So by now you probably all know that we were mailed a sawdust-covered plastic cactus which we transformed into a table and used to win the most prestigious competition that we’ve ever competed in. To say this made our life is an understatement.
If you’re a little fuzzy (hahaha, like our cactus) on the details, here is a quick re-cap: We were selected to be one of 12 competitors in the inaugural Mystery Thrift Off, run by the beautiful, hilarious,
sadistic, creative Lindsey of Better After. Lindsey went shopping at Goodwill and found 12 strange and hopeless items, which she shipped out to be transformed. If you haven’t been following along (Why not? This has been the most fun EVER!) you can check out all of the items and creative transformations here, here, and here.
Our item was a 16″ plastic cactus, coated in some sort of glue-and-sawdust combination.
We were stumped. Our initial brainstorming process yielded such gems as “bury it in the yard” and “encase it in cement.” We also seriously considered transforming it into a sculpture of a drunken cowboy.
After polling our readers, it became clear that we needed to come up with a new, better idea FAST.
So we got together for a day of collaborative brainstorming. As we were talking about it, we realized that we hated almost everything about this cactus. Or, rather, everything except for the shape, which was actually pretty cool. We also wanted our final item to be practical and have a real use/purpose. So we came up with an idea to retain the shape as a quirky base for a side table.
We took our cactus on a road-trip to Home Depot (where we did not stand out as crazy people carrying around a plastic cactus) to pick up supplies and take our plan from idea to execution.
We could tell that the cactus was at least mostly hollow, so our plan was to build a table structure that would run through the cactus once we cut it open. We picked up two circular pieces of wood to form the top and the base of the table, a metal pipe slightly taller than the cactus to be the support, pipe-fittings to attach it securely to the wood, and paint/primer.
The first step was to see if we could remove the glue and sawdust from the exterior to give us a nice surface to work with. We were absolutely counting on this working. Fortunately, the glue scratched right off with just a little effort.
We actually found that paint can openers (who doesn’t have like 50 of these in their basement?) were the perfect tool to get into each crevasse to remove the glue.
It took us about 45 minutes to get it fully clean, working together. Most of it came off pretty easily, but there was definitely a lot of detailed clean up. By the way, scraping glue and sawdust off of a plastic cactus is probably one of the strangest things one can do with another person. It is an experience that we will probably never have the occasion to repeat.
We rinsed it off and washed it down with a sponge, and were thrilled to have a nice, smooth surface to work with.
Next, we turned our attention to cutting it open. Using a 1″ drill bit, we drilled a hole in the top, which we cut to size with clippers.
We then sawed off the base, doing our best to end up with a nice straight edge at the bottom.
The table construction was very easy. We sanded and washed the base and table top to remove rough patches, and washed the pipe down in soapy water to remove the oily residue so that the paint would adhere better. We then screwed the pipe fittings into each piece of wood, being careful to hit in exactly the center.
We screwed the pipe into the base, popped the cactus over the top, and screwed in the top. Magic! A table!
… an ugly table.
To help keep the cactus in place (it wanted to wiggle around quite a bit) and seal the edges, we used some pretty intense glue to create a seal around the top and the bottom. It served the same purpose as caulking the edges would, but we hoped that using glue would give a little more hold.
After that dried, it was time for our favorite step: paint! We started with primer.
Oh, wait, did we forget to mention that we were not alone? As if this project wasn’t weird enough, partway through our construction, we were joined by a whole bunch of Sage’s friends and family for a BBQ. So while we were working enthusiastically and with abandon dismantling a cactus and turning it into a table, we had this going on:
Yes, they ARE all sitting around a dinner table and staring at us.
They were very supportive, but we’re not positive that they really “bought into” our vision. There was a lot of, “wait, that’s a table…?” going on.
Trust us, guys. We’re bloggers.
Once the table was primed, we needed to let it dry, so we set a chair up to block it from the very dangerous and irresponsible badminton game going on.
We then spent the rest of the evening yelling at people not to hit our masterpiece with their rackets. Because we’re fun.
The next weekend, we sanded the primer to get a smooth surface and completed the project with many light coats of spray paint in high-gloss white.
It was pretty tricky to get the paint into each crevasse. The edge of the raw wood was also very thirsty and took a lot of coats and some additional rounds of sanding to get a nice finish.
But we were thrilled with the result: a little side table!
It is quirky and fun, and really adds a lot of character to the room. Because it is in white rather than a funky color, the cool shape is allowed to shine without being overwhelming.
It is definitely still weird, but we like it.
The glossy finish is also a total improvement over the fuzzy sawdust and glue. (Do we even need to type that sentence? Isn’t it obvious?)
It has come so far from that scraggly, fuzzy, strange little cactus that we got in the mail!
It is also really handy to have a side table. You know, for normal side table uses, like decorative stacks of books and glasses of water.
We’re so glad that our readers pushed us beyond the original drunken cowboy vision, and we’re SO GRATEFUL to Lindsey for including us in this illustrious, hilarious competition.
(Sharing at Remodelaholic, Link Party Palooza, Tip Me Tuesday, Two Uses Tuesday, That DIY Party, Whimsy Wednesday, Think and Make Thursday, One Project at a Time, Thrifty Decor Chick, Remodelaholic, and Featured at Tatertots and Jello and MSN – Lifestyle)