Up-cycle: Plastic Lined Wooden Jar With Window




Introduction: Up-cycle: Plastic Lined Wooden Jar With Window

Gather your supplies and prepare your work space. You will want a tray, I use meat trays from the grocery store. In the picture, my tray is under the sawdust. The sawdust in the baggies, in the tray, is already sifted/sorted.


Clear Plastic Jar with Screw Top Lid

Contact Paper & Card Stock Paper


Ruler & Pencil

Wood Glue

Brushes Cup (for water/brushes)

Glue Pot with lid

Sandpaper: Assorted #60 - #220

Paper Towels

Cotton Swabs

Hair Elastics


Breath Filter Mask

Plastic Colander w/Fitting Bowl

Gallon Baggies

Acquiring sawdust is easy if your garage is full of it, but cabinet makers/carpenters are big producers and easy to find. Also, noticing where the woodworking sounds are in the neighborhood can source all you can use.

Some sawdust is large and some is small. Anything as large as the ball of your pinkie finger is useless for encrusting a plastic jar.

Have and Wear the Mask! Wood dust causes irreversible damage in the lungs.

Step 1: ​Sifting the Sawdust:

Do the sawdust sifting outside. Wear your mask and let the flying dust fly away from you.

In this picture, the white colander is sitting in a clear bowl. In gallon size baggies are the 3 sizes to be sifted from handfuls of sawdust (I get mine from the carpenter).

If the shaving is bigger than the ball of your pinkie. Get those bits out of the way before proceeding. A grocery size bag will come in handy for the bigger chips of wood shavings.

Once there's nothing much bigger than one of the holes in the colander, you're set to sort your sawdust into 3 sizes.

Each of these sizes are specialized, serving a particular purpose in this encrusting process.

The picture shows the 3 sizes that are worth sifting for.

Pass A; Sift for everything small enough to get through the holes in the colander; what's left in the colander is Size #3. Bag it.

Pass B: Return everything from the bowl, back into the colander, and gently sift so that the fine dust is in the bowl, leaving very small, but discernable bits in the strainer.

Dust is Size #1. Bag it.

The dust could be anything, but the itty-bits are identifiable as wood.

Size #2 is what's left in the colander when the dust is out. Bag those itty-bits.

You should sift by the handfulls from a grocery size bag of shavings/sawdust until you have 2 cups worth of Size #2.

If your sawdust doesn't have teeny tiny dust and itty-bitty bits; hand grinding, the blender or coffee grinder will work to break dry shavings down.

The encrusting of one jar will take less than 2 cups of Size #2. You want to make sure you have plenty.

If you have 2 cups of Size #2, you should have plenty of Size #1,

Size #1 is for filling and building.

Size #2 is for stability and bonding below the surface layer.

Size #3 is the surface layer.

Having chosen a clear, plastic jar that feels good in your hand and opens/closes smoothly, make sure it's clean. You're very close to scratching it all up.

You will encrust the entire exterior of the jar, except the threaded lip, the base/foot and the window. Roughing up the surfaces for the glue to grab will keep your encrusting on the jar.

Step 2: Make and Place Your Window

The illustration shows the parts of a peanut butter jar, which is what I'm using for the example.

Before you get to preparing the surface of the jar for adhesion, put the window protection on the jar. You're going to scratch up the surface of the jar/lid and the window should stay shiny and clear. We do this with contact paper over card stock paper.

Put the sticky plastic (contact paper or tape) over the card stock paper, stuck to it. Cut your window from them. The card stock will make your window protection stand out, above the surface of the jar, making it easier to work around it as you go along.

1/2" wide and 3" long is comfortable, but you can make your window any shape you like. It is important that you have it "float," with space to the top and bottom of your window. The encrusting will be much more durable if you make sure the wood and glue completely surround the jar, except for the window.

Place the window on the jar with a thin layer of wood glue.

Let it dry.

Step 3: Rough Up the Surfaces of the Jar and Lid

This picture is to show the window and roughed up jar/lid.

Now, sand the jar and lid all down, being a bit careful around the protective, window strip.

Use a large grit sandpaper to do the roughing up of the surface. Don't be nice to it.

The edge of the lip of the cap is very important to rough up well. This surface is the most difficult to encrust and letting it shine will undermine the stability of the encrusting on this edge.

Step 4: Begin the Build

Your jar has a shoulder and a foot. Normally, you'll have to decide how much you want to build them up/out.

