Introduction: Make a Handle From Used Bottles!

Picture of Make a Handle From Used Bottles!

I turn a pile of old bottles into a new dishwasher safe handle for my ice cream scoop. There is something very satisfying about putting trash back to use!

Step 1: HDPE for the Hobbyist

Picture of HDPE for the Hobbyist

If you do not see a #2 in the recycling symbol or the letters HDPE do not use it! It might burn at these temperatures and give off a nasty or harmful fume. Even with that said, you should always be working with this material in a well ventilated area.

I made an Instructable a while back on processing HDPE using a blender and toaster oven. Well, I've been banned from touching the kitchen blender, So now I'm just rough cutting the plastic with a razor knife. Honestly? It works fine.

Last year I built a mallet out of milk jugs and at them time I process quite a lot of of the plastic that I didn't end up using. It has just been sitting idle in the shop. So I heated up my oven to 325*F and melted down the plastic until it was translucent.

Step 2: Adding a Splash of Color

Picture of Adding a Splash of Color

The time varies depending on volume and shape of the container. I would suggest lining what ever you use with parchment paper as the HDPE will not stick to it! The amount of plastic here is about 8-9 milk bottles worth. Next I added some colored containers. Lids from jars, old mustard bottles, and various other items. As you can see they are all pretty rough cuts.

I then returned my concoction to the oven for another 1 hour or so. I would suggest checking on it every 30 mins just to be certain you don't have any issues.

I got into my head the idea of twisting the plastic to get a neat swirl pattern to it. Grabbing a lump of molten plastic with thin workshop gloves might not have been my finest thought, but after a bit of personal injury and pain I got some good twists from the material!

As you can see even after a short time the plastic was beginning to cool and harden. So I put it back in the oven just long enough to heat up and get soft again. It should be noted here, that this type of plastic will not get softer than the "taffy" stage at these temps. Just know, you are in for a bit of a workout with HDPE!

Step 3: Molding Your Blank

Picture of Molding Your Blank

Again, I go more in depth on this process in my other instructable, but once it had softened up a bit, I transferred the plastic to mold I built out of plywood.

The mold cavity is 2" x 2" by 6" and should yield a nice sized turning blank. YOU NEED MAXIMUM CLAMPING FORCE, as this will help to eliminate air pockets and voids! After it is clamped, give it 12 hours to completely cool and harden.

The next day I unscrewed my mold to inspect my blank. End result was about 1.25" x 2" x 6" which is more than plenty for my handle.

Step 4: Turning Round & a Patch Up

Picture of Turning Round & a Patch Up

After ripping the blank down to 1.25" squared on the table saw (that cutoff went straight back into my HDPE scrap bag to be reused in the future) I then mounted it on my lathe and turned it into a cylinder.

While shaping I discovered a bit of void that had formed during the molding stage. Looks like it's time for patch job!

I heated up the area with my heat gun, and then used some of the shavings from the roughing process. (I put them in the oven @ 325*F on a piece of parchment page for a couple minutes)

Just keep applying even heat with your heat gun and use a putty knife to compress the shavings into the voids. After a bit of time you can get a very good looking patch.

Step 5: Finish Turning to Shape and Sanding

Picture of Finish Turning to Shape and Sanding

Wait a bit for it to cool and turn it smooth.

Then wet sand through the grits. HDPE can be treated like any acrylic blank on the lathe. I took this up to 12000 grit with my MicroMesh pads. The HDPE is super slick and you will find it very smooth at this grit.

Step 6: Attaching the Hardware Without Glue

Picture of Attaching the Hardware Without Glue

The downside of this material is that glue doesn't bond well to it. For lasting hold, I would rather turn to a mechanical fastening solution.

I decided to use this handle with an ice cream scoop kit that I had. The kit called for a 3/8 hole and to use some 5 min epoxy to secure it in the blank, which was not good for HDPE. So in order to adapt this kit to HDPE I started by drilling a slightly smaller 5/16" hole.

I then heated up the threads of the scoop with my propane torch. I didn't need this to be cherry red or anything. Just hot enough to melt the plastic and make tight threads. You could use a die set, but I think this is much easier and honestly more fun.

Be careful! It's really hot, be sure to use good gloves for protection.

Step 7: Completed

Picture of Completed

After threading on the hardware, t I simply parted it off the lathe and cleaned up the end with hand sanding.

