New Life for Old CDs

This is a guest post by Becky Haas, who is an amateur crafter/environmentalist who also tries to make a living as a professional musician. You can also find her at the craft blog Sew and So.

I have a confession to make…I’m addicted to music. I guess it comes naturally, since that’s what I spend a lot of my time doing. So I always love it when I stumble across a craft project that uses music-related materials, like Kelly Rand’s recent article on things to do with old cassette tapes.

By this point, I don’t have too many old tapes lying around, but what I do have is a lot of CDs–most of which I still listen to. But we all have those CDs that are too scratched up to play properly, or came free in the mail with unwanted software, or have those songs that seriously tempt you to throw the disc out the window if you hear them just one more time, if it wouldn’t be considered littering. So here’s a couple of ideas for things to do with them.

My first thought was jewelry, and it turns out that it’s pretty easy to transform an old CD into that. Here’s what you need for a very basic set of earrings and a necklace:

  • An unwanted CD
  • A pair of scissors
  • Something to heat the CD with (optional)
  • Something to file the edges with
  • Something to drill a hole with
  • An old necklace chain (with links), and a clasp if the chain doesn’t have one
  • Earring hooks (or clips, if you prefer)
  • Jump rings, or a leftover piece of wire long enough to be bent into a loop
  • Small pliers and wire cutters

The first step is to cut the CD into the desired shape. I just used my regular craft scissors and that worked fine, though I also experimented with heating the CD first with a heat gun, using these tips for cutting CDs by Deborah Koch. Since this was my first attempt, I just cut straight lines and let the bottom keep the slight curve from the edge of the CD.

Next, you’ll want to file the edges down, especially the corners, so they don’t scratch you up when you wear them. (An ordinary emery board worked just fine.) Then you’ll need to drill a few holes near the edge. (Make sure you do this on a surface that you don’t mind marking up!) I used a small hand drill on top of a block of scrap wood, and it worked great.  How many holes depends on what you want to do– I did one at the top of each earring piece, and one at each of the top corners of the necklace piece. But you can easily drill extra holes for dangling beads off of or whatever you want. Just make sure they’re close enough to the edge that you can thread the jump rings through later.

To assemble the necklace, just take your necklace chain, cut it in half with the wire cutters, use the pliers to open up the first jump ring, and thread that through the end link of the chain and the hole you drilled in the CD piece. Repeat on the other side. If you want it shorter, you can take the clasp off at the ring attaching it to the chain, trim off some chain, and then put the clasp back on. (The leftover bits of chain work great for making dangly earrings, so don’t toss them!) For the earrings, take a jump ring, open it up in the same way, thread the CD piece onto it, and close it up. Take another jump ring, open it up, and use that to link the CD piece to the earring. (Otherwise you’ll only be able to see the skinny edge!)

The variations on this are endless. You can string beads for the rest of the necklace instead of use a chain, you can drill extra holes and dangle beads or other things off of it, or you could channel your inner Princess Leia and use multiple pieces of CD for a more futuristic look. (Or a Halloween costume.) If you like the holographic look but want more color, the aforementioned Deborah Koch has instructions on how to color and stamp them for some rather amazing-looking pins, such as this lightning pin, that are hardly recognizable as CD pieces. Or crackle the CD before cutting it up, as in this necklace tutorial at Crafty Crafty. Or you can even turn them into beads (instructions courtesy of Thrifty Fun).

There’s some great pre-crafted CD jewelry out there as well. On Etsy, paisleypea and TanyaMac have some beautiful earrings, and I absolutely love this necklace from TrilliumArtisans that’s made from pieces of both a CDand a vinyl record. CDBlingBling features colorful earrings, necklaces and pins made from CDs and DVDs that her family and friends donate to the artist to keep them out of the landfill, so if you live near Arizona, check her out! And for a really upscale look, the Mexican-based NEKO Design has a necklacemade from the inner clear plastic ring of a CD and sterling silver.

There’s a lot of other things that can be done with CDs besides jewelry, so I’d love to hear your ideas!

Image credit: Becky Haas at Picasa

27 thoughts on “New Life for Old CDs”

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  6. linda kilpatrick

    Hi.  I live in Texas and have a blog where I design and think up ideas to make crafts.  My daughter was throwing out some old CD’s so I came up with a way to recycle them into a wonderful gift idea.  The recipient won’t know it has a CD inside unless you tell them it’s there.  Here’s the link.… This one is a draw string gift bag.
    This one uses 2 CD's up and they are small cakes that look like the real thing. They can be used as table decorations or as gifts.
    This one uses one CD and is a gift basket.

    Hope you enjoy. Linda

  7. Hi Becky, this is really very creative and will try to make one myself. you are gifted Becky thank god for that and would love to see more of yr crafts

  8. hi becky, i am doing my ICT GCSE and as a project, i am meant to collect some possible ideas for upcycling products. Please could I use your idea for my ICT work? Thanks.

  9. Hi,
    I’m now looking for a way to cut the cds without breaking the shinny sheet (which is very fragile). I tried scisors, cutter, and even the microwave, but the shinny sheet always break.
    What should I do?

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  11. Love these ideas, heres a tip, I treid adding funky glitters, its perfect to cover the edges where the shiny coat has come off!

  12. Can someone please help me with cutting a CD with out it shattering, splintering or making a shape.

    I’ve tried it all: they said–freeze them, hammers, crack it with hands, scissors (maybe all 3 pairs are not sharp enough..?)


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