Doodle Earrings (Jewelry Charms) by Recycling #6 plastic (Make your own shrinky dinks!)

Picture of Doodle Earrings (Jewelry Charms) by Recycling #6 plastic (Make your own shrinky dinks!)
Here's a quick fun project! You don't need to be able to draw more than a doodle, and you end up with pretty & interesting jewelry!
These charms can be used for earrings, necklaces, or whatever you'd like. They are made out of plastic recycled from a to-go container (#6 plastic). The directions below are for 2 matching ones, which could be earrings. Because plastics & pens vary, you might start out with a test piece so see how much your plastic will shrink, and how your colors come out. Or just jump right in! It's only trash.
If you want more ideas and info, I did a whole bunch of experiments on my blog:
EDIT: and I did a Christmas ornament tutorial here: Santa Shrinky Ornaments:

This was the first project I tried, and I've updated the instructions based on what I learned on the best techniques.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
Plastic: It needs to be marked #6. Many to-go containers seem to work. Look for the number inside the recycling triangle. I used salad to-go boxes from my local pizza place.
Sharpie Markers in a variety of light colors, plus black.
Hole punch
Toaster (or regular) oven, preheated to around 250 degrees F
Polyurethane for sealing (optional)
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jewelry river2 months ago
What a great idea. Thanks
Tried this with a deli container labeled #1 and it worked exactly the way #6 is said to work. Oven at 350, took about 5 seconds for the plastic to curl up and another 5 to flatten back down. Shrinkage was about 50%, and coloring with a Sharpie prior to heating the item worked like a charm too.
Adding a bit. In your grocery store, you see these large clear disposable plastic containers with lids, containing fruit like watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberry, etc that's been cut up into small pieces for immediate serving. That's the kind of container this was.

I should mention that pieces cut from the side of the "bowl" shrank in an odd way (a rectangular piece comes out more "rainbow" shape) - but it's still predictable, based on the orientation of the piece that you cut. Pieces cut in the same direction will deform the same way.

Pieces cut from the flat bottom of the bowl and lid maintained their proportions and retained their shape.

Have you tried puzzle glue? I think you can brush it over the front of the puzzle, so I don't think it should yellow. I've never used it for anything so I'm just guessing, but it seems that it might dry clear and I don't think that it would have acetone.
I have a product here called 'Diamond Glaze' which is a clear drying glue/varnish and I got it to use on the backs of clear glass tile pendants. Here in UK the only polyurethane varnish I can get hold of is horrible stuff which dries with a yellow tinge.
mkke2 years ago
hmmm... I was wondering if anyone had tried resin/ glass??
This is a great tutorial and you are a patient individual!
Have you ever tried using crazy glue? It's far from perfect and a good whiff while concentrating on your piece will make your eyes water, but I've gotten good results from merely one coat.
DotatDabbled (author)  KwartzKitten3 years ago
that's an excellent idea. will have to try it!
Kerushii3 years ago
what a wonderful way to recycle!
Tiktaky3 years ago
My country doesn't have anything with #6 due to is carcenogenc nature. Do any other grades of plastic work.
(I tried importing some shrinky dink plastic, but it was seized at customs)

We also don't have those little lables, Our plastic container are bare. Maybe I just need to put this on my to-do list when I travel overseas.
Adrastia2173 years ago
thin CD jewel cases are a #6 plastic...i think the clear cover on them would be good for this kind of project...only thing is it might be hard to cut to shape...i was cutting a piece & it kind of splintered...but i was using these wire/sheet metal cutters...which i don't think was the right thing to cut it w/...but w/e...it's ok...i was melting it w/ a heat gun as abstract art...i just thought i'd mention it just as an idea to someone who may want to try that plastic...i'd love to see someone attempt it
Wynd4 years ago
Love love love love love love love!!
with what should we draw please can u say?(who made it)
DotatDabbled (author)  ajitha sam neon4 years ago
Draw anything you want! in this case I just made a bunch of swirls with black marker, then colored in the spaces between the black with different colors. If you have issues with the colors running together, try drawing the black on one side, then the colors on the other.
mjones254 years ago
how do you get the hole without using a drill
DotatDabbled (author)  mjones254 years ago
You use a hole punch (like the kind you use for paper) before you shrink it.
How large would you say the finished product of a 3x2 inch piece of plastic would be?

