As the title says, we have exactly 1 month (30 days) to go until our next meet on December 16, so exciting! 🙂 Today, I thought I’d share with you the visual reminder I have to help me see exactly how much time we have left before I get to wrap my arms around my boyfriend again. It is a countdown frame – Harry Potter themed, of course – where I can drop down a bead every day and see how much time has passed, and how much there is to go. I made it before our first meeting, and have been continuing to use it again this time around since our dates were confirmed.
It was a fun project to make at the time, despite it’s many frustrations. I think I went through three buyers before I found the right beads for the hourglass – not too big and not too small, not too dark, not too light. Yellow represents me, blue represents him – bonus points if you can tell why! The hourglass and the photo are glued to the backing of the photo frame, and the whole back slides easily in and out enabling you to change the beads daily. There is a plastic divider at the top that keeps the colours separated, and as the days pass you can lift out the top piece, and drop the beads down, mixing the colours together.
Want to make a similar sort of countdown frame of your own? They make a great gift idea for long distance couples, but could be adapted for any holiday countdown! Hopefully this quick tutorial below will assist you in making something awesome.
- Photo frame with thick depth (mine was 3.5cm)
- Plastic/glass bottle or vial
- Smaller plastic/glass bottle or vial to fit inside the bigger one OR a bit of plastic OR both – See Step 6.
- Beads/stones/counters, etc.
- Balsa Wood
Step 1. Find a photograph or draw an image you want to use and edit it the way you want, keeping in mind to measure how much blank space you need for the hourglass, or whatever else you’ll use in it’s place. This was just a small 6×8″ print, and as you can see, the D in INTERTWINED is *just* cut off at the end because I didn’t quite measure it perfectly. Once printed and you’ve found the perfect frame, you’re ready to go!
Step 2. Glue the photo/drawing to the backing of the photo frame – the one with the stand or hook on it. Also, using a strong glue (I used hot glue), glue the glass to the inside of the frame. Because this a 3D-type image, the back of the photo frame will be sitting back from the glass, the metal bits you usually use to secure the back of the frame in place will likely be too short to safely secure the glass without it rattling, so the glue will act as a replacement for that.
Steps 3-5 are optional, depending on how you want yours to look. These are based off the same hourglass structure I’ve made, but you can use the same tips to adapt to something else.
Step 3. Trace around the end of your vial onto the balsa wood. Draw a bigger circle around that, and two smaller rimmed circles on either side. The inner circles should be the size of your skewer ends (this is of course if you’re doing a small scale version. If you’re doing a larger scale, you might use a straw, or a wooden dowel or whatever the case may be. Cut out the three inner circles. Repeat for the second piece. This was by far, the hardest part for me – because I was working on such a small scale. I tried several times to make this template using cardboard before I found the balsa wood, and even then I drew it about ten times before getting it right and cutting it out without breaking it. Be very careful, and don’t rush this step. Once the holes have been cut out, you want to make sure your skewers and your vial fit snugly into the holes, without forcing them too much. Another thing to note, the bottom of the vial was slightly smaller than the top, so that’s another thing to look out for in yours.
Step 4. Cut the skewers to size and glue little beads to each end after securing into the balsa wood. Paint. I recommend doing this after securing into the balsa wood because even the thinnest layer of paint can muck up your measurements and cause the skewers not to fit inside – believe me – I tried.
Step 5. Glue the edges of the balsa wood which should stick out the most, to the photo.
Step 6. Decide how you want to make the smaller upper vial. Initially, I tried to just make a cylinder out of plastic, gluing it with super glue. It was messy to say the least, and the plastic ended up white and cloudy and I don’t recommend it. After that misfortune, I went hunting for other small bits of plastic – and found the clear plastic lid of an old gel pen fit snugly into the top – and when I say snugly, I mean very snugly. I pushed it down too far once and spent a good 40 minutes trying to get it out again (after I’d spent all that time on the framework!) so be careful. The lid was open at both ends – it had a cap on the top that I had taken off (usually the coloured plastic that you use to clip onto a folder, etc) so I took the rest of my plastic sheet (from product packaging) and cut up a tiny cone to superglue to the end and create a stopper. This stops the beads at the top falling down to the bottom.
Step 7 (Optional). This part was important to me and my project because I wanted to use two different beads which represented each of us. Yellow for me, the Hufflepuff, and blue for him. In particular, The whole idea of the frame was that we are currently on opposite sides of the world, separated, and the countdown was until we were intertwined, so I wanted to have the two different bead colours separated at the top, and intertwined at the bottom. This required measuring and creating a small plastic divider (a rectangle with a triangle on the end) that slot inside the upper vial, which kept the two colours separated.
Step 8. Take 4 wooden skewers and measure them to just under the length of each side of your frame. Paint them to match the colour of your frame if you like to hide them better. These are going to act as stoppers to stop your photo falling forward unevenly due to the 3D part of the hourglass. You’ll need to measure how far back the photo needs to sit, and glue the skewers in place there. Essentially, the framework for the photo to sit on.
Step 9. Using a bit of wood or sturdy cardboard, create a back for your photo to lean on – this should be sturdy enough to hold the picture in place, creating a slot between the skewer and the cardboard for the picture to sit. Because you’ll need to take the back of the frame out every day to replace the beads, this shouldn’t be too high and should be simple enough to do. As an added precaution, you can add a bit of elastic to secure the top of the photo. I used staples.
It looks a bit fiddly, but it’s fairly simple. To lift out the back of the frame, I pull it back slightly and lift it up a bit, before dragging the bottom half completely back and pulling it out. You just have to be careful and mindful of where you’ve placed that hourglass. Another trick – if you’re using tiny beads in your vial… have a pair of tweasers handy, and try not to change the beads in a thickly carpeted room – if you drop a bead in the carpet, it can be hard to find again!
That’s it! All you need to do now is count out your beads, or whatever else you can find as a substitute!