Fast Tip Friday: Fancy in a Pinch

Cake Stands 13This has definitely been done out there on the internetz. But I needed some tiered cake stands for this upcoming shindig and I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money so I made them myself. I think my grand total on four sets was $25, which is the usual price of just one. Cake Stands 3

Make sure you clean everything well before you start. You’ll need some plates and some vases or glasses.

Cake Stands 1I have this silicone adhesive that’s leftover from my failed Kintsurokoi experiment and some carbon-silicate sandpaper from my glass-cutting exploits (I never throw anything away). Cake Stands 4

I used the sandpaper to rough up the areas on the plates and glasses to which I’d be applying adhesive.

Cake Stands 5Then I carefully applied large amounts of silicone adhesive to the rims of the glasses I was sticking down. Cake Stands 6

And ever-so-carefully plopped them on the plates. You might want to measure where the centre is. I eyeballed it. But that’s my style.

Cake Stands 7And added more plates. Cake Stands 8

I followed the instructions on the adhesive (you should always do that) and let it cure for 24 hours.

Cake Stands 9They’re going to make great little treat stands! Cake Stands 12

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Refresh Your Shelf

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So this isn’t really a how-to, more of a what-I-did-when-quarantined kind of thing. This little shelf used to belong to my mother as a child. I think her dad or her grandfather built it for her. It used to be white, and she painted it red some time before I was born. Then it was mine for a long time (well it’s still mine). When the Pie and I moved in together I painted it black because it needed a new coat and that was what I had on hand. Since I painted it, it’s always been in my kitchen. I always keep my oils and vinegars on the top shelf, and the other spaces serve whatever needs they serve at any given time, no matter what the kitchen it’s in.

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But it needed a new coat of paint (a lighter one, I thought), and Gen. Zod has developed a weird tendency to bite chunks out of my cork trivets when he comes over so I wanted to make them a little less accessible to tiny sticky hands.

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So. You may remember that I told you that while I was quarantined I made little wire baskets for stuff. Well, I also made BIG wire baskets.

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I custom sized them to fit each shelf (because it’s handmade, each shelf is at a totally different height). They ended up being bigger than the mesh I had so I had to put three sides together first and then attach a back as a separate piece.

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Which involved a tremendous amount of wire winding. My hands were quite tired and sore the next day.

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I made the baskets so they were a snug fit into the shelf so that they couldn’t be pulled out easily.

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All the baskets complete. But that’s not all I’m gonna do.

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The shelf is in dire need of a re-do. Years of glass bottles filled with oils and vinegars have stripped away some of the paint on the top. And in order to get paint to stick to that it’s going to need a serious cleaning.

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So a scrubbing was in order. If you don’t get all that oil gone it will come up through the paint. Like magic. Really annoying magic.

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While it dried I quickly spray-painted all the baskets I made.

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I’d previously been using the Krylon ColorMaster and Indoor/Outdoor because someone recommended it for use on plastic and metal. I’d always had a bit of difficulty with adhesion but I thought I was just doing it wrong or something. But when I was looking for green spray paint I found this Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch stuff that goes on like a double coat AND LET ME TELL YOU IT’S AMAZING.

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So amazing that for the shelf I bought it in a white primer, gloss coat, and sealant.

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The shelf needed a good sanding down from top to bottom. This is the bottom. The underside of that bottom shelf was never painted. Then I clearly forgot to spray the second-from-bottom shelf.

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Gren watched through the garage door.

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All sanded. Then it needed another good cleaning. As did I. I was covered in black paint dust.

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Shelf all painted.

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And in situ.

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And with the basketry in place.

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The General is going to have a hard time eating my trivets now.

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Clay Leaf Bowls

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My mother is an artist and as such has a lot of artist friends. When I was a kid, a couple of them ran various art schools and camps and to show support, my mother sent me. I have very little artistic skill, but I loved the camps, because I got to learn new techniques and work with my hands. I especially loved working with clay. I once made a beautiful pistol replica (I was a weird kid) but it blew up in the kiln so I never saw the fruits of my effort. My lack of skill hasn’t stopped me in the years since, and when I saw these beautiful dishes from Urban Comfort, I thought, “I can do that!” So I did.

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First, you need to gather yourself some leaves. Go for the fresh ones, as they’ll be the most flexible. In these sorts of projects everyone seems to go for the beautiful fig leaves and things like that. Well, figs don’t grow in this Arctic wasteland. So I went with what was available: various forms of maple (it is Canada, after all), some ornamental grapes, random roadside vegetation … What ended up working the best, however, in terms of creating easy dishes, was from my own backyard: hostas, nasturtiums, and the gorgeous morning glory that has been tumbling over my fence all summer.

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Then grab yourself some air-dry clay (this means you don’t have to shove it in a kiln, though if you have access to a kiln, you should probably use it for these as it will make them much more durable). I picked up a 5kg block of it for $17.49 at DeSerres (actually, I had a gift card, so it was FREE).

