Friday, August 17, 2012

A Day In The Life Of A Junker...with bonus track...How To Make a Jewelry Tree

.....I had a hard time sleeping last night...feeling a little anxious about all the projects I'm in the middle of...sound familiar?  Well, this is serious...the guys are almost finished installing a new buried propane tank...which means my workshop upgrade can happen soon....
BUT I'M NOT READY!!!!  I'm in the middle of projects!  So, what's a junker to do?

Start by spending the morning cleaning out my storage unit.  I'll get rid of a few things, and make room to store some of the junk in my workshop.  This could be a post all it's own....

Lunch break...

Next, the biggest project going on in my workshop is a gear desk I'm building for my son.  After a couple hours, I have the bridge section done!  Yeah!!!!  This is definitely a future post.  It's my first attempt at building fine furniture from 4x8 sheets of wood.  Scary :)  But, so far so good; knock on wood!

Enough of it's time to play!    

I promised to make some jewelry trees and organizers to put in my new Etsy Shop so here's one with a "How To".

First step,  find a lampshade to deconstruct.  I found this one at a thrift store for $1.  SCORE!

Next, remove the shade material.  I'm saving mine...big surprise, because it's mylar covered in a natural fiber paper...I have an idea...(is there a light bulb I can put here instead of a smilie face?  I'm new to this...)  Here's where I encourage you to send me a comment....really, there's gotta be a lightbulb icon I can put here...

For this project, we are only using the top part of the shade frame.  I have a very large collection of the bottom ring of this type of shade in a variety of sizes...I'm going to have to come up with something good for those....

There's usually a bit of glue and paper stuck to the metal ring.  Using a utility knife, scrape all the unwanted bits away.  SAFETY TIP:  Always cut away from your body.

When I'm repurposing materials for a project, I'm in the mindset that they are old and dingy and that's why I'm repurposing them.  Truth is, sometimes things are tossed out because they're shiny, possibly tacky, were just cheap to begin with and, plain and simple, no one wanted them anymore.  I'm finding that all the shabby, rusty stuff is currently "cool" and I have sort of a soft spot for all the stuff that even a junk connoisseur might overlook. 

Well, just like you can paint anything that's properly prepped, you can age even the shiniest, tackiest cheap-looking metal!  After you've done this for awhile, you'll develop an eye for what metal will age easily and what you need to prep.  In my experience, any metal that has a coating over it needs to be prepped so if it's shiny, it's probably coated.  Just rough it up with a little sandpaper, any grade will do, and cross your fingers.

 The secret ingredient....drumroll, please....Modern Master's Rust Activator.  I've heard of things like using toilet bowl cleaner to age galvanized one of these days, I'm going to do a documented science experiment on everyday products we can use to age different metals....just waiting for the propane tank to be moved...a little to close to my workshop for my comfort and my nickname is "Grace" for a reason...

Because this is a "rust activator" you need to use a plastic vessel.  I'm using the plastic tray from a birdcage that I purchased at a garage sale...I used the birdcage for a chandelier or something...but this large shallow tray is perfect for rusting larger items.  As you can see in the photo, some metals age instantly while others can take awhile so just be patient.  I've learned that letting them rest in the shade is better.  If you're anxious and put them in the sun to dry faster, they actually have less time to age...hey, sort of like people (I need another lightbulb here!)  Just remember, shade ages better than sun.

Once you've aged both sides, let it rest and dry.  Here's another SAFETY TIP:  Don't touch the chemical.  Wear gloves or use tongs.  I've never had anything bad happen, but you never know.  It's a chemical.   After the metal has rusted to your desired specification, go over it with a little 0000 steel wool to remove extra bits and give the whole piece a good coat or two of sealer....remember you will be hanging earrings on this and then putting them in your want to keep things hygienic.

Next step is to find the perfect turned leg or spindle for your jewelry tree.  This is the fun part, I keep my parts sorted in 5 gallon buckets.  They're easier to move around when I want to sweep or rearrange the shop.  (I know what you're thinking; this photo and paragraph should be totally edited...but it's for the person who has said they would like to spend a day in my shop or just drop's a glimpse behind the scenes.)  Glamorous, isn't it!
....I see the perfect leg back there hiding...So, I've got my leg, my new "aged" lampshade part and a couple of other lampshade parts I've previously aged.  Notice how the center hole is larger on those parts?  I don't have a photo because these have been around awhile but you know the shades that go on before the light bulb...I've taken that part apart and stuck the opposite end in the metal ring...I know, that's another post. 

I'm going to use the top end of the leg as the base for my tree.   I use my compound miter saw to make the cut but it's difficult to trim a straight cut on a turned leg.  I usually shim the leg to where I need it with a scrap of wood before making the cut to as even as I can eyeball it.  Then, I just put some sticky back sandpaper on a block of scrap wood to get the base flat and level.  I know this sounds redundant if you've read my previous posts, but my standard m.o. is to sand and wax an aged leg to further enhance it's natural patina.

Next, I need a base proportioned to the height I've chosen for my post.  I like this round metal black base from a deconstructed lamp.  It's lightweight, but large enough around to balance the height of the  leg.  I like the black but want it to blend with my other materials so I rough it up a bit and give it a coat of rust activator.  I took this photo to illustrate a specific TIP:  the rust activator is the liquid you see.  Therefore, if you see brush strokes, your rust pattern will also show the brush strokes.  Likewise, if you splashed the activator on with a brush your rust pattern would be droplets.  I'll save a more detailed rust lesson for a future post.

Once your base reaches the desired patina, give it a coat of spray sealer to finish it off and stop further deterioration.

Now that all the parts are prepared, it's time to assemble!  Yeah!  

I find a dowel screw appropriate for the size of my leg and drill a pilot hole in the leg the length of the wood screw end (the pointy end with the wider thread).  I like using a dowel screw because it gives a nice sturdy attachment that you can tighten as needed.   

Fast's getting late... now that the leg is attached to the base, I chose one of the large-holed lampshade parts first and just push it onto the leg as far down as it will go.  I don't use any permanent attachment here.  Then, add the top lampshade part.  I like to use a large decorative drawer pull to hold the top metal ring on.  This is where you can get creative and make it your own...pre-drill your hole gently; you want the knob to have a good fit.  If you drill too far it will be loosey-goosey.  

Sometimes I'll use two of the lower lampshade parts so you'd have six arms. In this case, since my leg was so long, I opted to add three rusted cup hooks 5" down for more necklaces or bracelets.

...and there you have it...a jewelry tree that's one of a kind.  So next time you're at a vintage sale and you see one really cool leg but don't know why you're drawn to you know what to do with it.

And for those of you who thought it would be fun to follow me around for a day....

I think I'm tired, have accomplished something, and will sleep tonight...

Until next time.  :) about that lightbulb icon????? 


  1. Wow....amazing !! You are the most creative person I know. I know that gun bluing will also darken some metals if they are prepped.

    1. Thanks for the compliment and the tip. Is that something I can easily find, say like at a Walmart or Big 5 I the gun section? If it's cheaper than what I'm using I'll try it out in my experiment...actually my husband probably has some...I'll ask. Thanks, again.


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