Kintsugi – Hacked

WARNING: This is a long post. With an unsatisfactory ending. Sorry.

Have you ever heard of kintsugi/kintsukuroi?  If you Google it, you will probably see this picture:

From Sangbleu.com

And if you click on that picture you’ll get all sorts of lovely information about what exactly the process is.  Because I know your attention span is shorter than that (I mean, you’re here, right?), I’ll give you the skinny.  Basically, this method of pottery repair is based on the idea that something can become more beautiful for having been broken, and, rather than throw away a broken vessel, we can make it more beautiful by putting in the effort to fix it.  And to fix it in a beautiful way.

The problem is that doing it the real, traditional way is going to take a bit more actual effort than I really want to put in.  Not to mention that the real process involves many toxic substances, and many of these substances are not allowed to be imported into Canada.  So I couldn’t even do the real way if I wanted to.  If you want to see someone go through the real process, read the Kintsugi Blog.  The fact that the last post was in April 2013 should tell you something.

And I could buy some fancy schmancy repair kit from some other country, but I’d probably run into the same import issue and they’re expensive, if you include shipping and the fact that the Canadian dollar is tanking at the moment.  I don’t like things that are expensive, because I don’t have any money.  This is why my main hobby is talking to the internet.

I’ve seen a few attempts, like this one, to “hack” the method and do it more cheaply and easily.  But they kind of suck.  I can definitely do better than that.

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Here’s the thing, though: so far, I haven’t quite managed to get it right — yet.  But now I’m obsessed with it.  So I figured I’d let you guys know how I was doing with it, and maybe some of you have some ideas about how I can make it better.  Sound good?  Okay good.

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Materials:

What I wanted to achieve with my kintsugi is a fixed vessel that could be used again. So I did my research and I found a food-safe and water-tight all-purpose adhesive from Dap. I had to order it online from Amazon.ca, because for some reason none of the hardware stores in Ottawa were stocking it.

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I also picked up these awesome babies from Lee Valley. They’re teeny tiny condoms you stick on the ends of your nozzle-y glues to keep them from drying out. Because I hate that they come with a twist cap that you use to break the seal and once you add the nozzle the cap is useless. And then the glue dries up in the nozzle and you’re hooped.

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These are awesome. And cheap.

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Now, to adorn the adhesive I needed some precious, precious gold. Or a reasonable facsimile. I considered gold leaf but again, pricey, and too complicated. So I looked around and I found these nice metallic powders from Neuberg-Ebel that looked awesome.  Of course I couldn’t find anyone who would ship them to Canada.    But then I found some re-packaged Jacquard Pearl-Ex powders at DeSerres that were in my price range so I picked up a few colours.  Make sure you get metal powder and not embossing powder, because embossing powder turns to plastic when it’s heated.  Although now that I think about it, that might be a good idea for next time …

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And, you know, protective gloves and sheets of newspaper and stirring sticks and containers and all that stuff.

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First Attempt:

I decided to start my experiments after I accidentally broke one of my parents’ porcelain bowls at Christmas time.  Porcelain and ceramic are ideal for this sort of thing, because they don’t shatter when they break (unless you totally smash them, of course).  Clay will turn into dust if you break it but porcelain is good stuff for dropping.

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This bowl broke cleanly into three pieces, which was a good starting point for me.

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My original idea was to mix the metallic powder with the adhesive and then apply it like regular glue. I reasoned that the metallic sheen would shine through the clear glue and it would look awesome. So I painstakingly removed the lid from the powder and tried really hard not to breath on the beautiful glittery copper stuff.

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I squeezed some glue into a dish and carefully tipped some powder onto it.

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Then I used a stir stick (these ones are left over from my coffee stirrer wall art) to mix them together.

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And used a paintbrush to apply the glue to the first piece.

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Then I stuck it to the second piece. Unfortunately, it didn’t goosh out around the crack in the nice smooth way I wanted it to, probably because I applied it with a paintbrush.

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So then I tried to wipe some of it away. Yup, you saw that coming.

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Whatever. This was an experiment. So I continued with the final piece, once the first two were dry. I left it to goosh as it would, though the ragged little wisps were so not cool.

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What it looked like on the inside.

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I used rocks and a box of matches to hold pieces in place while they dried. I think traditionally you wedge it in sand, but you do what you gotta do.

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I wasn’t happy with the final result, so I thought I might try to trim off those wisps I disliked so much. I used an X-acto knife and it was super easy.

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Except when the adhesive inside the cracks decided to come with the stuff I was trying to cut off. GARGLEBARGLEGRRRRRRRR …

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And really it didn’t look that great anyway.

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The bowl did, however, hold water. So I had that going for me.

Second Attempt:

For this one I was out of porcelain but I had this small pottery bowl thing. I knew that pottery would shatter more, but I figured if I controlled the environment in which it broke I might be in luck.