Clay Leaves 1

Grab a hunk of it and roll it out to your desired thickness. I used a fondant roller to get a smooth surface. The leaves look better in clay about 2mm (~1/8″) thick, but that makes it much more fragile to handle, so you probably want to aim for around 5-7mm (~1/4″). I use this Kitchenaid silicone mat as a work surface for anything non-toxic, including pies. It’s amazing and portable and easy to clean.

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Now, I did find that if I went straight to leaf pressing and cutting from this stage, my clay was too firmly stuck to the surface to get a good result.

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Accordingly, I carefully peeled the clay sheet off the mat and flipped it onto a piece of parchment paper and went from there. It was just easier and made sure both sides of the sheet of clay were smooth.

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Then you grab your leaves and flatten them into your clay. I used the fondant roller again to get them in there nice and good.

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These ones I am not turning into dishes – I just wanted to see what effect they would create.

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It’s neat.

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Use tweezers to get tricky ones out of the clay and pick out any stray bits of debris.

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You will have some folds and wrinkles in your leaf, just because it’s hard to press something flat that isn’t naturally flat. But don’t freak out – it just adds to the texture.

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Once you’ve gotten your leaf carefully removed you end up with this lovely impression, veins and blemishes and all.

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Use the tip of a small sharp knife (Xacto, paring, whatever) to cut along the edge of the leaf and carefully peel away the excess clay.

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This was way easier to do with round leaves than with the pointy ones, as you can see, and the round ones made better dishes anyway.

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Make a little ring out of aluminum foil and pick up your clay leaf. Bend the leaf into a more natural shape (which it will want to do anyway) and set it inside the ring to dry. Feel free to play with curling the edges up and down, in the way that the leaf would do in nature. I left mine to dry overnight, then I flipped them over (with support) to dry on the bottom for another night.

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Now you’re done! It’s up to you what you do with them next. They’re pretty fragile still, so nothing hardcore. My biggest morning glory ones broke along their vein fault lines just from picking them up wrong.

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But they make pretty neat little dishes for small items, such as jewelry.

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This leaf with a stem makes a nice holder for rings.

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The larger nasturtiums make neat bowls for pocket change. In Canada we recently got rid of our penny, but with both our $1 and $2 denominations in coin, we still have plenty of change kicking around!

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And these grape leaves make a good place to keep your spectacles, if you’re the type of person who forgets where you put them.

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Because the clay is uncured, it tends to scrape off and leave a residue, so I wanted to finish them off a bit. I used an ultra-fine sandpaper to smooth off the edges of each dish. Make sure you do this outside in a well-ventilated area. Not only does the clay dust get everywhere, but you’re also likely to inhale a bunch of it if you’re not careful. Dust off each piece completely before you do anything else. Compressed air is handy for this, but make sure to do it outside.

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I then painted each piece with an outdoor satin sealer that adhered pretty well to the clay surface. I like the soft shininess of it and the fact that it didn’t sink into the porous clay and discolour it.

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Some of the finished dishes. The one on the left is my favourite, because it’s so thin and delicate. I’m betting good money that whomever I give it to will break it within a week, and it won’t even be that person’s fault.

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And some of the bigger ones. I made so many that pretty much everyone on my gift list is getting at least one. And because of that handy gift certificate, this cost me nothing but time!

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Grape Crate Pet Beds

Grape Crate Cat Beds Final 12

We currently live in an Italian neighbourhood and in the fall a good many of our neighbours squished their own grapes to make wine.  The result was that there were plenty of these nice wooden crates at the curb when they were done.  I knew I HAD to have them, to make SOMETHING, but I didn’t know what, exactly, I was going to do with them.  Then my brother-in-law got a cat.  Then my brother got a cat.  Then my sister-in-law mentioned that she was going to get a cat.  And cats like boxes.  And these boxes are cat-sized.  So there you go.

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First I had to clean them off and scrape off the labels and sand them a bit.

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The sides of the crates were made from particle board, so I didn’t sand too much, naturally.

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I did wonder how the porosity of the particle board would affect my ability to stain it.  I guess the only way to find out is to do it!

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I used a variety of stains for this, the dregs that were in the bottoms of cans from previous projects.  One was a gel stain, which I had never used before.

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You can see how dark it goes on.

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It almost covered up the ink on the sides of the crate, but came back through once I wiped off the excess.

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Here you can see the other two stains, which were more translucent.

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Wiping off the excess with a rag after painting it on.

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It came out darker depending on the roughness of the wood.

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And I forgot about the whole STAINING part of stain, and forgot to wear gloves.  Oops.

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Once they’d dried, I painted on a quick layer of varathane.

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Again, because I didn’t sand them too much, we weren’t looking at baby’s bottom smoothness here.

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The completed boxes.

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I bought three pillows, each 13″ x 20″, which nearly fit the inside of the boxes.

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Fortunately my mother has what amounts to a fabric store in her basement, so I had plenty of patterns to choose from for cushion covers.

