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The Reuse Corner

~Resources and ideas for the thrifty and creative teacher.

Tools of the Trade

I freely admit to having a thing for tools.  Perhaps it comes from my Dad, who was a real tool guy.  As an airplane mechanic in WWII, he learned to fix just about anything.  He was such a great role model.  If something was broken, he would take it to his workshop in the garage (a magical place.)  After a few hours or even less, he would emerge with the item miraculously repaired.  It was rare that he would pronounce the item beyond hope.  As I grew older, I was allowed into the magical workshop and he taught me how to use tools to fix things.  He also taught me that it was often the obscure tool that could save the day.  The channel lock pipe wrench helped me reclaim my ring that the cat batted down the bathroom sink. 

A few years ago I got on a tool warehouse email list.  The closest retail outlet for this warehouse is about 40 miles away but it doesn't stop me from looking through the monthly flyers.  I am always on the lookout for that wonderful tool that could be vital in the middle of some project.

It seems like whatever repair project I embark upon, isn't really a full blown project without at least one trip to the local hardware store.   Hardware stores are shrines to reuse and repair.  I know several of the employees at my local hardware store by name.  They have saved me countless hours of effort by their sage advice.  Like the local bookstore, small hardware stores are a gem to any neighborhood and always well worth a visit.

So even though I get the email flyer from the tool warehouse, I always start my tool search at the local hardware store.  Over the years, I have assembled quite a collection of tools.  Some of the best came from garage sales or were given to me by friends who know of my tool "thing".  While I don't generally recommend impulse consumerism, I make an exception at the hardware store, within reason of course.  Besides, I might just find the new tool that will come in handy for my next project.  Just remember to bring a reusable bag.

Found Object Mosaics

Mirror Frame MosaicMirror Frame MosaicFor the past 10 years or so, view I have been making mosaics from broken bits of ceramics and glass.  As is the case with many of my projects, viagra 40mg it came as a result  of an accident.  I dropped a ceramic cup which broke.  As I was cleaning up the broken pieces, order I pondered their fate.  I just knew that these shards were the building blocks of something fabulous.  A friend, Tammy Lee, a talented mosaic artist, suggested I explore the medium.  So, I launched into the mosaic world with only a vague idea of what I was doing.  Slowly but surely, I developed my technique.  Through trial and error, I made some interesting discoveries.  Once I added latex paint to white grout to make a design more colorful. I added glitter to grout but the result was underwhelming.  One of my favorite salvage yards, Building Resources, tumbles glass and ceramics in cement mixers to simulate beach glass.  The end product is so amazing and fun to work with that I find myself almost over-stimulated by the stuff!  However, I do love to use their materials to supplement my supply of broken ceramics and glass.  You can replicate beach glass yourself on a smaller scale by using a rock tumbler available at most craft stores.

Read more: Found Object Mosaics

Make Beads from Paper

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This is a centuries old technique for making beads.  After a few missteps, here is method I used to create paper beads from an old calendar page.

Materials Needed:

  • brightly colored paper such as calendars, catalogues, thicker wrapping paper, paper gift bags, paper shopping bags, etc.
  • pen/pencil
  • glue sticks
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • clear sealant such as Modge Podge or Aleene's Laminate it
  • small paint brush
  • wire, tooth picks, bamboo skewers, plastic coffee stir sticks, wire hanger, or any thin, stiff item


1. Select paper and cut into 4 inch strips.

2. Mark 1 inch intervals on one edge of the paper.  On the opposite side, mark half inch intervals.

Mark backside of paperMark backside of paper

3.  Using your ruler, draw lines from side of the paper to form triangles.

4.  Cut along the lines, repeating until you have cut out all triangles on the paper.

5.  Each triangle will make a bead.  Notice that there is a pointy end and a wide end.

6.  Decide which side of the paper you want to show.

7.  Starting at the pointy end of the triangle, run the glue stick on the back side of the paper, starting about 2 inches.

Apply glueApply glue

8. Roll the triangle into a skinny tube, starting with the wide side of the triangle and continue to roll to the pointy end.  Try to get the pointy end centered on the bead.

Roll into beadsRoll into beads

9.  Repeat until you have rolled all of the triangles.

10.  String the rolled triangles, which are newly created beads, onto the wire or other skinny item.

11.  Using the paint brush, liberally coat the beads with the sealant of your choice.

12.  Let beads dry to the sealant directions.  I place the drying beads across an empty glass or bowl to ensure air circulation.  Rotate them after a few minutes to make sure they don't stick to the glass or bowl.

Dry beads threaded on wireDry beads threaded on wire

13.  String them on a piece of ribbon or monofilament.  I used a piece of gift ribbon and tied knots between each bead.   You could combine paper beads with ceramic, metal, plastic or glass beads also.

Completed NecklaceCompleted Necklace

Chief Creative Officer- Roberta Miller

Roberta MillerRoberta MillerOver the years, I have spent lots of time pondering the whole idea of reuse.  Perhaps it comes from growing up on a farm and dealing with garbage and recycling directly, with occasional trips to the dump.  My Dad and I would load up the truck with stuff we couldn't burn (waste management 1960's farm- style) and drive 20 miles to the landfill.  I credit these experiences with my chosen profession in integrated waste management.  It wasn't until we moved into town that I saw my first garbage truck collecting waste from the curb.  My Mom credits my love of reuse and recycling from being the child of Depression Era parents.  But really, I think most it comes from being thrifty and creative.

About 20 years ago, I visited a decommissioned firehouse in Oakland that had sold salvage and surplus stuff.  This place spoke to my ethic of looking at materials differently.  In speaking with other customers, I found an entire community of thrifty and creative people.  At this point, I was hooked.  The place was the first location of the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse.  While it has changed locations a couple of times since then, the community and ethic remain.  The Depot staff encourage us to find new uses for the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary.  To this day, a trip to the Depot remains a thrill, something of a scavenger hunt, different materials every time.  It is the best of a flea market but you don't have to get up so early  to get the good stuff.   However, the Depot is not the only source of "good stuff".  RAFT in Milpitas is excellent.  I am also quite fond of any thrift store such as St. Vincent de Paul, Goodwill, Salvation Army and Savers.  All of these places provide a wealth of possibilities for the thrifty and creative

In future blog entries, I will be sharing with you some reuse projects and will look forward to hearing about any that you might be willing to share.  Some projects may require the use of tools (a really good project is always an excuse to use tools) while others will require only creativity and a sense of fun.  If you create your own version of a featured project, send me a photo and a description for inclusion in the blog.


Roberta, CCO- Chief Creative Officer