Introduction: Milk Top Bowl

Picture of Milk Top Bowl


This insturctable will go through how I turn milk bottle tops (and various odd ones) into blanks for working with, mainly for turning but you can work it just like timber so your imagination is your limit :)

To start off with you need LOTS, just to be clear here LOTS of milk bottle/coke/fabricsoftner tops I get various places like cafes, staff canteens an family to save them for me just ask whoever you can.

A mold, this should be near the shape/size you want to use less caps, in my case im making a bowl so i used a bowl. If you want to be safe have one that you can melt into at 200 celsius because trying to melt it and move molds is unplesnt the lids retain loads of heat and stick to most surfaces so its just asking to cause serious burns.

An oven to melt it in. an expensive bit of kit but if you look hard in the kitchen (the place you take the lawnmower apart when it breaks before you manly shave the lawn) you might be as suprised as me that you already have one. (same applies to the mold the next cake my wife bakes will have plastic in it...)

And a work shop or tools to create! in this case a lathe was all i needed

Step 1: Wash and Dry

Picture of Wash and Dry

This is a really important step if you don't want material that smells of old milk and this is also a good time to remove any of the little silver seals stuck in the lids.

Step 2: Fill Your Mold

Picture of Fill Your Mold

Fill you mold with the caps and back as hot as you can. The lids are HDPE which is a recyclable thermoplastic (can be heated and reshaped) which softens at about 120 Celsius but we want to go as molten as possible so high heat (I was at the 220c mark) these will liquify for lack of a better word and sink to the bottom so keep topping up with caps till you reach your desired fill level, at this point if your very well equipt stick it in your vacuum chamber to get the air out but alas is don't so i must suffer air pockets in my work (its good you sell them and proof of fully hand made recycled item) now switch the oven off and let the blank cool slowly in there to stop it warping this will take 8 hours plus if its a large blank.

Step 3: Remove the Blank

Picture of Remove the Blank

this was a gamble as i usually do this in loaf tine paper cases so the just lift out but this time i decided to see if glass would keep it loose, it didn't until i stuck it in the oven at 200 for 5 minutes then up ended it which should work on all smooth molds? but wont leave the mold completely clear. this can be remidied if really needed with more heat just burn it out after scraping any big bits off the hot surface.

Step 4: Make!

Picture of Make!

Whatever you want to i've done pens, bottle stops, garden dibbers and now a cereal bowl.

This isn't a wood turning tutorial (i can do one at some point if its wanted) but I will take anyone interested through my process (everyone works differently especially with turning)

I mount the blank between head tail stock as centered as I can by eye (brilliant tool impossible to buy a new one even from screwfix so put a protective case on yours such as goggles) and then make it true round from said centers and the shape i want before cutting a rebated dovetail in the base for my chuck jaws to expand into and grip.

clean the base as you wont have it spinning at 2000rpm and accesable at the same time after this.

spin the blank round and grip with the jaws and turn out the center which ever method you prefer as the all work on plastic do a clean pass on the outside and the rim aswell and make it all nice and clean and then out have a bowl.

Step 5: Done

Picture of Done

my first suggestion is save the shavings or any other type of HDPE you can get as they can all be melted together.

second suggestion is be really creative with ideas and if you can implement them let me or others in the comments know about them so we can try them.

third is tell me off for grammar and spelling as needed as I'm more comfortable with a chainsaw then with writing stuff.

And lastly if you like this idea or instructable spare me a vote?

All the best making and breaking and thanks for reading


bick577 (author)2015-08-25

thank you. Such a fun idea

danzo321 (author)2015-05-31

Mixing ought to free some of the air bubbles but you might prefer the blotchy color

Tomahawk92 (author)danzo3212015-08-10

I think it would be very hard to mix, it doesn't liquefy. It just gets goopy.

matt.sims.37266 (author)danzo3212015-05-31

Yeah if you slowly mix the same way as resin it should relive the bubbles but the colours won't stay separate so you end up with a dirty brown :(

lovethebackwoods (author)2015-07-28

Matt, it's a beautiful bowl! I am an art and language arts teacher, among other ventures, and we use those colored caps for all sorts of things, however, I've never done anything like this. I can't wait to get started. Thanks for your clear instructions and great photos! I enjoyed reading this. Your Instructable makes sense so just ignore the whiners!

Fredfly (author)2015-05-30

1.the lids are LDPE (the actual bottle is HDPE)

2.the bowl can give you cancer, melting plastic can make the plastic dangerous.

matt.sims.37266 (author)Fredfly2015-05-30

1 I don't know where you come from but here in England they are all HDPE (they even just changed the colour to allow for easy recycling so big coverage there)
2 no melting plastic is perfectly safe and won't effect your health burning plastic on the other hand will.

It's not necessarily the plastic itself which is dangerous, but the plasticizer compounds which may be present. These, if present, are estrogenic and definitely carcinogenic.


noahspurrier (author)gingerbaker2015-05-31

No. You're thinking of a different type of plastic (PVC, most likely). HDPE doesn't contain plasticizers. It's a totally different chemistry.

funny1048 (author)noahspurrier2015-06-18

yes its definetely pvc this plastic has plasticizers in it to make it more flexible hdpe is completely safe

chancefour (author)2015-05-31

Is there a concern with fumes? Seems like there would be some trouble there at that temperature. No?

funny1048 (author)chancefour2015-06-18

nope hdpe is very inert and has very low toxicity even lower than paraffin when i melted the hdpe there was almost zero smell its a very safe plastic just be sure it's hdpe remember never melt down pvc or styrofoam these types of plastics are very toxic and will produce very dangerous fumes

I've had none (touch wood) unless the plastic ignites in which case tonnes of smock but I think the ignition point is near the 300c

Thank you. Do you know of an adhesive a person can use on this material? I would love to use PVC cement as it melts the two surfaces together, but I am not sure it works on this kind of plastic or the other part of the milk bottle plastic. Have you tried to bond one piece to another?

As said below I would agree. The surface when smooth let's most adesives peel away with not much resistance a scratched surface and superglue would be your best bet or if it's small pieces it's possible to "weld" then with a kitchen blow torch

Thank you.

noahspurrier (author)chancefour2015-05-31

It's won't work. HDPE is resistant to the solvents used in most PVC/ABS cements. Same for acrylic cements. HDPE is usually welded by heat. There are some contact cements and epoxy cements made for HDPE, but these form mediocre mechanical surface bonds. There is no penetration, to borrow the welding term...

Look at it this way, many PVC and acrylic cements and solvents are distributed in HDPE containers, so that should be a clue that you're using the wrong glue for HDPE.

taur561 (author)2015-05-31

just as a matter of interest , if you take your wife's used cooking oil and heat it up to just below smoke point ( the stage when it burns and smokes ) , then drop your plastic caps into that , they become soft and gooey like thick syrup and can be removed with tongs from the oil and rolled or shaped over a bowl to give a similar effect . Afterwards you wipe off the oil and wash with soap to remove the oil . Just work carefully as hot oil can seriously burn you if you get it on your skin . The benefit is you have no fumes except the smell of cooking oil as though you are frying fries . Still a good idea as you are recycling waste . Here in Africa they are now making plastic logs and plastic planks from waste . Makes great outdoor furniture , garden bridges etc and never rots or gets eaten by termites .

funny1048 (author)taur5612015-06-18

oil actually isnt needed at all all you need is an oven which you set to 330-340 degrees f the hdpe will flow without any kind of smoke or burning as long as you take it out when it all melted and the bottle caps are actually made using a process called injection molding which means bottle caps have a high flow rate when melted and therefore will flow into a mold without any kind of pressure

funny1048 (author)funny10482015-06-18

and also grind the hdpe before molding it i used a blender make sure its ground pretty well kind of like rice before melting this will eliminate any air bubbles which will make your items you mold look more aesthetically appealing

zacatewo (author)taur5612015-06-01

very intresting!!!, it will be great if you can ilustrate us with some pictures of those logs and plastic planks, outdoor furniture, garden bridges!

