Introduction: Recycled Object Mobile

About: I am the founder of RuckusRoots, a Los Angeles-based non profit organization. We provide community based, sustainable arts education programs to underserved teens and young adults throughout Los Angeles. Our …

This Instructable is based on a project called "Chimes for Change", in which our organization, RuckusRoots, worked with high school students to create windchimes/hanging mobiles from recycled objects. Each student chose a sustainability issue (social, economic or environmental) to build their chime/mobile around, in the hopes of raising awareness about that issue. If you're curious, you can learn more about Chimes for Change here !

We've made this simple tutorial so that you can do the same thing in your home, classroom or community and make your very own recycled object mobile...let's go!

Step 1: Choose Your Theme

What do you want to express through your mobile? Think of your theme, idea or the issue you'd like to focus on with this creative project. For our mobile in this Instructable, our theme is littering.

Consider which colors, materials, and objects might best represent your theme. For example, we chose colors like blue and white, to represent clean air and clean water. We selected materials and objects such as aluminum cans and plastic rings, that are often disposed of improperly and contribute to our world's litter problem.

You'll also want to think about how you will use colors, materials, and objects to decorate your crossbars to represent your theme. We used blue paint to decorate our crossbars because it represents clean water, while our polka-dot motif represents air bubbles.

Artistic metaphor is important here, as is creativity. Let your imagination run free!

Step 2: Gather Your Tools & Materials


  • hand drill (and 1/4 inch drill bit)
  • scrap wood or surface to drill into
  • paintbrush
  • scissors
  • measuring tape
  • pencil
  • hole punch
  • hammer
  • a small nail
  • work gloves


  • Two 1/2" x 1/2" x 12" square dowel rods (can purchase at any hardware store)
  • 2" screw eye (1/4 inch diameter)
  • 1/4 inch washer
  • 1/4 inch nut
  • 1/2" eyelet screws
  • fishing line, chain, wire, or twine
  • found objects - whatever you choose!
  • paint
  • glue
  • old magazines (to protect your working surface)
  • yarn and binder ring or wire (for hanging)

Step 3: Prepare the Crossbars

  • Using a ruler or measuring tape, measure lengthwise to the center of each wooden dowel and mark it with a pencil.
  • Place one dowel on a surface safe for drilling. Drill a hole through the center using a 1/4 inch drill bit.
  • Repeat with the other dowel.

Step 4: Decorate Your Crossbars

Before assembling and adding your screw eyes to the crossbars, it's time to decorate them!

  • Get creative and decorate the crossbars with a motif that will go with the theme of your chime.
  • Feel free to paint, decoupage, or even wrap your crossbars in yarn for added texture and color!
  • Add glitter, sequins, buttons, small shells or anything else you can dream up!

Decorating the cross bars is up to you and what you feel best expresses your chosen theme.

Step 5: Planning Your Mobile

Now it's time to think about your mobile hangers. (These are the hooks that your chimes will hang from.)

NOTE: Make sure that any paint, glue, glitter and other decorations are fully dry before moving on the next steps.

  • Consider how you'd like your mobile to hang and how many strands you'd like to use. This is entirely up to you and will probably depend on what you are using as your found objects, how big / heavy these items are, etc. Use your creativity and logical thinking here!
  • Decide where you'd like the strands to hang from each of your crossbars. Measure (or eyeball) and mark with a pencil.
  • Using a hammer and nail, start a small hole in each of the places you've marked with a pencil. This will make inserting your eyelet screws a little easier, which you will do in a later step.

Step 6: Assemble the Crossbars

The next step is to assemble your crossbars.

  • Take one of your dowels - make sure to use the side OPPOSITE the holes you've just marked in the previous step! Twist the Screw Eye into it until you can see it peeping through the other side of your dowel.
  • Lay this dowel on top of the other in an "X" shape - this will form your chime crossbars! AGAIN, make sure that the little holes you started are both facing downwards.
  • Continue to twist the Screw Eye until it's all of the way through both of your dowels and only the eye loop can be seen from the top of your crossbars.

Now it's time to tighten these crossbars up!

  • Slide the washer, and then the bolt up the back end of the screw eye (on the underside of your crossbars).
  • Screw the bolt on nice and tight - this will help secure the screw eye in place and keep your two dowels together in the "X" shape.
  • You can grasp the dowels, one in each hand, and twist in a clockwise motion to further tighten up your crossbars.

Step 7: Adding Your Eyelet Hooks

  • Insert an eyelet screw into each of the holes on the bottomside of your crossbars until they are all nice and tight!

Now your crossbars are ready!

Step 8: Assemble, Decorate and Prepare Your Objects

Much of this next step is up to you and will depend on what you think looks best for your mobile, so feel free to have fun and use your own sense of creativity.

  • For example, we painted our aluminum cans with blue and white stripes to symbolize clean air and the beautiful blue ocean we want to see instead of ugly litter in our environment.
  • You may need to punch holes into your objects, or think of other creative ways to hang them. Just consider how each item will hang and how you'd like it to look.

Step 9: Hang Your Objects

Make sure your objects are dry and ready for hanging. Now comes the fun part!

  • Measure about an arm's length of twine, yarn, fishing line, wire or chain (from the top of your shoulder to your fingertips is a good way to gauge). This will form your first strand for hanging. Then repeat as necessary for as many eyelet hangers you planned for in Step #5.
  • Attach your objects to each strand, making sure to secure the ends firmly so none of your objects slip or fall!
  • Again, this is an opportunity to use your discretion and creativity to make a mobile that you feel proud of and best expresses your theme. You may want to try a few different ways of hanging your items until you feel you've found what looks best!

Step 10: Attach Your Strands and Hang Your Mobile!

Once you've assembled each strand, the final step is to attach them to your crossbars!

  • Using a piece of fishing line or wire, hang your crossbeams from a doorframe, a tree, or even a doorknob - this will make it easier to attach your strands and see what looks best :)
  • Tie each strand you've made to an eyelet on your crossbars. Adjust the length of each strand as you see fit. Weight and balance will be important here - it all depends on your selection of objects and how heavy they all are!

NOTE: This last step will require some trial and error, but be patient - it will be worth it! Again, think about how your chime will BALANCE once it hangs. If one side is too heavy, the crossbars will be uneven and the chime will hang lopsided.

Once you are satisfied with the distribution of objects and how your chime hangs - VOILA!

  • To hang your mobile, loop some rope, wire, string or a metal binder ring through the eye of your screw eye and hang anywhere you'd like.
  • Find a beautiful place to display your newly-made mobile and encourage others to use recycled materials and do the same!
Trash to Treasure

Participated in the
Trash to Treasure