to wear a surgical mask, but she’s very happy to get these visors. She thinks she will feel much more secure even around those oblivious or inconsiderate people that don’t seem to understand the danger they pose to another person’s health.

There are many visor mask files on the website Thingiverse for you to download and send to your 3D printer. This particular visor shield mask designed by Glyn Davidson of North Wales can be downloaded from Thingiverse here.

Visor Shield Mask
Visor Mask Shield

Lit Address Sign

Address Sign, Lights On

For Christmas I made these lit up address signs for some of my neighbors. These have a definite “Wow!” factor when lit up. I really think my neighbors will like them, I know I do.


Lit Up Address Sign, Lights off
Back of the Address Sign

These are pretty easy to make. I buy the tiles at Home Depot in the flooring department for around $1.60 each. I then cut the house number and street name out of vinyl using my Cricut cutting machine. I then position the house number first, then lay the street name on top of that. I use a string of 10-20 fairy lights (Dollar Tree) and spread them out evenly around the edge of the tile. It’s important to place the lights on the side edge. The tile distributes the light through the glass like a fiber optic light strand. I then glue the wires leading to each light to the back of the tile. I cut another piece of vinyl (with a slit for the lead wire) to fit the back of the tile. Use a blow dryer on high to melt the vinyl so it forms around the wires and sticks securely to the back. Glue the battery box to the center bottom of the back, making sure you can access the switch. It is held together more securely with a rubber band. Set it on its side using the battery box as a stand. Click the switch to the lights to the on position.
There ya’ go! It’s a really cool gift that costs under $5 and 30 minutes to make.

Convert Image to .SVG

I get a lot of requests to convert a graphic of someone’s pet or family member into an SVG file so they can use it for a t-shirt or to use in a project. This tutorial will show you how to convert an image into a multi-layer SVG file or scalable vector graphics file.

You will need Inkscape, a graphics program comparable to Illustrator. It will run on Linux, Windows and Mac and is open source and is a free program.
You can download it at https://inkscape.org/

  1. Open Inkscape
  2. Using the File menu choose Open and navigate to your image to open it.
  3. On the left side of the main window is a tool bar. Choose the selector arrow at the top.
  4. Click on your image to select.
  5. From the menu at the top of the window choose Path →Trace Bitmap.
  6. In the window that opens go to the bottom section: Multiple scans: creates a group of paths,
  7. Make sure that Colors, Stack scans, Remove background and Live preview are all selected.
  8. Uncheck Smooth.
  9. Next we will choose the number of layers. Keep an eye on the Live preview window and click the up arrow next to the Layer option until the preview picture contains everything you want to keep in your image. You may think you only have 3 or 4 layers plus the background but there are probably more. If you have more than 5 or 6 layers you will have to choose which colors to keep or your graphic is going to be too complicated to use in Design Space and you will have to find something else.
  10. Click on Update.
  11. Using the Selector arrow from the tool bar on the left click and drag your image to the left.
  12. Click on the image that remains and delete it
  13. Move the remaining image back inside the box.
  14. From the menu at the top of the screen choose Object →Ungroup.
  15. If your image has more than 4 layers you will have to delete the extra layers:
    • Click off of the image then click back on the image and drag a layer off to the side.
    • Click back on the image and drag the next layer off to the side but not on your first layer.
    • Continue dragging each layer off to the side until there are none left.
    • Click on a layer that you don’t feel is necessary (some layers may be an outline, some may be a color you don’t want to include, etc.
      • Tap the backspace key on your keyboard or go to the menu Edit-> Clear
      • Continue with the other layers until you have only the layers you want to include.
    • Click on a remaining layer and drag it back into the box.
      • Click on another layer and drag it back into the box and line it up with the existing layer
      • Continue until all the layers you intend to cut are lined up in the box.
      • Check to make sure that it looks the way you want it to look (it’s not missing any important parts)
  16. From the menu at the top of the screen choose File →Save and name your file with .svg at the end.
  17. Go to Design Space and if you aren’t already in a project start a new one.
    • Click on the Upload button on the left side of the screen.
    • Click the next Upload button
    • Click Browse Files and navigate to your image to open it.
    • Give your image a name and tags to find it later.
    • Click on Save and Design Space will do the rest.
  18. From a Design Space canvas, click on Image and find your uploaded image and click on it.
  19. Click Insert.

Handmade Gifts for Men

Finding gifts for the men in our life can be difficult. Men never outgrow their love of their toys, they just get more expensive. Add to that the fact that if they find a new toy they want, many times they buy if for themselves. The men in my life generally do their homework and know exactly what model or type is the best. I do not, so I’m never confident that I am getting him what he actually wants. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t tell you how many gift cards I’ve given because I hate giving the wrong gift.
Crafting handmade gifts gets me past that, but it’s difficult to find original, useful and wanted gifts for men. I’ve made a list of just such gifts. Thoughtful gifts that show them just how much you care. A gift that he had no idea was essential, and quickly become indispensable. One year I made baskets of skin care products for the many men in my life. Most were hand made like the the bath bomb that looked like an actual bomb, I included masks, an exfoliate, moisturizer, A crocheted soap holder and wash cloths and a hand woven bath mat all done in a camouflaged print, and a custom t shirt. The guys actually loved it and learned to use products to keep their skin healthy.

