diy -- two too simple projects

August 11, 2013

I typically favor functionality over aesthetics, a tendency that shows in many of my home decor choices [1]. But every now and then I like to work on something that adds a little personality to my living space. These are two easy home decor projects that fit well into my room and might work for other people. Both projects require few tools and make use of junk materials, so they easy to make and environmentally friendly.

1. Bullet Shell Candle Dish

I hate throwing away bullet casings, but haven’t been able to find much use for them. I had a spark of inspiration one day and decided to use them as the bedding for a tea candle. I like the end result, as it strikes a balance between traditional masculinity and… well, tea candles.


  • Candle dish (I got mine at IKEA)
  • Tea candle (also from IKEA)
  • Bullet shells, in various calibers (not from IKEA)

Supplies needed

The first thing you’ll need to do is get some shells. I had been saving some up for a while, so I already had them on hand. But if you don’t have the means of getting any, you can probably ask around at the local gun range. I recommend getting some in various calibers; I used .22lr, .45acp, and .30-06. I found that bigger shells would leave lots of gaps, so I used mostly .22lr shells, five or six .45 acp, and three .30-06.

Once you have the shells, you may want to clean them up. I rinsed off most of mine and then set them in the sun to dry. After drying, I placed them in the candle dish to see what looked good. The .22’s have a tendency to stick up, so I’d push them down because I think it looks a little better that way. Once you’re satisfied with the look, you’re done!

Assembled candle dish

2. Floppy Disk Pen Holder

This is a more practical project with a little geeky charm. It’s a good reminder for me of how fast technology has developed just in my short lifespan. Cue “Back in my day…” rant[2]. This pen holder is quite functional and requires few tools and materials to build; this would probably be a good project for kids (with parental supervision).

materials pic


  • Floppy disks (5)
  • Zip ties (15 or so)


  • Drill (or drill press)
  • Scissors

The basic plan is to build a cube out of the floppy disks, so you need four for the walls and one for the base. If you have something against cubes or you only have three floppy disks, you can also make a prism shaped one and leave the bottom open. Just be sure to put your pens/pencils in tip-up or you’ll mark up your desk. To tie the surfaces together I decided to use zip ties. You could get a cleaner look if you glued it, but I hate waiting for glue to dry…

First we’ll mark all the holes that need to be drilled. The floppy disks I used had a lock feature, a slider that moved up/down to prevent/allow writing to the disk. This created a little gap, which I used to avoid having to drill extra holes. My floppy disk also had dimples near the top, which I used as markers for holes. The four pieces that consist of the walls just require drilling through those dimples.

Showing dimples on disk

Next you need to mark the holes to attach the base to the four walls. I just laid out the disks to make a ‘+’ sign with the base disk in the middle of the plus. Next, pick two floppy disks on opposite sides of the center disk, these will be the disks that the base attaches to. For each of those two disks, mark two holes near the bottom. Then make two sets of marks on the center disk to match up with those holes.

Markings for base disk

Don’t worry about getting the measurements perfect, the zip ties allow some flexibility. Now drill all the holes. You can do that by putting the disks on a piece of scrap wood and drilling into that.

To assemble the pen holder, run the zip ties through the holes of the disks and tighten. Once assembled cut off the extra lengths of zip tie and voila:

Finished pen holder

Now you’re organized and ready to get to work! Or maybe you’ll just browse tools online for a couple minutes…

[1] For example, my bed is made out of a door and Unistrut, because I wanted a bed frame that could fit a mini-fridge under it. It’s ugly, but cheap and disassembles for easy storage.

[2] I carried a floppy disk in middle school so I could print out homework. It only held a piddling 4 MB. And I had to walk to school, uphill, both ways!