By David Wallace | Photos by Herb Nygren Jr.
I love a good challenge. However, I often bite off more than I can chew.
It’s been fun showing you how to use discarded items, found objects and even simple trash to create something special, such as furnishings for your home, decorative items and art.
Did you know Americans generate more than twice as much trash than any other population in other major countries? Each one of us contributes about 4.6 pounds of trash per day, which translates to an astounding 251 million tons of trash per year, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Some trash gets recycled and some gets burned, but the vast majority, 55 percent, is buried in well-managed landfills. The amount of trash buried in landfills has more than doubled since 1960, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
My recent endeavors to turn trash into treasure are beginning to overtake my home, which is the place of storage for all items that offer me challenges for future projects. In fact, many of you have called me or come knocking at my door to offer your recent finds and challenge me to create something out of them—I appreciate it very much. If this keeps up, however, I’m going to need to live in a warehouse.
Staci Palmer, business administrator at Venue Properties, recently called and asked if I could make use of some old wire rack carts and cardboard tubes because she was going to throw them away. It sounded interesting, and she seemed to think they had potential, so I quickly ran over to her place to take a look—she was right. I was thankful that when someone thought of trash, they thought of me.
In this issue, I’m going to show and tell you what I did to those items that could have ended up in a landfill for the next 1,000 years. The wire rack carts were an easy transformation. First, I tightened up all of the fasteners and wheels. This made them quite sturdy. Then I measured the top length and width, which was about 13-by-20 inches. After that, I built a simple open-box construction of 2-by-4 lumber and topped it with some quarter-inch-thick plywood and painted it white to match the wire racks. Then I nestled it on the top shelf of the cart.
To further reflect my personal style, I enhanced the industrial look by taking 12 of the cardboard tubes and cutting them in half. I dropped the tubes into the divided areas, which is what the racks were designed to hold. But I didn’t want the tubes to come all the way up. Look at the picture to the right of the wire rack carts and tubes.
Now I’ve got two great-looking end tables, and I chose to pair them with the love seat I made from two chairs and pillows. This little grouping would look good in a home office.
I still had many cardboard tubes left, so I created a great piece of art for the wall above the love seat ensemble. This project was almost as easy as the end tables.
It looks massive and very substantial, but it is actually very light weight. The supply list consists of only a few items, and the time it takes to make is much less than you may imagine. Also, depending on the light source, the shadows cast will give the piece even more dimension.
Start by spreading some plastic trash bags on a horizontal surface, like the floor.
You will glue the tubes together on top of the bags. Once the glue is completely cured, the bags will be fairly easy to peel off the finished project. Use Gorilla glue for the permanent adhesion, especially to porous materials such as the cardboard tubes. I used an artist brush to spread the glue on the tubes. Gorilla glue starts out with the consistency of maple syrup, slowly foams up and hardens like rock. Like super glue, it is difficult to remove from skin, so latex gloves are recommended. Carefully arrange the tubes in a pile after coating the surfaces with glue. They tend to move around or roll away, so be very easy. It’s a little like playing pick-up sticks in reverse.
The glue will not stick on contact, but this actually provides time for repositioning. Also, once you spread your plastic bags, you must place a piece of very sturdy cardboard or even a piece of very thin wood on top of the plastic under the pile of tubes. When the project is completely cured, this will give it support and something to hold the hanging hardware.
Once the project is dry, which usually takes overnight or at least several hours, you can paint it. Pull off the plastic but spread it out again. Place the project back on the plastic, and you are ready to paint. I like latex wall paint because it has minimal odor, dries quickly, is easy clean up and inexpensive compared to artist acrylic paints. I like flat white because it makes the project look like sculptured limestone, but any color and any finish can be used. Latex paint comes in flat, satin, semi-gloss and gloss.
Use a two or three inch brush to spread a generous amount of paint broadly over the project, then use a small artist brush to push the paint into all the visible nooks and crannies. Once it is completely dry, you’re done. Hang it up. Even though latex paint dries quickly, let it dry overnight, because there will be heavy pools of paint in some areas and you don’t want it to drip on your walls or floors. It will be fairly easy to pull off the plastic after the paint is dry.
My good friends Kamla and Alan Utz, who own and operate Jake’s Tyler, offered me the use of a historic building adjoined to the restaurant to display my art. The space is more than a 100 years old and will provide room for future expansion of their business. For the time being, I get to use it to store my exceptional finds and to display my art. It’s like having my own private gallery on the Square in downtown Tyler. The window looks great and everyone is enjoying as much as I am. It has become my new canvas.
These projects were very easy, and I believe a lot of people are starting to see the potential in their trash. I’m doing it, you’re doing it and others are starting too!
It’s kind of like a bunch of talented musicians assembling for an orchestra performance. At first, every one begins by tuning up their instruments. It is just a bunch of noise. Then suddenly one begins to play a well-known piece of music and others begin to recognize it and join in. Eventually everyone is playing the same piece, and before you know it, a beautiful symphony begins.