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Homemade Beach Craft Ideas | DIY Driftwood Projects & Things To Make With Shells

Updated on January 6, 2015

Creative Tutorials For Sea Glass, Shells & Driftwood

Searching for unusual rocks and colorful shells on the beach was something I used to do every time I went to the beach as a kid. I'd arrive home with bags of items and they unfortunately usually stayed in the bags as I didn't really know what I could do with I've put this page together with a large amount of ideas for all kinds of beachy crafts in the hope that these lovely objects are put to good use!

I also have a major weakness for driftwood décor as it's so full of character, so I've also included fun things to make with this wood, plus sea glass art and sand based DIYs.

I hope you find plenty of inspiration here :)

Painted Pebbles


Top Beach Craft Supplies & Books

Craft books are excellent resources for ideas, how-tos and advice, and I have listed a few great choices below. I've also added a job lot of 25 decorative shells which you can buy if you don't live near a beach :)

Collecting & Cleaning Beach Finds

Just a note to point out that with beach crafts, obviously they all consist of items taken from public beaches after being washed up, so just be careful about what you take and how much you take - just be respectful to the beach :)

- Driftwood: If you are going to collect driftwood from a beach, please check that it is allowed first if the piece is quite large. Always follow any beach rules and signs about what you can remove from a beach. Small pieces of loose driftwood should be fine, just don't dig pieces up from under the surface. Try to choose dried out wood. If there has been a storm, go down to a beach after high tide to see what has been washed in. If there is a lot of driftwood and other debris, this would be a great time to collect supplies as the beach will need clearing.

When you have collected the driftwood and brought it home, it's best to clean it and dry it out thoroughly to get rid of any dirt, insects or nasties that could be lurking inside! Soak the wood in water and use a stiff brush, scraper and/or chisel to remove any decaying bits or moss you don't want on it. Leave it to dry a bit and then if you would like a smooth finish sand the surfaces with sandpaper, or simply just sand any sharp sections so you don't get splinters. Rinse the wood again to remove any loose debris, and if you want a lighter sun-bleached look to the wood you can then dip the wood in/brush the wood with a diluted household bleach solution (see the bleach container for instructions on making a safe cleaning mix). Be careful with the bleach and use it in a well-ventilated area. Leave the wood to dry out thoroughly in the sun for at least a week. Driftwood is very light when it is completely dried out. You can coat the driftwood with beeswax, wood stain, paint or leave it natural after it's dry.

- Shells: Make sure there's nothing living in the bigger shells before you take them home. To clean the shells you can just use clean water and maybe detergent if the shells are clean looking already. However if there is dirt or moss on the shells and you want to brighten them up, or if they smell, you can use a diluted bleach solution as mentioned above in relation to the driftwood cleaning.

Use a bucket or bowl (not used for food) and put the shells in. Cover the shells with a 1:1 ratio of water and household bleach - in a well-ventilated area and following safety guidelines on the container - and leave them to soak for a while (a few hours), and keep checking to see the progress. If any shells are losing their color you can remove them. Wear rubber gloves to protect yourself from the bleach and use a toothbrush to scrub off any dirt and sand, and carefully use a metal scraper or other tool to remove anything stuck to the shells like barnacles. Rinse the shells with soapy water and leave to dry thoroughly. For adding a shine to the shells, rub them with a small amount of baby or mineral oil on with a cloth.

- Sea glass and pottery: There are some very interesting and pretty ceramic and glass pieces to be found on beaches (great for mosaics and jewelry) and to bring out their natural beauty you should wash them first with clean water to remove the sand and loose dirt, then they should be individually placed in a bowl of soapy water and left to soak for an hour or two. Be very careful to put the plug in the plug hole if you're using the sink so the little pieces aren't lost in the drains!

Transfer the pieces to a bowl of clean water to rinse, and a soft brush can be used to remove any remaining dirt. Dry them with a soft clean cloth and leave them out to dry for a day or so. They are now ready to use, although if you want to add shine to the sea glass (not the pottery) then you can add a little bit of baby or vegetable oil to the surface to get rid of the frosty look, then blot any excess oil off.

- Pebbles: Only take pebbles and smaller stones rather than larger rocks from beaches unless you have permission. If they're clean looking you can just wash them with water and detergent to remove sand etc from them, but if they have hard-to-remove marks or dirt on them you can use a diluted bleach mix as with the shells.

You can sometimes use a rock tumbler machine to get a shiny surface - some pebbles (that look more 'glassy') can be polished, whilst others can't. If you scratch a line in the stone and it's powdery then it can't be polished.

Good Tip: When you are down at the beach collecting bits 'n' pieces, you can do your good deed for the day by picking up any litter you see too - although don't pick up anything too unsanitary without gloves and a sealed bag...just stick with food packaging and the like!

Sand Dough Starfish


Photo and starfish by Dawn Buettner Huntington - Click here for a sand dough recipe.

Fun Shell Scenes


Photo and art by Doded1. Check out the rest of their Flickr photostream for more fun scenes, and click here for a slideshow of a shell character being created.

DIY Shell Door Curtain


Making a curtain for a doorway in your home would be a fun way to use up a lot of shells and create a seaside feel.

