Waste Not, Want Not
I’ve always found throwing stuff away difficult, especially if I can imagine another use for it. Luckily, now that living sustainability is trending on Twitface and Instabook (probably) I have an excuse. I received a gift pack of beer in a nice wooden crate this week and immediately saw it’s potential as a doorstep milk carrier. It’s also a good opportunity to try out new techniques without much financial risk.
Re-use the bottle opener
This might not be its final position but it’s definitely a handy thing to have out on the front of the summerhouse. It’s cast aluminium so it won’t rust. I used the same screws it came with, total re-use.
Remove the branding
The original packaging had some pretty big logos painted on it. At first, I thought it had been burned or etched in but it was definitely just brown paint. On closer examination, the prominent grain pattern had been brought out by lightly scorching the surface of the wood so this came off too while sanding. I used a 400 grit sandpaper and my random orbital sander to avoid removing too much material.
Smoothing the edges
I used some 400 grit wet and dry sandpaper to take all the edges and corners off. I suspect these pieces are die-cut or something similar and it left the product looking and feeling very mass manufactured; which of course it was. Doing this just softens the look and will hopefully stop the edges chipping out so easily.
Seeing as this will be sitting outside on our doorstep, it needs to be at least somewhat prepared for life outdoors. I’m under no illusions that the materials used here are suitable for exterior use, it’s no big deal if it doesn’t last long. In an effort to make it more weather resistant I treated it with Cuprinol 5-Star Wood Treatment. It’s the same stuff I’ve used on the summerhouse, it’s colourless and prevents rot and insect infestation.
Obviously, painting is just one of many finishing options but whatever you decide it’ll need to be suitable for exterior use. I used Valspar outdoor paint from B&Q, it’s a bit pricey but it covers really well and doesn’t seem to fade too much. An exterior oil like teak oil would be a reasonable option too. I chose paint partly because we had some but also because the actual build quality is understandably low and there were lots of glue stains everywhere. Paint will cover the glue whereas oil will not penetrate those areas and look terrible.
Shou sugi ban
Shou-su-whatnow? Yeah, it’s a fancy schmancy name for a burning technique of Japanese origin. I’m not 100% on that spelling either. As with lots of Japanese terms translated into English, there seem to be a few variations. If you’re a purist then it’s called 焼杉板. It’s pretty simple and looks lovely. You simply char the surface of the wood without setting fire to it, the resulting carbonised layer waterproofs the wood. It also helps protect against insects and looks amazing. I used my small kitchen blowtorch to scorch the wood. I used a putty knife to “mask” the wood where the handle attaches to the body of the carrier. Anything metal should work, it’ll serve as a heatsink and prevent you burning the bits you have painted.
My neighbour is getting into A form of wood decoration produced by moving a hot object, such as a poker or specially designed tool, across the surface of a material. By varying the size and temperature of the object used many shades and effects can be achieved.... so I borrowed his gear for this bit. It’s essentially etching done with a soldering iron… kind of. First I drew in the lettering lightly in pencil and then traced over it with the A form of wood decoration produced by moving a hot object, such as a poker or specially designed tool, across the surface of a material. By varying the size and temperature of the object used many shades and effects can be achieved.... pen. It’s fairly easy if you take your time. This was the first time I’d ever done it. I found that having painted the surface already made this harder than onto other types of wood treatment. Take your time because this is nearly impossible to remove once it’s down. It physically (or chemically, I suppose, technically) removes material so the only remedial option will be to sand the wood back to the depth of the burn.
And there you have it. The whole thing took about 2 hours and cost nothing as I used things I already had. It’s nothing special but it’s saved waste and gave me an opportunity to test out some things I wanted to have a go at. Of course, it’ll also make bringing the milk in easier tomorrow morning.
Also published on Medium.