January 3, 2013

'Twas a DIY Christmas

"On the 1st day of Christmas, my cheap husband/son/brother gave to me..."

Merry belated Christmas and congratulations on surviving the Mayan apocalypse.

For the first time ever, Court and I agreed to tone Christmas down a bit in the wake of our home renovation spending extravaganza. Normally, Christmas is Courtney's time to shine, buying up presents like an elf hopped up on Christmas crank. Don't get me wrong, we didn't eliminate Christmas this year, we just found creative ways to pile on the presents.

To recap, we completely re-did our kitchen and guest and master baths, among other smaller projects. And, although we saved a TON of money with smart spending and by using yours truly as the cheap labor for most of it, that was still a handsome bill. Last I checked, I can't make granite counters, and quality light and sink fixtures aren't among the things that people throw on their curb on trash pickup day. But I bet you might be familiar with something that is widely available if you know where to look...pallets.

And with that little nugget, allow me to present to you my latest addiction, pallet board signs. I handmade a bevy of these little bastards for various friends and family as Christmas gifts. Some were college teams, and some were other designs. I plan on doing another post soon showcasing some of the other designs.

Skip down to the bottom of the post if you want to know how I made them.

Email me if you want one of your own, customized for your team, university or gang (Additional charges may apply for gang members and/or Alabama fans).

Just the design outline woodburned

Closeup so you can see the woodburning detail

The final product
I know, Col. Reb is no longer the official Ole Miss mascot, but if you ask any Ole Miss alum, it is. As a Tennessee fan and graduate, I have to admit it was a bit awkward for me to put so much effort into making Ole Miss propaganda, but if I am going to have any success doing these types of things on the side, I'll have to get over that pretty quick, right? 

OK, so here are the steps I took, but please know that this is a very tedious project that requires concentration, a steady hand and a lot of patience.

How I Did It...

1) Find a pallet board, older is better, that is fairly straight with consistent edges (not nearly as easy as you might think)
2) Cut it into 3 sections. A lot of pallet boards are anywhere from 30-40 inches long, and 3-4 inches wide, so the size of this sign was roughly 9" tall by 12" wide.
3) Attach the boards together from the back, using two 1" x 2" boards and 1 1/4" wood screws.
4) Lightly sand the entire front of the piece with 120 grit sandpaper
5) Sketch the design onto the front. If you're artistic, you won't have a problem with this. If not (me!) then you can print out the design and make a stencil using an X-acto knife.
6) Burn the outline in with a woodburning tool. This is optional, obviously, but I think it makes the piece authentic and original. A lot of people can color inside lines, but woodburning is a skill that takes a lot of practice to do well.
7) Paint the red parts red, blue parts blue and white parts white. It takes a lot longer to do than to say, but the concept is really that simple.
8) Once the paint is dry, lightly sand it evenly to distress is and let the wood show through.
9) Wipe the whole thing off with a dry towel and apply stain and/or poly top coat with a brush. I found a new product I LOVE that combines both steps into one: Minwax PolyShades. It is a tinted polyurethane, AKA timesaver. I prefer the Pecan or Antique Walnut colors, in a satin finish.

Knowledge Bomb #161: Did you notice how the two 1"x2" boards were completely different colors in the photo above? I tried a trick I learned from GirlInAir to instantly make new, raw wood look aged. Dissolve fine grade steel wool in a jar of distilled white vinegar overnight, then apply like a stain and let sit overnight. The board on the left is the one I aged, and the one on the right is unfinished. Great result when you have to use new wood in a pinch, but nothing beats a piece of wood that has been used and abused over a long period of time.

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