Monday, June 18, 2018

Homemade Campfire Starters Results

Earlier this month, we spent a week at Backbone State Park. We had a great time. It's probably one of the largest and most interesting Iowa State Parks that we've stayed at so far. It has rocky outcroppings, a river, a lake, a freshwater spring, a cave, lots of hiking, historical buildings, and even rock climbing and trout fishing. I look forward to staying there again.

Our camping excursion gave me the perfect excuse to test out our new campfire starters that I made a couple weeks ago. We had three types of fire starters (all made by filling cardboard egg cartons and then pouring wax over): colored pencil shavings (top left), pistachio shells (bottom left), and dryer lint (bottom right). We set them up on some flat-ish logs and set about time testing them. We had already used all three fire starters with success during our camping trip. They all work great! So we had to test know...for science!

All three lit easily and created large flames that are perfect for starting fires. They all burned for quite a while too.

About halfway through the time test, the lint fire starter tipped off of the log it was on and fell into the soot (so much for flat-ish). It continued to burn long after it's tumble.

In the photo above, the pistachio starter had burnt out (it lasted about 10 minutes), the colored pencil starter was about to go out (it lasted 12 and a half minutes), and the lint starter is still flaming (it lasted 16 minutes!). We had tested the lint starters once before at 12 minutes, so there's definitely variances (in the amount of wax, quality of wax, weather conditions, etc...), but they lasted the longest in that test too.

All of the fire starters performed so well that we'll continue to make all three varieties. Hubby is convinced he can make the pistachio shell starters better by crushing them before filling the egg cartons. So, next year's should work even better.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Scrabble Tile Box

This project all started with a Scrabble board. I went to the Goodwill Outlet earlier this year (if you've never been to one, it's rows and rows of bins with stuff that didn't sell at regular Goodwills dumped have to dig through them to pluck out the good stuff) and picked up a really nice Scrabble board. It was one of the ones with the raised edges to hold the tiles and a turntable underneath so it can face each player.

Of course the catch was that the rest of the game was no where to be found. There's a pretty decent resell market for Scrabble tiles for crafters and scrapbookers, so they usually go pretty quickly. Between that and the fact that it takes a miracle to find a board game intact at the Outlet (pieces usually get strewn about very quickly), I wasn't terribly surprised to find just the board. On the upside, I had already thrifted like 3 or 4 sets of Scrabble (for crafting) and knew I had at least one complete set of tiles and several tile trays, and the board was light weight (it's pay by the pound at the Outlet), so it was a definite purchase.

So I scrounged up a set of tiles and put them into my little tile bag (which was a craft project that predates this blog--I made a bunch of little lined bags (using a pattern similar to this one), a set of tile racks, and our Scrabble dictionary. The next step was to find a box that would easily fit all of that. As I was organizing some game boxes, I came across a bunch of expansion boxes where the expansions fit in the base game box, so the boxes were empty and destined for the recycling pile. I already spray painted a couple of them to create storage boxes, so why not spray paint another.

I used Rustoleum's hammered bronze which gives a nice dark brown, slightly metallic look to the box. The "hammered" part of the paint means that the paint has little speckles or drops in it. It goes on a bit thicker than most spray paints, so it stays tackier a bit longer and increases dry times a little. So I sprayed the top of the box and the bottom of the bottom box and let it dry for about an hour before going back and covering the sides of the top box. The box was a tight fit, so I did not spray the sides of the bottom box.

Next, I looked online for a Scrabble board design that I could print out. After a bit of hunting, I found a board that was about the right size with the right colors to compliment the box. As an added bonus, it included the tile breakdown (how many As and Zs, etc...) that isn't on my fancy new board.

I printed the board onto a sheet of tissue paper using a method I first tried ages ago when I made some decorative pieces with pine boards (and then again with a decorative ceramic tile). You just need to cut a piece of tissue paper that's a bit larger than a piece of card stock. Then carefully tape the edges over the back side of the card stock so there aren't any loose edges to get stuck in the printer. Then just pop it in your printer with the side facing up that gets printed on and run it through the printer like a regular piece of card stock. Let the printed paper dry overnight or for several hours before gluing it down, though, so that the ink doesn't smear.

