Monday, February 11, 2008

How to create Shell Photo Frames

I grew up in a house in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, right on the oceanfront. I have been collecting shells and sharks' teeth all of my life. After accumulating quite a collection, I came up with a neat way to use them. Check out my handiwork and how I did it so you can do it too!


Things you’ll need
  • Plain photo frame (prefer wood, but metal is okay)
  • Hot glue gun and cartridges (usually 3-5 per frame)
  • Long-handle lighter (like used for fireplaces)
  • Wooden coffee stirrers or cuticle sticks
  • Shells
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Can of clear (spray) varnish
  • Craft-type (jewelry) beads, if desired

1. Prepare the frame - remove the backing and take the glass out. Clean the frame of dirt or dust; sand lightly, if necessary. (Note: if you want to paint/change the color of the frame, do it now and allow to dry thoroughly.)

2. Assemble your shells. It is best to find pairs of similar shells. On a flat surface, lay your shells out on the frame. For best results, arrange the shells in a design, not just random. I like to use pairs on opposite sides of the frame for a balanced look. Here’s also where you can add color to a plain frame with brightly colored scallop shells or mussel shells, even sharks’ teeth.

3. Heat your glue gun. By this time, you should have loaded a cartridge into your glue gun and allowed it to heat up. The glue must be very hot and thin. (Note: When shopping for the glue gun, get the kind that uses the highest heat. This way your glue will be very thin and liquidy as opposed to using a low setting, which produces thicker and more gooey glue.)

4. Come up with a design. When placing your shells on the frame, put the glue on the shell, NOT the frame itself. The glue will dry very quickly, so you must place your shells quickly. Hold the shell 5-10 seconds until it’s firmly adhered.

5. Check for flaws - once all of the shells are in place, check for excess glue “blobs.” Use the long-handle lighter to reheat the glue and then remove it gently with a wooden coffee stirrer or a wooden cuticle stick.

6. Shine it up - Once you are satisfied with the appearance, in a well ventilated area, spray lightly with the clear varnish. Allow to dry completely.

7. For added creativity, after the frame is completely dry, you can further embellish the frame with beads for that added touch or color or elegance.

8. Reassemble the frame and gently wipe the glass free from smudges.

9. Enjoy your creation.

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