Upcycling tips – Tools and Materials to get you started

The tools and materials you will need will be dependant on the type of upcycling project you have in mind. But some of the essentials would be:
1. Paint
2. Sand paper
3. Screw driver (pozi-drive /flat head).
4. Nails and screws
5. Glue wood and a general adhesive
6. Scissors
7. Staple gun (fabrics and upholstery)
With the paint you could use paint you have lying about. If it has been standing for some time, give it a good stir and test it in a piece of scrap wood to see how it will dry. Quite often paint will dry darker or lighter than the colour marked on the tin.

Most people would have one or two of the above items already. If you are only planning to uclycle one item and then leave it at that, it might worth seeing if anyone you know can lend you what you need. Tools are expensive and unless you are planning to use them regularly, you could just be wasting money and making your project over expensive.
If you find that upcycling is something you enjoy then an investment in a few tools will pay off over time. The tools and materials listed above should be enough to get you started, but over time the following are recommended.


1. Furniture paint, chalk paint or emulsion.
When it comes to upcycling furniture, there are a number of different types of paint and I explore chalk paint in a different article. As mentioned earlier, you could use the paint you have lying about. When creating a shabby chic look or distressing furniture, old paint my give you a better effect. Always test your materials and process before starting your main piece.

2. Sand paper or sanding block.
Sand paper comes in varying grades. The lower the number the coarser the sand paper.  When using sand paper to create a distressed look, practice on a bit of old wood. Paint it, then gently rub down with the different grades of sand paper until you get the desired effect. It won’t take long before you discover your preferred level of distressing.
Where you are looking to sand down a piece of furniture as part of the preparation process you might want to consider some type of power sander for the larger projects. You can by multi-packs from you local DIY store.
Sand Paper - www.ypcycledandreloved.co.uk
Get from Amazon

3. Paint stripper.
Not something I use but it is an option. Some people prefer it to sanding or as a way to get paint and varnishes out of awkward places. Always read the labels as some paint removers are toxic.
4. Electric sander
5. Paint brushes / roller
6. Screw driver – pozi-drive and flathead


1. A rubber mallet
2. Fabric Scissors
3. Pliers
4. Screwdrivers variety of sizes
5. Box Knife
6. Hot Glue Gun
8. Heavy Duty Staple Gun
9. Hammer

When deciding on which fabric to use for your project keep in mind the desired function. If you after sprucing up an old lampshade you need to be sure that the fabric is compatible with the type of frame and how much heat the light bulb will give off. For chairs you will need something hard-wearing and durable.

Upcycling Pallets

1. Hammer
2. Nails and screws
3. Drill electric / battery
4. Screw driver
5. Electric screwdriver
6. Power jigsaw
7. Paint
8. Wood stain
9. Varnish
10.  Crowbar – for breaking up pallets

Pallets can be found in all sorts of places. Once you start looking you will be surprised. Many shops have to pay to have their pallets taken away and will be grateful for someone to take them for free. It’s worth asking. Also have a wander around your local industrial estate, there are usually a few scattered around and again business owners would rather you take them, than have to pay for them to be removed. Keep on eye out for any road side skips, quite often there will a pallet sitting on top. Always ask before taking. But if can’t find any and want to get going, pre-dismantled pallet wood is available on Ebay, but I would look around for the freebies first.

Health and safety.

But before you start any project, you need to make sure that you have the correct Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)for your upcycling project. I can hear the groans already, but this is important.

Saftey Gear www.upcycledandreloved.co.uk

You should have:

1. Eye Protection, glasses or goggles. Goggles are better as they enclose the eyes.
2. Gloves. Get the right gloves for the job. A different type of glove will be needed for heavy dusty work, such as sanding or sawing. When painting or using chemical strippers, you will need gloves that will protect you from the paint or chemicals coming into contact with the your skin. When using chemicals of any kind always read the label for warnings. If you go online and search out the manufacturer, you should be able get a Product Safety Data Sheet. This will have a list of the chemicals and Precautionary and Hazard statements. By reading these you will be able to determine if the substance is a skin sensitiser or has a risk if inhaled. It is important to check these out.
3. Ear defenders.
If you are going use any kind of power tool; you should wear ear defenders to prevent any immediate or long-term damage.
4. Face mask.
When sanding or sawing dust and saw-dust fills the air. When buying face masks don’t just grab any old packet of the shelf. Make sure the one you buy is suitable for the task. There are different types for dust and solvents

I appreciate that most people cringe at the mention of health and safety, but lives are easily in irreversibly damaged when simple precautions are ignored. Keep it safe, keep it fun.

PPE on eBay                   PPE at Amazon

Hopefully you now have a better idea of some of the tools and materials you will need. But in true upcycling fashion, see if you can get some second-hand tools via preloved, freegle or freecyle rather than spen your hard-earned cash.
Remember, keep it safe, keep it fun, happy upcycling.


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