Friday, January 31, 2014

DIY House Numbers

DIY House Numbers
One small house project we've been meaning to get to since we moved in to this house is to paint the old house numbers. The numbers were painted white along with the rest of the porch trim, so they are a bit camouflaged. They are not completely invisible, as evidenced by the fact that the pizza delivery person still manages to find us. But it's not ideal for giving directions to friends, family, and other food delivery folks.

When I did my Homemade Wood Stain project, I was thinking about those house numbers. I had seen Pinterest projects using reclaimed wood as a base for pre-made metal house numbers. I decided to take the DIY a step further and save some money in the process.

The longer title of this post should be "DIY House Numbers with Homemade Wood Stain and Packing Tape Image Transfers."  (Say that 20 times fast!) Several years ago, I saw a craft show on PBS describing the technique of using packing tape to transfer a printed image. Well, this craft novice was flabbergasted. I couldn't quite remember how it worked, so I found this great tutorial to refresh my memory. It gives really helpful step-by-step directions, so I encourage you to check it out if you want more thorough directions on the process:

The steps to make my DIY House Numbers:

1. Glue the stained wood slats together using wood glue, and glue two support slats onto the back. (If you don't have wood slats, you can use one thin, solid piece of wood in the size you prefer. Use your creativity!)

Arrange Wood Slats for DIY House Numbers
First I arranged the slats to get an idea of how many I would use.
Glue Wood Slats for DIY House Numbers
Spread wood glue between the slats. It only takes a light layer of glue; I spread it with my finger.
Glue Wood Slats for DIY House Numbers
I put two slats on the back to add more support. I just pushed down for several seconds for the glue to take hold.
Wood glue usually calls for a clamp to hold the pieces together while they dry. I don't have a clamp, but since this wood will not be a structural support nor holding a lot of weight, I just pushed them together for several seconds and let it dry overnight.

And once again, my glue-sniffing cat couldn't help herself.
Cat Sniffing Glue
I wouldn't let her on the floor near my project, so she hoped the fumes drifted upward.
2. Pick a font and color you like in a word processing program and print off the numbers; photocopy using a laser copier if necessary.

In order for the image transfer to work, the ink must be printed on a laser printer, not an ink jet.  The paper will be getting very wet, and the ink from an ink jet will run. We do not have a laser printer, so I printed on our ink jet and then took my numbers to a copy shop to copy them.  I couldn't decide on the color of numbers to use so I printed all three--a dark red, a light tan, and black.

Numbers for Image Transfer for DIY House Numbers
Printed on my ink jet then photocopied on a laser copier.
3. Place packing tape over the number, overlapping if needed. Rub the tape to remove air bubbles and ensure the ink sticks evenly. Place the taped number in warm water, and as it soaks, gently rub the paper off the back using the pad of your thumb. 

The ink from the image will transfer to the tape, leaving you a number with no white on the back.

Packing Tape Image Transfer for DIY House Numbers
Tape, soak, gently rub. That's all there is to it!
After trying one number in each color, I decided I liked the contrast of the black the best.

Packing Tape Image Transfer for DIY House Numbers
When overlapping tape, it works best to rub the first piece, removing all air bubbles, then place the second piece.  
Packing Tape Image Transfer for DIY House Numbers
I used the back of my scissors to rub the tape firmly onto the paper.
After the first number, I realized it was easier to cut the excess paper off before soaking the number.
Packing Tape Image Transfer for DIY House Numbers
Cut the excess paper off first, then soak.
4.  After the paper is removed and the numbers have dried, Mod Podge them to the wooden squares.

The tape retains some of its stickiness after the paper is wiped off, which is both good and bad.  It's good because it will stick to the wood enough to help with positioning. It's bad because if you try to dry the number with a paper towel or cloth towel, it will pick up all the fluff and lint and you will have to soak it again. The best bet is to place the numbers non-sticky side down on a towel and let it air dry.  You can shake the excess water off, but don't wipe the back.

I have both gloss and matte Mod Podge on hand; I decided to use gloss finish (Mod Podge CS11202 Original 16-Ounce Glue, Gloss Finish) for this project since the tape retained its shine. I used a sponge brush to apply it. Put a little Mod Podge on the back of the number and affix it to the wood (the tape stickiness will also help hold it down). Then spread a layer over the number and wood, in long, even strokes.

Mod Podge Numbers for DIY House Numbers
One coat of Mod Podge.
I applied two coats to the front and sides of the squares, allowing sufficient dry time between coats. I applied only one coat to the back, just to protect and seal the wood.

