By Kathleen Wolak
Summer is officially here, which means that school has finally let out, freeing students from pencils, books, and teachers’ dirty looks. But that doesn’t mean your house is free from a pile of old school supplies and textbooks. What are you going to do with all that stuff? Just chuck it out? No way! That’s wasteful! After the final bell has rung, here are some fun DIY projects using leftover school supplies.
1. Photo Transfers
College bookstores are notorious for buying back your used textbooks at a small fraction of what you paid for them just a few months ago. Are you gonna let them get away with this scam again? Not this time! We’re gonna keep our textbooks because we can use them for a cool and simple project using a technique called photo transferring.
- An old textbook
- Matte Mod Podge or gel medium
- A piece of wood (can be sanded, course, painted, or bare)
- A stiff piece of cardboard or plastic for smoothing
- A paper towel or washcloth
- A sponge brush
First, tear the page from the textbook that you want to transfer onto your wood. Textbooks are the best choice for photo transfers because most of them have been printed with a laser jet printer on thin paper. This ensures that the ink will stick to the wood. Another plus with textbooks is the content they provide. Words, images, and diagrams all work great for photo transfers. You can’t lose! Even an algebra equation can produce a dank keepsake when you use it for a photo transfer! I like to use old casebooks from law school, especially if I am making a gift for a lawyer!
You’re going to want to SLIGHTLY dampen the wood on the part that you will be applying your selected image. This will ensure the ink sticks cleanly to the wood. Next, it’s time to apply the Mod Podge or gel medium. Cover the area you have selected with a thin layer of the Mod Podge or gel medium using a sponge brush.
Carefully place the image you have chosen (the image you want side down) on the thin layer of Mod Podge or gel medium and smooth out. Use a thick piece of cardboard or plastic (I suggest an old credit or club card) to get rid of any air bubbles.
Wait 24 hours. Moisten your washcloth or paper towel. The washcloth should not be dripping, only damp. Drape the washcloth over your project and wait ten minutes. Carefully peel a corner of the paper back. if the ink is sticking, carefully peel away the whole paper and voila! An instant piece of very cool art!
2. Studious Stash Box
These are fun to make and are a great addition to anyone’s office.
- A large textbook you don’t mind cutting up
- An X-ACTO knife
- A ruler
- A piece of thick cardboard
- Mod Podge
- A sponge brush
- A steady hand
For a large textbook, grab about forty pages and put the cardboard underneath this section. CAREFULLY cut a square out of the middle of these pages. Remove the cardboard when you have cut through the first forty pages. Use the hollow center of the book as your stencil to cut as deep as you like. After you’re satisfied with the depth, coat the outside pages with Mod Podge. Keep the book opened as it dries and wait 24 hours. When the Mod Podge dries, you will be left with a perfect box to stash school supplies or knickknacks! Pro Tip: these can also be used as planters!
Don’t throw these away! Yes, they are bulky and nothing quite says freedom like tossing them in the air a la “Dazed & Confused,” but there’s a practical use for these after the final school bell rings for the year! Have you been meaning to get your recipes squared away or your budget in order? Use a binder to help you get organized! You’ll be surprised at how much more helpful a binder can be for planning a meal than say, biology!
4. Pen Holder
This is a very easy and fun way to memorialize your favorite textbook or your notes.
- A textbook or notes (if you or your kids doodle in class, this is where you can show them off!)
- A jar (any size, I recommend using a pesto or jam jar)
- Mod Podge
- Sponge or sponge brush
I find these to be great specialty gifts. Make sure your jar is clean and dry. Simply tear pages at random from the textbook or your notebook and soak them with Mod Podge. Apply around the jar until covered and let dry for 24 hours.
There! These project ideas oughtta keep you plenty busy this summer!
Images used with permission, courtesy of Kathleen Wolak