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Jan 122013
 January 12, 2013  Posted by  Crafts, DIY

I love reading magazines and get a lot of free and cheap subscriptions.  Once I’m done reading them, I often swap them with friends or leave them at the gym for others to read, but I always end up with a stack at home that I need to get rid of.

One of my favorite ways to recycle magazines is to make magazine bowls.  These are easy to make with few additional resources, sturdy, and eye-catching.  They make great gifts and gift baskets, or can be used as decorative catchalls around the house.  I’ve never timed myself making one of these, but I would guess it is about 3 hours of work, though it can be broken up into short increments.  It’s mindless work that do while I’m watching television in the evenings.

Grab a stack of magazines and make a bowl in honor of Earth Month.


  • If you’re using more than one magazine, use two issues of the same “brand” or make sure that both magazines are the exact same width and length so that your slats will be the same size.
  • The thinner the magazine page, the easier to coil.  Most are approximately the same thickness, but I tried a ReadyMade magazine and the pages were too thick. I’ve used US Weekly, Fitness, Shape, Better Homes and Gardens, Clean Eating, Self, etc.
  • When you fold the slats, use the side of the page that is most colorful.  If a page is all black and white on one side, crease the page so that side is on the inside, unless you are going for a black and white bowl.
  • Start with a small bowl (one magazine or less) for your first one.  It won’t be as frustrating if it uncoils and you have to start over again.
  • I buy Mod Podge at Joann, Michael’s or Hobby Lobby because the stores always have 40% off coupons.  Each bottle is about $7 regular price, and is enough to make several bowls.  If you don’t have Mod Podge, I’ve read that watered-down glue or other sealant should work – but I haven’t tried this.
  • Even after these are sealed, they aren’t waterproof or food safe.  Modge Podge is non-toxic, so wrapped food or candy would be fine.

Magazine Bowl Tutorial

1-3 magazines, depending on how thick they are and how big you want your bowl
Scotch tape
Modge Podge
clear coat (of desired)


Tear out the pages of your magazine, discarding any irregular pages (perfume samples, thick pages, recipe cards, etc). Don’t worry if the torn edges are a little jagged – those will be folded in and won’t show.


Fold each page according to the following photos:

Fold page in half and crease:

Open page and fold 1/2 of the first side into meet the crease:

Fold other half of the page in to meet the crease:

Fold both side in half again towards the crease:

Fold in half again along the original crease:

You’ll end up with a stack of slats, like this:


Tear off some tape to connect the slats.  I like to tear off 8 to 10 pieces of tape at a time that are about this size and stick them on the edge of the table.  You want it to wrap around both sides without a ton of overlap.

Start connecting the slats with pieces of tape.  I position the middle of the tape on across the slats and fold the ends over the other side.  It will look neater if you keep all of the creased sides of the slats facing the same direction.

Sometimes I connect three slats at a time and put them in a pile before I start the big long chain.  Or you can tape all of the slats together at one time


Once you start this step, you need to try to finish it in one shot or else it could unravel.  If you have to stop in the middle of coiling, you could try to tape it or use a binder clip to keep it from unrolling.  Starting at one end, tightly roll the first slat into into itself, continuing on until all of the slats are coiled up.  You want to keep this pretty tight (and your hands will get tired).

While I’m rolling it up, every once in awhile I lay the coil on the table with my palm on top and spin the coil in the opposite direction to tighten the whole coil.  On occasion, a piece of the connector tape will break/tear.  I like to have extra pieces of tape ready to refasten the slats when this happens.  I just pin the coil down with my arm while I re-tape the slates together and continue coiling.

Keep coiling until you get to the size that you’d like the diameter of the top of the bowl to be.

Secure the end of the last slat to the coil with tape or a dab of super glue.  If using tape, try to use a small enough piece so that it doesn’t stick out by tucking it behind the slat.


Carefully form it into a bowl shape by slowly pushing the sides up evenly.

This is hard and can be frustrating because if you mess up and the bowl uncoils or you push the sides up too far, you pretty much have to start over.  One of the first times I did this, the bowl uncoiled and I was so frustrated that I threw it across the room in a temper tantrum.  So don’t feel bad if you mess it up the first time or two – or if you throw it!

When you get it to the height that you want, use a ruler or piece of paper to measure the sides to make sure they are pushed up to the same approximate height (you can also eyeball it).  Trim off any pieces of tape that you see sticking up, if any.


Once you get the bowl to the right shape and size, you’ll want to seal the bowl so that it’s sturdy.  I use Mod Podge and a small paintbrush or foam brush.  Paint the Podge on thickly – the paper will absorb it and it will dry clear.  Coat the inside of the bowl and let sit over night.  The next day, turn the bowl over and coat the outside of the bowl.  I usually do about 3 coats on each side.  After it’s completely dry, you can spray it with a couple of coats of acrylic clear coat spray to eliminate tackiness, if desired.  Enjoy!


Here are some additional pictures.  I used two Clean Eating magazines for the smaller bowl and 2 .5 to 3 for the bigger bowl.

Have you ever made any recycled material crafts?


Val McCauley

Val McCauley was drawn to writing about Living on the Cheap after moving to Columbus from her small hometown after college. She realized that there were a ton of events and activities going on around the city, but there wasn't a website that made it easy to find out about these things. Her love of travel and desire to get out of debt after college cemented the need to live on less while still having fun. Over the last several years, she has paid off all of her debt and still has fun. In her free time, she loves to workout, play sports, and cook gluten-free meals. Val is the owner and operator of Columbus on the Cheap and That’s What We Did.

  One Response to “Recycle old magazines into beautiful bowls”

  1. What a great idea! This would make a great project for Girl and Boy Scouts or a class project for recycling.

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