What You Will Need:

* Jewelry thread (such as Nymo) or some fishing line; it's best to use a thin cord/thread/string which is strong. You will need quite a few meters of it, although the exact amount depends on how many shells you will use, how big your doorway is and how many shell strings you want in your curtain.

* Lots of shells; if you don't have so many you will need to space them out more sparsely.

* Eye protection

* Dremel rotary tool with a diamond drill bit or a ceramic drill bit. Alternatively you can use an electric drill with a fine/small drill bit. The holes in the shells only need to be big enough to let the thread/string through.

* Scrap wood

* Small adjustable vice or clip (optional)

* Wooden rod; this can be a thin and narrow piece of driftwood, dowel, bamboo etc. You could use a plastic or metal rod instead if you wish, such as a curtain rod.

* Tape measure

* Screw-in ceiling/wall hooks; these will need to be screwed in above your doorway in order to hold up the wooden rod. If the rod you want to use is bigger than the diameter of the hooks, you will need to use a different method, such as a tension rod or a curtain rod with matching wall brackets.

- The first step is to clean and dry the shells thoroughly.

- Next, you will need to drill a small hole in each shell. If you have a vice or a clip to hold the shell in place whilst you do this that would be handy, but otherwise you just have to hold it steady yourself and be careful. Wear eye protection and rest the shell on a piece of scrap wood to protect your work surface. Try and put the hole centrally on the shell, not too close to the edge. Practice on your least favorite shells first and only use very light pressure (if any) with the drill/Dremel so you are less likely to crack the shell.

- Measure the height and width of your doorway and decide how many strings you will need for the curtain. Then work out how many shells you will put on each string, and how far apart they will need to be. For example, you could want 20 strings with 10 shells on each, which means you'll require 200 shells - which is a lot!

When you are planning your design, line up your shells in rows so you know what order you want them in, and also decide if you want the shells in the same positions on every string, or you want a more random effect.

- Start stringing the shells onto the string/thread, following your design. It's up to you how you attach each shell, but I would simply thread the string through the hole and do a simple knot. I might put a drop of glue on each knot too just to secure it.

- When you've finished the strings, attach them individually to the rod, equally spacing them apart. There are 3 options for this:

a) Tie each piece of string to the rod

b) Drill holes through the center of the piece of wood, one per string, with the holes being just big enough for the string to feed through. Secure each string on top of the rod with a knot and maybe glue.

c) Hammer nails into the wood in a line and hang one string off each nail.

- Hang the curtain onto the door frame with wall hooks or another method as detailed above. Finished!

Shell & Rope Wall Hanging


Homemade Shell Wreath


Modern Painted Driftwood


Sea Glass Suncatcher

Pretty ornaments made by filling mini corked glass bottles with sea glass and hanging them from chain. Perfect for a window display.
Pretty ornaments made by filling mini corked glass bottles with sea glass and hanging them from chain. Perfect for a window display. | Source

Using A Rock Tumbler

Thumlers Rotary Tumbler Polisher Media Rocks
Thumlers Rotary Tumbler Polisher Media Rocks

A rock tumbler is a little machine designed to continuously 'tumble' rocks around inside a barrel so that all of the edges are knocked off and they become smooth and rounded. Inside the barrel, you put water and an abrasive grit which helps to wear down any angular corners and rough surfaces quicker. After this has happened, the rocks are polished to a shine.

This process replicates the action of the sea on rocks - which happens over years in nature, but with this machine it happens over 4 weeks instead. It therefore does require some patience however at least it's not the type of machine you use for one day and then forget about!

Rock tumbling is a fun and interesting activity to do with small stones you find at the beach (as long as they are a type of rock that can be polished) and is fun for kids to help with too. And at the end you will have shiny stones which you can use to decorate with, make jewelry with, or you could even sell them. You can also use a tumbler to polish coins and other metal pieces.

This specific tumbler is solidly built and easy to use, and it is also highly rated in the reviews. The kit contains everything you need including rocks to practice with and jewelry findings.

Rock tumbling is an enjoyable and satisfying hobby.


DIY Driftwood Shelves

Using driftwood for shelves adds so much character.
Using driftwood for shelves adds so much character. | Source

Rocks Vs. Shells Game

A fun alternative to noughts and crosses - and a great use for pebbles, shells and driftwood!
A fun alternative to noughts and crosses - and a great use for pebbles, shells and driftwood! | Source

Driftwood Heron Sculpture


Test Tube Vase

An attractive and practical use for driftwood.
An attractive and practical use for driftwood. | Source

Beach Themed Craft Videos

Do you ever bring objects back from the beach?

See results

Please Leave a Comment!

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    • Cindy Franklin profile image

      Cindy Franklin 

      4 years ago

      These are great ideas for our next trip to the beach!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I was looking for ideas for a beach theme lesson plan and I'm so grateful for your ideas, my children are going to have a fun time doing crafts. Love the shell door curtain :D

    • Tricia Deed profile image

      Tricia Deed 

      5 years ago from Orlando, Florida

      I collect shells, both common and unusual. Great lens

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Love the 'sea glass' suncatcher. What a fun list of clever craft projects that are 'beach-related'.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have been Living at the beach for over 30 years and still find something to take home each day. Great ideas.

    • sheilamarie78 profile image


      6 years ago from British Columbia

      I find myself picking up beach treasures quite often. I'm looking forward to checking out some of your links.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Some wonderful ideas here. Great lens!


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