A Beginners Guide To Upcycling With Charis Williams

Filter articles:
Main Image

Ronseal teamed up with salvage and upcycling expert Charis Williams to produce a beginner’s guide to upcycling. Charis is an artist, designer, TV presenter and a self-proclaimed professional bargain hunter, with many years’ experience of turning the unwanted into something beautiful. Check out the below guide for some useful tips and advice. 

For those who aren’t familiar with upcycling what would you say it is and why should people get involved?
Up-cycling put basically is taking an object and giving it a new, better purpose. Much of my work is taking something undesirable & making it useful & beautiful again. Up-cycling is great because it saves materials from landfill – so it’s good for the environment & it saves you money, if you can make something useful from ‘trash’ yourself you are not having to buy a new item. Plus it’s great fun & you can learn lots of new skills.
Do you need previous experience in DIY?
Any previous experience in DIY would be handy, although by no means is it a necessity. Up-cycling is a great hobby & you learn as you go along. You can start with something simple until you are more confident to work with different materials & tools. I am completely self taught, if I can do it you can too!
What kind of things can be upcycled?
Anything can be up-cycled, whether you are painting & recovering old furniture or turning an old ladder into shelves, you are only limited by your own imagination. A great starting point is an old wooden pallet; they lend themselves to so many different things & can easily be found for free.
Are there any base materials/tools every potential up-cycler should have?
Paintbrush, drill, hammer, sander, saw and screwdrivers will always come in handy. Your tools will steadily grow as you try out new projects. Asking friends and family if they have any old tools they no longer use can help a lot, most people have some tools hidden away in the shed or garage collecting dust. Wood is a great material to work with, it is so versatile & you can completely change the look of it quite easily with a lick of paint or varnish & some basic tools.
Where can you source upcycling materials?
You can find materials in skips & roadsides – although always ask before you take anything as you can get in trouble. Websites like Freegle, Freecycle & the Trash Nothing app are great for finding free up-cycling projects. You can also find cheap items in need of some TLC in charity shop, reuse centres & at boot sales.
How do you come up with your ideas?
I find inspiration in all sorts of places. Sometimes I think about the materials I have & what they lend themselves to best, other times I will be inspired to make a particular piece & then think about what the best materials to use would be & then go & find them. I love making different things; I love unusual items & experimenting.

Are there any particular resources or upcycling experts you take inspiration from?

If you are interested in getting involved in up-cycling you can find some great inspiration online, Pinterest has some great images and there are many social networking groups you can join & see other people’s work. I like to stay ahead of the game & try to come up with things that I haven’t seen before, although I still really enjoy looking at the amazing things people make.

Is there a simple first project you’d recommend?
If you are a complete novice I think the easiest things to start with is a piece of old wooden furniture, for instance a stool or chair. Sand off the previous paint, stain or varnish, wipe it over thoroughly & apply your own paint or wax finish, you could reupholster it using a staple gun and give it a completely fresh look with a fabric remnant that fits with your décor. Or take an old pallet and turn it onto a coffee table by sanding, staining & adding wheels.

Do you have any advice for planning and budgeting for an upcycling project?

The beauty of up-cycling is it shouldn’t cost you much, if you can get your base material free, or cheap then you will only need to buy fixings & paint/stain/wax. It really depends what you are making. I always keep left over paint & textiles & try to use them again on another project. I also keep the screws & fixings I take off things too. Before long you will have quite a stock of useful bits & bobs to choose from. It helps to have a good idea of what you want to do to an item & work out a list of materials & tools before you start, that way you can work out how much it is likely to cost.
With a large majority of the population renting property, what advice would you give to people who may not have access to an outside area, or a large space, but want to get involved in upcycling?
You can start up-cycling on your dining room table, or lounge floor – just make sure you protect your surfaces or carpet from potential paint dribbles or scratches. It doesn’t have to be a large project; you could start by making fork hooks or a wine bottle lamp. You could up-cycle a stool on a dining room table too. Where there’s a will there’s a way! The only thing you have to be careful with when working inside is proper ventilation if you are using spray paints, or chemicals that can be harmful to your lungs. And always use the correct protection – i.e.googles, gloves and mask when working with nails or sharp items & dust.
Do you have any particular advice for preparing furniture for upcycling?
Take off any handles or knobs before painting, they will just get in the way & are easy to put back later.
When preparing wooden furniture you should sand it first to create a key, this gives a surface your paint can cling too, meaning it will last longer & won’t peel off. Use courser sand paper first to remove the old finish and any imperfections then use a finer sand paper for smooth paint ready surface. Always make sure you remove all dust from the furniture & surrounding area before putting paint on, wipe over with a damp cloth after you have hovered the dust up – any small particles can give your paint a lumpy finish & you don’t want that!
Using sugar soap is great for removing grease, it is cheap & you can get it from any DIY store – paint won’t stick to a greasy surface. Check out my videos for more hints & tips here.
Is upcycling a hobby that can be turned into a business?
There are many businesses offering up-cycled goods now, myself included, so it is possible. It’s fantastic if you can make a career out of something you are passionate about that saves resources & gives them a new life.


Related articles
Main Image

How to paint a shed

Spruce up your shed with a lick of paint to help give your garden a facelift.

Main Image

Ronseal Perfect Finish Interior Wax – Product review by Bethan

Bethan from Manchester asked if she could try the Perfect Finish Interior Wax to freshen up her kitchen. She didn't want a drastic change – just something to bring old wood back to life.

Main Image

Bring Old Furniture Back To Life

We all have a piece of furniture that’s seen better days. But we may not be able to afford to get rid of it - so how can you rejuvenate it instead?

Main Image

Ronseal Sapling Green Garden Paint – Product Review by Nic Parton

We’ve been asking Ronseal’s Facebook fans to put our Garden Paints range to the test and Nic Parton from Southampton used it to spruce up his old shed.