Repurposing Oyster Shells

POMP Rating:   🌵🌵🌴🌴🌴

Factors Influencing Rating:  They stink.  They stink really bad.

Your husband may need to use a tiny drill bit to drill holes in the shells, depending on the project.   This can be very tedious and definitely lead to some arguments, silent treatments, or both. Anything you do with these shells can be frustrating.   They are hard to handle, a pain to clean, and it’s hard to get motivated to do anything with them after your roast.  You can do so many beautiful things with these shells. 😊   You can use them for decoration or for a more purposeful reason (see digging holes below). 😊   They are expensive, so you might as well get the most use out of them that you possibly can.   😊

The Oyster Roast and the Oyster Table

An Oyster Roast!  This is just a great and fun thing to do in the Winter months in Savannah.  I know that many other regions also enjoy oysters, but Savannah is the first place I’ve ever heard of the oyster roast as a party.  We like to steam ours in the backyard and shuck them around an oyster table my husband built.  Basically, the oyster table is a large table that will accommodate probably around twenty people.  It stands at bar-height, so people stand up around the table to shuck the oysters.  The top is made out of plywood, but I’d love to have him build a better one (sorry, Marty), with a stainless-steel top.   (There, now I’ve brought up the subject and he knows about it now.)  There are two round holes cut into the middle where people shove the empty shells into large trash cans below.  We put butcher paper on the top of the table and dump the steamed oysters right on top.  We always have a roast before Christmas, and we do a few more after the holidays before it warms up.  

Next Day Clean-Up

So, the next day, we have to empty those large trash cans and sift through napkins and paper plates, empty beer cans and saltine crackers, as well as other debris that gets shoved into the “oyster shell only” cans.  This is always pretty annoying, and having a hangover while cleaning this up contributes to the  rating above.  Once we’ve isolated the oyster shells, we then put them in an old cooler that we don’t care about and fill that up with bleach.  We will usually just put the lid down and forget about it for a couple of weeks.

Staining the Shells

This is one of my favorite projects with left over oyster shells, and I have to give my wonderful husband a nod for this one because it was actually his brilliant idea.  After draining the bleach water out of the cooler and laying the oyster shells out to dry, place some shells on a work table with butcher paper underneath.  Use different colors of stain (stain meant for wood and wood furniture).  I use a brush and simply brush the stain on the rough side of the shell and leave it out to dry.  

I like to mix it up – some dark walnut stain, some driftwood, some lighter pine stain.  After it has dried, you can flip the shells over to the smooth side (where the meat of the oyster was), and stain that part as well.  Once dry, I put them in a huge glass container turning some towards the rough side, and some towards the smooth side.  I put the glass container full of shells as a decoration near the fireplace, on the bookshelf, or wherever else it might look nice as a display.  I’ve also intertwined white Christmas lights inside, but I prefer no lighting at all.

Christmas Ornaments

Another thing I like to do is to ask Marty to spend all day long drilling tiny little holes at the top of the shells for me.   This is the part that can get prickly, because apparently for him, this is highly annoying.    After he is done, all I have to do is use a small wire hook and I have gorgeous little ornaments for my tree.  I’ve been using them on our outside tree for years.  I set up one outdoor tree near our fireplace, and use the oyster shells as ornaments out there.  I don’t have to worry about pretty ornaments getting ruined in the weather, and they look good year after year.  The process of drilling the holes is quite tedious, yes, but it’s definitely not divorce worthy, and really, he only had to do it once because I only needed so many ornaments for the tree, so…..he got over it pretty quickly.

Light Fixture

This one, by far, is one of my favorite projects with oyster shells.  I’ve seen really elaborate ones in hotels and restaurants, and I’ve always wanted to make one, but I don’t really have anywhere to put something that big in my house.  What I did was I purchased a pretty cheesy-looking, basic chandelier from my home improvement store.  I wanted a girly looking, princess chandelier hanging over my claw foot tub in the bathroom, but it needed to be on the small side, because my bathroom is fairly small.  I simply removed the crystals that hung all over the chandelier and replaced those with oyster shells.  It’s so pretty!  I love it- still, and I’ve had it for well over 5 years and haven’t wanted to change it out yet.  And, this was so very easy and quick to do, it didn’t even require Marty’s involvement to help out.  

Is Your Dog or Other Critter Digging Holes?

This is a good idea for a non-decorative, very functional re-purposing of  oyster shells.  Our dog was digging holes under the stairs to our porches.  Then when it rained, those holes would fill with water and become a mosquito haven, thus ruining our porch time in the evenings.  One year we decided to dump all the used oyster shells under the stairs.  I think we have four sets of stairs including the front and the back porch.  She stopped digging, because those shells are sharp and they hurt her paws.  I really thought I was a genius for this one until we started to smell a rotten meat kind of smell all around our house (and even a little inside).  It took us awhile, but we finally realized that the shells weren’t completely clean and we had so many of them all around our house, we just had to tough it out until the smell dissipated.  It was pretty rancid at first, but we just left it and it finally went away.  So, if you decide to do this, make sure there is no meat at all left in those shells when you scatter them around your house outside, or your outdoor space will smell like low tide for awhile.

Making Wreaths and Picture Frames

I’ve had some success with this, and some serious aggravation.  Basically, I’ve had my fill of this project, and I won’t be doing anymore.  Hot glue doesn’t work at all because the shells are too heavy and as soon as you put your frame or wreath upright they will fall off, which is super annoying.  The only way I’ve found to make it last is to have the tiny holes drilled into each side of the shell, and then I use florist wire to secure the shells onto the wreath frame or picture frame.  In my opinion this project is a  on the POMP scale due to the massive frustration and time consuming nature of trying to get it to look right and be long-lasting enough to really enjoy it.  

I do have a wreath made out of oyster shells right above my fireplace inside.  It’s beautiful, but when we build fires, the bottom shells get soot on them and then I have to re-stain them every year.  Again, a major pain in the ass, but pretty.  It’s not a project I would want to get involved in with Marty because I usually end up crying and feeling like I wasted my time.  Then, for some reason unknown to me I blame him for it not working out.  Good thing he loves me.  It’s a damn good thing.  

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