I'm very happy with how this turned out, and I really like the fact that it was made from items that would have been discarded as trash! I also think my patch blends in quite well!


SherylinRM (author)2016-05-12

Hello there

I seen someone else ask this however there was no reply.

I am wondering about fumes etc.

I live in a place that is not well ventilated and was wondering how safe this is.

Thank you :)

McWoody (author)2016-04-26


I think I'm going to use this method to make a knife handle. I don't have a lathe, but I wouldn't need one for what I have in mind.

LukeH40 (author)2016-04-05

I was going to comment that you stole this from a youtuber i saw, and then realized that the instructable came from that youtuber.

kludge77 (author)LukeH402016-04-11

I love Instructables! Thank you for looking out for me though!

jdelvalle1 made it! (author)2016-04-09

Thanks! I used your idea to make these lures from recycled plastic and lathe shavings from making cedar lures. These are very durable, and I don't have to paint or clear coat them.

kludge77 (author)jdelvalle12016-04-11

Those are great looking!

MaryT8M (author)2016-03-25

I LOVE recycling, all though I will never do this kind of project (I don't have all the equipment) I read it all the way through and commend you for thinking outside the box (I hate that saying.....but it conveys my thought). I don't believe every idea has to fit all parameters (recycling, cost savings, energy efficient etc) to be of Merritt. In this venue the idea is where the value encourages the ideas to grow

LorraineA4 (author)MaryT8M2016-03-29

Well said. I kept thinking, "What a lot of work when you can turn a piece of dowel in an hour." But it is all about the artfulness. This handle is really unique and pretty, and what a feeling to tell admirers that you made it yourself. Kudos to Kludge77!

Billgabo (author)2016-03-26

Great idea, but the process is expensive energeticaly speaking; Only the oven consumes more energy (traduced in CO2 impact in nature) that using new material.

rmelchiori (author)2016-03-23

Does the heated HDPE give off any fumes or odor while it's heating? Just wondering if the e will have an issue if I try this in her oven.

HarmanC2 (author)2016-03-22

A lot of effort and good thoughts . But, have you considered how much energy that has been used ?

Wallythecat (author)2016-03-20

I used to get scrap HDPE from a plastics supplier and its fun to turn. The supplier is gone, but this DIY would be even better.

This gets me to wondering if it would be possible to make up some sort of extrusion system, heating a pipe or tube and then cranking a follower down on it to eliminate out voids and do the melting at the same time. Unfortunately, that would take away the patterning you so artfully put into the plastic.

Hmmm... Have to give this some thought. Many thanks for the inspiration.

FlorinJ (author)Wallythecat2016-03-21

"It's me Scotty" gave me a message in private (possibly due to the interface for messaging not being obvious about messages being private), and here's another idea: a longer winding of nichrome over the middle section of a pipe, capable of heating the plastic to its melting point, and an oil-based cooler at the exit point, cooling down the plastic to a temperature at which it isn't fully rigid but no longer flows. I think this would be less complex to construct - once you have identified the two temperatures, you just need two thermostats to start/stop the heater/cooler.

FlorinJ (author)Wallythecat2016-03-21

Re. patterning: I think it all depends on what you feed into the pipe. You can feed shreds of plastic cut into strips, and probably get even more complex and more precise patterns.

My bigger concern is keeping the thermal gradient along the pipe's length just about right - hot enough at one end that the plastic melts, cool enough at the other that the plastic that comes out is just about solid, while not yet so sticky that it completely clogs the pipe, but also not runny so it doesn't solidify into the desired shape.

What I'd try: apply some mud or other thin ceramic coating to a metallic pipe, then apply individual windings of nichrome along the pipe, then another ceramic coating, then some thermal insulation, then an outer tube, for mechanical containment and protection. Then I'd play with the tension/power applied to the different windings along the inner pipe, to reach the right temperature gradient.

Wallythecat (author)FlorinJ2016-03-21

Sitting on the table next to me is one of those inexpensive Chinese induction heaters. Maybe I've found a use for it. I know nothing about induction heating, but it looks like I may need a variable DC power supply to control the temperature. I think the coil could be done out of high temperature oven wire wrapped directly around the tube. The power supply is the expensive part. Any experience with induction heating?

