30 November 2011

My First DIY!!

Unlike many of my fellow bloggers, I leave much to be desired in the do-it-yourself department.  I'm not very crafty and I'm definitely not handy; in fact, as much as I grumble about my husband's handyman abilities (or lack thereof), I'm actually really grateful for the skills he has ... if we had to rely solely on my abilities, we'd be in trouble!

To be honest, when I read the frequent postings of those other bloggers, I'm often filled with a crazy kind of envy: I only WISH I could execute on my ideas as well as they can!!  Not only would it save me a ton of money to not call a tradesperson every time I need something hammered, but I've always imagined there's something super-satisfying about DIY projects.  To be able to say
I did that! would be all kinds of awesome.

Well, I'm happy say that my suspicions were correct: it
is super-satisfying.  How do I know?  Because I built my own lamp this week, that's why!!!

Yet another school project, this time we were charged with building a lamp: either creating one from scratch or repurposing an old lamp to give it new life.  Originally I had intended to make over a 1960's beauty that's been in my family since ... well, the '60's.  I love it (which is why I still have it) but it's pretty ugly.  At least, so I thought.  When I presented my "glamourization" idea to the class, I was universally shot down. 
NO! they said.  Don't touch it!  It's perfect the way it is.

Huh.  Okaaaay.

So it was back to square one.  I hit up a few dollar stores in town looking for inspiration, but came up empty.  I think I was a bit fixated on my original idea (exacerbated by the birdhouse failure, no doubt) and as we all know, being married to one idea really shuts you down to others.  At my next stop at our local GoodWill, however, I hit creative pay dirt.  And for an investment of a whopping two whole bucks, I brought this little guy home:

Adorable, right?

At just over 12 inches high, this solid little ceramic snowman (whom I've named Finnigan) was the perfect jumping-off point for my project and, unexpectedly, yet another inadvertent digression into the Christmas season before December first!  I really need to give it to the celebratory tide ...

Anyhoo, the most terrifying part for me was the drilling.  Having purchased a lamp kit at Rona earlier in the day, I needed to drill a hole in Finny's hat (for the actual light) and in his rear end (for the cord).  I was certain that the instant I touched the drill to him, I would smash him to smithereens.  I used masking tape to secure my drilling areas and on some good advice from Daryn, I started with the smallest drill bit that came in the set and progressed to larger and larger bits (genius).

My range of bits

Here's my first taste of success:

I am woman (with power tools), hear me roar ...

It worked!  Two holes, perfectly placed and nary a smithereen anywhere.

It took several hours of fiddling to successfully complete the installation, especially since Finny's top hat, which is tilted at such a jaunty angle, is tilted at such a jaunty angle!  Obviously laying the base cap flush against it wasn't going to work (at least not if I wanted the lamp to stand straight up, versus jutting out at a weird, inappropriate angle) so we had to devise of way of building up his hat slightly so that cap would sit horizontally.  Slicing off angled pieces of cork didn't work, nor did stuffing foam ear plugs underneath it.  Our solution?  To build layer upon layer of hot glue inside the cap, forming a perfectly customized wall of glue.  This was the process which took the most time, as each layer had to dry nearly completely before I added the next.  Here's what it looked like once attached and secured with another layer of glue:

Yes, it's ugly, but a quick coat of black paint and now it's not even noticeable!

Throughout the process I learned (the hard way):

  • To manipulate hot glue with wet fingers only; it sticks to dry fingers and can give you quite a bad burn! 
  • That it's best to work with wires only when the lamp is unplugged (yeah, it happened) 
  • Hot glue does stick to ceramic plates (no matter how glossy the finish, and no matter how doggedly I believed that it wouldn't)

And with only two incidents of second-degree burning and one electricution, this is what Finny looked like!

Awwww, yeah!

He still needed a little something, though, so the following day I made a dollar store run again and purchased an octagonal plaque (to use as a base) some red and green bead garlands, a few little trees and some clear acrylic vase-filler beads.  And of course, a shade; I picked up a little beige, faux-silk number at Canadian Tire for just around $20.

I painted both the base and the shade white - two thick coats for each - as well as the cork bases of the little trees.  Once dry, I whipped out my trusty hot glue gun again and affixed Finny to the base.  Since his attitude is so playful and devil-may-care, I put him on an angle on the base, and to one side.  All the better to leave some room for the trees, which I also glued down.

Once the hot glue had hardened and each fixture wasn't going anywhere, I got out my white crafter's glue and went to town.  Moving in sections, I used a paint brush to spread a thick layer of white glue, then gobbed on handfuls of the acrylic beads to form a floor of "snow".  I also added some snow details on his hat, just for effect.

Some light paint touch-ups and the addition of a few details, and here we are!

Sorry about the blurry photo - I wanted to catch him in natural light

How cute is Finnigan?!

I love him, and A. can't wait to get him in her room for the holidays.  I think he's a winner!

Now of course, there are some details outstanding that I will work on this week (and share with you next).  Specifically, I'm going to add a band of beads around both the top and bottom of the shade, but I'm taking my time.  Since I intend to place the beads individually in an alternating red-and-green pattern
(why would I make it easy on myself and use a single, solid-colour strand when, with just a little more effort, I can make it impossible?)  My hot glue gun and I need a small break, though, so I'll come back to it this weekend.

Otherwise, though, Finny is a fait a complis!  It wasn't at all as difficult as I imagined it would be, and my DIY confidence is definitely up.  I'm looking for my next project as I type! 
WOO to the HOO!!!!

UPDATE: To see how Finny turned out, click HERE!  (I'll give you a hint: he's pretty fabulous!!)

PS ~ I've linked up Finny's success story to:

1. Power Tool Link Party at A Home In College Hill