Introduction: DIY Test Tube Holder (with Potion Recipes)
This project is a mashup of a standard spice rack and a test tube holder. It is heavily inspired by how the Wiccan community manages to incorporate their spiritual side into everyday objects and decor. I in no way want to disrespect anyone's religion or beliefs, this is simply my inspiraton. Later in the tutorial I will also show you how to make a more halloween-ish witchy version of it, and I would like to make sure that it's clear that I do separate the religion of Wicca and the stereotypical portrayal of witches throughout culture.
This test tube holder spice rack is made completely out of paperboard. ALL of the main structure is recycled material. Pretty cool, huh?
I love working with paperboard, and I'm planning to make more recycled projects to show you all of the amazing things you can do with simple and recycled materal in the future. I will be making two versions. One will be for halloween decor, and the other one is going to live on my kitchen counter year round to hold all my spices. I won't lie, this project does take a while. Between all the stencil drawings, cutting, glueing, and waiting for paint to dry, it does end up being a more time consuming craft. I usually put on some movies or binge watch a tv show to make the time go faster, but oh is it worth it when you finally see it all come together!
Paper board: Collect household packaging over a few weeks to get enough for 14 layers for each pattern piece.
Pattern: Provided in this instructable as a pdf!
Scissors: For cutting out the paperboard layers.
Pen/pencil: For marking and drawing out paperboard layers.
X-acto knife: For cutting details. Circle punch/circle cutter/drill of appropriate diameter: Make sure it can be accurately centered so that all paperboard pieces can be lined up easily.
Tape: I use painter's tape to hold my pattern in place as I'm drawing out my paperboard pieces.
Glue: wood glue and glue stick (optional).
Pin (optional): For making marks.
Dremel (optional): For sanding indents in the lower level.
Spackle: For smoothing out the layering.
Sand Paper: Medium grit.
Test tubes: I used plastic test tubes with a diameter of 15 mm.
Paint: I used a mix of tempera paint and acrylic paint in black, white, and brown.
Paint brushes: Preferably art brushes with softer bristels to avoid streaks.
Clamps: For making sure your hard work stays in place
Step 1: Pattern & Blueprints
First of all, we need a plan. I wanted a small spice rack with a witchy vibe, that could hold 10 test tubes. This means we need two sides, one upper level with drilled holes to put the test tubes in, and a lower level with indents corresponding with the holes to keep the tubes from sliding around.
But lucky you! You don't have to do a lick of math, measuring, or nail biting in increasing frustration. I already did it all for you! I will provide the pattern I made in this Instructable, but keep in mind that this pattern is made for test tubes measuring 15 mm in width specifically.
Print out my provided PDF, and cut out the parts as templates. You will also get some potion and spice labels in the pdf. I omitted these in my tutorial photos because it obstructed the test tube contents too much, but I added them later. If you would like some other spices or potion ingredients added to the label list, please leave a comment.
Step 2: Cutting Paperboard
Paperboard is referring specifically to the type of cardboard used for cereal boxes. It can be found in a lot of food and household packaging, including pop tarts, frozen pizza, and vacuum cleaner bag boxes. Paperboard is essentially thin cardboard packed VERY tightly to make quite a solid, but easily handled material. When cut into shapes, it makes terrific sturdy templates and stencils. When stacked with glue in between layers and left to dry, it produces a rock solid result almost resembling wood. This can be (carefully) drilled, band sawed, and sanded into perfection. If you don't have access to wood, or if you prefer recycling, this is a great substitute.
Paperboard is typically around 0.5 millimeters in thickness, so you need to stack quite a few layers to achieve the thickness desired.
For the holes, you have two choices. You could cut the holes out for each paperboard layer, or you could make the holes after glueing the layers together. Both methods work if you're careful.
Draw 14 (or however many you need to reach 0.7 cm in thickness) cut-outs for each piece of the spice rack out on your paperboard based on your pattern. Cut each of them out as neatly as you can with scissors. It helps to do "rough cuts" first, just separating them from each other on the large sheet, and then make a final "neat cut" when you can handle them a little easier.
Cut out the small crescent moon with an X-acto knife. If you want a relief effect on your spice rack, only cut out the moon on 2-3 of the pieces per side and leave the rest of the pieces intact. Otherwise, just cut all the moons out on all of the pieces.
For the test tube holes, measure out the exact center of each hole with the help of the pattern stencil, and mark it either by pushing a pencil through the paper just enough to make a little dot, or use a needle tool to pierce the paper and leaving a small mark in the paperboard when you remove the pattern.
