#AtoZChallenge | Vintage bakelite buckles transformed into framed childhood memories

I had a three inch orange binder that I stored on the bottom shelf of my bookcase. It had a hand written tag on the spine that read “house ideas”. I filled it with magazine pages and articles for home decorating ideas and craft projects. They were all neatly organized with page protectors and divided into sections. I would pull it out and look through it occasionally. 

Eventually Pinterest and digital storage slowly replaced my hard copies and I looked at the book less and less over the years. A few years ago, I finally went all in with digital and went through my binder one last time. I kept a handful of ideas by mostly recycled the pages and put the page protectors into a drawer thinking I may have a use for them again someday.

One idea I had saved from Martha Stewart Living was on reusing vintage Bakelite buckles and turning them into picture frame magnets for your refrigerator. I no longer have the article and it was from so long ago that I can’t find it on the magazine’s digital pages either but I remember it well. It was a fun, inventive and appeared to be an easy craft although it would require the use of power tools.

When we bought our first home, my Dad showed up with a Dremel. He felt every home needed one. This small little workhorse has interchangeable accessories that allow you to do everything from cut to sand. While we used it occasionally, my Dad was the one most likely to pull it out for a project. He helped us with many a home project in those early years. I’m not sure I ever even touched the Dremel and I’ve definitely never used it for crafting. I have an aversion to power tools. Even small ones packed up nicely in a cute little carrying kit.

But, it was time to grab the safety glasses and pull out the Dremel.

I ordered some vintage Bakelite buckles off of Etsy. Being unsure how my Dremel skills would hold up, I started small and picked a simple buckle that I thought would be easier to cut. It came in a three pack. That seems like a reasonable first attempt.

The Dremel cut through the Bakelite almost instantly. The hardest part was the cutting blade that I had was a little bigger than the space so I had to be careful not to cut into the part of the buckle I was keeping. I also couldn’t cut it flush to the buckle. I ended up with a few stray marks but they’re on the backside so not visible. 

Once I had removed the middle bar from the buckle, I switched out the cutting bit for the grinder and sanded the rough edges down to smooth them out and bring everything in line with the inside edge. This was also super quick and easy. I guess the right tool really does make all the difference.


I now had three vintage miniature frames that needed some pictures. I measured the inside which was 1″ in diameter. I knew I wanted to use these frames for family childhood pictures so I looked through my digital images and found some of my parents and brother. I thought the pictures would be a good starting point for this ongoing project. I imported the images into a word document and  resized them to fit inside the buckle. I left an extra 1/4″ border around the image so that I could glue them to the back of the buckles.

After printing, I laminated them using my Xyron machine’s magnet cartridge so that they would be ready to stick on the refrigerator. It also laminates them which was another important consideration. They’re going to be in the kitchen with lots of potential to get wet, dirty and otherwise ruined. Laminating them will help protect them. 

I cut them images to match the shape of the buckle  and then glued them to the back of the buckle frame. I used white glue that I applied with a paintbrush on the back and then placed the buckle over my image. I dried them overnight with a heavy dish on top to apply pressure and help seal them. But, one of the buckles popped off the picture unexpectedly so I don’t think that was the right glue choice. I put it the buckle back on using super glue and so far that seems to be holding well. 

I am happy with how my first three frames came out and am on the hunt for more elaborate Bakelite buckles that I can turn into frames. Since they can be extremely expensive, I’ll be searching thrift stores and yard sales for more to add to my collection.

Eventually, I want to have our entire family tree displayed in miniature frames on the fridge Childhood pictures will help unify the overall look. Clearly, this is more of a longer term project but now that I know how incredibly easy it is to modify the buckles, bring it on. I’m going to have some extra time on my hands once this blogging challenge is done.

Have you ever done crafts with vintage items? What did you make?

I’m participating in a Blogging A-Z Challenge for April 2021. I will be posting new content every day this month except most Sundays. Each post is associated with a letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. My theme for the challenge is Craft Projects for my Home. To read more of my A to Z posts from this year, click HERE.

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20 thoughts on “#AtoZChallenge | Vintage bakelite buckles transformed into framed childhood memories

  1. 15andmeowing says:

    That is such a good idea. I have put old photos in old bottles , but they curled up and I can’t figure out how to straighten them.


    • Weekends in Maine says:

      I’ve never done photos in bottles. I can see where that might be challenging to straighten them. I wonder if decoupage glue would be enough to keep them flat? Since you can’t get into the bottle easily, maybe not.


  2. Arti Jain says:

    I can’t imagine working with such small pieces and power tools together. Bravo. They look fab. Your father’s memories make this post extra special.


  3. galeriaredelius says:

    Such cute photo frames! Whenever I hear ‘bakelite’, I have to think of an old bakelite telephone I used to have. The classic one that we all know, black and heavy. I still remember the sound of the disc when you dialled a number, and that it took longer to dial numbers with lots of 8’s and 9’s in them!
    But back to your photo frames. It seems perfect to use vintage items for old family photos! I have some vintage buckles, not in bakelite but some “regular” plastic, and find them interesting for jewellery ideas. I focus on shapes, so yes, when I see shapes that I like and that are of a small size, I start thinking of pendants or earrings…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Weekends in Maine says:

      I bet there are some great vintage items out there that work well for jewelry. When I bought these buckles off Etsy, someone was selling miniature ones that were a lot smaller so they wouldn’t work for this frame project but they would be perfect for jewelry.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Vidya Tiru says:

    this looks so cool .. i have never used power tools myself but need to find out if i can create such vintage looks some other way..
    working on visiting blogs i missed for the a2z challenge..and i know i will visit you again.. 🙂
    visiting from Lady In Read Writes

    Liked by 1 person

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