From Rusted to Reused. Metal Projects for Beginners.

A tutorial by .



Tape measure
Circular saw

Metal Hanging Planter

  • 1 – Pair of Hairpin Shelf Brackets
  • 1 – Large discarded metal canister such as a muffler
  • Shelf surface, if you'd like to place it on top of your brackets
  • Angle grinder and discs
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Drill/driver and bits, sanding disc (to remove rust)
  • Pull riveter and rivets
  • Pressure washer
  • Spray metal primer
  • Spray metal paint
  • Tools and material to create and seal plugs, if needed, such as:
    • Plywood
    • Piece of wood dowel
    • Hole saw
    • Sandpaper
    • Wood glue
    • Clear acrylic sealer
    • Scrap plastic such as a spray paint can lid
    • Utility knife and/or cutting pliers
    • Hot glue gun and glue sticks, or caulk gun and construction adhesive or caulk
  • Wood dowel
  • Measuring tape
  • Rope (ours was 1/4" thick)
  • Screws and/or wall anchors to hang shelf brackets
  • Plants and planting materials
  • Safety gear such as eye protection, a mask/respirator and gloves

Metal Hairpin Leg Bench

  • 4 – Hairpin Legs, in desired height and finish (we spray-painted 16" raw steel legs)
  • 1 – Discarded sheet metal object such as a stove drawer front
  • Plywood
  • Pencil
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Speed square
  • Carpenter square
  • Orbital sander and sanding discs
  • 150-grit sandpaper to scuff up metal
  • Acetone
  • Rag
  • Spray paint
  • Drill/driver and bits
  • Screws
  • Safety gear such as eye protection, a mask/respirator and gloves

Ben Uyeda

Ben Uyeda stepped away from the award-winning architecture firm he co-founded, as well as an Ivy League teaching position, to develop media companies that deliver affordable designs to the masses. In the last four years, Ben’s design ideas have reached more than 50 million people and the free designs he gives away are being built on six different continents. Despite the populist and affordable nature of his work, Ben’s designs have been featured in an exhibition and workshop at the Vitra Furniture Museum in Germany.

One person’s trash is another’s upcycled furniture treasures. We're recycling a discarded metal muffler and stove drawer front into a colorful hanging planter and hairpin leg bench.
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Step 1:
Go find something—an old, rusted muffler

We drove by this old rusted muffler a few times before finally deciding to pick it up. We weren't sure what we were going to make with it yet, but were curious about what was inside.

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Step 2:
Discover a use for it

We thought it would make a really cool planter, so we got to work cutting out the insides. We switched back and forth between an angle grinder and a reciprocating saw. Both worked well for cutting steel.

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Step 3:
Remove the rust

There was quite a bit of rust on the muffler so we tried two different ways to remove it: a wire brush on an angle grinder and a stripping disc on our drill/driver. Both worked well, so we recommend using the one that you're most comfortable with.

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Step 4:
Prep and prime the metal

We used an angle grinder to smooth the edges, and secured the two layers of metal together with rivets. We pressure-washed the muffler, and let it dry. Then we sprayed it all with Rust-Oleum rusty metal primer to create a protective layer prior to painting.

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Step 5:
Plug any holes

The muffler had holes on both ends, so we created plugs to fit inside. We used plywood and a piece of dowel to create one plug, and a piece of a spray-paint can lid for the other. We then used a hot glue gun to secure the plugs in place and seal around the edges.

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Step 6:
Reclaim it completely

We cut a wood dowel just a little bit longer than our muffler to hang it from. We drilled holes in both ends of the dowel, wrapped rope around the ends of the muffler, and threaded the rope up through the dowel holes.

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Step 7:
Put it to use as a planter

We hung our shelf brackets, and tied off the ends of the rope to keep it from sliding through. We added a layer of gravel to the planter bottom for drainage, then planted some low-maintenance succulents.

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Step 8:
Finders keep finding—a discarded stove

On another trip, we came across an old stove. The insides had all been ripped out, but we thought the front of the drawer would look great with some hairpin legs.

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Step 9:
Reinforce the interior

The stamped sheet metal was pretty thin and flimsy, so we added a piece of plywood as a reinforcement. We cut the plywood with a circular saw, and rounded the corners with a jigsaw. Then we made some plunge cuts to allow for the metal fins that had originally been used to attach the drawer parts.

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Step 10:
Sand, prime, and paint

We rounded over the edges of the plywood using an orbital sander. Then we scuffed up the paint with 150-grit sandpaper, wiped it clean with acetone, and applied three coats of Rust-Oleum spray paint in a nice teal.

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Step 11:
Upcycle your find, upgrade your space

We spray-painted our Hairpin Legs, but you can skip this step with our powder-coat finishes. Use a drill and driver to attach your hairpin legs, and you're done! Next time you're out and about, be on the lookout for old discarded pieces of metal.

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