Recycling & Reuse Projects

Over the past several years I’ve done several interesting recycling and reuse projects.  Below is a list of some of the more interesting items I’ve made.


boat600A cardboard boat

I got the idea for a cardboard boat from the many photographs and videos on the web of cardboard boat races.  But while many of those boats are designed to stay afloat for a few hundred yards, I wanted to make one that would be durable enough to last a few years.  So I took some ideas from the internet along with some ideas of my own, and made a single-person cardboard kayak. It’s been several years and it still floats.  I’ve made videos of the boat in action on Meadow Grounds Lake, the Juniata River, and the Potomac river. I wrote a blog post about the construction that includes some frequently asked questions and a video explaining the construction.  I also have a YouTube playlist that contains several videos of the boat, from construction to fishing out of it.

Solar ovens

I’ve made solar ovens out of anything from cardboard boxes to old satellite dishes. In the case of the latter, I have recorded a video of the construction.   And they can cook just about anything. Probably the easiest solar oven to make is one based on the CooKit design. I recently made a video of me cooking a whole chicken using that solar oven.  My other solar cooking videos are below:


completed ufoCompact Disc UFO

This little craft makes use of an old CD or DVD, a Styrofoam egg, and a couple of golf tees. This video explains the construction process, and this blog post will give you details and a materials list.

You might want to resist the urge to throw these things like a Frisbee, though, because the edges can be a little sharp. A better idea is to use fishing line to attach them to the ceiling for decoration.


broom-800pxSoda Bottle Broom

Like many of the others, this idea wasn’t original with me.  I found a picture of soda bottle broom on the Internet, but the instructions were vague, so I made one and recorded a video of the process as well.



Do you know of any other cool recycling projects?  If so, put your ideas on the comments below.

How to turn an old CD into a UFO

I am one of those people that doesn’t like to throw things away. This is especially true if the item in question has any potential of being useful. When I ran my computer business I received lots of equipment in cardboard boxes. That led me to design a boat, a footstool, and some solar ovens – all made from cardboard. I’ve used empty soda bottles to make a broom. And I use empty peanut butter containers to store various fasteners and other small items in my garage.

So it’s not surprising that I designed a UFO that makes use of old CDs and DVDs. This project is easy enough for kids to do with a bit of adult supervision. The video gives the step-by-step guide on how to build one. Here is the list of parts that you’ll need:

How to make a cardboard boat that is built to last

About a year ago I did a video about the building of my cardboard boat. I built the boat in 2008 after reading on the Internet about cardboard boat races. However, instead of making a boat designed to stay afloat for a few hundred yards, I built one that was designed to last much longer. The final product was a mixture of instructions I found on the Internet and some ideas of my own.

The video has the majority of the information you will need to get the job done. I’m doing this post now to answer some of the frequently asked questions about the construction process:

Q: How do you make the first layer of newspaper stick to the cardboard?

A: First, I brushed a coat of varnish on the cardboard. Then I place pieces of newspaper on the hull, making sure there are no bubbles or wrinkles. Once that is dry, I apply a coat of varnish on top of the newspaper and repeat the process. Once I have as many layers of newspaper as I desire, then I finish it off with two or three more coats of varnish.

Q: What kind of varnish did you use?

A: I used Helmsman Spar Urethane because I had some of that on hand. If I had it to do over, I’d probably use this product from Rust-Oleum. Similar brands of varnish should work as well.

Q: Where do I find water activated paper tape?

A: Here is a link to some on Amazon. If this item is no longer available, do a search on Amazon for “water activated tape”, and you should find plenty of options.

Q: How do you make the paddle?

A: I didn’t! This part wasn’t cardboard. I bought a kayak paddle like this one.

This post may be updated in the future as more questions are posted in the video comments.

How to turn your child into a computer geek

memory1.JPGMy almost-three-year-old has gotten quite proficient at the game of memory.  You know, the one where you compete to find matching cards.  Not only is he good at remembering the location of the cards, but he can usually name the object or character on each of the cards.  So he now can correctly identify Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and more.  While developing memory skills is a good thing, knowing who Goofy and Mickey Mouse are is not exactly a valuable skill.

memory2.JPGI figure if he can learn to identify useless characters, he can probably learn to identify useful objects such as computer components.  So I hunted down some sheets of blank 3.5″ diskette labels that had been in the cupboard for years, snapped a few pictures of computer components, and then designed and printed them using OpenOffice Writer.  Then I applied the labels to cardboard I salvaged from an empty cereal box.