Helmerchant (author)2016-03-21

kludge77 Ignore all the nay sayers. I am just an average Jane of all trades and I don't have a well stocked arsinal of tools in a workshop. I found this Instructable very inspiring and am going to do my redneck style of lathe work with my good ole dremel and clamps with the support of some duct tape. I love your use of color and sense of fun. I will definitely be trying some projects like this at home and possibly with some of my art kiddos. Thank you!

KVSBUNNY (author)2016-03-17

beauty! hope to get to some similar projects ( simpler, hand tools mainly), what happens w/ epoxy & HDPE?

aebe (author)KVSBUNNY2016-03-20

You can buy strips of HDPE that have been etched with acid so that glues will work . don't know what kind of acid , though .

KVSBUNNY (author)aebe2016-03-21

Thanks, now I'm thinking of imbedding a screw into the HDPE, (different projects), I'm still in the wool gathering and material - gathering stage.

HLightning11 (author)KVSBUNNY2016-03-18

it probably just does not stick

AnitaW27 (author)2016-03-21

Thank you for the inspiration!! Here I go digging out of my recycle bin :-)

Yonatan24 (author)2016-03-21

Not everything is for everyone...

Here, You can probably find thousands of projects that don't require any tools at all...

HazelL2 (author)2016-03-20

Interesting, but seems very energy intense. What you save on recycling plastic is wasted in burning electricity - especially if you're using power from the Grid.. Now, if you could somehow use reusable energy instead ....

itsmescotty (author)HazelL22016-03-20

Just can't win. You throw it away, you get vilified, you recycle it and someone else separates it by color (labor intensive) and reworks it (using grid electric) injects it into molds and sells it for a phenomenal price - think Trex and parking barriers. Someone recycles it at home and gets castigated, sigh.

HazelL2 (author)itsmescotty2016-03-21

Not castigating. Merely making an observation. Tell me I'm wrong in saying it is energy intensive.
I speak as someone who is fortunate enough to live entirely off-grid using solar panels for energy.

brian32768 (author)HazelL22016-03-20

I know what you are saying but does chopping down a maple tree and trucking it thousands of miles to make a handle for an ice cream scoop makes more sense? Or would it make more sense to throw away the whole scoop and buy one made of 100% new materials shipped across the ocean from China?

The same thoughts go through my head when I bake cookies! "Does this make sense?"

I have been collecting bottle tops for a couple months and wondering how i will heat them up. I love the idea of a solar oven, though it's 59 and rainy here right now. If anyone tries, that could be a great instructable.

I have no idea what I will make yet, probably either car or bicycle parts, but I won't buy a wood lathe to do it, that makes no sense! :-)

jackieray.mays (author)2016-03-20

used a lot of power to recycle a few plastic bottles probably more than was used to create them plus all the salvage fhom the sawing and lathe work

FlorinJ (author)jackieray.mays2016-03-21

Still a win. And definitely not more than was used to create the bottles in the first place. Making objects from plastic is quite expensive, energy-wise. They're cheap on the market only because they're made mostly in China, where labor is cheap, environmental regulations are scarce and anyway mostly disregarded, and energy comes from coal.

Wolfiewild (author)2016-03-21

Re: The wife and the blender problem. Just go to a local thrift store and get another blender for just a few bucks. You'll be saving your marriage AND helping some charity out! Also, it is rather difficult to do some of these instructables when you live in an apartment!

gadsden (author)2016-03-20

To those concerned about energy used vs recycling benefit: there is a many-fold benefit from recycling that spans a range from physical heat-exchange to philosophy. My observations show a net plus on the go-for-it side.

Try making a passive solar reflection kiln for plastics. At a garden party I saw a piece of plastic in a silver bowl burst into flame -- a little sunbeam hit the inside of the bowl, reflected around, hit the plastic and POW!! the plastic was smoking! And it didn't take long. (It was actually scary.) On a larger, more purposeful scale I'll bet HDPE would melt nicely in focused sunlight.

gadsden (author)2016-03-20

This is a very well-executed recycling project that also illustrates how recycling can be made appealing to those aesthetes who refuse to give up anything for a good cause.

