Category Archives: Repurpousing

Finding ways to reuse and recycle. Sometimes the best highest use for something is not what the maker of an object intended.

Chess trophies


2020 Chess Trophy

2019 Trophy

2018 Trophy

2017 trophy detail

2017 trophy detail



For the past few years I have organized a chess tournament at our school.  Each year, I create a trophy out of bits and pieces of stuff.  In 2017 the trophy features a flag that says checkmate.

The students are quite enthusiastic chess players and the trophy is something to recognize that effort.

A golden king at the top.


2016 Trophy


A knight encased in plastic.



2014 trophy

2014 trophy

2013 Trophy

2012 Chess Trophy

2011 Chess trophy

The 2011 trophy had a pawn enclosed in a clear box


There should be a 2010 and a 2009 trophy but I do not have a photo.

I think the 2010 one had bird of prey capturing a piece.  The 2009 was a clear plastic pepper grinder that looked like a giant chess piece.


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Fairy Garden

Since I was young I have been fascinated by miniatures. This new mini garden has a mountain, river and small village contained within a 3’ diameter.


Last year when someone left the stand for an outdoor fire pit on the curb, it started me thinking about how to convert it to something useful.  I combined the stand with 2” styrofoam insulation, cut up pieces of electric go-kart, rubber roof material, miniature houses and gutter mesh.  The styrofoam was a base upon which I sculpted terrain out of cut up pieces of go-kart.   In order for the river to hold water, I cut the roof membrane to cut through the middle of the garden.  The gutter mesh is screwed to the terrain to help hold soil in place.   Since the gutter mesh is not that wide, I stitched pieces of it together with electrical wire.  The houses fit though holes cut in the mesh. 

I have planted mostly succulent plants and moss as I wanted the growth to hug the terrain and not overwhelm the scale of the houses.   I added some slate to make a mini path to the houses.   I will be interesting to see how the plantings mature as the season progresses.  This afternoon there were heavy rains which should be helpful for the plants although I got soaked through and through as I was riding home on my bike.


The mini garden sits next to the little library.

The mini garden sits next to the little library.


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Old Bike / New Home

This bike is a 1974 Raleigh International. It was my father’s bike for many years when he commuted to work. It has been handed down to me and I am looking for someone who would be interested in a classic. At the time it was considered a high end professional/racing bike. I have seen these in remarkably pristine condition selling on ebay for three or four times what I am asking. I cannot imagine how you could own one and not want to ride the hell out of it, but I suppose if you have kept yours in a garage since 1974 you can ask more for it than I am.  As you can see from the photos this one has a good patina to it. Most of it is original. You can probably guess what has been replaced (rims, tires, brake pads, brake and shift cables, chain, seat, handlebar tape ) Originally it had toe clips… I may have them around somewhere, but the original leather straps did not make it. I do not have the original Brooks seat. At the time I thought it was kind of uncomfortable, but I hear it is an acquired taste. If I had that to do over, maybe I would have tried it longer. It is still light as a feather and in rideable condition, however a lot could be done to make it more smooth and polished.

My first inclination is to hang on to the bike. It is a classic and has a lot of great memories. I might ride it now and again if I hung onto it. On the other hand I would probably just stuff it away in some corner of the basement where it would be neglected and gather dust. I would rather someone else ride it. I have two other bikes and am considering building a third.

If you would like to time travel to 1974 in style this is the bike for you. Contact me at Shoot me an offer or maybe you have something interesting to trade.  The bike is now sold!














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A grade for my library


In the Fall of 2012, I was digging (and saving)1 at our local thrift shop when a small cabinet caught my eye.  I used it to make the Little Library that is planted in front of our home.  Since the library is a few steps from my door, it is easy to stop and tinker with it.  I often find myself wondering what I should do next.  Usually there is some object that speaks to me and says, “I was built for a, b or c function, but my real purpose in life is to serve as x, y or z part of the library.”  Over the last few years, I let my imagination carry me where it will, and so I added the museum, bulletin boards, Lincoln Logs, solar lighting, magnetic poetry, etc.  It is a little out of my control, but anyone who thinks they are in control are kidding themselves.


The Museum


If the library were an essay being brought to a professor for a grade, it would likely come back hanging its head with a B- and lots of comments in red ink about lack of focus and the need for a strong thesis statement.  He might scrawl a note in the margin saying, “Does a fairy ladder really support the main idea of lending books?”  Perhaps the professor would throw in a bone about how the library has lots of good ideas but lacks development.

I confess I share this trait with my library.  Unfinished projects pile up in my basement and attic.  My life will probably receive a disappointed B- from God who sees all my unrealized potential.  Hopefully in the fullness of time, all of the good ideas that I have laid aside will one by one come to fruit and I will be able to pull out an A+ for the final grade.  Lets hope that in the second semester of life I don’t do something ruinous to further bring down my grade, but all this talk of grades makes it sound like I am in control. When in reality, we really live under grace and life that is more of a pass/fail proposition.


