Thrift Store Challenge

Thrift Store Challenge: Update & New Challenge!

It’s already November 1st, and that means a few things: October flew by, the holiday season is on its way, and also our first Thrift Store Challenge is finished.IMG_1254You may remember a couple of weeks ago I started out the first challenge with the items above. I used the basket as a container for all of our mail because I couldn’t find anything that I could use that wasn’t super expensive. Although I haven’t gotten to it yet, I intend to transform the spice rack into an acrylic paint holder (I’ll post pictures when I make it!). And though I haven’t found an “upgrade” for the little clock yet, I did find a use for the Suntory Whiskey bottle and the big clock.IMG_1353                       I put a handmade paper flower in the whiskey bottle–easy and pretty!

IMG_1282Before: the big clock

When I first came upon this clunky hunk of a clock at the thrift store, I nearly passed it by. But once I took it on as part of the challenge, I got to thinking long and hard about what I could do with it and started to get excited about its potential. I decided, first of all, that I hated the look of the numbers, so I tried to sand them off.

IMG_1283Despite my best efforts, a faint outline of the numbers remained. I had gotten an idea to use the clock as a birth announcement for a baby with a space-themed room, but with the stubborn numbers remaining on the clock, I had to re-imagine my design.    IMG_1392Inspired by vintage colors and some tattoo designs, I set to work with my wood burner. When I was satisfied, I used watered-down acrylic paint to fill in the planets, stars, numbers, and a little portion of the letters. I thought the numbers turned out looking much better than they did originally!

IMG_1416Next I stained the wood and let it dry before adding a glossy coat. All that was left was reassembling the clock pieces and getting a battery. I just loved hearing the satisfying tick of the clock when the project was finished. It was fun making something for a friend.

I really enjoyed hearing a few stories via email and Facebook about your approaches to last month’s challenge. This month, find something related to the kitchen and use it in a project. Bonus points: relate your project to Thanksgiving! The due date is December 1st, but please email me, post on instragram or twitter, or leave a comment with your ideas or questions in the meantime! And don’t forget to use the hashtag #littlesnailthriftchallenge!

Good luck!


Delightful DIY Gift for a Newborn

Before moving to Japan, I loved the craft of wood burning. So, you can imagine how happy I was to come home and find my box of wood burning related tools waiting for me to use them again! One of my favorite projects for wood burning is making personalized boxes as gifts, and I recently made one for my friend’s newborn son named Junpei. I was really happy with the results, and thought I would share the process of making the box with you here!


1. First, you’re going to want to choose your design and draw it (or print it from your computer) onto white paper. Then, using carbon tracing paper, trace your design onto your box–transferring the image. It might come out rather light, so you can pencil directly onto the box to make your lines more visible for when you burn them if you like. (If you’re comfortable, you can just draw your entire design onto the box–I did that with Junpei’s name, but practiced my other images on paper to transfer first as they were more difficult for me to draw).


2. Then, begin burning your design into the wood. I often let my wood burner heat up while I’m transferring the design onto my box, and I practice a few lines on scrap wood first to make sure the tip is hot enough. I also tend to be careful as I go, not getting too confident with my lines and shading as–especially with boxes from a craft store–the density of the wood can change from spot to spot and change how quickly the wood burns (thus making your lines unintentionally thicker or darker than you want). It’s okay to make mistakes–remember that they can often be turned into something creative, or, if you are really unhappy with the way you’ve marked the wood, you can usually get away with a bit of sanding to clean up your lines. I always keep a piece of sandpaper on hand for that very reason!

20130821-072545.jpg3. Once you’re happy with your design, you can add a bit of water color to make some of the images pop. I usually make my colors pretty light so that they don’t overwhelm the pretty work I’ve done with wood burning, and remember that I can always add more color later (whereas it’s harder to take color away). I try to make the color visible, but subtle. If you accidentally drown out some of the design that you’ve burned with watercolors, you can blot the paint with a paper towel, and even go over the lines again with your wood burner after it’s dried.


4. Lastly, put a light stain on your box to tie everything together. I often just use a glossy varnish, which I think gives the boxes a professional look. If you like, you can also burn a personal message on the box–I think I put something on the bottom just saying “to” and “from.”

20130821-072631.jpgOn the front of the box, I put Junpei’s name, date of birth, weight & height.

20130821-072652.jpgOnce your box has dried, you can put a small gift inside. Chad and I decided to put a little Burt’s Bees swaddling towel inside–we thought the bees on the towel matched the bees on the box 🙂

And that’s it! Pretty simple, yet lovely and personal, don’t you think?