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So after washing and drying the bowl I placed it in a paper bag and rolled the top down to seal it in. Then I took it into my garage and prepared to drop it on the concrete floor.

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The only damage was a tear in the bag after the pottery shards had their way with it.

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I definitely had more pieces than I would had the bowl been of china.

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But only a little bit of shatter dust, which means I could still put the whole thing back together.

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So I laid the pieces out and got ready to go.

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In this attempt, I used the nozzle of the glue to lay a nice smooth bead along the edge of one piece.

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Then I stuck them together and had a lovely smooth bit of glue smoosh out both sides. I carefully tipped some of the metallic powder onto the glue smoosh.

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And did the same to the other side. What a mess!

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Then I set the piece down and let it dry overnight before I tried to get the excess powder off.

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Look at that! It’s beautiful!

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The problem was that I couldn’t re-create the situation again. The powder got everywhere, and my hands aren’t that steady, so I ended up dropping pieces while trying to glue them together. It’s really hard to maintain pressure on two pieces of odd-shaped pottery (but not too much pressure) while also carefully tipping fine powder everywhere, especially if you have carpal tunnel syndrome and you have no gripping power.

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So that’s where I am right now. If you folks have any ideas, I’d love to hear ’em!

Clapboard Coffee Stirrer Wall Art

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I saw this little tutorial over at Make and Do Girl and thought I would give it a try.  You can buy fancy versions of this on Etsy for hundreds of dollars, but I thought I could probably produce nearly the same thing for a lot cheaper. And of course, as is usually the case, I was right.

All you need for this is a frame, some paint, a paint brush, a sturdy pair of scissors (despite the wire snips in this picture, I found a set of poultry shears did the trick quite well), glue of some kind (I ended up using Elmer’s School Glue), and a bunch of wee sticks, like coffee stirrers.

Stir Stick Art

While I’m sure, if you are a regular inhabitant of Starbucks or Bridgehead or one of those places, you may amass a large collection of stir sticks over time, I preferred to get mine all at once and bought several packages at Michael’s, which is also where I bought the frame.  You can also use popsicle sticks for this, but then you have to compensate for the rounded edges.

Stir Stick Art

The first thing I did was paint my frames black, using some acrylic paint.  At first I only did the edges of the frame, but I noticed that the frame showed through the gaps in the stir sticks when I glued them down so I ended up painting the whole frame, even the part that is relatively hidden behind sticks.

Stir Stick Art

Then you need to pick a colour palette.  I had a set of Crayola watercolours that I was going to use, because I wanted the wood to show through the paint.  You can of course use any paint you want.  I made two pieces, so for the first palette I picked a series of greens and yellows, and then the second I went with oranges, reds, and then purples and grays.  Obviously if your frames are small, you should probably go with a smaller number of colours.  My frames were pretty long so I went with 7 or 8 different colours.

Stir Stick Art

Now you gotta paint them there sticks.  I laid mine out along the frame just to get an idea of how many I needed (in the end I had a handful of painted ones leftover so this turned out to be a good idea).

Stir Stick Art

Then you paint.  This took me quite a while as I had to do each stick individually and paint it twice (due to the character of my paint). If you use acrylic or something thicker you could just paint them in a batch, or dip them en masse in ink or a dye … whatever works for you. This is all you.

Stir Stick Art

Then you start laying them out.  I measured the sticks to fit in the frame and cut them accordingly.

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Then I cut those pieces up so that I could fit them together like patchwork.

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Then you start gluing.  And gluing.  And gluing …

Stir Stick Art

Despite these sticks all coming in a package together, they weren’t by any stretch of the imagination the same.  Some had slight curves, or were cut on an angle, and that made putting them together a little bit more of a challenge.  Because there were gaps between sticks at some points, I chose to apply glue individually to each stick rather than just put a blanket of it down on the frame.  It took longer, but I think it was a neater job in the end.

Stir Stick Art

When I got to the end, my final sticks were a little too wide to fit in the frame, so I just took a piece of sandpaper and filed them down a bit until they fit snugly.

Stir Stick Art

My orange and purple job turned out a little slanty, because some of the sticks I used were really angled, but I kind of like how it messes with your eye that way.

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And these frames came with hanging hardware on both the short and the long sides, so you can hang them either vertically or horizontally.

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I made these originally as gifts, but they look so good on my mantle that I’m thinking of keeping them. They would make a good frame for my giant squid, once I figure out where to hang him …

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Safety First!

Safety First!

Our stairs are a deathtrap.  They are narrow, bendy, and uneven.  Not to mention slippery as anything.  Unfortunately, we have to use them several times a day.  During our most recent spate with bad weather, the Pie was heading down them in his boots and he slipped.  Luckily he caught himself and our bannister is firmly embedded in the wall, but that was the last straw for me.  I fall down the damned things all the time, but the Pie is one of those people with remarkable balance, and he’s very hard to take down.  So if he falls, you’ve got a problem. To prevent future accidents during what is being forecast as a bad winter, I am adhering safety treads to each one of our stairs. I picked up these 3M Safety Walk rolls from Canadian Tire for ten bucks a roll.  We have fifteen steps in total, each being approximately two feet wide, meaning that for one strip per step I need thirty feet.  So two of these five-yard rolls will do me just fine.

Safety First!

Make sure if you’re putting adhesive strips on inside steps you use an indoor/outdoor strip as opposed to a regular outdoor strip, as they’re easier on bare feet. The instructions are pretty clear.  Let’s see how well I follow them!

Safety First!

First you need to clean all the dirt and grease and grime off each step. Your surface has to be completely dry or the stuff won’t stick.

Safety First!

Then you measure out your strips. Make sure to measure carefully.  I have exactly 30′ of tape and I need to use it all to cover the steps, so my measurements per step have to be spot-on.  Fifteen steps with 24″ strips sounds good to me.

Then you cut the strips to size and round the corners.  Rounding the corners in a uniform manner is certainly harder than it looks.

Safety First!

Peel off the backing and adhere the strip to the step.

Safety First!

Press from the inside out to release any bubbles.

Safety First!

Because my two rolls were 15′ each, I ended up with two 12″ strips at the end of my cutting. Actually, they were about 14″ each, which turned out to be handy on my widest step, where I just put them next to each other.

Safety First!

And now my stairs are safe (er, safer than they were, at least).

Safety First!

Office Reno

My parents bought the house they live in now about twelve years ago, and the house is about twenty years old now.  In fact, it’s the first new construction house my parents have ever owned.  So new, in fact, that when we all moved in back in 1997, it wasn’t quite finished yet.  Like it didn’t have a back porch.  That sort of thing.  It also used to be a rooming house, so there were some weird things going on.  The room that is my dad’s office was designed to be a laundry room, and when they bought the house it was actually being used as a kitchen.  As it was pretty low-priority in the scheme of everything else that goes on in my parents’ busy lives, it remained in more or less its original state.

UNTIL NOW.

This is the before shot, when my dad and I were clearing out all the furniture and stuff.

You can see the artful sponge painting that outlines where the laundry sink used to be.  And the place where the faucets come up and out of the wall.

This dryer outlet and vent also needed to go.  As did the b-awful linoleum.  I hate linoleum.

So out came the mouldings and the overhead lighting.

After checking to make sure the fuse was dead, out came the dryer/stove outlet.

Make sure you check it more than once before you start cutting wires.

This rubbish bin was filled and emptied many times before the job was done.

The vent will get cut flush to the wall and filled with expanding spray insulation.

The faucet pipes were capped and sealed with solder and the plastic frame removed. 

We will put a piece of gyp-rock over top and patch that sucker, same with the one on the floor.

Just screw it in place, using shims as a backing, and trim off the excess.  Fill the holes with Durabond-90 or other crack filler and you’re good to go.

All the other holes and cracks got filled as well.

There were plenty.

Now for that ugly awful floor.  This was my especial project and it took me FOREVER. 

Whoever put the lino down GLUED it, which is not something you normally do.  And they didn’t just lay down lines or dots of glue.  No.  It was like they took the can of glue and spilled in on the floor.  But not all over the floor.  This part came up super easy, so we thought it would be more of the same. 

PAH.

I spent about seven hours with a pair of gloves and a putty knife peeling up the rest of it. 

And let’s not forget all the glue that stayed on the floor.

Which my dad spent three days scraping off.

It was a sticky business.

Back to the walls.  On with the primer.  Note you can still see the terrible, terrible sponge painting shining through.  Took a couple of coats of paint to get that hidden.

Next the crown mouldings went on and were lined up.

Nailed and glued in place.

You can use wood filler to artistically cover the spots in the corners where it doesn’t quite line up.

And to cover your nail marks as well.

Now for the floor, which we replaced with a nice floating bamboo one with interlocking pieces.

You can see the grooves here.

Make sure to measure out everything ahead of time.  It helps to label your pieces and to draw yourself a little map.

You will need to cut pieces to fit the vagaries of your room.

Dad glued down the first section.

Make sure to follow the instructions on your glue.  This little grooved applicator enables the glue to spread under pressure.

You want to make sure your pieces are super snug together, so a rubber mallet is very handy.

We noticed that the glued section was making cracking and popping noises, so the next sections were nailed in place as well, with the nails going through those little grooves I just showed you.  It cracked the grooves but kept the things on the floor, so there you go.

The moulding on the floor will cover up that wee gap there.

Then you paint.  Again.  Always a good time.

See?  This is after it got a nice shiny coat of enamel.

You can scrape up your spills by covering a scraping razor with a piece of cloth, and then you won’t scratch the floor.

This is mid-cleanup.

And after everything was moved back in again.  What a difference!