Mod Podge Numbers for DIY House Numbers
Two coats of Mod Podge.
5. Hook the numbers together using dowel rods and/or jute cord.

I initially was going to use thin rope or jute cord to link the numbers together, but we have been having days of 60+ mph winds, so I decided to use thin wooden dowel rods for more support.
Dowel Rods for DIY House Numbers
Two small dowel rods that I later dyed to match the blocks.
I dyed the dowels using my homemade wood stain leftover from dyeing the slats. (*Side note from that project- I had let the mixture steep another week, but I didn't notice the dye being any darker. So, three days of steel wool in vinegar is sufficient.*) I then glued the dowels to the back of each square along the support pieces. Either I affixed the support pieces slightly cock-eyed, or the dowels were slightly bent, because they didn't fit quite right on all four tiles.  I just glued the heck out of them with wood glue to compensate.
Dowel Rods and Jute Cord for DIY House Numbers
Left- Gluing the dowels, using extra wood slats to keep the squares straight; Top Right- Glue the jute cord onto the top square; Bottom Right- Wrap the jute cord evenly down the dowels.
I purchased a little over a yard of jute cord from a fabric store; they keep it on rolls next to the ribbons. I decided that instead of just making a hook at the top, I should wrap the cord around the dowels to add some interesting texture. I only glued the jute cord at the top in case I didn't like it and wanted to remove it later. I wrapped it a couple times between each wooden square and just pulled it straight down behind each square.
Finished DIY House Numbers
You can see the wraps of jute cord between each square.  I tied it in a bow on the bottom.
Then, after everything had dried, my hubby helped me cut the excess wood off the bottoms of the dowels with the saw he got for Christmas.  Yay for power tools! (*Note to self-- measure and cut the dowels BEFORE gluing them to the squares.  It's easier that way.)

6. Enjoy your new, easy-to-see house numbers!

Finished DIY House Numbers

Finished DIY House Numbers

Finished DIY House Numbers
The other benefit of the jute cord wrapped around the dowels is that if I decide to spruce up the numbers for each season, it would be easy to slide in flowers, leaves, greenery, or other decor right under the wrapped cords.

Things I learned on this project:
  • Lighter colors (like the light tan I printed) do not transfer to the tape as well.  Go with darker colors for better visibility.  My light tan looked practically clear after rubbing the paper off.
  • When overlapping tape, place one piece at a time, rubbing the air bubbles out completely before placing the second piece.  The seams from the overlapping aren't too noticeable, but be sure to rub the tape down along the lines.
  • Cut the excess paper off before soaking to save some work.
  • Don't dry the back of the tape with paper towels! Shake them off and let them air dry, non-sticky side down.
  • Give wood glue plenty of time to dry.
  • Cut dowel rods before gluing them to your project.
This total project cost me less than $5.00-- this includes the cost of the steel wool to make the original wood stain, the photocopies, the dowel rods, and the jute cord. The rest of the supplies I had on hand--the wood, Mod Podge, packing tape, wood glue, and sponge brush.  I compared the cost of this project with what it would have cost to buy new house numbers. The new house numbers I saw in the store range in price from $0.99 to $8.00 each, from cheap plastic to lovely brass.  Apart from buying the plastic numbers, I saved money and made something pretty in the process! And people can find our house now.

Glue Sniffing Cat
"Oh man, I love me some glue fumes."
The pizza delivery guy will thank me.
~Mulligan Mama

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Turn Cardboard into "Corkboard" (and Makeover Old Cork Board)

Turn Cardboard into "Corkboard" (and Makeover Old Cork Board)
Today's post is a good example of how a little brainstorming and experimenting can change the direction of a project... hopefully for the better!  (But if not, there's always room to learn and try again!)

Initially I set out to cover an old cork board that my daughter uses to hang her artwork. The cork board is probably 5 years old and has seen its share of holes.  It also isn't thick enough to accommodate most push pins, so you can imagine that since the back is full of holes, the wall behind it was full of scratches.
Makeover Old Cork Board
The cork board was showing some wear and tear.
Makeover Old Cork Board
The back-- cork board carnage!
I wanted to make the cork board thicker so pins couldn't push all the way through.  I cut up an old cardboard box and pieced together a new back for the cork board.  I hot glued the pieces down.  It doesn't have to be a single piece of cardboard, because no one will see this part.  As long as the back is covered, it should work.
Makeover Old Cork Board
I pieced together flaps from an old cardboard box.
I purchased a yard of fabric on clearance (plus I had a 40% off coupon!) so it was cheap.  :-)  Because the fabric was new, it was still stiff and didn't require ironing.  I placed the fabric right side down and placed the cork board face down on the fabric.  I cut about 2 inches of fabric around the cork board and pulled it tightly over the sides. I pinned the middle of each edge down to keep the fabric snug.  If you pin all four sides down, you can turn the cork board over and make sure you like the look of it before gluing.
Makeover Old Cork Board
Allow enough fabric to fold over the edge. 
Makeover Old Cork Board

