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:
The first thing I did was gathered up some junk mail that was all about the same size.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This actually worked out better than I thought it would I hope you enjoyed this Instructable.
Here is a video of the process: