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  • Writer's pictureAmy Blossom

How To Transform An Ugly & Boring Printer's Tray

I love my parents. They are so good to me and my sister and last month was their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Besides buying them something that they would cherish, I also knew that I wanted to make them something that was special and represented their 50 years together.

A Thrift Store Find Becomes the Focus

For about a week, I racked my brain to come up with something unique. All of a sudden, it hit me. I had bought this old worn out printer’s tray at Goodwill a while ago, with no real plan for it. So I pulled it off my shelf of thrift store “treasures” that I keep in my garage and decided that I would create a shadow box for them. I literally bought the printer’s tray for $1.91 and had most of the supplies I needed in my craft room to make it into something awesome, so that's what I did.

This tray was so dirty so the first thing I did was clean the tray really well. I used a damp cloth with soap and water and a toothbrush to get into the groves and corners. After cleaning it, I decided that it had too many small compartments. I knew that I wanted some bigger ones in order to put in background pictures.

I cut out some of the smaller sections with a utility knife (it wasn't hard to do this, the wood was pretty soft) and used Gorilla Glue to glue the wood where it was loose. To ensure that the wood dividers stayed where I needed them to, I put tape on it and let it dry overnight. When I removed the tape, those wooden inserts were not going anywhere!

You can (sort of) see in the picture below that I ended up with 5 bigger sections which ended up working perfectly.

Printer's Tray Transformed

Once the glue was dry, I took the tray up to my craft room and started to put background pictures and paper in the sections. Honestly, I just didn’t like the brown wood with the items I chose. It seemed so blah to me. I knew it needed to be painted a bright color.

I used white chalk paint to paint each and every square inch of the brown. It took about 3 coats to get it to the point where I was happy with it. Chalk paint dries pretty quickly, so I was able to start decorating the next day. I didn’t want to distress the wood, so I just sealed it with some white wax and began to decorate it with special embellishments. This is definitely the FUN part!!

Here is the tray ready for beautiful decorations! This is a better picture to see the bigger sections:

Printer's Tray Painted White

I didn't really have a plan for exact decorations for the tray except for wanting to put my parents' wedding picture, old pictures and pictures of my boys as that's where I started and went from there. As I got further along in the project, more ideas kept coming to me and I built on those ideas.

A Vision Takes Shape

I had my sister email me my parents' wedding picture and asked my cousin, who lives in the same town where my parents' first house is, to take a picture of their first house and send it to me as well. Picking the backgrounds took a while. I wanted to make sure that each compartment background held a special place in my parents' hearts.

Backgrounds that I added to the shadow box are:

  • Wedding Photo of my parents

  • Family picture from the 70’s

  • Current Family Pictures

  • Picture of me and my sister as kids

  • Pictures of their first house and their current house

  • Pictures of their grandchildren and grand dogs

  • Scriptures

  • 50 Years poem

  • Pretty paper

  • Burlap

Once I had the backgrounds chosen, I glued them into place using ModPodge. This was the easiest and least messy way to get the backgrounds glued into place.

As the backgrounds were drying, I wanted to find things that represented my parents and their hobbies and interests. I made a list and looked for miniature items that I could purchase online. I did have some of these things already, but as I looked at the Hobby Lobby Website, I found items that I definitely wanted.

Items with special meaning:

  • Sewing machine and fabric rolls (Mom)

  • Decorated spools (Mom)

  • Cookies & baking items (Mom)

  • Tools (Dad)

  • Books (Dad)

  • Stickers of the states they were born in

  • Basket of Flowers

  • Family Initial

  • Quotes

To add some beauty and personality to the piece, I add the following embellishments:

  • Stickers

  • Lace

  • Ribbon

  • Wooden Cutouts

  • Pearls

  • Paper flowers

  • Metal Corners

  • Metal Quote

  • Doilies

  • Bunting with “Mr. & Mrs.”

  • Metal signs “Grandfather” & “Grandmother”

  • Metal key & lock

Most of these items I actually had on hand in my craft stash. The only things that I purchased were a few stickers and the miniature items, all from Hobby Lobby. The entire project cost me less than $20.00. It did take me a while to complete but I took my time until I felt it was perfect. I did keep adding embellishments to it until I was happy with the overall look.

Here is the finished product:

Printer's tray transformed

I am so happy how this once ugly and boring printer’s tray was transformed into a beautiful representation of my parents' fifty years together. It took a while to finish it, but it was so worth it. My parents really love this gift. My mom especially loves how beautiful it is. Fifty years is long time and the memories held within those 50 years are priceless.

When you are out shopping and see an old ugly printer’s tray, don’t pass it up. Create a beautiful shadow box to preserve your memories. You will love the results!




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