Makeover Old Cork Board
Pull the fabric tightly and pin the fabric in the middle of each edge to hold it in place.
I used a hot glue gun to glue down the edges of the fabric, making sure to pull the fabric tight.  I used the push pins to hold the fabric securely while the glue dried. I folded the corners much like folding wrapping paper on a present.  I couldn't make the prettiest looking corners, but again, no one will see the back. Once the glue dries (which doesn't take long at all with a hot glue gun), you can remove the pins.

Makeover Old Cork Board
Be careful with hot glue-- it WILL soak through the fabric and burn your fingers! (See my "Things I Learned" list at the end of this post.)
Cat and Hot Glue
My cat has always been obsessed with the smell of glue.  She's a weirdo.
And ta-da! An old cork board gets a whole new look for about two dollars.
Makeover Old Cork Board
I could have stopped here, but I kept on going...
At this point, I realized I still had left over fabric and parts of my cut-up cardboard box left over.  I decided to see if I could use plain old cardboard to make "corkboard."  Three layers of cardboard weren't quite thick enough; a pin could still push all the way through.  But four layers were enough to hold a pin. Push pins don't go quite as easily into cardboard as they do into cork board, but they hold securely once they are pushed in all the way.

Turn Cardboard into "Corkboard"
Lots of leftover cardboard; four layers are enough to hold a pin.
Now, I could have taken the perfectionistic route here and measured my cardboard exactly to get perfectly straight edges and perfectly sized boards. I wasn't in the mood to be perfect, though, so I eyeballed it and cut out four pieces of three sizes of cardboard to make three new "corkboards."
Turn Cardboard into "Corkboard"
I straightened up the edges a bit more, but they weren't perfectly square or straight.
I glued four cardboard pieces together, putting a heavy book on top of them to make sure they dried nice and tight. I then repeated the process for two more "corkboards," and then I covered each of them with fabric.
Turn Cardboard into "Corkboard"
Covering my cardboard "corkboard."
I remembered I had some green and blue fabric leftover from being a green screen and a blue screen back when I was learning to make videos. I dug it out of an old storage tote and found that it matched my fabric pattern quite nicely.  Because it was wrinkly from being stored, I ironed it before gluing it to the cardboard.

At this point I had run out of hot glue, so I used Elmer's.  It worked just fine, but since it takes longer to dry, I had to keep the push pins in longer to hold the fabric while it dried. I also used a stapler to secure the fabric in place, especially on the corners.

Turn Cardboard into "Corkboard"
A stapler also works to secure fabric.
Finally, I decided to add some ribbon around the cork boards, so that if my daughter didn't want to poke holes in her artwork, she could still display it in her room.
Turn Cardboard into "Corkboard"
I secured the ribbon with a stapler.
Turn Cardboard into "Corkboard" (and Makeover Old Cork Board)
Arranging the corkboards on the floor before hanging them on the wall.  I added a bow to one to dress it up a little.
I attached the new "corkboards" to her wall using 3M Command strips. Those things work wonders for those of us with plaster walls! The finished product:
Turn Cardboard into "Corkboard" (and Makeover Old Cork Board)
Ready for some artwork!  
Is it perfect?  By no means.  Do I mind?  Not really.  They are functional and will soon be covered in wonderful pictures, drawings, and paintings.

