Driftwood Repurposed

By Kathryn, Guest Contributor

Hi Everyone! Clara here. As some of you know, we have a new member of Banner Day, Kathryn. She's going to be guest contributing on this blog once in a while with some DIY tutorials and other projects she's been working on. So read on to learn how to harness that creative energy into making something beautiful and unique! 

Last fall, my husband and I took a road trip up the California coast. As we already live in northern Sonoma County it’s hard to believe there is more north of us, but indeed there is and we didn’t even leave the state! Our exploration led us to the Lost Coast, where we felt truly embraced and awed by the magic of the Pacific Northwest.

The Lost Coast is 24 miles of remote coast only reachable by small, steep back roads. Interestingly, the engineers of Highway 1 determined construction was not feasible in that area, and sleepy towns and those few secluded, windy country roads surround the coast. Many people hike the whole length of the Lost Coast trail, which takes a full three days due to rising tides creating impassable portions for half of each day. While we opted for cozy B&B’s rather than chilly camping, we did drop in at some glorious points along the trail.

As former east coasters, we both still marvel at the majesty of the Pacific Ocean, and we were struck even more so, as we hiked down a trail to find ourselves alone, with only the company of the pounding incoming tide. It was here, that we discovered a gold mine, in amazingly weathered, sun-bleached driftwood. We weren’t sure, at that moment, what we would make with it, but my ever-prepared husband pulled out some rope, bundling a bunch of pieces to carry up the steep hike back to the car. 

It was not long after we returned that a friend, who was looking for some décor to freshen his apartment before his new girlfriend came to visit, that we realized the driftwood’s naturally worn charm would look great as a display piece either for candles or succulents. His was the prototype and now we have made several iterations, which we use around our home. 

Driftwood tea light holder or succulent planter, How To:

1.    Gather fallen wood. Driftwood is great as it has been naturally cured, or dried, in the sun. In general, you want something solid, with not a lot of blemishes or any obvious mold. Look for interesting shapes and if it is damp when you collect let it dry in sun before processing.* 
2.    Clean off all pieces with a coarse brush.

3.    Determine which side will be the bottom and then sand, so that the wood sits flat. We use a bench top belt sander, but this can be done by hand using a squared block and 80 grit sand paper, or a hand plane. 

4.    Roughly determine the placement of the holes. Keep in mind the diameter of the drill bit, and that you will need to drill down at least ½”. 
5.    Drill holes. We are fortunate enough to have a drill press, but this can also be done using a power drill. The bit we use is a Forstner bit, which produces a flat-bottomed hole. 
•    For tea lights, use a 1½” drill bit and drill down ⅝” at the shallowest point. This will ensure the edge of the tea light holder will not be visible.
•    For succulents you can use either the 1½” bit, or a 1⅝” bit. You can drill to a depth of anywhere between ½” to 1½” (the deeper you go, the better for the plant). 

6.    It’s best to clamp down the wood and drill straight down. You might be tempted to drill sideways to go with the movement of the wood, but that just makes plants look like they are falling out or will make candles drip. 
Tips for drilling: 
•    Begin to drill the hole and then back the bit out to clear the wood chips. Do this repeatedly until you are at the desired depth. This avoids stressing the drill and allows you to clearly see where you are going, ensuring a straight hole. 
•    To ensure you drill to the correct depth, you can measure and mark the drill bit with a grease pen.
7.    Clean wood pieces with a damp cloth after drilling. Allow to dry before next steps.
8.    If you’d like, you can rub one to two coats of mineral oil on the wood as a finish. We prefer to keep the wood in its natural state, cleaning periodically with a wood cleaner (we like Method brand).
9.    You can then pot your succulents** or place your tea lights!!

Your new holders can be used as a great addition to a tablescape, a standalone centerpiece or placed on a sideboard or bedside table. Burn candles only where safe and remember that succulents do best in lots of sunshine!

We love having these organic, natural pieces as a reminder of our adventure on the wild Northern California coast. We look forward to making the same trip north, again this fall… wandering on isolated beaches, and gathering the remnants of the tides. 

*In certain areas removing items may be prohibited. Forage at your own risk.

**Succulents, which should be watered sparingly, can live for several months in these vessels. They will however need to be repotted once they begin to grow and can simply be replaced by smaller plants.