Use your preferred hole cutting tool to cut holes in all of the upper level paperboard pieces, making sure they are centered. I make the holes a millimeter smaller than the diameter of the test tubes. This means that when I go to sand, I can sand it to the perfect diameter without accidentally making the hole way too wide.
Step 3: Stacking and Glueing
Stack each section piece one at a time, painting a thin layer of wood glue, or use a glue stick generously. Press together all around with your fingers. You shouldn't need to clamp it together but you could always weigh it down with a book if you feel the need to.
Pay extra attention when stacking pieces with cut-outs to make sure the holes match up nicely.
Keep stacking until you reach a thickness of 7-8 millimeters. This might seem like it's too flexible and not sturdy enough while the glue is still wet, but trust me - when it fully dries, it will be rock solid.
I let mine dry overnight.
Step 4: Sanding
When fully dried, you can sand the edges of each piece. There will always be a tiny bit of unevenness no matter how perfectly you cut the pieces out, so a little light sanding really makes a difference. Test the tubes out to see if the holes need some sanding too. I use an aluminiumoxide grinding stone with my dremel to widen the hole, checking very often with the tubes again.
Use a dremel to sand shallow indents into the bottom level, corresponding to the holes in the upper level. This will just make the test tubes a bit more stabilized in the spice rack. You can choose to skip this step if you want to. As long as your test tube holes are the correct size, your test tubes should stay nice and stable.
Step 5: Assembling the Pieces
Mark out where on the side pieces the two levels should sit, and fasten them in the right place temporarily with some painter's tape. Check that everything fits snugly together and that the rack isn't wobbly. Adjust any problems now, before everything is glued in place.
Depending on the length of your test tubes, and how far down you want them to sit, you might want to adjust the lower level up or down. If you raise the level up, you're going to end up with some excess on the sides since our sides are sloped. This can very easily be cut or sanded off when it's all glued.
Apply wood glue to one of the levels and clamp together if needed. I recommend glueing one level at a time and letting it fully dry before glueing the next. Glue slippage can really be your worst enemy.
Let dry completely.
Step 6: Painting
Before painting, check again to see that the test tubes fit nicely in your holes. When the rack is fully assembled and the glue has dried, paint the rack with as many thin layers of acrylic paint needed for a full coverage. This varies a lot by brand. I recommend doing several coats and sanding with a fine grit inbetween each layer. Not enough to remove all of the paint, just to even out the paint job. You will end up with a beautifully smooth result.
For the traditional witchy version of this, start with a black base and use a dry brushing technique with brown, black, and white acrylic paint. You'll get a feel for it and you can never really fail at it because you can always undo any areas that aren't to your liking by dry brushing more black paint over. This is the only time I will ever recommend using a stiff, frayed paintbrush.
To add to the worn effect, use some sandpaper to wear away at the spice rack. Concentrate the wear and tear on the edges, as this is where it would be worn away most naturally.
Use a sealant for easy wipe down cleaning in the future. I like using spray sealants for an even coat. Follow the directions of your specific sealant bottle and let dry in a ventilated area.
Step 7: Finsihed Product
So there you have it! One sleek, chic, stylish version and one fairy-tale-witchy, worn and torn version of the same spice rack! Use it either as an everyday object in your kitchen, or as a piece in your halloween decor.
I'm going to place a couple of bonus chapters at the end after this for the potion recipes, but if you don't want to do all the work to make potions for your freshly made test tube holder, I would crack open a few glow sticks and pour the contents in the test tubes for fast and easy potions that look great for either a witch setting or a mad scientist setting.
If you enjoyed this tutorial, please consider voting for me in the 2019 Halloween contest. If you did not enjoy it, please leave feedback in the comment section, it helps me immensly!
HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE
Step 8: Potion Supplies
Green water pearls
Deep red nail polish
Flexible plastic packaging/overhead projector plastic film
Plastic toy snake
Brown acrylic paint
Oregano or other herbs
Clear drying glue
Air dry clay
Clear and semi-clear beads
Step 9: Potions
Eyes of newt
Let a few water pearls lay in a small amount of water for only a couple of hours. You don't want them to be at their full size, or they won't fit in the test tube. Drop them in, and you're done!
Use any tool like the back of a paint brush, a craft stick, the end of a spoon to dip into the liquid latex and smear out some small ovals on a smooth surface (preferably one you don't care about). When the latex is nice and dry, use your bare finger to roll the latex into itself (kind of like making a croissant). The latex will adhere to itself and create a nice little maggot friend. Liquid latex comes in different colors, so if yours is too light and/or transluscent, you can paint a layer of a yellowish light brown on the latex oval before rolling it. Leave some unpainted space along the edges though (again, like a pastry), so the latex will still stick to itself when you roll it up. Snip the points of your maggots on both sides just a tinyyyy bit with some scissors to make them a little more blunt. Paint one of the tips with a dot of black acrylic paint, and you're done!
Sometimes, I can't use actual fluids in my crafts. I mean, I absolutely could, because the test tubes are leak proof, but sometimes I worry about adding lots of food coloring will stain whatever I put the liquid in. This wouldn't be a problem at all if my test tubes were made of glass, but let's make it work anyways. If you're not worried about staining, I recommend using food coloring and corn syrup to make fake blood.
Get a very flexible piece of plastic sheet and lay it down on a surface. Use a dark red nail polish (blood looks quite dark when it's a large amount) to paint a strip of red about 2 inches or 5 cm wide, and 5.5 inches or 15 cm in length. You can always trim it later. When the nail polish has fully dried (mine only took about 30 minutes), you can cut out the section of plastic and roll it into a long cylinder. trim if needed, insert it into the cylinder, and you're done!
For some literal snake oil, drop a small flexible rubber snake in to the tube and fill the rest with vegetable oil. The effect is super gross with darker oils, making it look like the snake has been marinating in there for a good while. You're done!
Get some dried chickpeas, and paint them with a layer of watered down brown acrylic paint. Let dry. Place them in the test tube, and add some oregano or other herbs in with them.
If you have a plastic sheet, paint a layer of glue and sprinkle on some irridescent flakes, glitter, shimmer powder, or whatever magical thing you have. If you don't have plastic, paint a layer of clear drying glue on a solid surface and let dry. Keep painting thin layers until it reaches a thin film that can still hold together without ripping when you try to peel it off the surface. Paint another thin layer of glue on the film, and sprinkle on your magic. Let dry completely, and then cut into irregular shapes or different sizes. Place them in your test tube, and you're done!
No matter how tight you close the package of air dry clay when you're done with it, it will eventually crust up a tiny bit. Normally, I'd have to discard these pieces as they are no longer workable, but I'm making use of it for this! Get some dry clay and a mortar and in small amounts at a time, crush into a powder. If you don't have a mortar you can put it in a zip lock bag and hit it with a hammer lightly until it becomes dust, or you can rasp or sand the piece of clay over a container to collect the dust. Make a paper funnel for pouring it into the test tube, and you're done!
Hair gel looks absolutely rad for potions. It can be easily dyed with food coloring, it looks bubbly, and it is viscous enough to hold lightweight item in place. I mixed my gel with a tiny bit of green to pink opalescent nail art powder, and it shimmers like crazy when light hits the test tube, but of course my camera wouldn't pick it up. Just trust me on this one. Fill the tube up as much as you want (I recommend using a syringe without the needle). Now place a few floating beads in the gel using a skewer. You're done!
In a similar way to the maiden's blood, paint metallic nail polish onto a plastic sheet or use metallic nail powder for an even smoother finish. If liquids and possible staining doesn't bother you, I would mix glycerin with metallic cake decorating powder or fine silver mica powder.
Did I just cut a chunk of my own hair out? Yes. Did I say this project would be without sacrifice? No.
Obviously I would advise you to cut a bit of hair from an old doll, or an old wig, or maybe ask your cat very politely to borrow some. Or maybe not. Either way, my hair is already dyed gray which was a bit too perfect to pass up on, and seeing as I already have hair down to my butt, it's not a huge deal for me. If whichever hair you choose to use isn't gray, don't stress it too much. Wolves aren't the same color all over anyways.
Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2019
2 years ago
i love how yo said we can ask our cat for some hair
3 years ago
This is super cool! Love the fact that you are recycling items and excited to give it a go, now just to find some test tubes. My daughter wants to be a witch for a Halloween party.
Reply 3 years ago
Yes! I'm so happy when I get to use material that would otherwise be thrown away. I save a looooot of knick-knacks and trash. You could always look for test tubes online, but I would suggest visiting craft stores and halloween stores too. If there's any time to go looking for test tubes, it's definitely now during halloween season! Hope you and your daughter have fun crafting together!