Turn scraps from the salvage yard into high-design homeware

There's more to making the perfect home than a credit card and a shopping trip. Moira and Nicholas Hankinson show you how to create your own furniture from the things that other people leave behind
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Slate blackboard

Select an old slate in relatively good condition with regular edges and nail holes that are not too enlarged. Place the slate on a protected work area and prise off any loose delaminated or flaking slate with a paint scraper. Gently tap the surface of the slate with your knuckle; if you hear a hollow sound, more surface slate will have to be removed.

Use a coarse metal file to clean the edges of the slate and remove any irregularities, always filing towards the edge of the slate.

Place it on a work area with the bevel-edged side up and use coarse glasspaper to smooth the surface to a rough finish, then use medium-grade, followed by fine-grade, emery paper. Wash the slate down with clean water and allow it to dry.

Follow the old Welsh tradition and apply a thin coat of milk to one surface. When dry, the milk seals the slate and provides an excellent, slightly shiny finish. Fix to the wall with screws driven through the nail holes. If the nail holes are a little large, place a washer behind the head of each screw before securing the slate to the wall.

Window shutter CD rack

For all projects, wear safety goggles and a dust mask when using mechanical sanding equipment. Protective gloves are recommended.

Remove any hinges or other metal fittings, sand down any flaked and loose paint from the shutter and treat with colourless timber preservative. Fill any holes with wood filler, wait for it to set then sand it down, along with the rest of the shutter - it is not necessary to remove all the old paint, but try to reveal the timber on the edges of the frame and slats, where natural wear would be evident. Paint the frame a darker colour and leave to dry, then paint the slats in a paler, contrasting colour and again leave to dry. On the outside edges, sand through the surface of the paint to reveal the underlying wood (for a subtle effect, sand by hand). When your fame is looking suitably distressed, clean off any dust and apply two coats of satin finish varnish. Cut the sheet of hardboard or thin plywood to fit approximately 12mm (1¿2 in) inside the reverse of the shutter. Paint one side with matt black emulsion and, when dry, attach it to the rear of the shutter with panel pins. Fit two mirror-hanging plates to the rear and hang.

Bread tin window box

Use spray paints in a well-ventilated area. Take some medium-grade wire wool and remove any surface rust from an old bread tin to reveal smooth metal - work along the length of the tin to minimise scratching. Treat any rust on the tin and refinish with silver metal car retouch paint. Apply one coat of red oxide paint to the outside and inside. Using a can of spray paint, and following manufacturer's instructions, apply one coat of paint to the whole of the exterior and about 25mm (1in) down the inside. Do not overspray as it will drip. When the paint is dry, the tin can be filled with compost and planted. The tin has no drainage holes, so be careful not to overwater.

Carboy Lamp

Electricity can be dangerous; if you are in any doubt, we advise that all fittings are checked by a qualified electrician. If a metal lamp holder is used, it is vital that three-core wire is used and that the earth is connected to both the lamp holder and the electric plug.

Take a large glass carboy bottle and measure the diameter of the inside of the top of the bottle. Fit a drill with a hole-cutting bit slightly larger than the bottle-top diameter and use it to cut a bung out of a piece of timber 50mm (2in) thick. Use sandpaper to lightly taper it until it fits tightly in the bottle.

Fit an 18mm (3/4in) spade bit to the drill and cut a hole vertically through the middle of the plug. Gently insert the stem of a plastic lamp holder into this hole so it is securely held. You may need to enlarge the hole using sandpaper. Or, if it is loose, use wood filler to fix it in place. Clean the inside of the bottle (you can remove any staining by filling it with a small amount of sharp gravel and shaking, then rinsing with soapy water). Dry thoroughly. Carefully place the wooden plug and lamp holder into the top of the bottle; it should be a tight fit. Tap the plug home into the bottle using a hammer cushioned with a scrap of timber, gently working around the circumference of the bung. If the bung is too tight, the bottle may break as it is driven home, so remove the plug and lamp holder, sand off a little more wood and try again.

Clean the outside of the bottle and polish. Unscrew the top of the lamp holder and fit the shade holder and your chosen lampshade. Insert a light bulb and attach a fused electric plug to the lamp cord fitted to the lamp holder.

'Recycle!' by Moira and Nicholas Hankinson is published by Kyle Cathie, priced £16.99. To order a copy for £15.50 including P&P, call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798897