Thursday, March 17, 2011

Letterpress Tray Transformed

A couple of months ago I was perusing Etsy and saw this shop that transforms old letterpress type trays into interesting jewelry displays.  I immediately fell in love with the idea and decided to take a stab at it myself.  See, I've got a little issue when it comes to my's EVERYWHERE!  On my nightstand, on the mantle in the living room, on the bathroom counter, and scattered in mass disarray all over my dresser. There's absolutely no organization whatsoever.  So, for Xmas my wonderful mother bought me a jewelry box.  But as nice as it was, it just didn't go with our new bedroom scheme and I wasn't wild about it.  And I wasn't crazy about any of the other jewelry boxes I found online or in stores either.  But a custom letterpress tray that I could hang on the wall and display all my jewelry...I could get on board with that.

So, the quest to find a letterpress tray began!  Turns out, it's not that hard to find an affordable letterpress tray if you know where to look.  I ended up finding one (well, there were many) at the Ohio Valley Antique Mall during my birthday celebration with my gal pals.  While we wondering around the antique mall searching for a letterpress tray (and other treasures) I explained the jewelry display idea to my sister and my HLP, Amanda.  Amanda commented that she thought that sounded like such a cool idea and that if it worked out to let her know, as she's got a budding jewelry collection forming (she recently got her ears pierced for the first time last year).  **LIGHT BULB**  Amanda had just given me this extremely thoughtful, homemade birthday present  that I adored and I immediately thought to am I going to compete with this when her birthday rolls around in early March?  Letterpress jewelry display anyone?

So, I bought a letterpress tray that day for myself and a couple weeks later Antoine and I went back and found one for Amanda.  With all the sickness buzzing around our house I didn't have time/energy to work on my jewelry display first, so Amanda's tray had to be the guinea pig in this little experiment...

 Here's the tray as it was when I purchased it!  The inside compartments were untreated (as many of them are) with little letters written in pencil above each compartment to denote which type goes where.

 The compartments varied in size, as many do.

 The handle was a little rusted, but I kind of liked that.  And the top of the tray (where the handle was located was covered with a metal plate (to protect it) that was grey and rusted.  That had to come off for sure.

 Some of the wood around this metal strip was painted grey to match...aka lots of sanding.

 After much difficulty trying to find the right saw to cut out the compartments I finally got to work.  (I ended up using a mini-hacksaw.  Once I found that and got started this part was actually a breeze!)

 Here's a shot after all the cutting was complete.  See how I made several long narrow compartments...those are for necklaces.

 Close-up after the cutting was complete.  You can see the shadow of where the original wood pieces were.

The cutting and customizing of the compartments was actually the easiest part.  After that I removed the handle and the rusted metal strip at the top of the tray (not-so-skillfully using a screwdriver, slowly prying it off) and then I sanded down the entire thing, starting with coarse and ending with a fine sand paper.  Then I began staining!  This was probably the most labor-intensive part.  With all the small compartments it took quite a bit of time.  It didn't help that I was doing it inside (in the dining room) because it was too cold outside and the fumes were insane.  Note to self: don't be an idiot and try staining something indoors without proper will result in a headache and the inability to function properly for the next couple hours.  After staining Antoine so nicely sprayed the entire tray with a layer of polyurethane, since I was incapacitated from the toxic stain fumes.  Next step was to drill holes for the cup and eye hooks I had selected to hold necklaces, earrings and bracelets.  I could only find silver, gold and white hooks so I ended up buying the sizes I needed and then spray painting them to give them an antique-like finish.  Then it was just a matter of putting the handle back on, attaching the hooks and nailing mounting brackets on the back of the tray so Amanda could hang it on the wall.

The finished product...

 I decided to go with a dark stain (one of the darkest they had at Lowe's) and it ended up matching almost exactly with Amanda's dresser and nightstand.

 The cup hooks can hold necklaces, bracelets, and even rings, while the very small eye hooks are perfect for dangle earrings (which is what Amanda has most of).

 For her post earrings I purchased some wine bottle corks.  I cut them down and glued them in four of the smaller compartments.

 I'm really happy with how it turned out.  A couple things I might try differently when I go to do mine: drilling the holes for the hooks before I stain the tray (the dust got everywhere and wanted to stick to the polyurethane) and actually letting the stain dry for a full 24 hours before I apply the polyurethane and then letting the polyurethane dry completely before attaching the hooks (what can I say, it was crunch time)!

In the end, it was a pretty successful project!  And Amanda seemed to really like it (yay!).  Now, I can't wait to get started on mine!

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