This simple, versatile project takes an item found at every thrift store in America – the ubiquitous candle holder – and gives it new life as a cool piece for storage and display!
Upcycling is a fun thing to do: You get to take the meh and make it me-ow! To show the versatility of this particular upcycling project, I’ll be making two samples: 1) a whimsical wooden piece to store and display all of my crochet hooks and accessories; and 2) a more classic metal piece for showing off a collection of antique keys. In either case, the supplies you’ll need to complete the project are the same.
- A taper-style candle holder, wood or metal, available at any thrift store for $1-$2
- A small metal bowl or dish with a rim big enough to pierce holes in, hereafter known as your TOP. These can also be found inexpensively at your local thrift store.
- A drill, Dremel, or Crop-A-Dile for making the holes
- Super glue, short screws, or both
- Large jump rings (8-10mm), used in jewelry making and available at any craft store
- An all-purpose primer good for wood and metal
- Craft paint and paint brushes
- Thin black marker (I use a Zig)
- Krylon or other sealer
Selecting Your Thrift-Store Pieces; or, Hey, You Get to Go Shopping!
Before you go shopping for your candle holder and your dish, you should theoretically know what you want to store and display: Antique scissors, your grandfather’s fishing lures, the shattered remnants of your ex’s beer bottle collection. I’m usually way too excited at the prospect of shopping to slow down and think, though, so if you’re already looking for the car keys, that’s fine, too. You can figure out what you want to display on the way.
As you’re selecting your pieces to upcycle, the thing to keep in mind is their combined height. When you set your top on your candle holder, is the rim of your dish tall enough to keep those glass fragments securely in the air? Conversely, is it too tall, giving your entire collection a raging nosebleed? It’s all a matter of proportion, so choose the pairing you think will work best for you, selecting a dish that will hold anything you want to store up top.
Prep Step 1: Drilling / Punching Holes in the Top
Now that you’ve chosen your pieces, you’ll need to channel your inner mole rat and make some holes.
Depending on the metal content of your top, you may be able to use a Crop-a-Dile to punch holes in the rim. The best way to find out is to try.
If you can’t punch through – or if you don’t have a Crop-a-dile – fire up your drill or your Dremel, and keep the holes relatively close to the edge. There’s no need to measure and mark (although you won’t hurt anything if you do). Just make as many or as few holes as you need to house your items.
Note: If you’re having trouble drilling through your metal, apply more pressure as you drill – but keep the drill straight, or you’ll break your bit. Not that I know this from experience or anything. Nope.
Prep Step 2: Determining How You Will Attach the Bowl / Plate to the Candle Holder
Attaching your top to your candle holder can be done with screws, glue, or both – but everything depends on the kind of candle holder you selected.
If your candle holder bears any resemblance to George Washington’s wooden teeth, follow these steps:
1) Grab the nearest tube of craft paint. Don’t worry about the color; the paint won’t show on the finished piece.
2) Now imagine that the top of your candle holder is a compass. Put a daub of paint where the E and W would be.
3) Press the bottom of the bowl or plate down on top of the candle holder so that the wet paint comes off on the metal. Now you know exactly where to drill.
4) Turn your top upside down so the paint daubs are visible. Drill a hole in either mark, choosing a bit big enough for your short screws.
5) After you drill, match the holes to the paint spots on your candle holder. Switch to the smallest drill bit you have and drill a pilot hole at each daub of paint. Later, you will use these holes to attach the top piece to the candle holder.
If you have selected a metal candle holder – or if you simply prefer to use glue – ensure that you have enough of a surface area at the connection point for the pieces to bond. Once you establish that you do, you can jump straight to Prep Step 3, saving the gluing for later.
