Use Farm Antiques for DIY Home Projects

Farm antiques make great DIY home projects such as turning a cream separator into a lamp base, a galvanized wash tub into a planter, and other farm scraps into nifty and useful items.


| March/April 2013



old washtubs used as planters

Welding up a table frame is a quick and easy way to turn these galvanized tin tubs into durable and convenient planters, particularly if you like the more ‘weathered’ look. You could easily do something similar with a wooden frame, if that tickles your fancy.

Photo By Karen Keb

How often have you heard or said, “They don’t make things the way they used to”? In this day and age of disposable merchandise — from particle-board furniture to plastic electronics — there is still a way to embrace and cherish those well-made items from the past. And that doesn’t mean tucked away on a display shelf somewhere collecting dust. Those antiques and random pieces of rusty gold can be altered in minor ways to create unique and functional items for your farm and home. 

If you have a creative spirit and can’t or won’t part with hundreds of dollars to furnish your place with all the things it needs, you’ll love the notion of repurposing and salvaging items from the past. Look around. What can you do with that roll of rusty chicken wire? How about that vintage screen door hiding up in the barn rafters? With a little time and ingenuity, you’re on your way to some fun, imaginative and useful pieces for your home.

Any time you can reuse or repurpose something old and give it new, meaningful life in your home — thus saving it from the landfill — you’re truly being resourceful rather than purchasing new items that require petroleum to process in addition to traveling thousands of miles to the stores. With that and a low budget in mind, your best sources for salvageable items are rural antique stores; rural because prices are definitely lower than a big-city antique store with its high overhead. Rural antique stores also will have more of the “real deal” finds like milk cans and funnels that were trawled from farm auctions and estate sales in the area. Other sources include flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales, farm auctions and estate sales. Online sources like Craigslist (check daily under the appliances, antiques, furniture and household categories for items to reuse and repurpose), eBay and Etsy are all purveyors of unique items with lots of potential.

My spouse and I love to spend the day hunting for reusable treasures — you never know what you’ll uncover. Some of the following projects of ours require basic knowledge of electrical work and construction; others are for the less-handy and need only standard-issue creativity. There’s a difficulty rating assigned for each project from 1 to 5. If a project rates 1, this is easy and just about anyone could do it. A rating of 5 requires some fairly technical DIY skills.

Cream separator table

Difficulty: 1

Oftentimes when we discover some interesting piece of rusty gold while out antiquing, we’re not quite sure what it is. Am I right? When I spied this cast-iron base to an old mechanical cream separator, it was beyond rusty. My husband immediately knew what it was and admired it for its heft and history. Not quite knowing what we’d do with it, for $10 we brought it home and deposited it on our driveway, where it sat for about a year, enduring the elements. (This type of thing tends to happen quite often.) Then one day I was inspired, and it struck me: I would use the old cream separator base as a table base and make an end table for our living room.





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