Keep in mind that making the exterior of a jar into a cylinder takes many stages of filler layers, Not building them up/out, at least some, will shorten the life of your jar.

As a introduction project, building the exterior into almost a cylinder is a skill builder.


It is MUCH easier to clean glue up before something dries, than after. Clean up stray glue with a wet paper towel or cotton swab as soon as you can, certainly before applying the sawdust. Keep the base, the very bottom where the jar meets the surface it stands on, clean at all times. If the neck/threads area is hard to protect from the glue/sawdust, try a stretched-out hair elastic.

DO NOT try to do your drying in the oven, unless your really want to use a weirdly shaped snack jar that won't stand on its base. (Glass containers may be dried in the oven, on its lowest heat, just fine.)

Also, consider your screw top lid. Is the top flat or concave? No matter how flat the top seems, the center of the top is weak. Building it up will make it more substantial.

Your work space is about to get really messy. Use a tray and drop a couple of handfulls of Size #1 in it.

Your glue brushes are in a cup of water and your glue pot is full...

Start with the lid. Paint the top, not over the side, careful to wipe any sloppy glue off from around the top's ledge and sides before adding sawdust

Cover the glue in sawdust. Tap off what's not in the glue.

With your fingers, gently tap the sawdust into the glue. Dump the excess back into the tray and wipe off any sticking elsewhere.

Step 5: The Lip Edge of the Lid

Turn the lid over so that the lip edge is up. Carefully, tap glue around on this edge and clean up any glue that gets inside the edge or up the sides.

Set the glued edge in the pile of sawdust in the tray, lift and repeat, turning, so that the edge has an even coat of sawdust. Clean up stray bits inside the lid and around the sides.

A short bit into the drying of any layer, as the glue has soaked into the wood but it's not dry, press the sawdust into itself gently, but firmly. This will help to condense and secure the layer.


Drying is vital. As long as moisture prevails, the wood is soft and easy to wipe or sand off. Let each layer dry completely before going on.

Each layer must be sanded before going to the next stage.

Early in Stage One, using Size #1 sawdust, Simple finger sanding is fine. Lightly, wipe away anything that sticks up. Make sure the threads inside of the lid are always clear.

There will be 2, build layers to the lid before going to the jar. These layers are primary to the stability of your encrusting of the lid.

When you have two layers of build on the lid, and they are dry, use a medium sandpaper to lightly smooth the top out and even. Leave the edge to harden.

Step 6:

The first builder layer on the jar is going to be between the neck and shoulder, and also between the lower, rounded band and the foot.

This is the 3rd layer on the top and ledge of the lid.

Paint the glue and pack the sawdust. Try to keep the shoulder's builder layer from extending down onto the rounded band atop the body area.

Repeat when dry.

Step 7: 3rd Builder Layer on Jar

The drying and light sanding are done from the second builder layer to the jar and it is the fourth layer to the top of the cap, leaving the edge alone. Dry and lightly sand smooth and even.

Paint the glue and press the 3rd, builder layer to the jar and the 5th, builder layer top of the lid.

The larger view of the lid is what the dried, 3rd build looks like (before sanding), next to the foot of the jar. See that the foot is about even with the rounded band (at at both, the foot and the shoulder). The top of the cap is no longer a depression. The side of the cap still meets the top sharply. The edge of the lip build is not sanded yet.

Step 8:

A, 4th builder layer to the foot and shoulder (of #1 sawdust).

This is the first, “all over” layer for the lid. Paint the glue and apply it to the top, first. (This will make the lid easier to handle as you get to the sides.) Then, making sure to stuff glue into the nooks and crannies of the, rough, lip build, paint up the side to the top edge. Apply the sawdust.

Dry completely before sanding, and sand the lid with coarse sandpaper.

Step 9: Build the Trunk/Body

Yes, it's time to get the trunk built out to meet up with the upper and lower bands. Paint it in, be careful of your window area, again. Keep the contact paper's surface and edges clean. Apply the sawdust and dry.

This step only builds the trunk of the jar out.

Build the trunk of the jar out with 2 layers of #1 sawdust. Dry and sand between layers.

Step 10: The Last Build Layer

We are still using #1, very fine sawdust, but this is the last builder layer.

All of the build layers, and all over the lid, get one more fine layer of build. This layer will seem to protrude a little from the upper and lower bands. The cap will be almost opaque with encrusting, but not quite.

