08 February 2012

DIY: thumbtack balls

I like to think I’m a good judge of what is a reasonable project and what is a useless one. If it requires a trip to the store for supplies, or if it takes more than an hour or two, it better be worth my time. As an example, the most heavily-trafficked post on this blog, the painted trellis canvas art that hangs in our office, used entirely things I had on hand and took no longer than a Harry Potter movie. If you were to run a cost-benefit analysis for that project, I’d come out way ahead!

But sometimes? Sometimes I totally underestimate the time or supplies a project will take. It’s not always the end of the world – if it’s a major project that turns out well in the end (like when I decided to install board and batten in our laundry room using only a broken saw in our ninety-degree garage), that’s okay. I roll with it. But if it’s for a dinky little craft that was supposed to take an hour and $2, but instead takes MORE, but it isn’t worth the money or time? Ugh.

Annnnd that’s the background behind this project, which was inspired by this pin on Pinterest:

Thumbtacks and styrofoam balls! They deceived me with their simplicity. When I saw that I thought, “That’s such big impact for so little time! What a great idea!” The lady behind me at the checkout counter at JoAnn’s agreed, after I told her what I was doing in reply to her way-too-nosy question regarding what I was going to with those 3” styrofoam balls. As I left the store I heard her telling her friend, “Thumbtacks! Isn’t that a neat idea?!”

So, yes. I purchased a six-pack of 3” styrofoam balls at JoAnn’s, which cost more than I expected. Then I had to find those flat, cheap thumbtacks, which they did not have at JoAnn’s (worth a shot, right?) or the neighboring Target. I had to make a special trip to Wal-Mart which is all the way over there, and even then, they only had three packs of silver and three packs of white, at a dollar each for seventy tacks. I bought them all.

Then I lost steam, probably because the thumbtack balls supplies already cost more than I intended – more than ten dollars for a junky project? Hrumph. So the supplies sat in the office, ignored for over a month, while I wrote my dissertation.

Finally, recently, I decided that if I didn’t make them soon, then that money would truly be wasted, right? So I sat down with the styrofoam balls, the thumbtacks, and some white glue (in a plastic spoon that could be discarded) to dip the pointy ends of the thumbtacks:

And then I started filling them in. I found it easiest to start at one end and radiate outward, for a nice design:

Dip, pin, repeat. Until, that is, I ran out of thumbtacks before I could cover one measly ball.


That’s right. One 3” ball needs more than 210 thumbtacks (70 in a package, remember?). Which means one 3” ball costs more than $4. Not worth it. At that point I officially decided this project was over. Although, I guess they do look nice enough... at least the silver one does. You can’t really see the styrofoam between the tacks from far away, so it’s nice and shiny and pretty. The white one, however, kind of looks like a giant toy golf ball.

I didn’t even bother filling in the missing tacks, and instead just arranged the balls in a way that you can’t see the exposed styrofoam:

The good thing, I guess, is that actually pinning the tacks into the balls didn’t take that long, once I had a system going. So, if you happen to already have hundreds of thumbtacks and a few styrofoam balls lying around, the end result is rather pretty. But honestly, these aren’t worth hunting down the supplies or taking the time otherwise.

Time spent:
About an hour per 3” ball to pin in the tacks, plus drying time for the glue.

6-pack styrofoam balls: $6
6 packs of 70 thumbtacks: $6
Total cost for two incomplete thumbtack balls: $12 (plus useless 4 styrofoam balls leftover because I am not buying thumbtacks for them, too)

Oh well, lesson learned, right? Pinterest, you saucy temptress. I won’t let you fool me again! At least... not today?


Tina said...

I think they're pretty, esp. the silver one - I like shiny things... ;-)
I've never seen these decorative orbs for less than $2.99 ea. - usually higher. So your cost is not really that much out of line - plus your mother would love to have a couple for her mantle, too. That would help decrease your cost per and make a really lovely Mother's Day gift. :-)If you can find the time... seriously, I know.