Should I make a glass ceiling?
May 24, 2009 7:26 AM   Subscribe

What should I do with a bunch of glass shelves that I came across?

Yesterday I stopped by a store that was winding down its going out of business sale, and I noticed a stack of tempered glass shelving from the display cases. I asked about it and they said "take them, we are just going to throw them in the trash when we close for good in about an hour". That was too good to resist, so I loaded up my trunk with about half the shelves they had stacked up only to get home and find my wife doesn't care for glass shelves (they show up too much dust). So I now have about 30 glass shelves of varying lengths and widths and would like suggestions on what to do with them. Ideas that involve cutting, drilling, or smashing them are perfectly acceptable; for example, a couple of them got chipped on the way home and the nice conchoidal fractures made me think that some of them could be sacrificed for me to teach myself knapping. A few of them may actually end up as shelves, but what are some other suggestions?
posted by TedW to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
You might break it into many pieces and make glass mulch for a garden, create something of a mosaic to top a found table from a junk sale or the like, make a suncatcher or other light craft project, or make your own DIY Annie Lennox music video.
posted by ninotchka at 7:31 AM on May 24, 2009

Fishtanks and aquaria can be astonishingly expensive. Can you use the shelves to build a big fishtank and get some pretty fish?

See if a local school wants some glass for projects, e.g. making solar ovens.

Find a local glazier who's willing to cut the glass for you, then learn to use glass paints for some stained glass panels / mobiles / suncatchers / sundial. Or because glass is usually easier to cut than mirrors, have the glass cut to an interesting shape and turn it into a mirror using some mirror paint (scroll down).

If you have a pet rodent, build a glass and mirror maze for it. You'll either learn some fascinating new things about rodent psychology or just have a giggle.

And something I dearly wanted to do as a kid: build a big Pepper's Ghost illusion. Hopefully the biggest shelf is easily wide enough to make your floating head appear from nowhere next halloween!

Also, I was once told that it's possible to cut glass with scissors, if you hold it underwater. Aparrently the water dampens the vibrations and prevents shattering. I've never had a chance to try, so fill a bucket, grab some big scissors (and some tough gloves, maybe even goggles just in case!) and report back to us!
posted by metaBugs at 7:44 AM on May 24, 2009

Further thoughts:

Make a watertight sandwich with two panes of glass with, say, 5mm gap between them. Fill it with a mix of yellowish vegetable oil and a roughly 50:50mix (experiment with proportions) of water:blue meths.

The oil should be slightly more dense than the meths:water mix, and so sit at the bottom. But when the oil heats up it'll become slightly less dense and start to rise up... you've just made a 2d lava lamp. You need the bottom to be hotter then the top. Sunlight might do it, or you could put a lightbulb near the base to provide heat, ilumination and crazy patterns projected on a nearby wall. Obviously this is a fire hazard so shouldn't be a long-term thing, but it looks really cool. I used this principle to make a lamp in a jam jar when I was a kid and didn't get blown up, but YMMV.

Does your wife like pressed flowers? Press and dye some flowers, then mount them between two pieces of glass. Remember: it still counts as manly if you're doing it to impress a hot girl!

Last thought for the moment: grab some garden snails and/or slugs and get them to "walk" across the glass. Look at them from underneath: the way their foot ripples across the surface when they're moving is really cool.
posted by metaBugs at 8:02 AM on May 24, 2009

If nothing else, Cragslist Free section might find a new home for it.
posted by theora55 at 8:08 AM on May 24, 2009

OK, last one for now I swear:

Sandwich two shelves together as described above. Silicone putty will make a watertight seal, or ask at the hardware store.

Then get a little airpump and a cheap one-way valve to make yourself a bubble column lamp. Alternatively, pick up a small water pump (from an aquarium shop?) and pump water to the top of your glass sandwich for an indoor waterfall effect.

Man, I really want a carfull of glass shelves now.
posted by metaBugs at 8:11 AM on May 24, 2009

What should I do with a bunch of glass shelves that I came across?

Wipe them off!

Seriously, the fishtank idea is great, since that's not much work. Glass also makes for fine trivets for the kitchen, broken/cut or not, since you can put hot things on them without damage.
posted by rokusan at 8:47 AM on May 24, 2009

"Ideas that involve cutting, drilling, or smashing them are perfectly acceptable; for example, a couple of them got chipped on the way home and the nice conchoidal fractures made me think that some of them could be sacrificed for me to teach myself knapping."

Are you sure the sheets are tempered? Generally speaking you can't chip tempered glass because as soon as you break through the surface tension layer the glass shatters into little tiny pieces. If it is tempered you can't cut it so ixnay any plans that involve changing the size or shape. Unless of course the shpae you're going for is randomly shaped pieces of glass half a centimetre in size.

Tempered glass makes awesome balusters for deck railings.
posted by Mitheral at 9:26 AM on May 24, 2009

My DH has tempered glass under his stereo equipment (under the special feet he bought them) to make them better some how. Don't understand a bit of it, but he's happy. And, he had to have them special ordered to size, so I'm assuming however they make tempered glass, it was made to size, not cut.
posted by x46 at 12:12 PM on May 24, 2009

Make a simple wood frame (2 spikes on either end of a plank; stake these planks so they are on their long edges, making a little enclosure), then lay the glass overtop & tape up the cracks to make a little greenhouse.

Lay the shelves into a coffee table frame to make a tabletop (not if you have toddlers, I knew a girl with lifelong bad scarring on her face from falling through a glass coffee table when she was a baby)

Paint them with glass paint, then use mirror hanging hardware to put them up in your house (maybe even over a window, like a stained-glass transom sash- like, put the painted glass horizontally across the top of a narrow window & bolt it to the walls, so it makes a sash a few inches away from the window pane)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:36 PM on May 24, 2009

Response by poster: Great answers everyone! I am still not sure what I will do with them, but I am about to go to the beach for a week and so will have some free time to think about it.
posted by TedW at 6:46 AM on May 29, 2009

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