So my spray painted box was done, and it was just the right size for my tiles (see bag on left) and racks (underneath the bag) and my scrabble dictionary (on the right). Now it was time to jazz up the box a bit.

I took my Scrabble board print out (still taped to the card stock) and my box lid and got to work.

First I traced the lid onto the tissue paper so I could see where I'd have to chop off the design (the scrabble board print out is square--my box is a rectangle). I opted for chopping off the bottom row of spaces and used a scissors to cut the rectangle out while the tissue paper was still taped to the card stock. It's really hard to cut tissue paper straight with a scissors, the thickness of the card stock helps a ton. Using a rotary cutter, is another great option if you've already removed your tissue paper from the card stock.

After I had my board cut out the right size, I grabbed a jar of mod podge and a foam brush. I painted a thin coat of mod podge onto the box lid. Less glue means less wrinkling, but it also means that the tissue paper will not move or adjust to straighten once you set it on the glue.

The tissue paper board set down straight, but there was a little bit of paper hanging over the bottom edge, I trimmed it with a scissors and let it dry for a few minutes to make it less likely that I tear the paper. The paper is very easy to tear when it is wet with glue.

Then I came back and painted on a thin coat of mod podge over the top to seal the paper onto the box. It went transparent in some places, and I knew that was a possibility. It ended up looking a bit distressed and less crisp. If this isn't the look you're going for, paint the box a lighter color, or add a layer of plain tissue paper under the printed tissue to minimize the look.

After the sealing coat of mod podge was dry, I grabbed some Scrabble tiles that spelled out scrabble and some E6000 (hot glue would probably also work really well for this step). I used my piece of leftover card stock to keep my letters straight on the box as I glued the tiles on.

I chose to put the Scrabble tiles along one of the narrower sides as I figured that's the way it would be stacked on our gaming shelf. That way, it's easy to see what it is. The box turned out pretty neat, a bit distressed looking, but there's no mistaking what's inside it now!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Crafting Revising: Campfire Starters

It's that time of the year again. The time where I begin to prepare for a season of camping and fires in the backyard fire pit. Each year I try to experiment and expand and perfect the process of making homemade fire starters. Last year I made my original dryer lint fire starters (which are a tried and true standby), but I also made some fire starters by putting pencil shavings (colored pencils to be exact) in paper cups (and then covering in wax). There were some flaws in the design. It was hard to get them lit--but once they were lit, they burned forever. So this year, I decided to use the good old egg carton method (it catches fire easily and you just break off a chunk to light).

I didn't have a ton of pencil shavings, so I used a half carton (I bought 6 eggs this way at the grocery store). Of course the end of the carton wasn't closed, so there was some drippage. I usually cover half of my stove top with parchment or wax paper and heat up my wax on the other half of the stove.

For a ceramic top stove, I put down some tinfoil to keep the stove clean (no matter how careful I am, the wax always drips) and a cheap tinfoil pan (2 or 3 for a dollar) to melt the wax. You could use any old pot or pan you have, but the tinfoil pans can be reused until they get crumpled and then tossed without extra cleanup--though they aren't terribly sturdy which can cause spills if you're not careful. This year's old candle stash included some gold Christmas candles, so my fire starters will look extra festive. I usually burn up old or very cheap candles--higher quality wax works even better (they burn longer), but I usually just try to use up what I have laying around so they don't cost anything.

I washed an old throw so my lint egg carton was full to the brim with little bits of red fluff from that blanket...and dog hair, because we have a dog. These egg cartons full of lint don't usually look very pretty (actually pretty gross) but they burn really well.

I had my egg carton pretty full this year, so I used a fair bit of wax. As long as the wax starts to bleed through the bottoms, you know you've put on enough to saturate the lint. This was a bit more than I probably needed, but as long as there's enough paper without wax left on the carton to light, they should work just fine.

This year's total wild card was pistachio shells. Hubby started snacking on the things and was throwing away a lot of shells--he looked up if they burned well, and low and behold, we've got ourselves a new I thought I'd give them the egg carton treatment too. I poured a ton of wax on them since there are so many gaps between shells. There were even little pools underneath the carton when I was finished. I'm not sure how these guys will work out, but it was worth a shot. My best guess is they'll work about as well as the ones I made from shredded paper a few years back (they burned ok, but pieces of paper kept falling off, and they didn't burn as long as the lint starters).

