My favorite thing about visiting small towns is shopping at the local thrift stores. So I made sure to drop by the secondhand shops on my trip to Easton, Maryland. As I sifted through the aisles, I spotted a pile of wood going for $10 a piece. They were rough cut, red cedar pieces. The smell of the red centers was so delightful. And at such a low price, I bought a piece figuring I could make something out of it.

Similar to the antique cutting board I restored, I decided to simply sand and wax the cedar peices. The finished product was much more beautiful than I expected.

Make a cutting board cedar
The raw cedar, from the thrift shop.

The Tools

1 piece solid wood

Medium grit sanding block

Fine grit sanding block

Cutting Board Oil or food grade mineral oil

Cutting Board Conditioner

Cloth, for cleaning and buffing

My cedar board, after sanding (step 1) and before conditioning (step 2.)

The Process

  1. Begin sanding one side of the wood with the medium grit sanding block until it is mostly smooth. The medium grit block should smooth out any major bumps and irregularities. Then sand the same side of wood with the fine grit. The fine grit block should leave the wood smooth to the touch–smototh enough for you to enjoy running your hand across the wood’s surface. Be sure to remove all dust from the wood when it accumulates. Check out this guide for how to properly sand wood.
  2. Once the surface is smooth, then apply your Cutting Board Conditioner, following the label instructions. You may need to apply the conditioner 2-3 times.
  3. Optional. Apply a layer of Cutting Board Oil according to label instructions.

The Result

On a visit to my favorite antique shop, I picked up a photo frame. It held a piece of crochet art that formed a bright scenery. The crochet landscape could have been hung above the mantle in your grandmother’s house without anyone noticing its apearance. But on this particular visit, I was in the market for a frame not artwork. So the colorful yarn didn’t distract me from the potential of the frame which was holding it. I bought the frame and carried it home, ready to give it a second life!

how to reuse old picture frame
The original frame, with crochet artwork.

The Story

Despite my excitement, the frame sat in my closet for weeks. Okay, it was actually a few months. I stalled on this project not for lack of know-how or motivation, but because I didn’t have anything worth framing. That is, until I found a rolled-up poster in my partner Kaia’s closet. Perfect!

the handy chef lex
Photo 1. The poster before I painted the frame.

The new occupant of this old frame is a promotional poster from Kaia’s first film festival, BlackStar Film Festival 2017. The poster is special to Kaia so it deserves to be framed, not just thumb-tacked to plaster.

The poster fit well into the frame and the gold lettering looked awesome in the gold-flecked frame (see Photo 1.) But the chipped, gold flecks were not enough. I knew the poster would truly pop if the entire frame were painted gold.

When I first opened the back of the frame, I discovered that the crochet art was done on the back of the painting that originally occupied the frame (see Photo 2.) So someone before me had already given this frame a second life! This made me wonder just how long this frame had been around, how many crafty hands it had been passed through. But without any brand name or year marker couldn’t uncover that history.

how to reuse old picture frame
Photo 2. The original painting, hidden behind the crochet art.

With some snips and pulls, the crochet yard came cleanly off the original painting. From then, I was able to give this frame a third life.

See the steps I took to transform this old frame to a sparkly new gift for Kaia.

The Tools

A proper frame fitter would probably scoff at this list of tools, and recommend just buying a new frame from a frame store. But this is how I made my antique frame shine again.

How to put new photo in old picture frame
Photo 3. Dissembled photo frame with the tools I used.
  • 1 flat shaped wedging tool (I used a blunt butter knife)
  • 1 can spray paint (optional)
  • 1 background paper, if needed
  • Replacement nails, if needed
  • Cloth for cleaning
Lex The Handy Chef DIY Black Bloggers
Photo 4. Handy Chef Lex cleaning the wooden frame.

