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I did a thing. And I also don’t know what to do with it now. Tray? Art? Not sure yet.

It started as a surplus of paint sticks to craft with as a goof while watching TV (crafting keeps my hands busy and mindless snacking to a minimum). I didn’t have a plan, and I was betting on it not really panning out. But as it took shape, I realized it could be used for any number of things: put magnets on the back, hang keys from it with little hooks, make it into a sign, and more…

It seems kind of strange to create something and then have too many options for it, but I basically got it finished up to a point, and can’t make a decision on the last step. So, I’m a little curious: what would you do with it? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

If you want to make this… um… thingie, yourself, what you’ll need is a simple list of supplies:

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Because I never expected it to turn into something other than an activity to do while watching TV over the holidays, I didn’t actually have photos of the first few steps (I know, I know… bad blogger!). But it’s probably pretty straightforward just by looking at the pictures I do have (and you can scroll a little further down to step 3 to see the back side).

Step 1

Step 1 – Gather a heaping pile of 1-gallon paint sticks (you know the kind – the stuff people use for amazing crafts like this). I find that Home Depot is more generous with these than Lowe’s, but that’s just my experience. If you’re like me, you would have gathered them over time from the home improvement store with the intention of doing a completely different (and bigger) project and ran out of steam. Such is the DIY life.

Get bored one night with the desire to make a craft. Maybe you’ve had a beer or two? I don’t know your life. (P.S. Rogue actually sent me a few to “try”… thanks guys!)

Step 2

Step 2 – Put on safety glasses and sit on your bedroom floor with your supplies, fully aware that you are going to have to clean this up later (but, that’s Tomorrow You’s problem). If you care about it, you might put a sheet or plastic underneath you to prevent stuff from getting into your carpet… because if you wind up sawing paint sticks on the floor, even if you try to be as tidy as possible, you will make a mess.

Step 3

Step 3 – In my case, I had already cut the ends off of some of the sticks (just to get rid of the handle part) as well as several more at 45-degree angles for the previous project that I abandoned. Since these were unintended leftovers, I just grabbed the wood glue and first made a square frame (sophisticated graphic below for visual help). If you work it so that one end is always the first edge of the next side, it will form a square frame.

step 4

Step 4 -To help support the top layer of sticks, add a middle piece to the frame (this one has to be trimmed a little with the miter box before it will fit).

I also added a back piece for extra support for hanging, should I ever decide to hang it.

Since this was the part where I didn’t know if I was making a thing or not, I’ll just show you the back of the frame for reference (which again, sorry… I took pictures once I started to sand and stain in the garage).

step 5

Step 5 -Start playing around with placement before gluing, or just begin without a plan; this is not a high-risk project. I wanted lines going at all different angles so just started at a random spot and fanned out from there. To get the right cut, mark things from the back side and cut each piece manually on the miter box. Glue, cut, glue, cut.

step 6

Step 3 – Once the whole piece is filled in, reinforce the back with leftover bits that didn’t make the cut on the front (hopefully, this informs why it looks so weird on the back!). Then, fill in any small gaps with stainable wood filler, let dry, and sand.

step 7

Pick a stain, any stain. Then seal.

For a finishing touch, I added some leftover mitered trim to the edge. And voilà: a thing that I don’t know what to do with yet.

step 8

I took photos of my project blank, not knowing what to do with it next, but because of the extra piece on the back, I can either hang it on the wall or lay it flat on a table (the trim around the edge is even with the piece on the back so that it won’t wobble). I think I’m going to leave it as-is for now. Plus, the staged photos above will work great as my own personal stock/prop photos if I do a giveaway, etc). Here are my thoughts on other future uses so far:

  • add magnets to the back to hold items like keys or whatever (similar to how you’d make a magnetic key older like this)
  • add hooks to hang things and mount on a wall
  • coat with salad bowl finish to make it food safe, and use it at your next party to display food or as a trivet
  • add a stencil to the front to make it look more like “art”
  • add a small mirror to the front and hang
  • use it as a tray for my jewelry
  • burn it with fire (no, I’m not actually going to do this, but if I asked 100 people what to do with something that had no intended purpose, at least one person would suggest throwing it away)

Do you have a different suggestion than my list above? I’d love to hear it!

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  1. It reminds me of the art set of panels I bought from Target but better. You should totally make three more and hang them in a diamond pattern. Very cool for a project on the fly.

  2. Put ridiculously thick polyurethane on it. Put some magnets behind it, and get some dry-erase markers with magnets too. BOOM. Rustic whiteboard.

      1. Maybe you could even mix it with Shana’s idea above, and use a different board for different topics. . . A bit like Kit’s chalkboard!

          1. Okay, here’s the “epic” version:

            Do four like Shana said. Top one is a clock. The other three are whiteboards. It’s ALL THE THINGS. /projectenabler

  3. It’s hard to tell what size it is, maybe 8 inches or so? I was thinking it would make a cool mega-coaster. Maybe something you could set a pitcher of ice tea or lemonade on to protect a coffee table. It looks pretty cool, especially for something you came up with on the fly.

    1. Cool idea! Yeah, it’s about that size… but I doubt since it’s weaker quality wood that a heavy pitcher would stay put, but if it got ruined, it wouldn’t be the worst thing (it was basically free, so…). thanks for the suggestion!

  4. stencil your house numbers on it and stick it on the front of your house. Or stencil some fun saying or pic and hang it in the house.

  5. Sarah, I think this is really cool! And while super simple… I say make 2 more and put them up in the wall as a series. Maybe change up the stain on the other 2.

  6. Its a great little backdrop for small printables, or motivational sayings. You could add a clip to the top of add the printables with poster gum. I love the pattern to the wood inserts in this. Really modern and nice.