Upcycle Final Report: Oyster Box

I wanted to create something that had a function, but still looked good.  For someone living in a small apartment, having something that serves a purpose is important.  I decided that I wanted to create a bowl as a place to store items like my keys and wallet, but I was stuck on a design.  While visiting my grandma a few weekends, I noticed that her bedroom had an ocean aesthetic.  She had a window curtain was of an underwater scene, with dolphins and fish swimming around.  Her bars of soap in her bathroom where in the shapes of seashells and a small picture of a sailboat hung on the wall.  I decided to use that aesthetic for the design of my project.

Picture by Baloncici

I had a lot of soda cans available since I recycle a large amount of them all at once, so I thought about making it solely out of cans, but it would be difficult to have it support itself without using a lot of cans, more than I had.

I saw someone had posted a tutorial on how to make bowls out of cardboard and decided to that use that as a center for my oyster.

Cardboard bowl by sophie_aj

In order to get a more shell-like shape, I outset the circle of the bowl to more on the outside.

I made a paper prototype to test the shape of the shell.  It didn’t hold the shape well since it was made of paper but the structure looked close to what I wanted.

For the cardboard core, I glued the slits together and let it dry in a mixing bowl overnight to help the cardboard shape in to what I wanted.

From there, I tried paper maching the cardboard to allow the cans to be glued easier.  Sadly, the paper mache caused the cardboard to lost its shape. I chalked it up as a bad prototype and had to start over on the shell.

On the second version, I made the second oyster smaller, the diameter on the original was 12” and the new one was 8”.  On this one, I just hot glued the aluminum onto the cardboard.


Once I had the shell covered in aluminum cans, I used a dremel, a handheld sander, to create a more reflective surface on the cans, more like an actually seashell.


I found some old red felt and some cotton balls and used those to create a mussel for the oyster.

Functionally, my oyster box works well as a bowl and as a place to hod my keys, so my project works functionally.  Aesthetically, I feel that my box looks like an actual oyster which is what I was going for, although the aluminum on the outside was not as appealing as I hoped it would turn out.  Also, I was unable to find a material like a wire that would easily bend to allow the osyter to open and close so I just left it open.  The weight of the shell when it was open required a stand to hold the oyster up.

As for what’s next, I plan on keeping my box and using it.  I usually misplace my keys and wallet in the morning, so having a permanent spot for them will be great.  If I did this again, I would heat the aluminum to make it easier to work with. The aluminum want to stay in the shape of the can and made it hard to glue to the cardboard.  I would either do that, try a different material (the cardboard bowl shown earlier use plastic bags), or I would just paint the cardboard.  Below is the design loop for my process.

Oyster, Upcycle Project
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7 Comments. Leave new

  • Ryan Forsyth
    March 3, 2017 12:22 pm

    This is definitely something I need, I lose my keys all the time. I liked the texture the project had, especially the patterns on the exterior made with the Dremel tool. Could you have used very thin-gauge sheet metal and beat/formed out the shape, instead of gluing small pieces together? There were a lot of sharp edges that a single sheet of metal wouldn’t have.

  • Oksana Schuppan
    February 17, 2017 12:48 pm

    This was a very unique idea. I like how you took a need you had and made something to solve the need. Makes me think you should drive a fancy car. I love the texturing on the aluminum pieces too. Great job.

  • John, cool idea and great implementation. I love how you were inspired by your grandparents ocean theme. Reusing the soda cans was very clever and has an “industrial” type look to it. Using a dremel to create that scribble design also added a cool look to it. It also makes it reflect a little, which makes this piece stand out. I wonder if any of it will oxidize over time. Would that add to the aesthetic?

  • This is a cool project and something that seems very useful. It will be a fun trinket to put in your house. I think it looks just a little rough and crude, but it’s made out of very interesting materials. I wonder if there’s any way to refine it.

  • Branden Goldenberg
    February 17, 2017 12:10 pm

    It is much more sturdy than I expected! The added texture added to the aluminum adds a nice touch. The idea of adding the aluminum to the stand would be a great finishing touch. Overall, the project turned out very well.

  • Nice project! I like the shape you were able to achieve and the recycled soda cans from your grandparents which were the inspiration for the aesthetic. I enjoy the bright red cushion which stands out next to the silver surface. The reflective swirls are really nice to give an oyster and pearl look. Great photos of the process! Nice job!

  • Connor Swanson
    February 13, 2017 1:08 pm

    You had some clever ways of the getting the shape, texture, and finish that you wanted. Good idea cutting up soda cans and using those to cover the outside. It would cool to make a stand for it, maybe one that matches a rock and something that you find near an oyster.


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