I also made a few cotton round starters (just cotton rounds dipped in wax) to clean up leftover wax. These are really nice and small and flat, but they don't burn anywhere near as long as the starters I make in egg cartons. The trick with the cotton rounds is to make sure the whole round doesn't get saturated in wax so you can get them lit easily. 

In a week or two (whenever I get time to have a fire), I'll post an update about how well these all worked. See you soon!

Update: Homemade Campfire Starters Test

Monday, May 28, 2018

Spray Painted Decorative Boxes

I was organizing some of my board game collection the other day and realized I had some empty boxes from expansions. The extra pieces and new rules fit in with the base game, so the boxes were destined for the recycle bin. But they were such nice sturdy boxes, it seemed a shame to toss them, so I figured I'd try spray painting them.

I started with an ombre method that I used before to spray some cylindrical tins and some terracotta flower pots. I used a teal, medium blue, and a purple spray paint.

I started out with the teal (Rustoleum's lagoon). It's a pretty bright color that has great coverage, so I knew it would be my primary color. I sprayed the ends and the top half of the boxes with the teal and then set them aside to dry.

Then I set them down and sprayed the blue across the middle.

Then I sprayed the other end purple. I did have to set the boxes up and spray the edges to cover the printing and the bright orange color of the original box. This box had a relatively loose fitting top, so as long as the spray paint is allowed to dry all the way, spraying the sides shouldn't be a problem.

The other box I had was a bit tighter fitting, but the sides of the bottom box were plain black, so I didn't need to spray them if I did a space pattern. I've been working on perfecting my galaxy spray paint methods over the last couple of months. First with some plastic composition notebooks and then with some dollar store altar candles.

So I set my two halves of my box out and sprayed them black with a little bit of blue.

After they had dried, I had to spray the sides of the top half of the box to hide the printing.

Then I selected my teal paint (same as above) and made some random striping or veins across the box.

Then I added in some purple striping. And finished it with some metallic silver and a bit of white. If you think you're paint is getting to mixed, adding some black can help to break it up again. I just added paint until I thought it looked space-y enough.

Then I pulled my box halves out to dry. Spray paint usually dries to the touch in minutes (if the weather conditions are right), but it takes 24-48 hours to dry fully--longer if it's humid. Be sure not to put your box halves together for a few days to make sure they don't end up sticking.

I'm pleased with how these boxes turned out. I ended up with some cute little storage boxes that are no longer destined for the trash. The little galaxy box might benefit from a few tiny stars painted on, but they are perfect for storing colored pencils or pens or playing cards or any number of small items you might have laying around.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Kitchen Sink Cabinet Makeover

I've been in major spring cleaning mode in my house lately, so once the kitchen was fairly cleaned out, I knew I needed to tackle this project that I had been meaning to complete ever since we got a new garbage disposal installed last spring. Our kitchen sink cabinet had a bit of water damage from the previous garbage disposal malfunctioning. And in general was looking pretty shabby from being 20 years old. So I decided to give my cabinet a bit of an upgrade.

So I went to the local hardware store (in our case Home Depot is closest) and picked out some peel and stick vinyl tiles. I measured our cabinet at 2 feet by 3 feet--give or take an inch. So I knew I needed at least 6 tiles. Be sure to get a tile or two extra in case you make any mistakes in your cutting. These vinyl tiles are available at pretty much any home improvement store (and even sometimes Dollar Tree) and are usually around a dollar a tile.

The first thing I did was dry fit my tiles into the space so I had an idea where they would need to be cut. I opted to work from left to right and keep the tiles in the front of the cabinet (where they'd be most likely to be seen) whole. So I knew the tiles in the back would need to be cut to fit. The tiles on the right would also need about an inch trimmed off.

With the tiles in place, you can mark the tile that needs to be cut by marking where the tile overlaps with the tile next to it.

My front right tile needed to have the side trimmed to fit, so I put the two tiles to the left in place (with their backing still on) and flipped the right tile over to reveal its backing. Then I used the edge of the tile and a sharpie to mark where it would need to be cut.

I used a sturdy scissors to cut the excess off. You'd probably get a cleaner line with a utility knife, but I was being lazy and didn't want to dig out a cutting surface and a straight edge, etc...The scissors did the trick.

