How to Turn Junk Mail and Paper Into Very Nice Bowls

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Introduction: How to Turn Junk Mail and Paper Into Very Nice Bowls

I get alot of old paper, from magazines to junk mail to old telephone directories. I also work at a job where I throw out (or am supposed to, but instead I make bowls!) alot of paper. I mean ALOT. In the summer, I easily can print 2k pages of paper and throw away about that many. Each Night.

Yea, thats pretty scary. Paper is not to be used so trivially in my opinion. But it's hard to change work practices.

So I instead make bowls!

I was inspired to make these from here

And no, this will not the kind that you roll up and coil around and around.. mainly because I am lazy. But I will show you how to do that as well at the end.

Step 1: What You Need

  • Paper. Lots of paper.
Think old grocery store ads, newspapers, magazines, telephone books, old schoolwork, roll of tickets.
  • Scissors, paper cutter, box cutter...
For cutting the paper
  • A piece cut off the end of a dowel
For the center (you dont have to do this, it's just easier to get started)
  • Rubber band
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Water
  • Sandpaper (I use 120 grit)
  • Acrylic Sealer

If you wish to use these bowls for food, I would recommend coating them with mineral oil or tung oil when you are finished. Remember that you will have to re-coat the bowls occasionally.

The best option is to coat the bowl in a clear epoxy. Make sure to let the epoxy cure for at least 30 days. Epoxy IS dangerous, and you dont want it on or around your food, but once the epoxy has cured completely (which can take longer than 1 month, research the epoxy you are going to use) the epoxy is then inert and 100% safe to use with food, drinks, ect.

Step 2: Cutting

Now is when you start cutting your paper.

Cut your paper into as even strips as possible, around 1 inch.

What is nice about this is that you can cut your paper, save it in a bag or whatever, and when you have enough you can start the project.

Step 3: Starting to Wrap

Once you have at least some of your paper cut, get your piece of the dowel rod.

You dont have to do this step, however it makes it MUCH easier to have something round for the middle.

What also works great are empty bill bottles. That way your bowl has a place to keep small things in safely.


Take a piece of tape and tape one end of your first piece of paper.

Tape it onto the side of the dowel rod piece and start wrapping.

Step 4: Wrapping and Shaping

Tape more strips of paper to the first, end on end, to get a nice long strip going.

Use this to get your bowl started.

While you are wrapping, use the rubber band to keep the bowl from unwinding.

Remember to tape the ends together on the inside, this will help keep tears to a minimum.

Dont use double-sided tape either.

Step 5: Keeping the Bowl Taut

During the course of wrapping the bowl, it may get a bit loose, so just hold onto the middle and pull on the end to keep it taut.

If your paper strip gets torn, just tape it back together and keep working.

Step 6: Stopping

Once you think your bowl is the right size or width across, go ahead and stop, taping the end down.

It will look like a very thick pancake at this point.

Step 7: Shaping Your Bowl

Use your thumbs to shape the bowl.

Pull with your thumbs upwards from the outside while pushing down on the inside.

I try to keep it nice and neat as I go along, but it's not necessary.

Go ahead and leave the edge a bit thick, that way the top is reinforced. If you make the top to thin, it will tend to bend and tear on you. You dont want that.

Step 8: Sanding

Use your sandpaper to sand the outside and inside of your bowl to get it all nice and smooth.

You can forgo this step if you like it rough.

Step 9: Picking the Rim Piece

Now decide on what you want your rim to look like.

I have used a few comic strips from a newspaper carefully cut out. Duct Tape. The thick paper the perfume ads in magazines. Wallpaper. Even Fabric. It's completely up to you.

Once you have decided, tape or glue it around the edge to your liking.

Step 10: Gluing

Mix the glue and water about 50/50

Then brush the glue onto the inside, letting it air dry for about an hour.

Then brush the glue onto the outside, letting it dry completely.

Step 11: Sanding Again

I sand it yet again after the glue has all dried.

Get out the acrylic sealer and give it two good coats, inside and out as well as the tip of the rim.

Sand between each coat. (can you tell I like my bowls smooth?)

I normally give the rim area 3-4 coats all told.

Step 12: Finished!

Admire your bowl made from paper that you no longer wanted or needed.



Step 13: How to Roll the Paper Instead

Get yourself a 1/2" dowel rod.
Uncut paper.

Basically, take your sheet of paper and you roll the paper around the dowel rod at an angle for a longer tube, taping the end so it stays rolled and slide it off. Do this many times. Around 25 or so is a good number.

Then tape each roll to the other, and start coiling then together.

Once you are done coiling your paper, tape the end down, and turn it from the pancake shape into that of a bowl, like in Step 7.

Then glue and sand and use the acrylic sealer like in steps 10 and 11.

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    81 Comments

    Great tutorial! Definitely something I want to try. Hey, have you ever considered putting some of your more extravagant pieces in an art show? There just has to be an audience for this kind of thing...

    I'm skeptical, but I still may do it........one thing, though: it's sorta like you took the "low" road here.....what with the going on and on about the "scraps" of paper, then you cave and use a roll of tickets.........kinda odd.

    Interesting, nonetheless.

    I'd never have to buy gas again!

    Shya, whoulnt that be nice. i think you can, but it will only get you about 1/4 km

    For those of you feeling more subversive than crafty, here's an idea. You know those pre-addressed and postage-paid envelopes that are included with offers? Take the junk mail sent to you, shred it up, stuff it into that envelope, seal it up and send! The company that sent you the junk mail will now have to deal with junk mail of their own, and pay the for postage!

    5 replies

    My husband is a programmer for a printing company that does direct mail for various companies, including credit card companies. I can tell you that sending back extra-full envelopes doesn't do anything except make the costs go up for the consumer. You'll be able to thank higher interest rates and penalties on all these "revenge" return postage deals. Anyway, take away junk mail in our country and you take away thousands of jobs from pre-press artists to programmers to press operators to mail carriers. Just throw them away or recycle them.

    I agree. The only ones I send back are the one based on religious or political beliefs and usually I'll have my husband think of something inappropriate (probably from 4chan) to add, because most are volunteering to try to force their beliefs down other people's throats(or making my pile of daily mail become even more chaotic). It's somewhat of my motivation to sort through my mail anymore.

    Ahahahahahahahahahaha, i like it.. Hmm, im gonna do that. actually i want to do this!? Hmm, i cant do both. Wait ill do it and use a magazine for bowl

    LOL That reminds me of my friend's dad that sends playboy fold-outs to junk mail companies. OMG it was funny mailing that.

    That's a little mean But a very good idea!

    Do I have to use the sealer?

    It is if you use an epoxy. no matter how dangerous they are when you mix them, when they cure completely, they become inert and safe to use for food and drink. So I would suggest to coat the bowls in a epoxy of some time, and wait for them to cure completely, cure time of course varies, but if you are unsure, 30 days is a good time frame.

    can u make a seperate ible for that?  With lots o fpics, or a vid if you will.  I am a visual learner.

    i did this and when i was nearly finished it all unraveld

    what about the hole in the middle?