taur561 (author)zacatewo2015-06-02

The best examples can be seen on the following site . za . In South Africa we use centigrade as the measure of temperature so you need to get a thermometer which can measure in centigrade . Use a small tin which can hold about 2-3 cups of cooking oil and place it on the stove plate and heat it up to about 180 degrees and control the temperature at between 180 and 190 degrees using the thermometer . At this temperature , put the plastic bottle tops , plastic bags into the hot oil . You will notice plastic bags will shrink into small lumps of plastic . Even bottle tops , pieces of bottles will become very soft and if you pick them up out of the oil , they will be very soft and you can push this into a mold and it is easy to force it into a mold . Use a piece of wood to push it into a mold which you can make out of any solid material although metal will make the plastic set quickly , so I prefer to use a mold made out of marble stone powder mixed with fibre glass resin . But you can use anything to make the mold . Cement , epoxy , wood , etc . The hot plastic melt is pushed into the mold and held there for a few seconds to set . This process is called thermoforce molding . In big items such as logs and planks , you would have to increase the size of your melting unit to take a large quantity of plastic or alternately to use a more expensive process called plastic extrusion which requires expensive equipment . I will make a video in a few days as I am making new molds to make buttons for remotes . But please look at the site as well as look up " melting plastic in hot oil " on YouTube .

zacatewo (author)taur5612015-06-04

thanks taur561 for your very detailed explanation, I also was watching some youtube videos to complemented the idea, I will do some experiments to see how it turns out, however if you're in the mood for a video do not stay with the desire to do so, it will be very welcome! :) cheers!

taur561 (author)zacatewo2015-06-01

Just look up for some excellent examples of how recycled plastic can replace wood . There are a number of companies offering plastic lumber . Actually really great stuff as it can be colored , machined , nailed , has no splinters and lasts for far longer than any timber products . And a great way to clean the environment too .

zacatewo (author)taur5612015-06-02

thank taur561 for the examples, clarly good works of industrial, but really thought you could show us home examples, because I think thats a path to follow, differnts ways of how we can recycle all materials available in our own houses, in particular plastics can help solve many problems and create objects in a variety of ways. It has given me a lot couriosidad your words explaining the process, it would be very enlightening if you could post some pictures of this or even better if you're in the mood to do a little video ... well, what you can bring graphically about this process will be welcome. "if you take your wife's used cooking oil and heat it up to just below smoke point ( the stage when it burns and smokes ) , then drop your plastic caps into that , they become soft and gooey like thick syrup and can be removed with tongs from the oil and rolled or shaped over a bowl to give a similar effect . Afterwards you wipe off the oil and wash with soap to remove the oil . Just work carefully as hot oil can seriously burn you if you get it on your skin" thanks again! and please excuse my English is not my mother tongue

taur561 (author)zacatewo2015-06-01

Look up www.primwood Just one of many South African companies manufacturing plastic lumber furniture . I will take a pic of the bridge on the week end and submit it . 

matt.sims.37266 (author)taur5612015-05-31

That's sounds awesome I haven't seen that, really useful if using a hob or an open fire but if you have access to an oven it's probably safer to heat the plastic directly

wiffie (author)2015-06-08

I wonder how things would work if you mix wood shavings with the plastic shavings for a remelt

matt.sims.37266 (author)wiffie2015-06-08

Well the shavings would have to bone dry to stop bubbles from evaporation and then it's stopping them burning? would probably have to kneed into the hot plastic and then tool very carefully with your toes crossed....

jim.shirey.14 (author)2015-05-31

Cool idea, but very difficult following your poor English. Excusable if your native tongue isn't English, not so much if it is. If you want to communicate your ideas successfully, at least check your spelling and grammar before you post. As a woodturner, I may just try doing a smaller project like a bottlestopper.

....and you may notice that fenikkusu also thought English probably wasn't his native language. That's how poor it was. I at least gave him that benefit of a doubt.

Altronix (author)jim.shirey.142015-06-04

Wow, that's petty of you. Get a grip.

jim.shirey.14 (author)Altronix2015-06-04

I stand by my statement. It is poor written English. fact.
He asked for opinions. fact.
If you want to publish your ideas, inventions, etc, you need to be clear and write properly. If you don't, you come across as not educated or not writing in your native tongue. According to the author he is neither, so I would add he just doesn't care. So you people need to get a grip. It's called reality.

ryadia (author)jim.shirey.142015-06-01

Jim... Despite what you said, there is nothing wrong with Matt's description. The libraries of the world are full of poorly spelt books. Written in the days before computers.

All any description needs to do is allow the reader to visualize what is being described. If you want perfect spelling, the Internet is the wrong place to be.

I've never been able to identify the gender of 'Michael' or 'Michelle' by looking at the word I need other words in a description to be able to visualize the gender.

There are millions of people like me in this world. It hasn't stopped me from taking out 14 patents, 3 Trademarks and publishing magazines for a living.

I feel sorry for people who look at a page of words and immediately see only the words that are spelt incorrectly, usually missing entirely, the intent of the manuscript.

