What We're Working On: My Upcycled Patio Heater Jukebox
I saw this rusted out, old fashioned, cylindrical patio heater at a yard sale and could not walk away from it. Like a shark investigating a buoy I circled it for a few minutes and then bit it for $20. I rolled it home on its tiny wheels and it stood in my yard for a couple of years. Eagle eyed readers may have spotted it in the backgrounds of other projects like the Frank Sinatra Table,
and Fake Fireplace.
It was beyond ever being a heater again, but it deserved better than the upcycling default solution, “make it a planter.” That’s really downcycling. Even, “make it a lamp” wasn’t taking it far enough. Finally it hit me, make it a jukebox.
Breaking It Down
This thing was full of rust and spiders, so it had to be cleaned, and I needed room inside for stereo components and lights, so the guts had to go. That meant taking it completely apart. If it was in good condition, that would mean just taking out a bunch of screws, but if it was in good condition it would still be a heater. The gas fittings in the base, and rotten rubber hoses, came out easy, but the fasteners on the screen surrounding the heating elements were so frozen with rust that no screw extractor would budge them, and getting leverage was impossible, because the screen was so rusted I could push through it with a stray knuckle.
The oscillating tool was the solution.
With the metal cutting blade I cut off all the screw heads and only partially destroyed one of the flanges holding them down.
After that it took some cutting to get the burners out, but I ended up with some materials for other projects.
Cleaning It Up and Painting It
My new jukebox would live inside, so it couldn’t be bleeding rust all over the place. I sanded it smooth enough to repaint and polished the stainless steel doors of the base.
The steel had a brassy finish, and since the screen was too fragile to sand, I hit it with shiny, metallic spray-paint with a brass tone. As a contrast, I painted the other surfaces a rich primary blue, echoing the painted cast-iron of the steam era.
I couldn’t reattach the screen to the base as it was originally, because I cut it apart. So with a router I cut a wooden disk with a hole in the middle and put a coved edge around the outside (basically a toilet seat).
I stained it gunstock red. The cut out disk goes in the base to cover the hole and support the audio components.
The brass-tone doors went back on the base and the wooden disk went on top of that.
I still had the same leverage/access problem when it came to screwing the screen down, so I drilled pilot holes in the disk at a 45-degree angle matched up with each flange. I screwed the screen in place with eye screws.
To keep prying eyes out of the interior of the cylinder I hung two layers of 3-mil plastic inside the screen and then put the cap back on. One layer of 3-mil wasn’t thick enough, and 6-mil didn’t hang right – problem solved.
Adding the Components
The empty base had plenty of room for a stereo that features a CD player, Bluetooth and USB. There’s space for a turntable too, but I’m not hip enough to have a vinyl collection. I ran the speaker wires through the wooden ring and unto the cylinder and stacked two speakers behind the plastic curtain. I attached a bracket to the top speaker and installed two LED bulbs. One bulb is just an area light and it operates with my smart house system. The other light comes on when the music plays and pulses in colors to the beat.
The remote for the stereo has an optical sensor and can’t see through the closed door, so I installed an optical repeater with an electric eye at the bottom of the cylinder and the repeater inside the base.
Now that it was all together it was too majestic to keep calling it an upcycled heater, and jukebox may or may not even be technically correct. This creation was unique and it needed a name befitting its appearance and function.
Rising out of the rust and ashes, I give you, “the Audiopticon.”