Prep Step 3: Cleaning, Sanding, and Priming
Let’s face it: Things from thrift stores are a little . . . loved. Which means they sometimes need to be a whole lot . . . cleaned. Wooden candle holders should be sanded and wiped down. Metal candle holders and bowls should be washed or sprayed with an all-purpose cleaner. If they have adhesive residue on them, you might have to break out your favorite Goo-Go-Away-Now, because that adhesive crap is fierce.
Once the pieces are ready, apply your all-purpose primer (mine happens to be gray) and allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer’s directions. If you’re painting on metal, try to apply an even coat, but don’t stress if it doesn’t look pretty.
See? Here’s how my bowl looked. I’m not proud.
At this point, by the way, the tutorial will split into two. If you’ve selected a metal piece, you can skip ahead. Otherwise, read on!
Whimsical Wooden Display
As soon as I saw this wooden candle holder at Goodwill, I knew I wanted to make it into a voluptuous woman. I confess, however, that I didn’t know I wanted to make her a voluptuous Bride of Frankenstein until I set the bowl on her head. That’s when I got really excited.
You may not be excited by the Bride of Frankenstein, though, so sketch anything you like: Stripes, a tree trunk, the former Prime Minister of England – whatever suits your taste!
Drawing on a primed piece of wood is incredibly simple: Just use a regular old pencil. If you mess up, you can use a regular old eraser – or if you can distinguish the false starts from the true ones, leave the false starts alone. You’ll paint over them anyway.
Once you’re happy with your sketch, ink your drawing or design with your thin black marker and let it dry. I use a black Zig.
Now Paint That Candle Holder!
I follow an extremely complex process when I paint. Ready?
- Apply the first coats of paint to as many areas as I can (face, body, top, skirt, &c.)
- Check email
- Check paint
- Check Facebook
- Check paint
- Examine my split ends
- Check paint
- Exclaim triumphantly when paint is dry
- Re-ink my drawing
- Paint again
While you’re waiting, you can also paint your bowl. To paint a piece like this, plan on doing at least two coats of any color other than black, and possibly three.
Attach the Top to the Bottom
When the piece is nearing completion, attach your bowl to your candlestick using your two short screws and a screwdriver. The screws should go in easily thanks to those pilot holes you drilled earlier.
Paint the screw heads the same color as the inside of your bowl, and you’re almost done! Here is my Bride of Frankenstein before spraying her with Krylon. I dressed her as a “hooker” because all the cool kids who crochet call themselves hookers. And I want to be cool. And a hooker. But only in the legal, yarn-oriented way.
Attaching Jump Rings
Before attaching jump rings, be sure to seal your project by spraying it with Krylon so you don’t inadvertently scrape your paint. Krylon dries in minutes, so this won’t take long. Promise.
Done? Great. As you probably know, the way to work with a jump ring is to not to pull it apart at the break, which puts more stress on the ring than a bad break-up and an ill-conceived haircut, but to hold both sides between your fingers and push one side straight forward, like this:
(If you have the proper jewelry-making tools, by all means, use them; otherwise, fingers work just fine for these purposes.)
Once you have the jump ring open, slip it through the hole you punched (or drilled) earlier, and then press it closed again.
Now your piece is ready to be loaded up like a plate at a buffet! Whatever items you’re going to hang from those jump rings, gather them up and get to hanging! Don’t forget the things you want to store up top!
Classic Metal Display Piece
This sample is much simpler, but like the wooden candle holder, it also allows for elaborate variation.
For this sample, I started with this metal candle holder:
After cleaning and priming, I spray painted both the candle holder and my small plate with a blue Rustoleum paint, which is very pretty but really does need 48 hours to dry completely. Trust me.
Once I had waited out the paint, I wrapped old, annealed wire around the body of my piece to tie in the color of the keys:
With that done, I set to work embellishing my piece. First, I hung the keys at varying heights, using multiple jump rings per hole. Then I hunted down a small picture frame – also from a thrift store – to which I added a picture of my gorgeous grandmother and some beads. Once I’d glued my dish on top, I added an old lock, and I was finished!