The Process

  1. Pick out a picture frame that is in tact, with glass front and a photo. already in place. The photo can be flipped to serve as the backdrop for your new photo.
  2. Open the back of the frame by carefully sliding the wedge underneath each nail and bending it toward upward to release the content of the frame. Some nails may break, that’s okay. You can replace those nails with the identical nails you’ve purchased. If you don’t want to preserve the old nails, simply remove all the nails and replace them all.
  3. Once the nails have been opened or removed, take out the photo, cardboard, backdrop, glass or whatever contents fill the frame. Carefully set them aside.
  4. Take the wodden outer frame, clean it with warm water and mild soap. Dry the frame thoroguhly. Spray paint the frame if you wish.
  5. Clean both sides of the glass with a mild window cleaner. Try not to get your fingerprints on it.
  6. Fill the frame with your new photo, which can be attatched the the reverse side of the old photo.
  7. Secure the nails by wedging them back into place or by gently hammering new nails into the back of the frame.

The Results

I enjoyed this project not only because the process was simple and fulfilling, but also because I repurposed something that had already been repurposed by someone else. This frame could have ended up in a landfill at any point in its many lives. But instead it lives on, freshly painted and newly cherished.

In classic millennial fashion, I proudly call myself a Plant Mom. While I don’t have any roommates, I am accompanied by my many indoor plants. I’ve had most of my plants for over a year. Needless to say, they were all long overdue for some TLC.

Lex The Handy Chef. Black lifestyle blog
Me, holding my Snake Plant

For the past few weeks, many of my indoor plants started drooping and browning. My largest plant is a **corn plant that sits on my living room floor. It was losing life with each passing day. I was confounded by what could be killing my plants. I hadn’t changed my watering schedule or light levels. Then it dawned on me, it’d been a full year and I had not fertilized or re-potted my plants!

So I took a trip to Home Depot to buy a few new pots, potting soil, and all-purpose plant fertilizer. Then I spent the afternoon carefully re-potting my plants.

**Okay, the corn plant died. But I stealthily replaced it with another from Home Depot.

Why I Keep Indoor Plants

Lex the Handy Chef. Indoor plants

For me, and droves of other millennials, caring for plants is a way of grounding my life. I work in a field where everything I create is digital. After working all day, I have no finished product that I can physically touch. With most of my day happening behind a screen, plants provide a tangible outlet.

When properly watered and cared for, they liven up my space, freshen my air, and bring me joy. When neglected, they droop as if literally disappointed. This is real; it’s concrete. And having these plants’ lives depend on me is an anchor to a reality that doesn’t require software updates, but may require some debugging.

I grew up surrounded by lush greenery, often eating things directly from the soil instead of the grocery store. Moving to an urban landscape has been rewarding in every possible way. But I miss that connection to the Earth. So I keep my living room full of as many plants as I can keep alive. While I haven’t started growing my own vegetables yet, I’m excited for the small amount of dirt that I do get to play in.

How many house plants do you have?

In my favorite antique shop, I discovered a worn cutting board by Dansk. It had heavy knife stress marks and cracks. But the moment I saw it, I was determined to restore and serve the best charcuterie spread right on it. I spent a Saturday sanding, oiling, and buffing the piece until it began to shine like it was brand new.

Before and After

The Board

After buying it for only $5 at the antique store, I was pleased to discover that the exact model of cutting board is listed for over $350 online! All the more reason to treasure this beautiful piece.

The Process

Of course, I gave the board a thorough cleaning with dish soap. I let it dry completely, then I sanded the board with a medium grit sanding sponge. After sanding, I wiped the board clear of any dust with a tack cloth. All there was left to do was use the Howard Butcher Block Conditioner and Cutting Board Oil. I applied a few layers of the Cutting Board Oil every few hours for extra conditioning. See photos from my Dansk Cutting Board’s journey back to beauty.

how to clean antique wood cutting board Lex Handy Chef

It’s crucial to thoroughly clean a wooden cutting board because the surface is porous and can hold on to bacteria and residue from prior use.

Sand Dansk wood cutting board. antique Jens Quistgaard
Lex, sanding the cutting board.

I gave the cutting board a gentle sanding; just enough so that the wood would soak up as much of the oil and wax as possible.

Apply Howard Butcher Block Conditioner. Howard Cutting Board Oil. Lex Handy Chef.
Applying the Board Oil.

Be sure only to use food grade wood conditioner! I used the Howard brand Butcher Block Conditioner, followed by the Cutting Board Oil from the same brand. You can buy those products at most hardware stores, for about $10 each.

The Final Product

Have you ever brought something old back to life?