Glass Garden Totems

Make these totems from old glass dishes, vases, lamp parts and more

How to Make Glass Garden Totems

One of my more recent obsessions has been putting together glass totems. I found them on some Garden Junk forums and just had to try and make some of my own.

When I first saw garden totems many years ago, I thought they were kind of tacky. But then I came across some totems that were put together really well, and my thoughts changed. There really is an art to stacking the pieces so well, that they look like they belonged together all along.

One word of caution. This is not a speedy quick project. It takes time to find the right pieces of glass to go together and it takes time for the glue to cure properly. I cannot be responsible for how your totems turn out and if you want to sell them, then I'd suggest you make a few and see how it goes before committing to them for a scheduled craft show.

Here is how you can make your own:

  1. Look for pieces that will stack well, have flat bottoms or edges, with a fairly large gluing surface. Some of my favorites are, glass covers for light fixtures, candle holders, vases, toothpick holders, bowls, dinner plates, salad plates, saucers, and ring holders.
  2. Try and glue a plate in between each bowl and vase. I think this gives the totems more stability and the pieces have a firm surface for gluing.
  3. Clean all glass well with warm soapy water and make sure they are thoroughly dry and lint free before gluing. I used a micro fiber cloth to "polish" the glass before gluing. Avoid touching, with bare fingers, any area you are gluing, to prevent oil from hindering the curing process or putting finger prints on the inside of your glass pieces. Wiping the glass down with rubbing alcohol or white vinegar can also help to remove any grease and grime.
  4. How to Make Glass Garden Totems How to Make Glass Garden Totems

  5. Use denture cleaning tabs for hard to clean vases (1-4 tabs per vase usually works). I get mine at the dollar store for $2.oo for a box of 40 tabs.
  6. Use a 100% clear silicone glue or Lexel adhesive for best results. Make sure the adhesive you use is weather resistant. I think Lexel is the best for this project though it takes up to 30 days to cure completely. I get a lot of questions about glue. These two are the only ones I use. I've never tried E6000 for totems, although I have used it for other projects. Some people like E6000 and some have had their totems fall apart. I suggest you stick with 100% clear silicone or try to find Lexel if you don't mind waiting for it to cure for 30 days. You also want to use fresh glues, adhesives, and sealants. A tube that is open and has been sitting in your craft room for a couple of years will likely fail. Check the expiration dates on the tubes and use them up within a couple of months.
  7. Glue up pieces in sections, letting each section dry for a week or two before putting them all together as one piece. Try gluing the pieces during low humidity or indoors to reduce condensation problems later.
  8. How to Make Glass Garden TotemsHow to Make Glass Garden Totems

  9. Display your totems in shade or partial shade to help reduce the chance of condensation.
  10. Use cut glass, colored glass or glass with patterns so that you don't notice if condensation forms inside the totem. Some people suggest using a marine glue to help reduce this, but I don't like how the glue turns cloudy or yellow over time; Lexel does not do that.

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