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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of Finished!

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

Step 13: How to Roll the Paper Instead

Picture of 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.


KwartzKitten (author)2014-03-07

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...

chipper35 (author)2011-07-17

I'm skeptical, but I still may do 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.

Gene Hacker (author)2008-05-17

If only you could burn junk mail to run a car...

Pippikins (author)Gene Hacker2011-03-20

I'd never have to buy gas again!

theburn7 (author)Gene Hacker2008-05-23

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

mmalecky (author)2008-06-08

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!

gardenwife (author)mmalecky2008-11-22

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.

Pippikins (author)gardenwife2011-03-20

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.

Lance Mt. (author)mmalecky2009-09-06

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

eomonkeyboi24 (author)mmalecky2009-02-12

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

Rock Soldier (author)mmalecky2009-02-12

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

rachelmaryb (author)2011-01-27

Do I have to use the sealer?

JellyWoo (author)2008-06-08

is it safe to eat out of this?

laminterious (author)JellyWoo2008-06-08

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.

lycoris3 (author)laminterious2010-03-07

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

JellyWoo (author)laminterious2008-06-09


mowie (author)2009-02-12

wats with the pic

Father Christmas (author)mowie2009-02-26

lol im thinking the same thing

djr6789 (author)2009-02-19

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

lego187 (author)2008-07-06

what about the hole in the middle?

jeradhoy424 (author)2008-06-08

this is almost the best instructable i have seen i think this guy should win the green science contest because this was the best way of recycling i have heard!! I am in scool so i use easily 25 sheets of paper a day! i could make a bunch of bowls

tictac24 (author)2008-06-03

Finally a way to get rid all that scrap paper laying around. But before I start one I have a few questions: Is there any visible difference between paper with ink and whatnot on it compared to paper with little to no ink, once the bowl is completed? About how much paper would you say is needed for your average 5-6 diameter bowl? I don't know much about sealers, but do you think it'd be okay if I just use All-Purpose Enamel instead of acrylic sealer? I wouldn't be using the bowl for food or anything. Sorry for all the questions.

laminterious (author)tictac242008-06-03

There really isnt that much difference... the only difference being scrap paper with ink and pictures right at the edge. Then it's not as aesthetic as a pure white bowl. Though of course, depending on what type of paper you have and whats on the edge, you can make it where the bowl will have rings of color. Like a phone book.. where the red or blue pages are, you can cut off the ends and roll them up together to get a red or blue strip. How much paper you need kinda depends on what type of paper it is. If it's real thin, like the paper from a phone book, plan on cutting it all up. If its thicker and glossy, it might just take a few magazines. I know that doesnt help much, sorry. The enamel should be fine for what you are wanting.

thydzik (author)2008-05-29

wait, how did it go from a roll of scrap paper to a roll of tickets? any pictures of the bowl made from scrap paper?

laminterious (author)thydzik2008-05-30

Yea, I will put them up once I am done. i am making a big one for our table, a nice large centerpiece bowl for fruit and whatnot. I have been scrounging paper from where ever I can to get it to the size I want.

Neelie (author)2008-05-24

what do you use the bowls for?

laminterious (author)Neelie2008-05-24

I am working on a big one for a centerpiece, but mainly for decorations and holding different things... I also have one that has been used a vase.

maxpower212 (author)2008-05-22

Wow, how much tape does this use? Did you tape each strip to the previous one, or was it just in the beginning to get started?

laminterious (author)maxpower2122008-05-24

Yes, I tape each piece together... it uses about half a roll of scotch tape for a decent sized bowl.

smithy813 (author)2008-05-21

just a tip, i have used saws to cut paper b-4, you just need to make sure it's clamped together. if you use a telephone book, cut from the outside in, and it all stays together w/ the binding.

RiddleOfSphinx (author)2008-05-18

Wonder if they sell paper shreaders that shread in 1 inch strips..hmm. Would certainly make the cutting part go

pinokeeo (author)2008-05-15

This person is an imposter. He or she stole my pictures. I had posted this tutorial on Craftster only a couple of weeks ago. I have the pictures still in my own computer to prove it.

FrenchCrawler (author)pinokeeo2008-05-15

I've checked your Craftster "tutorial" and the pictures do not look anything like those in this Instructable. Nor does your tutorial go into the details found in this Instructable.

BTW laminterious: Nicely done Instructable :)

I made an assumption and was corrected by pinokeeo:
"The reason they don't look the same is because I convinced him to use his own pictures. You weren't looking at about three o'clock this afternoon, PDT."

Sorry, my mistake :P

stinkymum (author)FrenchCrawler2008-05-17

I wondered why the pictures were completely different than when this was first posted... I liked the one that was there of the "keep this ticket" bowl, which must have been pinokeeo's

  • "tutorial"
thermoelectric (author)2008-05-16

this is cool
i started to make one and i gave up when it was at about 3.5cm in diameter =[

jehan60188 (author)2008-05-16

so, I finally found a paper cutter that I liked, and started this project. It's going to take a while for me to get all the paper I need! thank goodness for junk mail (never thought I'd be saying that...)

MR.builderguy (author)2008-05-11

I think that's very cool!


cafy59 (author)MR.builderguy2008-05-11

Super tutorial - its a definate for all my spare paper!

truovrld (author)2008-05-14

Everyone gives me their magazines for collage projects... I end up with a lot of magazine pages that don't have workable pictures... they end up in the trash. I usually end up sitting in front of the tv tearing up magazines anyway. With this, I could just use more of them.

laminterious (author)truovrld2008-05-16

My daughter loves to cut paper, so I just let her go at the magazines and collect the strips later to use for making these. She gets to cut the paper and I get to make the bowls.

Treelan (author)2008-05-14

This is absolutely cool! I am going to have to try this... dunno if I'll have the patience to make more than one, though.

unspecified (author)2008-05-10

This is really nice! Looks very labor-intensive, but in that good, no-real-attention-necessary way. The bowls are funky and very attractive.

laminterious (author)unspecified2008-05-10

If you go easy and use the raffle tickets its super easy.

Also, as suggested by dacker, wrap whole sheets of paper around the dowel, and then cut it to 1 inch widths.

Jess54 (author)2008-05-10

Absolutely love it. Just wondered how you removed the dowel rod/pill bottle (object still visible in Step 6 but not in Step 7). Do you take it out? How? I would love to feature this activity on my website, with your permission. It's so great. - Jess

laminterious (author)Jess542008-05-10

Well, if you want it out, you just push it upwards with the paper until the paper is real thin. Then just pull it out and push the paper back down. I like my middle filled, so I usually leave it in.

Jess54 (author)laminterious2008-05-10

OK, now I actually see the dowel left in, in Step 7. Thanks! Jess

laminterious (author)Jess542008-05-10

No problem... what website btw?

About This Instructable




More by laminterious:How to watch Hulu and Sling outside the US!How to Build a Tripod Head for $10 that is PanoramicHow to make a David Miscavige (or any one) paper mask
Add instructable to: