Monday, June 26, 2017

Pencil Shavings Fire Starters

We spent last week camping in a cabin at Pine Lake State Park. It was a delightful getaway. Our weather was all over the place and we had a fair bit of rain, but we still managed to get in a great deal of hiking and several fires. When it was raining or hot, we read books and played board games. It was so nice not to have tv and the internet to suck up our time for a change (and the cell service was terrible too :)).

Before we went camping, I made some fire starters. This year's experimental fire starter was shavings from my electric pencil sharpener. They were exclusively colored pencil shavings. I put them in paper cups and covered them in a ton of melted wax. We tried them out on our first fire of the trip.

I was concerned that the cups wouldn't light very well or stay lit. They lit fairly easily, but the edges sort of fizzled before they got to the wax. We ended up putting a cotton round fire starter on top of the wax and lit it and the whole thing burned fabulously after that.

And once it got burning, it burned for 30 minutes. So the materials in the fire starter are definitely good for fire starters, I just need to refine the delivery system a bit so that they light easily and stay lit. Since I know that cardboard egg cartons work well for this, I may try the shavings in an egg carton next year (I'd do it this summer, but I'm all out of shavings--time to get coloring:)).

Monday, June 19, 2017

More Homemade Campfire Starters

It's that time of the year again--time for me to make more DIY fire starters for the camping season. I set out everything I needed to make my old standbys: cotton round fire starters and egg carton lint fire starters. But this year I also am trying a new variety that's a total experiment--colored pencil shavings.

I used a foil pie plate on my burner (set to low) to melt down some old candles. I also bought a couple of pillar candles from the dollar store. Just pop the wick off of the bottom and put it in the pan to melt. Tea lights work really well too, just pop them out of the metal holders and take the wicks out. You could use higher quality wax or wax for making candles from the craft store, but the whole point of this for me is to make something very cheaply, and goodness knows I always seem to have old candles to get rid of.

I had some leftover cotton rounds in my candle stash, so I whipped up a few of these. I just used a set of tongs to dip the round quickly into the wax and then set them on parchment to cool. The best parts about the cotton rounds are that they are fast to make, don't take too much wax, and store easily in a small resealable bag. On the downside, they don't burn too terribly long, and if you dip them in too much wax, they can be hard to light.

My favorite DIY fire starters are made from dryer lint shoved into a cardboard egg carton and covered in wax. These work about as well as the store bought fire starters and cost about a dollar in wax to make (or free if you have some grungy old candles to melt). After shoving the lint in the egg carton, I just melted down one of those dollar store pillar candles and poured it over the top of the lint. You know you have enough wax with these if most of the lint is wetted down on top and you have some wax starting to seep through the bottoms of most of the egg compartments on the bottom. After I poured the pillar candle over the top, I added a bit of the leftover wax from the other meltings to wet down the top edges a bit more and then let it cool on the parchment.

This year's experiment is pencil shavings--or more specifically colored pencil shavings--in paper cups. If you follow the blog, you may know that I have gotten pretty into adult coloring over the last couple of years. This means that I go through lots of colored pencils. After throwing some of the shavings outs, it dawned on me that they are pretty much sawdust and wax--both of which are components to the store bought fire starters. So I've been collecting my shavings and waiting.

I decided on the paper cups because I had some laying around and because they were easier to store the shavings in than an egg carton. If these work well, I may try making them in an egg carton (since they are free, portable, burn well, etc...). So I pressed down the shavings a bit and poured melted wax over the top. I was pleased to see that the wax didn't seem to sit on top or make the shavings float--so I kept melting more wax and pouring it into the cups.

Then when the wax started to appear on the surface of the pencil shavings, I knew I had enough. I let the cups cool on the parchment with the other fire starters.

