We recently had the opportunity to replace some sconce light covers. The ones that broke were simply a piece of curved frosted glass. Caroline and the kids made some decorations this summer by melting pony beads in a cupcake pan run with the idea and use it to make some custom sconce covers myself.
I bought a new flat all-metal pan from the thrift store to avoid getting melted plastic all over the pans we use. I would’ve preferred a cookie sheet, but this is what they had.
I bought a bit of clear beads and a bin of transparent color beads. I made sure to get hard beads. I laid the beads out how I wanted them, but I made sure to extend my layout about 2 inches wider and taller than I was going to need. I knew that the plastic puddle would be thinner at the edges.
I placed the whole pan in the grill on medium-high. I checked on it every few minutes and here’s what happened.
- The beads all got shiny. They looked almost wet. I could still touch them at this point and they felt rubbery, but wouldn’t quite stick together.
- The beads started to stick together, but were still separate.
- They turned into a big puddle.
That took about 10 or 15 minutes. If you checke it less often it will probably take less time.
After it was melted I removed it from the grill and let it cool by itself until I could comfortably touch the bottom of the pan with my bare hands. At this point a slight twist of the pan made the plastic sheet pop off.
On an initial trial run I tried pulling the plastic off before it was all the way hardened and it left a goopy mess stuck to the bottom of the pan. Wait until it’s cool.
Once both sheets were cooled I used a fine-tooth saw blade on the table saw to trim the edges to make two rectangles.
The next step was to bent it. I actually did this step over the grill, the heat of the grill helped keep the whole piece warm, while the heat gun warmed it enough to actually get back to the bendy stage. I wore a clean(ish) leather glove during this stage so my hand didn’t get too hot.
Be sure to constantly move the heat gun around so you don’t get odd hot spots. They’ll warp and sag.
Since I was just barely bringing it up to the bendable stage, all I had to do to harden it was pick it up off the grill and hold it in the cool November Minnesota air.
The curves aren’t perfect, but they didn’t need to be for this. If I wanted exact curves I’d have made a mold out of sheet metal or something and let it droop over the mold.
Once it was curved I used a series of sandpaper on the edges to remove the saw blade marks. I used 120, 220, 500, 1200 and steel wool. That left the edges with a hazy white finish. A quick pass with the heat gun healed all those micro-scratches to leave clear edges.
Caroline says she loves them, so I guess the project was a success.
- Melting plastic lets off terrible fumes. Keep it outside the whole time it’s warm and don’t do this in the oven.
- This works with CFL bulbs because they don’t get hot enough to melt the plastic. This would never work with halogen or incandescent bulbs.