DIY: Old Film Reel Decorations


Take a look at eBay and Etsy and you’ll see hundreds of vintage film reels in different sizes and colors for sale. Old film reels that housed 8, 16, and 35mm film are typically made of metal. Super 8 film generally came on small plastic reels of various colors. Projector take-up reels were made of metal, regardless of the format. Film reels can be as small as 3 inches in diameter or a whopping 26 inches. The largest size reels were reserved for 35mm, which is definitely not a home movie format! Nicer film reels are just begging to be repurposed into cool home décor projects. If you’re a crafty person and own old movie reels, dust off the cobwebs, get them digitized, and then use reels to create all sorts of nifty things.

Wall Décor

If you’re a movie lover, you can hang a reel or two on the wall where you watch movies, e.g. your family room. Some of the larger film reels are rather elegant on their own and make a bold statement. Retain the natural colored metal or use spray paint and hang single or multiple reels in an interesting pattern if you have a lot of wall space.  

Small Accent Tables

A large metal reel mounted with a glass disc on top paired with a pole-style base makes a unique accent table. It will look even better if you keep the film inside. You can stack a few reels together for added strength and make the base out of smaller reels and canisters, but you’ll need to add weight to the bottom for stability.

Floor Lamps

Repurpose an old floor lamp by stacking graduated-size or same-size film reels over the post. It may be necessary to drill out the center of the reels to make space for the pole. You can also make a lamp with a large film reel by drilling a hole in the top and bottom edge of the reel and positioning it as you would if it was hanging on the wall. You can use the canister as the base, but will likely need to add weight to the bottom to support the reel, pole, and shade.

Picture Frames

This project involves making a template of the open reel spaces, then carefully cutting out any photos or artwork just slightly larger than the template to fill the spaces. Any kind of cardboard backing will suffice to glue the pieces together. As an added design touch, you can use a little glue on the reel, dust it with glitter, and allow it to dry before hanging it on the wall.

Wall or Self-Standing Clocks

For this fun weekend craft activity, you’ll need a vintage film reel, any type of decorative paper (e.g. a map), and a clock movement that can be purchased at most arts and crafts stores. The finished clock can be hung on the wall or if you prefer a self-standing clock, use the canister as the base by adhering it to the clock. You can also use the reel with the film inside and then add the clock movement.

Wine Racks

This works best if you have two large reels with circular openings. Fifteen-inch reels will hold as many as six bottles of wine. Add a sturdy base to the reels and voila – you have a unique wine storage rack. 

Digitize Today, Craft Tomorrow

Celluloid film deteriorates over time. The only way to rescue movies from obscurity and preserve precious family memories is to digitize them. This is even true if you have a working projector to view the movies.