After they cooled, I snipped the tops of the cups about an inch apart and fanned them out like a flower. Hopefully, this will help make the starters easier to light and spread their chances of catching nearby kindling and branches on fire. I have no idea how they'll work, but since each one is basically a sawdust candle, I can't imagine that they'll be a bust. Stay tuned to the blog to find out if this year's experimental fire starter makes it into my regular DIY rotation. Happy camping!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sticker-Backed Alcohol Ink Glass Gem Magnets

Decorating glass gems with alcohol ink is one of my most popular projects on the blog. I've been fine-tuning my process and trying out a bunch of different variations. One of the biggest issues with using alcohol ink on glass gems is that you can't really see the colored ink, it gets a bit lost as you look through the gem at the colors. One way around this problem (or to at least diminish it) is to back the glass gem. I've tried paint, aluminum foil, and aluminum tape. All have worked, but the easiest was the aluminum tape. I punched circles out and placed them on the back of the gems like it donned on me as I was looking at some basic office supplies--3/4 inch color coding stickers--that the white back of stickers would be a great way to bring out the color in my glass gems. 

I started by laying out a craft mat and my alcohol inks, and I cut up a bunch of squares of felt for my applicator as I knew I'd want to change colors several times. I grabbed some regular glass gems/flat marbles  (like the kind sold in the floral section at craft stores--they are about 3/4 of an inch in diameter). I would have liked to use the larger gems as they make better jewelry, but the standard stickers were too small. I started out with some green/blue ink. As you can see on the applicator, there's only a very small amount of ink--just two drops. The more ink you use on these glass gems, the wetter the felt is and the longer you have to stamp/let it dry before you get the ink to start separating a bit and making patterns.

After the gems were colored in a base coat of the green/blue, I started adding colors to the gems. I'd drip one or two drops of color onto the clean side of the applicator and stamp until I'd get colors that I'd like. I ended up layering several colors to get it the way that I liked it. Some blue, some light green, some yellow, some purple, some pink--you get the idea. I just kept putting color on until I liked it.

When I was satisfied with the colors, I let them dry for a few minutes before applying my stickers. I used the blue and green stickers since they corresponded better to the colors on the gem.

The stickers fit some of the gems perfectly, but others that were more oval in shape had some overhang. I just stuck the sticker onto the gem and then carefully trimmed the excess with a scissors.

I was pretty pleased with how bright they looked after the white sticky backs of the stickers created a contrast against the inked colors.

To keep the stickers from peeling up at the edges and to seal the paper so that it wouldn't come off if it got wet, I went ahead and painted on a coat of mod podge with a foam brush.

Then I used some E6000 to carefully glue on some tiny neodymium magnets (Note: this kind of magnet is very strong, and these small ones can be deadly if swallowed. Do not let kids play with them.). Be careful when you're gluing them onto the backs of the gems not to let them get too close to each other (the ones on the top right were too close and pulled their magnets out of the glue and had to be re-glued).  Though the neo magnets can be a bit of a pain, they make fantastic fridge magnets. They hold papers up so much better than the standard craft magnets.

In the end, I was really happy with how the colors turned out when backed by the stickers. If you pick your largest gems out of the stash, the stickers should fit the backs pretty well too. I'd definitely do this again. Now I just have to find some stickers the right size for my larger gems.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Favorite Crafty YouTube Channels

I've been recovering from a nasty knock-down-drag-out of a cold virus this last week and a half or so, so the craft tutorials have crawled to a bit of a halt, but I'm on the mend (I hope). Hopefully, we'll have new craft tutorials up next week, but until then, I thought I'd share some of my favorite crafty YouTube channels.

HGTV Handmade: Yep the cable channel has a special crafting youtube channel which features regular contributors (many of whom have their own channels too, so it's a great place to start your crafty YouTube binge).

Karen Kavett: One of the regular posters from HGTV Handmade is Karen Kavett. She's also a graphic designer who's done a lot of work for the Vlogbrothers (the YouTube brotherly duo of Hank and John Green).

Sea Lemon: Is another crafter that has been featured on HGTV Handmade (but I'm not sure that she's a regular contributor anymore or not). At any rate, her channel is full of fun craft projects.

Make Your Mark (Mark Montano): And how could I forget Mark Montano (yeah that Mark Montano from the classic TLC renovation show While you Were Out). He's since published several craft books and has a great YouTube channel filled with projects.

Let me know what your favorite crafting channels are in the comments!

Monday, June 5, 2017