Good work and congratulations!

ooohlaa (author)2016-03-20

I think its wonderful and exciting because it opens doors of possibility in people's minds. One day all those new doors opening and old ones closing will, in fact, save the planet, it seems to me more and more people are living more consciously and conscientiously. Love the outta the box ideas, thanx.

fortj3 (author)2016-03-20

I'm planning on building a small injection molding machine for hobby projects.

another plastic that makes great handles is PETE (polyester). Soda bottles, water bottles, etc, are made of this and it is incredibly tough.

Learn the melting temps for all the different thermoplastics and it opens a whole new world of home recycling projects.

BTW, I love your HDPE handle project. I use a lot of HDPE containers at work.

I have a steady supply of empty bottles/jugs to use for projects. Mine are all black or blue.

atira55 (author)2016-03-20

I have been saving various plastic bottle caps to make a good scrapper for my boots and shoes when I come in from the garden or animal pens. Been taking the caps and with small tack nails (found them in the garage and somewhat rusted but for my use they work) and nail the caps to a board. Am separating them and just having fun. My smaller one works just fine and easy to rinse. Cannot wait to find a different way of melting this plastic. Thinking about using some wood from my trees and using my little tabletop grill...

srgalahad (author)2016-03-20

This is a great idea ! It is not about saving the earth by recycling. What it is, is a great idea that can spark many more ideas for what someone else can do with simple milk bottles and other plastic. To be able to make your own plastic form and make something from it is very satisfying. Being that it turns well on a lathe I bet it would machine great also. Now i'm thinking what can I make. I can make a bigger blank and probably bond multiple pieces together. Where to start, how about dice, cribbage pins, knife scales or handles, pistol grips maybe even a gun stock. Time to start saving that plastic instead of putting it the recycle barrel ! GREAT Instructable.

pskvorc (author)2016-03-20

Excellent Instructable.

Could be used for pen blanks too.

danzo321 (author)2016-03-20

Let's face it, doing this is not going to have an effect on global warming or landfill or the trash gyre in the oceans. What it is, is, a very cool way to make plastic objects. To carry it further, let's say you made a plaster or Bondo mold of the finished handle: you could make a bunch more far more easily, I bet.

Lavoz24 (author)2016-03-20

oh I have to do this! Thing is, since I don't have a turning lathe I am going to have to make something smaller that I could use my rotary machine and drill to shape into what I want it to be. Thanks for sharing. This is a must do for me.

jason.burr.946 (author)2016-03-20

It's funny I think I saw an instructable a while back about reusing the #2 HDPE (maybe yours?). Being a wood turner I was wondering how well it would work as blanks and planned on giving it a try at some point. You have now answered that question though. Great instructable, great reuse of landfill clogging plastic and very nice looking turned piece to boot. Maybe one of these days I will get around to making a pen out of some. Thanks for sharing and I threw you a vote.

WVSundown (author)2016-03-20

Great job, and very inspiring!!

spiderbear (author)2016-03-20

This is so cool. One of a kind too.

rovingcraftshop (author)2016-03-20

Very cool. Now I know what to do with my Harbor Freight mini lathe.

905kat (author)2016-03-20

That is an amazing job! It's not only functional but beautiful as well. I'm glad you were also able to show how to 'repair' a void. Just one question; where do you find the hardware kits for this? I'm assuming there are other things you can make besides ice cream scoops. You can only have so many of those, lol.

rippa700 (author)2016-03-19

Thanks for this - I have been experimenting and made a mess. Now I can get to work! I did have success with melting the nylon chopping boards to make useful things. I'll see how the boss reacts to the oven smells.....

duneya (author)2016-03-18

This isn't just brilliant, its so retro-cool looking too. Good job!

HLightning11 (author)2016-03-18


Yonatan24 (author)2016-03-17

I just found about your YT channel a couple weeks ago, And subscribed

I think the way woodworkers use other materials in their projects is really cool. I've already started to collect plastics, And I'm really eager to make this and the HDPE Mallet!

Oh, And congrats on 200K subscribers!

kludge77 (author)Yonatan242016-03-17

Thank you! I like trying out new material. The odder, the better.

Thanks, you're the first one with congrats! :)

discostu956 (author)2016-03-16

This is pretty cool! any tricks to machining the hdpe on the lathe?

kludge77 (author)discostu9562016-03-17

It turns very easily on the lathe! A lot like maple

About This Instructable




Bio: Come spend some time in the shop. I'm a hobbyist woodworker and professional computer geek in Northern California. I guess my projects will vary ... More »
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