Upcycled Homework Caddy

Ever since Eden started grade 7 and homework became a daily event in our life, it seems like she is constantly “borrowing” my supplies and not returning them and leaving scads of tools around the house. I decided to build her a homework caddy stocked with everything she’d need to complete her assignments. The caddy can easily be transported, so she can choose to do her homework in her room or at the table ~ whatever suits her best. This project was all about the 4 R’s ~ Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and of course, Repurpose.

Here’s What I Used:

The basis for this design came from these items that I had in my project bin. (Remember to click on the images to enlarge them.)

Of course, as I began to brainstorm and pull my ideas together, I needed additional items such as burlap, string, saw, drill and screws, wood glue, magnets and paint.

Here’s What I Did:

1. I removed the cord from the broken lamp and cut the shaft to create a nice pedestal-like base.

2. I attached the pedestal, circular “lazy susan” wooden base and the center post from the mug stand together with a long screw. homework caddy

3. I spray primed and painted the structure.

4. I then took the clean cans (of varying sizes) and wrapped burlap or string around them to give them a bit of a finished look.

5. I then wrapped some string around the center post as well.

6. I used a nail to punch holes in the bottom of each can near the center. I then screwed each to the wooden base.

7. Finally, I glued on a couple of strong magnets to hold paper clips and a mini-stapler.

8. The top pegs from the mug stand act as handles for the caddy.

Eden’s homework caddy contains an assortment of pencils, pens, markers, pencil crayons, scissors, a pencil sharpener, an eraser, a ruler, a stapler and a few paper clips ~ everything she needs, all in one place! Generally, my daughter prefers to do her homework in her own room, but when she needs help, she likes to work at the kitchen or dining room table. The caddy allows her to bring everything she needs with her.

If making something like this seems like too much work, don’t sweat it….pick-up a plastic caddy or something made out of wood or metal with dividers already in it….maybe something like a cutlery storage caddy. You can find many different styles and at a wide range of prices depending on the look you are going for.  The important thing is to have everything in one place and make it easy to transport.  Here are some of the options I found available:

Book Display Upcycle #2: Pull-out Spice Rack

Book Display Shelf

Here is a “before” shot of the book display rack.

You may remember the book rack upcycle I did a few weeks back. I used an old book display rack and converted it into a pull-out pantry style shelf that sits between my fridge and the wall. It works really well and I am happy to say that the chalkboard art has stood up extremely well – in fact, better than I would have ever expected. Not a single image has been smudged and I have yet to touch-up anything. I can’t honestly say if this is because of the hair spray I top coated it with or if it is just because I only move it in and out using the handle.  Either way, it works well and I really do love it. However, when I was making it I knew that the empty space above the pull-out shelf would bug me. It just looks like something is missing. So, I decided that I would use the other half of the display rack and convert it into a spice rack.

Empty Space Beside the Fridge

Here you can see the empty space above the pull-out cabinet that I upcycled into a pantry.

Pull-out Spice Rack:

I began by taking the second panel of the book rack completely apart and then had to spend quite a bit of time thinking about how this would work. My plan was to create a spice rack using the existing wood from the display rack. The depth of the space would accommodate the full 24″ of shelving, but in order for it to fit between the cupboard support board and the wall, I would need to make the shelves narrower. I thought this seemed like a super easy project as the modifications were quite minimal. The issue was that there seemed to be lots of little details to think about: the thickness of the pegboard backing, whether to trim the back or front of the shelves, how to keep the little lip so the spice bottles won’t fall off, how far apart to make the shelves, how to make the cut shelves fit in the grooves they previously sat in, etc. I must say, I found it a bit hard to consider all of the details that perhaps wouldn’t even be considerations in a “new build”, but had to be accounted for because it was an upcycle. I got the boards cut and prepared to a point, but then had to ask my husband to help. The one and only tool that I’m not allowed to use is the table saw. I’m not exactly sure why, but Tim doesn’t feel that it’s very safe and at times I can be a bit careless. So, on Saturday I finally pinned him down and got the help I needed to do the final cuts. The new shelf is about 17″ high and 24″ long and should fit perfectly in the space, once the drawer runners are added. The front face of the shelf was not cut down as I wanted it to match the size of the bottom pull-out shelf. They won’t line-up perfectly because the bottom one is more centered in the space and the spice rack will end up sittng closer to the wall than the fridge. Keeping it the original 4″ width will also help to keep the contents of the rack somewhat hidden, as opposed to a more open look.