htonks4 years ago
You stamp the hole before shrinkage to protect it, right?
htonks4 years ago
Could you use clear nail polish over these instead of polyurethane?
DotatDabbled (author)  htonks4 years ago
Yes, in fact, several people have recommended that.
inazoo6 years ago
do you have to use sharpies or can it just be markers?
DotatDabbled (author)  inazoo4 years ago
Any permanent marker should work.
DotatDabbled (author)  inazoo6 years ago
any brand of permanent marker that will write on plastic...
thank you
Hmmmm, I posted a question and it didn't come up on your page :( I'm going to try again. When in the oven the plastic seemed to bubble in places and wouldn't lay flat. I even tried to flatten while still hot. No luck :( The container is #6...maybe it's just that particular container?? I did use an opaque cup. That worked GREAT! Do you think that I'm doing something wrong with the to go container? TY! Christine
DotatDabbled (author)  christine ang4 years ago
Try a different sample - not all #6 will work, but most will.
jmurray74 years ago
Does melting the plastic not release poisonous toxins into the air? I see that it's a low temperature but I'm still a little concerned since you are technically changing the molecular structure of the plastic by heating it.
DotatDabbled (author)  jmurray74 years ago
As with any project like this where you are melting things, I would suggest doing this in a well ventilated area or outside if you are concerned about fumes. If you're doing a large number of these, I think we've discussed in the comments getting a cheap toaster oven for this purpose and doing it outside.

Jiji4 years ago
I have had good luck with spray varnish....I hold the spray nozzle about a foot away and spray very lightly. Works like a charm.

If you spray too heavy or too close, or yes, it could get interesting.

It's nice too, because it's dry in about 10 minutes.
k-k-b5 years ago
Is it 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 250 degrees Celsius?
DotatDabbled (author)  k-k-b5 years ago
Farenheit..  So a very low oven.
I know I'm probably becoming annoying with this, but ehow says 350 works fine. http://www.ehow.com/way_5431670_homemade-shrinky-dinks.html

Leeden5 years ago
Um, I tried this but 30 seconds didn't do anything what-so-ever. :c

I had to use a normal oven but it took minutes until they did anything at all. Such a long time made me weary to keep them in too much longer after they fell the first time.
jvarberg Leeden4 years ago
Again, according to ehow.com, it can take from 1-5 minutes to shrink and flatten back out. http://www.ehow.com/way_5431670_homemade-shrinky-dinks.html
DotatDabbled (author)  Leeden5 years ago
As with any time that you're working with 'unknown' materials (ie recycled from trash!) sometime you might get a dud.  I tried this with some cool black plastic labeled #6 one time, but it didnt work. 

I would guess your plastic was too thick or just manufactured in a different way.

Try again with another sample.  (and always do a test piece with scrap prior to spending a ton of time on making something cool, to find out your material doesn't perform as expected.)
rachelmaryb4 years ago
How can you flatten it if it's hot...? o.O
It should flatten on it's own. If it doesn't, it's not #6 plastic (according to ehow.com). http://www.ehow.com/way_5431670_homemade-shrinky-dinks.html
broberts34 years ago
Can i just point out that plastic with the number 6 on it is not safe when heated and is a human carcinogen. Is there anyhting else i could do the designs on? I think its a brilliant idea though. =)
DotatDabbled (author)  broberts34 years ago


That's why I recommend doing this in a ventilated area, or even outside with a toaster oven you don't care about. To me the risk of doing this very occasionally is acceptable. But of course everyone should use their own judgement.

If you don't want to use #6, you could use actual purchased Shrink Plastic (aka "shrinky dinks") to the same effect..
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