A few weeks ago, I was on a mad hunt for wayward license plates. My vain search nearly led me to the old, rusting doors of the Columbus Stockade, hoping to find cast-offs from ne’er-do-wells serving penance.

Why, you ask?

A justifiable question. Most folks know I’m regretful that there are even just two cars in this household. I also feel compelled to explain that I wasn’t planning a classic heist caper, so I didn’t require a selection of out-of-state plates for my getaway.

What I had in mind was a wee craft project to add some ramshackle charm to our house and our rental properties.

And, at last, I found a stack of plates at a giant thrift mall that was going out of business. They weren’t as cheap as I’d hoped. Antique? My ass they are… But Mr. Sparky (my angle grinder) was thirsty and demanding sacrifice, so I grabbed the plates I needed and headed to the workbench.

DIY house numbers using licence platesSo, I learned a few things:

  • License plates vary widely, state to state and by age, in terms of what they’re made of and how thick they are. I could cut up the aluminum ones without kicking up any sparks whatsoever. But galvanized steel? That was a light-show, friends.
  • They’re pretty easy to slice through with a grinder. I started by using a vice to hold the plate in place. But soon I was just clamping one end and holding the other with my hand, which gave me more control and dampened the vibrations. (I always kept safety glasses on, though. Duh.)
  • Texas’s plate was completely awesome. The one I found featured a cowboy, natch, but also a moon, oil derricks, and a space shuttle. This is called the “Panoramic Texas” plate, issued 2000-2009. It should be noted that Texas appears very aware of how rad its plates have been, as their Department of Motor Vehicles offers a 255-page PDF history of their plates. And this guide only covers up to 1999.

house number-800So maybe you’ve figured out where I’m going with all this, but if not, here’s the ending — with perhaps less surprise than a Nicholas Sparks film. (But also less nausea. So there’s that.)

I made house numbers for our properties, and they look great, with the same sort of roughshod, well-meaning styling of our gentrifying neighborhood.

Maybe one day we’ll be a historic-plate-by-the-front-door village, but for now, the bill is fit perfectly by these little numbers.

Finally, in honor of Mr. Sparky:

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