Painted Utensils for Labor Day

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on September 1, 2013

Do you like eating with plastic forks?   I know I don’t!

If you buy the cheaper ones, well, they just seem small and flimsy.  They make it hard to “stab” things like salad with and are not big enough to really do the job when it comes to scooping up baked beans or potato salad.  And I don’t know about you, but if I shell out money to buy the more sturdy ones it just seems so wasteful to throw them out.  I wind up washing them and using them over and over–so why even bother with disposables?

So when Walmart asked me to do a project for Labor Day I immediately thought of my annual back yard BBQ and the whole fork issue.  I have been thinking for quite a while that I’d like to start using REAL forks at my BBQ.  Actually I’d like to use real forks, napkins, plates and everything–but I figured it was best to start small. 

Painted Picnic Utensils Silverware

There is a project that I’ve been eyeballing for quite some time–painted silverware!  I’ve seen it on other blogs and on Pinterest–folks who had painted the handles of their silverware either to jazz it up, or to take mismatched items (think odds and ends, thrift store finds etc) and make them look like a set.

Before I headed off to Walmart to buy my supplies, I did a bit of research online.  First off, I was not able to find any food safe paint.  Period.  No less food safe paint that stuck to metal.  Most of the sites I visited simply suggested that you keep the painted area well away from the part of the fork that would be in your mouth.  Some of the tutorials I found used regular spray paint–but that seemed like it would chip or flake off eventually.  Since I wanted something that would last I decided against spray paint.  Then I started seeing some mentions of enamel paint.  I pulled up the Folk Art website and found that their enamel paints are typically used to paint on slick surfaces like glass and ceramic and can be made more permanent by baking them on in an oven.  I also saw that you could coat it with their enamel “clear medium” for an even more durable finish.  Bingo!

Painted Utensils materials

At Walmart I picked up 7 sets of Mainstays forks (it was $.94 for a 4 pack–so that’s a total of 28 forks for $7), painters tape, some brushes and the Folk Art Enamel paint and clear medium (which was under $2 a bottle–I actually only wound up using one of each).  The whole project was under $15.

I chose red paint because most of my large entertaining is in the summer for holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day–I figured red was appropriate for all those and could also work indoors for Christmas and Valentines Day.  The only ones the color really isn’t a great match for are Easter and Halloween–and you could play the whole “blood red” thing for Halloween :)

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First things first–I peeled the labels off of the forks and found that some of the sticker residue was not removed.  I needed clean and clear metal to start–so I used an old trick.  Peanut Butter!

Peanut Butter to Remove Sticker Residue

That’s right, the oils in the peanut butter will unstick all that gunky stuff!  The key here is to leave it on long enough.  As in at least an hour, more if you have time (when I’m getting the gunk off wine bottles I’ll leave it overnight sometimes).  Then just scrub well and maybe scrape at it a bit and off it comes!

I washed all of the utensils really well, wiped them off with rubbing alcohol to remove any soap residue, then got ready to paint.  I masked off all the eating surfaces and everything I did not want to get paint on with the blue painters tape.

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Then I started painting–one side at a time.

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The first coat came out looking rather sheer.  It has always been my experience with paint that multiple light coats give a better result then a single thick coat, so I just took my time.  I painted the fronts, waited a minimum of an hour, flipped them, painted the second side, waited overnight, painted the first side again, waited a minimum of an hour, painted the back again. . . You need to make sure it’s well dried before you flip a painted side over into contact with your paper or you will wind up with this.

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Obviously I had to repaint that!  Once we had two good coats on both sides of the utensils I carefully peeled the tape off and laid them on a foil lined cookie sheet and per the directions placed them in a COLD oven, set it to 350, then when it was up to temperature I baked it for 30 minutes.  Then I turned the oven off and let it cool with the forks still inside.

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Next I did two layers of the clear medium on each side of the utensils (with the appropriate drying time in between) and baked them again following the same directions.

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Tada!  I now have pretty painted silverware that should be safe for the top rack of your dishwasher or hand washing.

Painted Utensil Tutorial

I plan on using these at my Labor Day BBQ this week!  I will set up a “busing station”–a small table with a dishpan of water on set right next to a trashcan and a recycling bin.  Folks can place their forks into the water then toss their trash and put any soda cans etc into the recycle bin.  Eventually when I move up to “real” plates from the paper the dishpan will be for both and folks will be able to scrape any food scraps off and place their plate and fork into the water–cleanup will be a breeze!

****This is a sponsored post****
Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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