Sunday, September 18, 2011

of Creating a Shutter Mail Organizer

First, life has been pretty crazy this past month or so. Sorry for lack of updates but between my birthday and vacation and all the fun summer activities outdoors, it is hard to focus on blogging for any length of time. I know this is technically a food blog (or at least I hope it will be when I get crackin' on tacking more pictures when I am cooking), but I wanted to share with you a project I worked on one weekend.

Refinishing and re-purposing old furniture is like second nature to many people in my family. My grandfather finds awesome old pieces like battered navy trunks and tables and creates useable, workable, and beautiful additions to any room. My mother has similar talents, particularly in reupholstering and refinishing old chairs. My sister and brother in law somehow scrounge up old chests, see potential where most people would see a mess, and make them into awesome coffee tables. I could go on and on about ways in which my family takes creative reuse very seriously. Luckily, I got a pinch of the family talent thrown in because I love refinishing and refurbishing discarded architectural materials into functional and beautiful pieces. Don't get me wrong I also enjoy refinishing furniture but I love the creativity that comes when something catches your eye in a salvage yard and you know exactly what to do with it. With this project, I actually planned on going to the salvage yard to specifically get the shutter, but I couldn't have imagined what wonders awaited me when i got there. Another trip is a definite must!

This total and complete freedom to dabble in my creative side is nothing new. My job is generally creative but more on a theoretical and less on a tangible hands on kind of level. I genuinely enjoy getting down and dirty with some paints and lots of glue. And so I present, the old shutter that I converted into a Shutter Mail Organizer.

Today's Cast of Characters:

It's really simple today guys. All you need for this project is an old shutter,indoor or outdoor, it doesn't matter, in fact for mine I used an old western door; glue, I used gorilla glue but feel free to use any kind of industrial strength super glue; Three colors of paint, I used Behr Key Lime Pie, Behr Stealth Jet and some left over Parchment from Sherwin Williams; scrap particle board or plywood for the backing, you can sometimes get this for free at a place like 84 lumber, or you may score some free wood at Home Depot; sandpaper; and spray polyurethane, this can be tinted if you are going for the super distressed look. You will also need mounting hardware, tape, an exacto knife or razor, nails, and whatever embellishments you choose , I decided not to embellish my organizer but you could always get cool knobs or hangers for umbrellas or keys or something of that nature.

What to do:

If you are using an old dirty shutter, you may need to hose it off and scrub it to make sure it is clean. You may even need to sand away some chipped paint before washing. Luckily, this little baby was relatively cared for and so all I had to do was give it a quick wipe after banging it around with a hammer for a bit. You want to make sure it dries all the way before you start the rest of your work. 

Decide if you want two colors and part of the original shutter or just one color. With this particular project I chose to use only green since the under color was a pretty wood one. I could just have easily painted the whole shutter with the parchment color, let that dry and then started on with the next step. 

When the first coat of paint is dry (this can take 2+ hours, or quite quickly depending on the temperature and humidity level) decide if you need another coat. If you do, add another coat and allow it to dry completely. 

If you don't, its time to create the stencil for the word MAIL. You could even get fancy and use La POSTE, French for mail. I wanted my lettering to look a little old fashioned and weathered already so I bumped around online for a bit on free font websites. is a particularly good place to go. You can see the word mail or poste in all sorts of different fonts by typing it in to the custom preview section.

Once you find the font you like, choose the size that will be best represented on your shutter. I wanted a larger script so I chose 175pt. Feel free to play around with cutting out some examples and holding them up to the shutter to find your perfect fit. After you decide how big you want your text, it's up to you to choose if you want a drop shadow on your letters. I chose the stealth jet color because it complimented the creamy color of the writing.  If you like the look of mine you can try to replicate it by using the Pieces of Eight font and adding a drop shadow.

After you've chosen how you want your letters to look apply the painters, masking, or white tape over the lettering. I know this seems a bit strange but you will understand why this is being done when you begin to stencil. Use an exacto knife or razor to cut out the lettering. When you remove the interior portion of the text, the lettering should be fairly close to the font you originally chose. If it isn't make a few adjustments and get it looking crisp. 

If you have chosen to do a drop shadow, repeat the stencil making process but leave the lettering whole. Place the lettering so that it matches up exactly with the cream colored lettering you have already done and tape it securely. Apply the second color the same way you did the first. Allow the paint to dry completely and apply a second coat if necessary. 

Now its time to use the sand paper to apply wear to the shutter. You are making this look weathered so think about where weather would be most likely to affect the shutter. Obviously, the corners and sides of the shutter would be most prone to damage so make sure that you concentrate your efforts there. The individual slats would also be affected to a lesser extent. Be sure you don't take away more of the paint than you need to. You still want to be able to see the new color you have added. 

Be sure to concentrate some of your efforts on weathering the lettering on your shutter. I find that using broad sweeping motions over the letters has the desired effect and still looks natural. You do not want your shutter to look overly processed or weathered. Make sure it is still readable.

It's finally time to glue! I find that the easiest way to set this up is to make sure the shutter slats are all going in the same direction first and then flip it over so that the back is facing you. Squeeze the glue on the surfaces that will be touching the particle board. Make sure that the bottoms of the slats that will be touching the particle board have some glue. This will prevent your slats from moving around all willy nilly when they are loaded with mail. 

Place the particle board on top of the shutter making sure to line it up properly and apply gentle pressure. Make any necessary adjustments quickly and allow the glue to dry according to package directions. 

Once the shutter is weathered to your liking,  and the glue is dry and bonded to the backing, it is time to seal the weathered finish you have done. I used untinted spray polyurethane in satin finish. You can go glossy or matte but I love the way the satin looks when dry. Two coats should do it but be sure to wait two hours in between coats. This protects the finish you have just spent time creating and generally helps the shutter be happier in the long run.

You can install your mounting hardware and hang it now, or if you have anything to embellish the sorter, after installing the hardware, it is time to add them. You could use some of the glue and just stick the embellishments on or screw them on for added strength.

Once it is hung you have something functional, original, and just lovely for organizing your mail. For me, it solves the problem of how to sort mail with my roommates instead of just leaving it on the stairs. Since I live in a walk-up over a business, our entry stairwell is a bit intimidating even without all the mail piling up. This makes the house seem a little bit more like home the second we enter and I am sure it is something that I will use in any house where I live. I hope you will enjoy doing this project as much as I have. Creating something beautiful from something discarded is a joy that waits to be treasured!

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