Introduction: Letter Opener Made From Junk Mail

Like everyone else I get a lot of junk mail and it usually ends up in the recycling bin. But I had an idea to see if I could make something with it instead of just throwing it in the bin. So I came up with this, I made a letter opener from the junk mail using fiberglass resin to make it stiff. It is basically the same as making Micarta from fabric but instead I used the paper from my junk mail. The process is fairly straight forward and the end product ended up working quite well. I don't know how long the edge will last but I only plan to use this for opening letters so I'm not too concerned with it becoming dull. And if it does become dull I can always touch up the edge.

Video of the process:

Step 1:

The first thing I did was gathered up some junk mail that was all about the same size.

Step 2:

I use a homemade press to make the junk mail billet, I'll show what it looks like in a few of pictures in the next step, the wooden piece you see in the first pic is the press block. All of the junk mail has to be cut to the same width and length as this block, so I use it as my reference for making the paper strips. It doesn't have to be perfect but the closer you can get it to the same size the better.

Step 3:

These are a few pics of the Micarta press I made. The body is just a "U" shaped channel made from MDF supported by a couple of pieces of 2x4s that work as the legs to get it off the table. The 2x4 legs make it easier to clamp up. I also added a support piece to the 2x4 legs that is just a piece of scrap wood. The press block is made from 3/4" plywood that I double up so that it would be rigid and wouldn't flex when clamped. Before using the press I make sure to thoroughly coat the entire work surface with wax. This will help prevent the billet from sticking. I also use wax paper for added protection from sticking.

Step 4:

This is the resin I use. I mix it per the instructions on the can. Make sure to cover your work surface with a trash bag or something that is disposable since this is a messy process. There will be squeeze out and the resin gets everywhere and does not clean up easily.

Step 5:

I use a small plastic tub and pour some of the resin mixture in to it. Then I dip the paper strips one at a time in to the resin. I try to squeegee out the excess between my fingers. Then I place it in the press/mold.

Step 6:

Once all the strips are coated in resin I place the wax paper wrapped press block on top of the press and push down slightly with my body weigh just to get the initial resin squeeze out of the press. Notice that I wear two sets of plastic gloves on my hands. This allows me to remove the resin soaked set and leaves me with clean gloves to apply the clamps. This way I don't get resin all over my "C" clamps.

Step 7:

Next I clamp up the press trying to apply even pressure across the entire press block. Otherwise you can end up with one side being thinner than the other side because one clamp was applying more pressure than the others.

Step 8:

After it has cured for 24 hours I remove the billet. I use a small hammer to tap out the press block and then a screw driver to pry out the billet. If you did a good job of waxing the press this part will be fairly easy. If you didn't then it will require a lot more effort to get the billet out. The last two pictures shows what the billet looks like.

Step 9:

Next I drew the shape of the letter opener that I wanted to make, I was able to get two letter openers out of this one billet.

Step 10:

I used my band saw to cut out the rough shape of the letter openers. If you don't have a band saw you could use a scroll saw or a coping saw to do the same.

Step 11:

After the rough shape was cut out I used my belt sanders to refine the shape of the letter opener and what would become the blade portion. This is very similar to making and shaping a knife. I start with a rough grit like 120 and work my way up to higher grits.

Step 12:

I finished off the letter opener by hand sanding. I used 400 grit sand paper up to 1500 grit on the edge. Once I was done sanding I cleaned off the entire piece with denatured alcohol and then sprayed 2 coats of an acrylic clear coat.

Step 13:

This actually worked out better than I thought it would I hope you enjoyed this Instructable.

Here is a video of the process:

Comments

author
Mad Props made it! (author)2017-04-04

Great craftsmanship. Great idea.

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-04-04

Thank you!

author
ClayOgre made it! (author)2017-03-21

I wonder if what you have made is basically Formica.

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-21

Not sure, all the Formica I have ever dealt with would chip when broken this material doesn't do that, but I really don't know how they make Formica so could be.

author
isdubkov made it! (author)2017-03-20

Cool! Did you ask money from Amazon for the ad?

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-20

Man I wish!

author
LastPayLoad0 made it! (author)2017-03-20

Noice but hard!