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I made the cushion covers in the same fashion as I make all my other cushion covers: with the simple overlap in the back that eliminates the need for buttons or zippers, which are beyond my skill level.  I double-sewed all the seams because I wanted them to last through being removed for washing.  I got the whole thing done super quickly, too, because I was using my grandmother’s sewing machine, which has two settings: terrifyingly fast, and supersonic.  And I didn’t sew my thumb to anything, either, so I count that as a win.

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The cushions, stuffed inside the covers.

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And inside the box.  There’s a little gap on the sides, but once the pillows get squished down by the cats they’ll fill the whole space.

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I decided they were too tricky to wrap (and a waste of paper), so it’s more of a token wrapping job.

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Guest Post: Renovating a TE Stick

Hooray, it’s our first guest post!  I helped the Pie re-do his MadCatz gaming stick back before Christmas and I’ve finally gotten him to agree to do a post about it.  Enjoy the geekery! – Ali

Renovating a TE Stick 37

Hakan is my favourite character from Super Street Fighter 4, and I thought it would be fun to modify the artwork on my fight stick. Here is what it looked like before:

Renovating a TE Stick 1

First you have to take it apart. I unscrewed the top and this is what the insides look like:

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You have to remove the buttons and the stick in order to replace the artwork on the top. It’s a good idea to take a (blurry) picture of the buttons or write down the colour-coding of the wiring so that you can put it all back together in the proper order.

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Blurry button removal:

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This is the old art that I have removed and will be replacing.

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I used a template, which I found on the Shoryuken Forums, to create my Hakan art. I printed it out in colour. Cutting out the circles with an exacto knife was the hard part.

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To make cutting out the negative space easier I traced it on the old art.

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All cut out. You don’t have to worry about those rough edges too much, as the button will cover those up.

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Because the old art was printed on a piece of plastic, I had to print the new art on paper and then purchase a clear plexiglass cover from Canadian Joysticks to go on top. You can see that it is held in place with the buttons and stick. If you wish to get new buttons, this would be the time to replace them all. You can get new buttons and sticks from Akihabara and/or Canadian Joysticks.

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This is where your earlier photo of where the wires go comes in handy.

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Now for the ball top.  I followed this tutorial on the Shoryuken Forums for proper technique.

The first thing you need to do is sand your ball top to rough it up. Use a fine grade sandpaper for this, because you don’t want it TOO rough, just rough enough that the paint sticks.

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I used Ali’s stale beer bread and a skewer as a prop to hold it up.

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Next, you need to prime the ball. I used two coats of Citadel Imperial Primer in Skull White.  These are acrylic paints designed to be used for painting miniatures, and hold up well to handling.

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Then I used painter’s tape to mask off the parts of the design I wanted to stay white (at least at first).

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One million coats of red paint later, and Hakan’s skin was filled in.

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Peel off the tape.

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Hakan has turquoise hair. Because he’s awesome.

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I used a permanent marker to add in eyebrows and a nose.

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Then I coated the ball top in a clear sealant and put it back on the fight stick.

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Hakan is awesome.

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Crystal Cascade

Crystal Cascade

My niece vacillates between wanting to be President of the United States and wanting to be a princess. She can probably be both. She’s a smart kid. A smart kid who likes things that are pretty and sparkly.

So once I can figure out how to package this properly, I’m sending it off to her for Christmas.

You’ll remember that I experimented with cutting rings when I learned how to use my glass-cutting kit a while back.  Of course, I broke way more rings than I succeeded in creating, but finally I managed to make enough to have this work out the way I wanted it. I have some rings from a ginger jar, a salsa jar, some beer bottles and two wine bottles.

Crystal Cascade

My first step was to gather my gear together: the rings, some sturdy fishing line, a pair of scissors, a strong stick, a towel, and a bowl of warm water and vinegar.

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The water and vinegar help to remove any residue on the glass from my cutting process.  Gets rid of fingerprints, too.

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So now I have arranged the rings in the order in which I want them.

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And I used the scissors to score some lines on the stick, to hold the fishing line in place and keep it from sliding off under the weight of the glass.  I will put a dab of glue on each knot afterwards just to be on the safe side.

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Now to tie everything together.  I used reef knots, to ensure everything was super tight.

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Then I attached it to the stick and looped some more fishing line on the top to use as a hanger.

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The full deal, though the light could be better.

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A cascade of pretty colours!

Crystal Cascade

Knit This

Do you have knitters in your family?  I do.  I am one.  Though not a very good one.

In any case, knitting needles are a remarkably easy thing to make (according to Martha Stewart) and they make a great little gift.

You can get doweling of several different thicknesses at any hardware or craft store. 

Saw the dowel to the desired length (my dowels were all 36″, so I cut most of my needles to 12″ lengths, though I did make a set of four 9″ double-ended needles).  Use a pencil sharpener to create a point.

Sand the dowels down to create a smooth surface that won’t catch on the yarn.  Make sure as well to dull the points a bit.  It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.  You can rub the needles with a bit of warm beeswax, just to protect them and let the wool slide a bit easier.

Then all you have to do is use a glue gun to put colourful buttons at the ends. 

And there you have it.  Tie them with some pretty ribbon and give them all away!

Or keep some.  Your choice.