Saturday, December 20, 2014

How NOT to Make Melted Plastic Bead Ornaments (and also How to)

We've got a medium-sized stash of random, mixed-up, unsorted beads, and one day I dream that we shall instead have a stash--of any size--of organized, sorted beads, many of which are the color and shape that we find most useful.

Until then, however, the children and I craft from the madness, picking out by hand what we'd like, and to hasten the end of this chaos and forward the time when order will reign, I encourage the types of projects that use up lots of beads quite quickly.

Such is the case with this project, these melted plastic bead ornaments.

We've done sun catchers before, but for one reason or another I didn't write about them at the time. Writing about the projects that we do is very important to me, primarily because I like to take note, as I write, of what worked, what didn't work, and how to better do the project next time.

You'll see how this affects this current project in a minute.

But even though I didn't write about the sun catchers, I pretty much remembered how we made them, and so I started the kids working on their ornaments the same way, first sorting out the beads and filling their silicon muffin trays with their selections:

You can also use metal muffin tins, or even non-stick baking pans, but these novelty silicon trays make cute ornaments. 

Ideally, you want to use pony beads, because those have a standard melting temperature (around 400 degrees), but with our mixed assortment, the kids used only mostly pony beads, with others included as they struck their fancy. 

Ideally, you also want to arrange the beads into a single layer, but that's pretty fussy, so the kids simply plopped the beads in however they liked, with me reminding Will several times to keep it shallow.

I've heard that you can melt your beads over an outdoor grill, but last time I plugged the toaster oven outside and used that, and it worked so well that I did it again. You can set a toaster oven to the correct temperature, and since it's outside, all those toxic fumes of melting plastic will simply dissipate on the wind.

Yep, toxic fumes. I'm 100% positive that this project is crap for the environment.

So the thing about my toaster oven is that it's really old, and even when we DID buy it, we bought it at a garage sale, so it's, like, really, REALLY old. 

And... it probably doesn't work quite right, particularly in the temperature setting, because when I set it to a perfectly reasonable 425 degrees, going out to check on it every five minutes (it should take around 20-25 minutes for the beads to melt nicely), this is what I found when I pulled the tray out for my second check:


Um.... oops?

There goes my favorite silicon mold!

Obviously, the toaster oven was WAY hotter than 400 degrees, so when I tried again (of course I tried again!), I set it down to 300 degrees.

Perfection:

Use a power drill to drill a hole near the top of the ornament (but not too close to the edge, or the drill's torque will cause the brittle plastic to crack), use a pair of wire nippers to cut off about six inches of jewelry wire, and let the kids use the wire to make hanging loops for their ornaments, and then hang them on the tree for all to admire:

Syd made the stocking, and Will made the burned gingerbread cookie. Goofy kid.

I really want to show the kids how to use roughly the same technique to make these ornaments out of melted crayon, as well, but who knows if I'll have the time? 

Good thing that Christmas will happen next year, too!

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