When this layer is dry, sand it with the coarse sandpaper until the bands and the builds are even, you'll see a cylinder emerging,

Step 11: 1st All Over Layer - #2 Sawdust

This is the layer that puts everything together and lets you see what you have.

This layer is a bit more chunky that the very fine sawdust you were using before. Some of what you have in your tray (of #2 sawdust) has shape. These shapes will hold each other in the grip of the glue, shrinking as it dries.

Each layer that has dried and was sanded some to give the glue some wood to join with. A shrinking has made layers of skin, tight and tough, one upon and into the layer that proceeded it. But, they aren't a single skin until the shapes and fibers of the #2 sawdust have united them.

This is the best layer to establish the “nice” line between the base of the neck and the bottom of the threads. Be a bit insistent, when you've painted this area and applied the sawdust, that the lid is easy to screw on and off. The threading for lid may have a ridged line, or it may not. Making this, nice line won't be difficult, but be mindful.

The picture shows how the first, all over layer of #2 sawdust looks after sanding.

Notice that there is zero shiney plastic. The glue and bits of wood have layered very lightly over the bands, but this layer is connecting the build layers all the way down to the plastic, in a single sheet now.

Step 12: 2nd All Over Layer of #2 Sawdust

Repeat the all over layer of #2 Sawdust.

This picture is to show how the second, all over layer of #2 sawdust looks after sanding.

Notice that there is zero plastic showing through.

Sand the dry layer with coarse sand paper.

Step 13: Surface Layer in #3 Sawdust

For the next, and final/surface layer, you want texture and depth; creating little hairs and wood surfaces to bond with the glue. Smoothing is contrary to the grabbing that you want the final layer to do. You should be able to bang it up a bit, with no trouble. Several swipes in every direction with the coarse sand paper will give you a good and rough layer.

The surface layer is in #3 sawdust. You know that anything bigger than the ball of your finger is “somewhere else.” Most of these bits are a thin layer of their shape. You've had to push the glue into the nooks and crannies before rolling the whole jar, with the lid on, in the #3 sawdust.

It looks furry. Give it plenty of time to dry.

Sand it down as a single unit. (Lid on) Use the coarsest sand paper, then a medium heavy sand paper, then a medium grit. The surface will be about smooth enough to decorate.

Open the window. The light layer of glue will be easy to peel the contact paper and paper board away!

Before sanding it down with a fine grit sand paper, remove the lid and use the medium grit sand paper on the area that the lid covers.

Sand down the surface with a fine sandpaper. Be sure to smooth the edges of your window with care. After protecting that window area, you don't want to mess it up with careless sanding.

Step 14: Decorate!

You've got a blank canvas! You've been thinking about what you might do to decorate the jar. It's time to have the fun you've been waiting for! Maybe you just want it to be plain. This step is when you apply the decision and pattern you choose to use.

These are decorated in artist's acryllics.

Only paint where you want color. The encrusting is nice showing through, or around your decoration.

The surface is rugged, even if you sand it down to as smooth as it gets (which is not done, here) It will look, quite a bit like cork.

Step 15: Finish!

Finish the surface of your jar. While the glue and wood have become an, almost, invulnerable, tight skin, it looks pasty and peaky, until there is a finish... just like unfinished furniture.

There are options. The jar on the right was finished with one coat of polyurethane. The one on the left was finished with Orange Glow, the furniture clean/polish spray. Mod Podge is another option, as are enamel, varnish and lacquer. I have been using either polyurethane, Orange Glow, or a stain sealer.

The finish does give the surface a bit of added protection, just like wooden furniture. The encrusting is very strong and very resistant to water damage before the finishing coat. It's called, "finishing," because it will protect the surface with a coat of pure water resistance (besides being attractive).

Your, plastic lined, wooden jar will not survive the dishwasher, very well, but hand washing (without leaving submerged) will be fine, for longer than the summer season.

Now that you know what you're doing, have some fun. Turn those wonderful jars, that you couldn't resist saving, into pantry containers that may outlive you. Keep in mind that you have paid for these containers (glass or plastic) and throwing them away only fills the landfill... or the oceans.

Consider that you can save money and be ecologically responsible by buying in bulk and portioning for the pantry. Turn an empty lip balm container into what you carry your medication in, or where the ear plugs are. Encrust spice jars to give your spices a darker, drier, cooler container that protects the flavor. There are unlimited possibilities.

Happy Earth Day #50! (April 22, 2020)

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