We got the boards cut and nailed the shelf together. I used the original top and bottom pieces from the rack and one of the shelves, but had to insert a second shelf in between so that the final spice rack would have a total of three shelves. My plan is to move all of my small spice bottles to this rack. It should be large enough to fit them all, so I will have some additional drawer space in the kitchen and perhaps some room on my pull-out rack as well. We filled all of the holes with wood filler and let it dry over night. I am out of time and weekend, so this is how it will stay until I can get back to it.

The next step is to sand and prime the shelf, so that it will be ready for painting. I can’t wait to get it mounted and see how it works!

Upcycled Book Display Rack Update

Well, I survived my marathon schedule for parent teacher conferences last week and even made it through the weekend without getting sick. Usually, I am so exhausted that I end up getting sick right after. I am still tired from the busy week, but managed to spend a bit of time on my new kitchen storage rack. I primed and painted it over the weekend and am hoping to complete the finishing touches early this week, if I’m not too bagged after work.

Book Display Rack:

In the first post, I shared how I planned to re-make and repurpose an old book display rack for kitchen storage. I had to cut it down in width in order to make it fit into the space between the fridge and wall. This made for extra work, but I was determined to make this work. After cutting it down and re-building it, I filled the holes and sanded the repairs.

Over the weekend, I got it painted. This was a bit of a process as I didn’t have much energy and opted for two colours. Whenever you use more than one colour, you are essentially doubling the work. First, I had to give it a light sand to scuff up the original finish.  I then primed it and had to let the paint dry thoroughly, as I didn’t want to peel the primer when I taped off my colour lines. I then had to paint my first colour and wait for the paint to dry between coats before moving on to my second colour. One colour would have been much easier, but of course, I had a vision for how I wanted the finished shelf to look. I can’t say that yellow and black were exactly what I had in mind, but I didn’t really want to go with white and the only colour I had on hand that would work was yellow. I am all about trying to use up paint I have on hand, so I decided to go for it. The black chalkboard paint is on the outside edge only. I was thinking I might try to label it in some way…not quite sure yet. If you check out the background, you can see the state of my unfinished basement. This has been on a “to do” list for quite some time, but its not my list!!! Ugh.

The paint is still drying, but my next steps will be to add supports across each shelf. The original supports were plastic covered wires. They worked fine, but I was wanting a bit more of an industrial look. I picked up these pieces of metal strapping for a couple of bucks each and will bend the ends and screw them from the inside. I contemplated distressing the finished cabinet, but have decided to leave it for now and see how I like it. I also need to find a pull handle…not exactly sure what I want yet.

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Upcycled Book Display Rack

Custom Kitchen Storage

I am beyond excited about this project! I have had this project on my “Someday List” for years.  I originally saw this idea on a handyman website. It was basically a custom-built shelving unit for kitchen storage. I am not sure if is the same site where I first found the idea, but this the same concept.  I loved the idea, but my building skills are still quite limited and my husband is not fond of the “make work” projects that I suggest for him. So, I “shelved” the project hoping that someday I would develop the skills to build one for my kitchen.  As soon as I got this free book rack loaded in my car, I got that twinkle in my eye and knew exactly what this would become. I remember driving home with only one thing on my mind….will it fit??

