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high-tech crafts, low-tech effort 
10 things you can make with CDs

by Diana Goodman |
1 2 3

They just don't learn, do they? AOL, Earthlink, whoever — they keep sending you sign-up demo CDs. You hate throwing them out, because they're, you know, neat-looking, but you just don't know what to do with them. The answer: crafts galore!

CDs sit around begging to be recycled into something fun. They're uniform shape and size, have a center hole (also uniform); they catch the light and throw rainbows, especially when lit from above; they make a calm little "plink" when they hit each other. And they're cheap as hell. Following are 10+ starter ideas for incredibly basic, quick and cheap ways to put CDs to good use.

Not enough free CDs lying around for crafts? Demo and ISP start-up CDs can often be found (free!) at stores like Target or Wal-Mart, somewhere up front near the restrooms and cash registers. They don't mind if you take one or two...more and you're coming close to stealing. If you're going to take a pile, try to be polite and discreet. For larger projects, or if you hate the tacky labels, you can buy blank CD-Rs in packs for 50 cents each.

1. Coasters: The obvious answer. Glue a piece of felt to the label side to protect your table top and give it a little more oompf. 
Cost | Around 60 cents for a square foot of felt, usually pre-cut at fabric stores.
Time | Under 5 minutes.  

2. Ashtray: CDs are plastic and melt very quickly. Fortunately, they only melt under sustained heat, not the heat of a ciggie being put out. Using a lighter (not a candle, it'll get all sooty), heat the CD  on the shiny side (heating the label side makes it burn) and about an inch from the outer edge of the CD until it starts to become soft. Bend with a spoon, or let gravity do the work. Be careful of over-heating the plastic to the melting point, where it becomes a thick, dangerously hot liquid which can: a) burn your dainty skin, b) land on something else, cool, and become a permanent fixture, c) both. Friends have informed me that CDs can be softened in a toaster oven...I haven't tested this, so use caution. Microwaving, on the other hand, causes the silver in the CD to burn (impressive to watch, but potentially dangerous and smells bad.) Once you’ve molded your CD into shape, be sure to glue something nonflammable (a poker chip is good) to cover the center hole.
Cost | $1.50 for a new lighter.
Time |10 minutes.

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