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-20

Thanks.

author
JonathonB4 made it! (author)2017-03-19

Alternate use as a prison shiv.

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-19

I keep getting that comment on other social media now I'm not so sure I should have made this instructable. LOL.

author
Oncer made it! (author) Oncer2017-03-20

And the standard response is that you can make a weapon out of anything - see what can be done with a telephone handset etc. Does anyone still have one of those?

However a letter opener neither needs an edge or a particularly pointy point. My Dad had a letter opener made from a piece of teak from the decking of H.M.S. Ajax (And I don't know why!) that was merely shaped into an elongated tear drop and worked very well.

Excellent instructable by the way. You seem to have much more interesting junk mail than me. All I get to re-cycle are the menus from Dominos which arrive with depressing frequency.

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-20

Very true. Fun fact I have never gotten a letter from Amazon but the day I decided to make this it was in the mail. It just happened to work out to be on top.

author
JohnC430 made it! (author)JohnC4302017-03-19

if a prisoner wants a weapon he will make one. you are not the first to think of that! they will come up with the craziest things. TV and movies also give them ideas.

author
JohnC430 made it! (author)2017-03-19

Great idea! It gave me an idea. I had a letter opener and i mis placed it. i have some Brazilian Walnut which is a very hard wood and i have used some of it to make various things. A letter opener would be a great use for some of it.

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-19

I would imagine that would look really nice. Great idea!

author
FlorinJ made it! (author)2017-03-19

The material itself would probably lend itself well to be machined into various items on a CNC router.

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-19

I would think so, its pretty much plastic once its cured.

author
EricM364 made it! (author)2017-03-19

Looks like this would benefit from some alternating of light and dark sheets, to potentially give a zebra like color scheme...for other artistic projects, and the junk mail could easily be the inner light colored layers...

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-19

That would look cool originally I had planned to use black sheets mixed with the white sheets to try and get a Damascus look but I opted to use just the junk mail instead.

author
EricM364 made it! (author)EricM3642017-03-19

That's funny, ause Damascus was what I had in mind when considering the different looks...lol

author
rwbplastic made it! (author)rwbplastic2017-03-19

I like it, it could also be used for the pen making crowd

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-19

Yes definitely. Thanks.

author
JohnC430 made it! (author)2017-03-19

Thanks for sharing!

author
valveman made it! (author)2017-03-19

That is ingenious.

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-19

Thanks!

author
agis68 made it! (author)2017-03-19

excellent instructable....voted

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-19

Awesome thank you very much I appreciate it.

author
rwbplastic made it! (author)2017-03-19

neat idea, 2 items that help in step 7 place a 1/2" steel square tube (or 1" or larger) under the clamps to equalize the pressure and the solvent MEK will cut most cured resin if you do get it on the clamps. It will also remove paint, is probably carcinogenic, definitely flammable and available at Lowes and HQ in most states - please follow usual safety protocols, no flame, a breeze and/or closed container when soaking and while not for use on skin it will migrate through the skin and make your mouth feel like it is full of dentist cotton - urethane gloves are probably better than latex when working with this stuff. In the early Vette rebuild days (late 50's) we wore no gloves and none of my friends have died from anything other than stupidity or trying to tune a chain adjuster on a Indian widow maker while going 40 mph, which is stupid when you think about it. Again, a fine product and a good teaching example for the Jr high science and above.

author
EfrainS5 made it! (author)2017-03-19

And undetectable, OUTSTANDING! Going to have to make a few of these. Great video, Thank you.

author
nanosec12 made it! (author)2017-03-18

Best paper craft project I have seen. At first I thought you had made it from something harder like a plastic gift card, but this is so much better than that.

Thanks

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-18

Thanks glad you liked it, I had fun making it.

author
dekenned made it! (author)2017-03-18

Great job! I have so much junk mail I could create a claymore.

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-18

LOL!!! I know the feeling!

author
gilbequick made it! (author)2017-03-18

Awesome job, might do one of these for fun

author
danthemakerman made it! (author)danthemakerman2017-03-18

Thanks it was a fun project to make.

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