Slippers

Every man needs a comfy pair of slippers to help him relax. This pair fits the bill. They are easy to make and will only take a couple of evenings to complete. You can find the free pattern here.

Zen Box

A zen garden made from a cigar box for his office at home or at work. This garden is filled with a faux water feature made with blue glass and moss, and many different types of stones including agates and laboradite, and a rake that my granddaughter calls a hippie stick. It is easy to make. I used green felt, river rocks glued to craft foam and the rake is made with dowel rods and big hole beads, The hardest part was collecting all of the stones.

Crocheted hats – Since it’s become a good idea that everyone wears a mask and it’s mandated in some places these hats are right on time:

Beard Hat by our7acres.com

This hat is a lot of fun. If you want to use it as a mask don’t crochet a mouth hole, or if you do, close it up. You can find this free pattern courtesy of Our 7 Acres here.

Coat/Hat Rack

Rack Made With Drawer Pulls

Span Calculator

For a few years I collected drawer pulls and door knobs. I had no idea what I would do with them but I was fascinated with them. For a while it seemed like I found them everywhere. Used surplus shops, thrift stores, EBay auctions, all sorts of places. They can be really pricey brand new, especially the crystal or glass door knobs. I found door knobs that looked like animal heads and drawer pulls that looked like animals butts. I would remove the round or oval metal drawer pulls from office furniture that had been discarded. I ended up with close to 100 drawer pulls and maybe a dozen door knobs. Some were whimsical or funny, some were beautiful, some were just plain. The plain drawer pulls were transformed into beautiful sparkly pulls by gluing rhinestones or beautiful large buttons or jewelry on the top of them. Wooden pulls were sanded and covered with polymer clay or painted and then lacquered and polished. These are the most interesting, but they require a lot of work and time.
So I had all of these beautiful, interesting pieces, but I couldn’t figure out an equally interesting or beautiful way to display them. Most of them were one offs. I had some sets, but at this point I had run out of furniture that needed new drawer pulls.
One day I was browsing at the local ReStore and found tons of drawer fronts for $1 each. I bought like 20 or so because I knew I would use them in many projects. I actually wished I had bought twice as many. I used lot of them for shelving, and I finally found a use for my drawer pulls and door knobs. Racks to hold coats, caps, masks or whatever you need to be hung up.

3D Printed Shelf Supports $1 Drawer Front

Last year I gifted about 10 of these racks and was asked to make a couple more for their friends. I took pictures of most of them but I broke my phone before I could save them to a safe place.
They aren’t difficult to make except for the math involved. I had to figure out how to distribute those drawer pulls evenly across the drawer fronts. Aha! A chance to actually use that algebra from my junior year in high school.

Rack with Various Plain Pulls Topped with Rhinestones

Well, unfortunately, it is true; if you don’t use it, you lose it. Since all of the drawer fronts that I bought were the same size, instead of using algebra, I went the trial and error route. It wasn’t exactly even and it took more time than I care to admit. I’m no perfectionist, so they looked great to me and nobody else seemed to notice.

Multicolored Glass Drawer Pull
Drawer Pull w/Rhinestone Backing
Polymer Clay over Wood.

I’m going to go off topic for a minute because if you’ve never shopped at a ReStore you have been missing out. ReStore is a warehouse type of store that sells salvage (and some new) home building supplies and their revenues are earmarked for Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit that builds houses for the needy.
I love this place. You never know what you’ll find but if you find something you want, you’d better buy it then. It will be gone the next time you shop there. I’ve scored some awesome deals, like a Maytag dishwasher for $10. My friend installed it in their kitchen and it worked great for several years. They have tons of doors and windows, every size and shape. They sell furniture (mostly office stuff), and shelves and plumbing supplies and paints and so much more. Seriously, go check it out. They have stores all over the United States. We have 2 stores here in Dallas. It’s good for your pocketbook, it’s good for the community, it’s good for the environment.

Span Calculator

I am aware that there are a few of you perfectionists out there (you know who you are), so I created that nifty calculator you see above to do the math for you. You just enter the width of the board and the number of drawer pulls (up to 8) you want to use and it tells you where to drill the holes. If you need to determine the center of the board horizontally you can download the STL file to 3D print a Center Locator Tool here. It will help you to draw a straight line down the center of a board up to 6″ wide.
Once you have the holes drilled, install hangers on the back to attach it to the wall. Next you can glue a backing for each drawer pull like fabric or pretty paper or vinyl, or add a message or even an address. Then you simply insert the screws from the back and twist a drawer pull onto each screw until tight. If you use paper or fabric it’s a good idea to apply a layer of polyurethane or lacquer to protect it.

Emoticon Paper Clips

Emoticon Paper Clips

Emoticon paper clips are really fun page markers. I use them to mark pages in cookbooks, but of course their use is limited only by your imagination. This project is a great way to introduce you to polymer clays.
I love working with this medium. I’ve made jewelry, figurines, picture frames, covered boxes and pens but there are many more uses. You can create many faux effects including simulating stones like tiger eye, opal, abalone, jade, agates, turquoise, labradorite, and many others. You can simulate a wood finish, leather or even knit fabric. You can make beautiful canes; logs that have a pattern throughout. No matter where you cut the design is the same. They are great for reproducing the same pattern repeatedly.
I really like the pearl effects. One of my favorite effects is the Mica Shift. This technique produces a 3D effect that shifts when you look at it from different directions, much like a tiger eye. There is even a technique to transfer images using liquid polymer clay. If you’d like to learn more about any of these techniques let me know in the comments.
To add additional effects you can add glitter, beads or other small inclusions. You can add texture using stamps or texture plates. Molds help me a lot because I am not a very good sculptor. I also use Sharpies to draw fine details.
Some of the tools I use include a pasta machine to roll out the clay evenly. (I got mine from a thrift store.) A long razor for slicing, an extruder, and shape cutters that look like very small cookie cutters.
I use q-tips dipped in baby oil to blend colors and join pieces as well as soften the clay. I work on a large clipboard that I cover with aluminum foil. I use a toaster oven dedicated to polymer clay.

Cool
Wink
Love
Laughing
Smile

Step 1
Step 2
Step 2
Step 3
  1. Roll your yellow clay out about 1/8” thick
  2. Cut out two 1″ circles for each.
  3. Sandwich a paper clip between the two circles.
  4. Using clay in various colors or Sharpie pens,decorate the circles to look like your favorite emoticons.
  5. Cook them in a dedicated toaster oven at about 160 degrees for about 30 – 40 minutes.
  6. Apply a coat of polyurethane.
  7. Let dry and they are ready to use.

Multi-Use Storage Solution

I love storage ideas that perform double duty, like a storage container that works as a note board because I painted the top with chalkboard paint. So when I saw this idea at Pillarboxblue.com I was immediately inspired to see how many functions this little crate could serve. I knew I could turn this into a storage solution that would not only perform double or even triple duty but even more.

Instead of a piece of plywood for the seat I used a wooden tray. I had several of these trays, so I chose one without legs. Using a staple gun I attached three sides of some simulated leather I had on hand to the underside of the tray. I allowed enough room to insert a piece of foam about 3 inches thick, cut to size. I then stapled the fourth side to the tray, flipped it over and placed it on top of the crate. A near perfect fit. I drilled a hole in each corner of the bottom and inserted the wheels, then glued them in place with the glue gun.

So there’s the 2 original functions; storage and a seat. Flip the seat over and it’s a table; function 3!  Then, because the tray is padded on the bottom, it can be used as a lap tray; function number 4!  Now this seat won’t support anyone over about 150 pounds but it definitely would be perfect for a teenager’s room or children’s playroom. 

I don’t know why I get so excited when I find or design something that can perform so many functions, but I do. So I am thrilled to share this idea and hope you are inspired to find even more uses!

Lacquer Boxes

I have always loved the look of lacquer boxes. They have so much depth and the colors are so vibrant.
Lacquer was first used by the Chinese, dating as far back as the late Neolithic period (3rd millennium BCE) and though the materials used are easier to obtain, the process has changed very little.
An image is painted on the object and several very thin layers of lacquer are poured over it. Each layer must be completely dry and polished before the next coat can be poured. It is a time consuming process but well worth the effort.
Unfortunately, pictures do not do lacquer objects justice. It’s difficult to capture the depth that the layers of lacquer create.

For my lacquer boxes I started with paper mache boxes. They are already pretty smooth but I sanded them a bit more. The smoother the surface the better the results.
I then paint the entire box and lid one color using acrylic paints and allow a couple of hours for it to dry. I apply the first coat of lacquer (or polyurethane sealer) with a foam brush taking care not to introduce any bubbles.
If bubbles appear, I try to smooth them with the brush. Stubborn bubbles I will pop with a pin. Some people use heat to pop the bubbles, like torch or a heat gun. I’ve never tried that method.
I’m afraid the lacquer (which is flammable) will catch fire on my project. Also make sure to wear safety goggles and that your area is well ventilated.
Once that layer is completely dry (about 24 hours), sand and polish. I use steel wool and then 1200 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Wipe clean and paint your image. You may need to paint more than one coat on larger areas to minimize the brush strokes. Once this is dry brush on the next coat of lacquer.
Wait about 24 hours and sand and polish again before brushing on another coat of lacquer. Continue these steps until you have the depth you want.
I have used as many as 8 coats before I lose patience. The famous artists is Russia have been known to use over 100 coats. That shows some real patience! I did learn not to use more than couple of coats on a base that has a fitted lid. Too many coats and the lid no longer fits.
That’s how to create a beautiful lacquer box. They make wonderful gifts and are handy to have around the house to keep change or other small collections together.