But then those people probably feel sorry for people like me (and Matt) who can't look at a word and 'see' its not spelt correctly. We see what's important, the meaning of the message if you get my meaning.

English is my first and last language and I speak it brilliantly as I said never been good a writing it, exceled in maths, chemistry, physics and anything using my hands but juat scraped a D in English. usually my miss's checks it and changes it but she's away atm and I wanted to get the project on in time for the reuse comp.

fenikkusu (author)jim.shirey.142015-06-01

I too think he does get the project across and that English likely isn't a first language here. It seems a bit pretentious I think though that we demand someone use our language effectively when it is not their first language. This is at least a very fine and decent try. On the other hand I'm sure there are many friendly people here who speak English as a first language who are willing to proof and help matt with this if he asked! This is generally a friendly place matt! My comment is be part of the solution!

Jim you could take one paragraph and help Matt with it. I would take another if he likes....

Matt this is a great project. I never considered using it in a lathe! What a great idea. And what a great idea to give it the basic shape first cutting down on the amount of shavings. I think this is a very fine place for a beginner to lathing to start. I applaud you! Very nice indeed!

I believe Jim is being sarcastic Rene. Read Mats last line, he was asking for this comment!

rene1502 (author)jim.shirey.142015-05-31

This isn't a language contest. He gets the project across.

Btw I'm Dutch.

KellyCraig (author)2015-06-04

Have you tried setting another bowl inside of the first, after filling it about 1/3 full?

I presume you might have to weigh down the second bowl.

I haven't because of time a equipment restraints just it seems to mould like play dough so with force on the inner mould it should be possible it would be the relase of the mould that would be hard

KellyCraig (author)2015-06-04

Fun project. I can see the advantage of putting a vacuum on the melted plastic.

a vacuum might be easier than some might think. It could be done with
an air compressor blowing across a T (the the bottom of the T connected
to an fairly air tight container) to create a vaccume. Also, some low
volume compressors have small inlets that can have hoses attached on the
intake (vacuum) side.

Yeah I'm keeping my eye out in charity shops for an old pressure cooker exactly for that purpose :)

danzo321 (author)2015-05-31

OK what is 'loaf tine paper cases' ?

fenikkusu (author)danzo3212015-06-01

From an American house wife....

Try parchment paper! It is sold right alongside all the plastic wrap and foil in your grocery store generally.

I am unclear of if it is the same product the author is referring to, but we who cook a lot use it to line bread pans and cookie sheets. it prevents ANY food from adhering to the bake ware used whether it is metal or glass. I believe it should work.

danzo321 (author)fenikkusu2015-06-01

Melted plastic would surely bond to parchment paper, which would never lie well against a curved bowl surface. I would wax and then spray silicone in the bowl.

srednour (author)danzo3212015-06-04

Parchment paper would be fine. I use it when making sheet rock candy. Its molten sugar and doesnt stick to the paper. Also i use it for ironing perler beads which are plastic and pretty much the same material as milk lids.

fenikkusu (author)srednour2015-06-04

Thank you srednour! I knew it would work! Feni gives danzo a PLAYFUL You guys should trust us women. We've already worked out amazing ways to take care of all sorts of issues like this, because we can cook... and use irons!!! I really think parchment paper is what the author of this ible had in mind anyway.

fenikkusu (author)danzo3212015-06-01

i completely disagree.

I don't believe it will stick at all to parchment paper.

I'm not talking about wax paper danzo, that's an entirely different substance!

Brownie batter, bread dough, toll house cookies, melted chocolate won't stick to parchment. it not lying well against the curved bowl surface doesn't really matter you're lathing that anyway right? God ... now I'm going to have to test it.... grumble grumble grumble. Okay I can't test the lathe part, but I will get back to you on the parchment.... grrr....Fire up the grill honey!

xenobiologista (author)danzo3212015-06-01

Think he meant "loaf tin". As in baking paper cut and crimped to fit in a bread loaf pan. This kinda thing:

Author's comment on last page LOL --> "third is tell me off for grammar and spelling as needed as I'm more comfortable with a chainsaw then with writing stuff."

matt.sims.37266 (author)danzo3212015-05-31

It's a paper case that fits in a loaf tin kind of like a rectangular muffin case

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm 23 just trying to get full time access to a workshop again and think I've found it so look forward to loads ...
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