Green roof

Over time a number of things have failed.  The library roof was a spectacular disaster.  I had fabricated a low slung hip roof using found material, but I was overly optimistic in thinking that a few coats of paint would protect the whole thing from the elements.  As moisture penetrated the fiberboard, it began to swell.  In a desperate rescue attempt I added a layer of vinyl to protect it, but soon it looked bloated.  I tossed the whole spongy mess of a roof into the trash and started from scratch.  The replacement roof was engineered to not only meet the challenges of the elements, but to support a roof garden.  The first plantings did not fare well, so for my second planting I gave more care in choosing my plants and watered them religiously.  At the end of last summer the roof looked lush, green, and shaggy. This spring the plantings have emerged from winter’s frost with new shoots.


When a failure is imposed by mother nature, there is no appeal process.  Leaky roofs and dead plantings must be addressed.  On the other hand, some rubrics are subjective.  Where one evaluator might see a lack of focus, another might find poetic expression.  If a Swiss Army Knife can claim the title of knife, then surely my library can rightly claim the title of library. I would hope that some years from now, when my work gets turned in for a final reckoning, the eye that reviews it will be sympathetic to who I am and what I have hoped to achieve.  Even if not everything gets the scrutiny of a four point scale, I want to try my very best.

More images and information on the library can be found at

1 The store’s name is Dig and Save




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Reusable Gift Wrap


As is my my habit, I used various fabrics to wrap Christmas gifts this year.   I dislike the waste of wrapping paper almost as much as I dislike saving old wrapping paper.   The three gifts show here are wrapped in clothing repurposed as gift wrap.   I like the dramatic colors and textures of the fabrics.   The blue gift is a Japanese fireman’s jacket.  The other two gifts are skirts.   I added a sturdy belt to contrast with the orange skirt.  On the long thin package, I put a ribbon and medallion saved from another year.     I did not sew or cut the garments.  I carefully tucked in the edges and simply pinned them on the packages with sewing pins.

Sorry I can’t reveal what the packages contain due to the risk that the recipient might read this blog.


A Japanese jacket as gift wrap.

The fish on the jacket are meant to evoke cool watery thoughts to help put out flames.

The fish on the jacket are meant to evoke cool watery thoughts to help put out flames.

This is the front of the Japanese fishing jacket.

This is the front of the Japanese fishing jacket.

This package wrapped with a skirt and heavy duty belt.

This package is wrapped with a skirt and heavy duty belt.

close up

A skirt and a medallion wrapping a gift.

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The thing that I have is probably what I need

index_cardThis morning I reached in my pocket and pulled out a tattered index card.   I give these cards to my students so they can write down and remember vocabulary words.  Without thinking, I took it to the trash and tossed it in.   I then began my next task which was writing my ‘to do’ list for the day.   As I wandered off to find a suitable sheet, it occurred to me that the paper I had just tossed was exactly what was needed.   This unremarkable event is representative of how my mind works these days.   I wandered back to the trash and fished out my tattered index card.   On it, I wrote out my list of things to do, writing this blog entry at top of the list.

Lately I challenge myself to look at things for what they might become rather than what they are.   I take a lot of joy in visiting our local thrift store “Dig and Save” to wander through the aisles and wonder how this or that item might be repurposed.

Consumer society wants us to covet the latest product.  The unique and extremely desirable qualities of such products are meant to lure us into stores, and dig deep into our pockets.   Sadly, products are the object of someone else’s imagination and we get none of the fun creative part that draws us in.   Instead, our role is limited to covet and savor it at least until it’s appeal has faded and it is time to buy another one.

Yesterday I went off to the stores right after Thanksgiving.   Yes, I had barely said goodbye to my guests when my family and I decided to venture out into the dangerous world of Black Friday shopping.   Needless to say I gave my daughter a guilt trip about running out to the stores on Thanksgiving.   When we got home, I told her that my receipt contained a request to evaluate my experience at the store.   She dismissed it saying “You’re not really going to fill it out are you?”   To her surprise I sat her down and gave her a two minute lecture the essence of which was “The old testament says that when we have a day of rest, even slaves and animals are included in that rest.   The least we can do for the cashier who took time out of his holiday to help us would be to sit down and write a glowing review for his personnel file.”

My thought in lecturing my daughter or in writing this blog for that matter is not to ruin everybody’s day with guilt, but to transform thinking.    If this challenge I give to myself is going to be transformative, I really need to look, not only at things for what they might become, but also to look at people for who they may become rather than what they are.


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