Once the front was all fitted, I started working on the back row of tiles. I went ahead and peeled the backing off and stuck the front row in there right away, but if I had to do it again, I'd make sure all the pieces were marked and cut before sticking them in. The back section was marked by laying the pieces over the existing ones and marking on the edges where I'd need to cut and then using a spare tile as a straight edge. It would have been easier if I could overlap and use the same method as I did with the front row, but it was still a pretty easy process.

The only tricky part was cutting around the pipes in the back. I accidentally flipped the tile over and marked it, not realizing that since the pipes weren't centered on the tile, once I flipped the tile over, the cut out would be in the wrong spot. Oops. So I used the cut out I made incorrectly, to mark a new tile. Thank goodness I bought extras.

In the end, I have a much smoother, cleaner, and more water resistant cabinet under my sink. It's not perfect, but since it's in a cabinet, it doesn't need to be. It's also an excellent project to do if you are thinking about using the vinyl tiles in a larger area to get a feel for how they cut and how to fit them, etc... It's also a great project to do if you have some extra tiles lying around left over from a larger project.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Fired Alcohol Ink Ceramic Tiles

Earlier this year, I started playing around with starting alcohol ink on fire (a controlled burn). Lighting the ink on fire mixes the ink and makes the ink seem brighter or darker (depending on the color). It's a really addicting process. My first attempt was on a larger ceramic tile. I also tried it out on a mirrored candle plate and plain glass plate. I feel like I'm finally starting to get the hang of it.

So, I knew I wanted to do the whole fired ink thing again, but I didn't know what to try it on. I dug through my craft stash and found some old 4 inch ceramic tiles that I had used as experiments in the past. They were in various states of cleanliness. Fortunately, alcohol ink comes off ceramic tiles pretty well (even after sitting for a year or more) with rubbing alcohol. I put the tiles in the kitchen sink, sprayed a bunch of rubbing alcohol on them, left them for 30 seconds, and came back with a paper towel and rubbed them off. They were good as new. If you used tiles with a satin or matte finish, they might not clean up as nicely, but the good old cheap glossy ones (that sell for like 15 cents a piece at the hardware store) clean up nicely.

I set up my station with an old cookie sheet and a cork trivet (using your kitchen stove is also a good option). Just make sure you clear the area surrounding your tiles and that they are set on heat proof surfaces (that can get some ink on them if it spills over the edge).

I took a picture of the ink before I lit it on fire, but it turned out very blurry, so I just squirted some alcohol ink in three different colors (twilight purple, raspberry, and limeade) on the tile. I squirted a little bit of rubbing alcohol on the tile with an eye dropper and lit the tile on fire with a long handled lighter.

I then added some sailboat blue and lit it again (and had an interesting thing happen with my camera where it looked like I turned the lights off--I didn't). This is about as big as the flames get doing this project (unless you go crazy with the ink and alcohol). So plan accordingly. They burn for 5-10 seconds and everything cools down fairly quickly.

Next I added some more raspberry and watermelon red and I think some clover (it's a teal). The pink sort of took over the tile.

So I started putting single drops of colors I had already used onto the tile to break up the color. I'd drop the ink on and light it immediately. I repeated it until I liked the way it looked and then moved on to the other tile.

I used all the colors I had used on the previous tile and just dripped them all on with a little rubbing alcohol dripped on too for good measure.

Then I lit the thing on fire and watched the ink move around and fill in. Since I knew where I was going with the colors (the second attempt is always faster), I was able to fill the tile in more quickly and add drops to fill in areas in no time.

When I felt like it was pretty much done, I dripped tiny drops of rubbing alcohol on the tiles with an empty (just kinda wet) eye dropper. The flamed ink projects use a bit more ink than some other kinds of application, so they can remain sticky for quite a while. I left mine to dry for a couple hours before handling, and since they are matching colors, they'd make great coasters. I'll have to seal them with some glossy mod podge to use them as coasters. I've also used acrylic spray, but it can stipple the ink just a bit so you have to apply it carefully in thin coats. Some folks swear by Kamar Varnish or giving it a clear coat with resin. I don't have experience with either methods, but they are both on my list to try.

For now, I'm just really pleased with how bright and vibrant these turned out! I can't wait to try another project with flamed alcohol ink.