Upcycled Book Display Rack:

Original Book RackHere’s a picture of the original book rack. Each panel is about 4″ deep and 2 feet wide, but I only have two of the original four panels. Lucky for me, one panel fits almost perfectly in the space between my fridge and the wall.  I say almost because the bank of cupboards that sit over the fridge have pieces of wood that extend down to the floor on either side of the fridge (they look like supports, but are perhaps there to give it more of a finished look than actually serve a purpose). The result is that the 2 foot width will not fit. In order to use the rack, I had to cut it down to 16″. At first, I was really ticked about this and although I am still not happy about the extra work and lost storage space, I did manage to figure out a little something that made it a little less disappointing.  I will share this in the final reveal as well, as I haven’t got it all figured out yet.

Steps to Transformation:

  1. First, I had to take the whole thing apart. It was primarily held together with screws and a few nails, so I didn’t have to fuss with glue and that made the dismantling that much easier.
  2. I was able to keep both sides in tact, but I had to cut all of the horizontal pieces and the peg board back down to 16″.  I was able to do this easily on the mitre saw, with the exception of the peg board back. My husband kindly helped me out by cutting it on the table saw.
  3. The plastic covered wire cords extending across the books were just attached with hook screws and were easily removed as well.
  4. The ends of the horizontal shelves actually fit into grooves in the sides. The problem was that the shelves did not have a straight cut end. The front couple of inches were straight, but the back part was curved. This meant I had to trace the curve and cut it with the skill saw. I did fine with this, but the curves did not match the original cuts perfectly.  For the most part it’s not noticeable, as the end of the board and my cut is hidden in the groove of the side board. There is a slight gap if you look closely, but it will never really be seen once it’s in use.
  5. The other tricky part was positioning the wheels so that the shelf would slide in and out easily while providing the stability needed for it to stand freely when not between the fridge and the wall. I am actually still playing with this and may end up buying 1.5″ flat ball casters as suggested by the poster of the above cabinet.
  6. Everything is put back together, holes filled and ready for paint.

I can’t wait to get back to it and finish this project off, but the weekend is over and I have a super busy week ahead with Parent Teacher Conferences. Hopefully I won’t be too bagged after a heavy week and can finish it up next weekend. Stay tuned….

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Eden’s T-shirt Bag

My daughter made a cute little t-shirt bag at Girl Guides and wanted to make another over the weekend. This is actually her project, but it is a good one, so I thought I’d share.  Eden did all of the cutting, sewing and photography, but I will briefly explain what she did.

Repurposed T-shirt Bag

  1. Lay-out an old t-shirt.
  2. Cut off the sleeves just inside the seam.
  3. Cut off the seam along the neckline and the higher portion on the back to match up the front and back.
  4. Turn the t-shirt inside out.
  5. Sew along the bottom of the bag.  She decided to make a small bag (much to my dismay) and cut off the bottom half of the t-shirt.
  6. Flip the bag, so that the right sides are showing and voilà!  A cute little t-shirt bag.

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Cabinet Rescue

Several years ago, friends were throwing-out this antique wardrobe.  It was pretty much a BFI rescue.  I must admit, it was pretty ugly.  It was painted chocolate-brown and despite the fact hat it was heavy, it was not overly sturdy.  The original piece had a bar across the top and was designed to be a wardrobe.

Antique Wardrobe

I loved the carvings on the front doors, but the oval panels were quite warped.  Once it had been completely stripped down, we realized that the sides of the piece were done in a different wood than the front and thus we decided that stain would really not do it any justice.  It was huge work stripping the paint from all of the nooks and crannies around the decorative carvings on the front, but it certainly made for a beautiful finished project.

Wardrobe Transformation

We also reinforced the back and replace the bar with shelves.  The panels were removed and replaced with chicken wire. This piece has always served as our dining room china cabinet, but we are planning to move it to our spare room for clothes and linen storage. Who knows, it might make its way back to the dining room yet!

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