Donna enjoys using her arts background to create fun craft projects with a special focus on using repurposed or handy household materials.
My father had carved a wooden sea captain figure standing on a dock in front of a small building. He wanted to add some small buoys to the front of the building but didn't know how to make them. So I created some buoys for him from foam ear plugs and small dowels. The finished buoys are about half an inch at their widest point (though this depends on the shape of the ear plug) and about one and 5/8 inches long (though the length is adjustable). Although there are a number of steps in making these tiny buoys, you can make a number of them at one time.
These are the supplies I used to make my buoys. You may try other items depending on what you have on hand or to adjust the finished size of your buoys.
- Foam ear plugs - these usually come in a box and are available in the pharmacy section at most grocery and big box stores.
- Small thin dowels or round toothpicks for wooden stick handle
- (Optional, but suggested) acrylic medium, Modge Podge, or white craft glue to coat ear plug.
- Super glue - I used the gel type which is easy to handle and control.
- Small paint brush and acrylic paint in your choice of colors
- (Optional) large embroidery needle and thin macramé string or embroidery floss - used only if you want to add a rope to your buoy
- Scissors or utility knife
- Sharp pointed tool like an awl
1. Using sharp scissors or a utility knife, cut your foam ear plug roughly in half. The rounded end of your ear plug will become your buoy. The float ends of buoys come in a variety of sizes, so it's fine if you don't get your cut exactly in the middle. Try to make an even, clean cut but you can trim it later if needed.
2. (Optional) Using a paint brush, coat the sides and rounded end of your ear plug with clear acrylic medium or Modge Podge. You can probably also use white craft glue that dries clear. This step is optional but I think this coating makes the ear plug a little firmer to hold up to the cutting and piercing, and to accept the paint later.
Let your clear coat dry completely.
Adding a Stick Handle
3. Holding the rounded end of your ear plug, take your pointed tool and drill it into the flat end of your cut ear plug. You want to make a deep hole in your buoy, but do not push your tool all the way through your ear plug.
4. Check that your dowel or toothpick will fit into the hole you created in the bottom of your cut ear plug. I was able to find this package of small dowels at the craft store, but a round toothpick would also work just as well.
5. Working quickly, put a drop of super glue into the hole.
6. Insert your dowel or toothpick into the hole, pushing it as deep as you can. Make sure your stick is straight into your ear plug and let dry completely.
7. Once your buoy is dry, you can shorten the length of the stick handle with a pair of scissors, clippers, or utility knife. You can also trim your float using scissors to get rid of any rough edges on the flat end.
Painting Your Buoy
Buoys come in a variety of color combinations. Most have stripes that are assigned to the owner of the buoys. You can look online for ideas for painting your buoys.
8. Painting these tiny buoys takes some patience and a steady hand. If you prefer, you can paint the float end a solid color, and the stick end another color.
9. If you want to add stripes, be sure to use a small paint brush that has a fine point. Paint the float end first, let dry, then paint the handle.
10. Paint your buoy completely with your lighter color first. Then add your stripe by making a series of small dashes while you turn your buoy.
11. To let dry, place the stick end between the wraps on a roll of toilet paper or paper towels (see photo above).
12. Once the float end is dry, you can paint the stick end using the same method. Then let dry completely.
Adding Rope to Your Buoy
Adding rope to your buoy is optional, depending on how you plan to use or display your buoy.
13. To add rope, use an embroidery needle with a sharp point and an eye large enough to accept your thread. Then thread thin macramé string or embroidery floss through your embroidery needle.
14. Carefully push your needle through the foam end of your buoy from side to side. Do not pierce your buoy too close to the rounded end. When your needle is through the float, gently pull your thread or string through. Be careful not to crack the paint on your buoy.
15. You can either attach your buoy to your project, or tie the two ends of your thread in a knot for hanging. You can secure your knot with a drop of super glue.
© 2019 Donna Herron
Donna Herron (author) from USA on September 10, 2019:
Hi Dianna - I love your suggestion of using these little buoys to decorate a gift basket. They could also be used to embellish a card. Thanks so much for commenting!
Dianna Mendez on September 09, 2019:
Very creative! I love the idea and would use these to decorate a summer gift basket.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on September 08, 2019:
Thanks, Besarien! Yes, you could tape off the sections and paint them, but it would take just as much patience to tape off the float. It seems easier to carefully paint the stripes by hand. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Besarien from South Florida on September 08, 2019:
You are so clever! I bet these float! They are painted as well as any I've seen in real life which is a testament to your steady hand and patience. I do wonder if it wouldn't be easier to tape off the sections and spray them?
Donna Herron (author) from USA on September 06, 2019:
Hi Heidi - Thanks for your kind comments and your Instagram suggestion. I'll have to check out these photos. Thanks again for reading and commenting!
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 05, 2019:
These are perfect for models and such for our friends in the Northeast US! Love using the toilet paper roll as a holder. I would have never thought of that!
BTW, I'm following some mini makers on Instagram who share pics of their incredible projects. If you're on Instagram, check them out. Super inspirational (and some are just fun people to follow).
Hope you're having a great early autumn. Cheers!