Things I learned from this project:
  • Use a warm glue gun instead of a hot glue gun if you can.  I don't know how I manage to do it, but I burn myself EVERY TIME I use my hot glue gun.  The glue will soak through the fabric on this project and will easily stick to your fingers when pushing the fabric down. I vowed I would get a warm glue gun after I used up the last of my hot glue sticks, and since I used the last of them on this project, I finally can.  My fingers are thanking me already.
  • Elmer's glue or craft glue works just as well but will require being pinned down to hold the fabric tight as it dries.  I used Elmer's glue for the last three boards, and the fabric starts to slide back if not firmly pinned down.  Or, you can use a stapler to secure the fabric.
  • Iron your fabric first if it is wrinkly. It will make your board look smoother and will allow you to pull the fabric tightly around the edges.
  • Wrap a ribbon tightly around the board and secure to the back if you want to be able to display pictures without pins.
  • If you want to ensure straight edges, cut with an X-acto knife or utility knife and a straight edge.  This will give you a smoother, straighter edge than using scissors.  I used scissors, and I eyeballed my straight line. The final product isn't as crisp and sharp as it could have been had I taken the time to measure and cut my cardboard.
  • The adage is true-- measure twice and cut once, especially if you are going for straight, clean edges.  Or you can try my "eyeball it" method-- just depends on how much time and effort you want to spend on this project.
  • Keep the cat away from the glue.  Because if the cat is obsessed with the glue, and the dog is obsessed with the cat, it can make for a very hairy project.
Cat and Dog Sniffing Glue
My furry, glue-sniffing helpers.
Off to nurse my burned fingers!
~Mulligan Mama

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Homemade Wood Stain

Homemade Wood Stain

I use vinegar for many jobs around our house: laundry, cleaning windows and floors, clearing out drains, dissolving hard water, etc. It is such a versatile product--not to mention inexpensive, readily available, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly. I don’t mind the smell at all. Hubby is still getting used to the smell of vinegar as a cleaning product instead of an ingredient in hot sauce. ;-)

I recently learned that vinegar could be used to make a homemade wood stain.  What manner of chemical magic was this? I’ve been wanting to refinish various of pieces of furniture in our house, and while my experience with staining wood is limited (read: zero to none), I thought this would be a good way to learn, since the products are inexpensive and non-hazardous. (But apparently steel wool is a slight fire hazard. Good to know, Google. Just be sure to keep it away from open flames, heaters, and any source of electrical sparks.)

How to Make Homemade Wood Stain
All you need is:
That’s it! It assembles quickly but does require time for the steel wool to oxidize.

Step-by-step directions I followed for making my wood stain:

1. Pull apart two steel wool pads to increase the surface area exposed to the vinegar.  Stuff them into a glass jar.
Homemade Wood Stain with Steel Wool and Vinegar

2.  Pour apple cider vinegar over the steel wool and close the lid.
Homemade Wood Stain with Steel Wool and Vinegar
I've read that white vinegar and other types of vinegar will produce a different color stain.  An experiment for another day, perhaps. I think the brownish hue of apple cider vinegar is the way to go for my particular project.

3. Let the jar sit for about 3 days.  Shake it gently to mix.
Homemade Wood Stain with Steel Wool and Vinegar
This is what it looks like after 3 days. I kept the jar in a dark room in our basement. I don't know if that is crucial or not, but it does smell like strong vinegar, so you might not want it hanging out in your kitchen.  The steel wool floats to the top. 
Homemade Wood Stain with Steel Wool and Vinegar
This is what it looks like after shaking it gently (over a sink!).
4. Strain the liquid into a different container. (Make sure you are wearing old clothes and gloves.)
Homemade Wood Stain with Steel Wool and Vinegar
I used a plastic container that had held coleslaw from the grocery deli the day before. Yay for reusing!

5. Brush stain onto wood surface.  
Wood Before Homemade Wood Stain
My kids have a wooden building set that they never use anymore. I almost donated it to Goodwill but realized it was great craft wood. I have a couple ideas of how to use it, and staining it is the first step.

*Note*- I am terrible at identifying types of wood.  I don't know what kind of wood this is, but I think it is safe to say that different woods will react differently to this stain. Old stains, sealants, and finishes would also affect the finished product. When in doubt, try an inconspicuous area beforehand.  I wouldn't recommend lathering this stain all over a piece of furniture until you know how the stain will darken!
Homemade Wood Stain
My daughter and I "painted" on the liquid with sponge brushes. It doesn't require a lot-- just until the wood is wet. Be careful not to flick your wrist, as the stain will splatter. It wipes up easily if you catch it before it dries.

If your wood is small, you can just dunk it in the mixture. Just enough to get it wet.
Homemade Wood Stain

6. Let dry.
Homemade Wood Stain
We used torn pages from an old phone book under our handiwork to absorb the liquid.

Homemade Wood Stain
The wood darkens quickly as it dries. This is the result after about 30 minutes or so.

7.  Enjoy as is or make something with it!

You can see in the picture below what a transformation occurred in a short amount of time. The top left is the starting color, top right is a minute or so after staining, the bottom left is 15 minutes or so, and the bottom right is about 30 minutes. One coat, just enough to get the wood wet, was all it took!

Homemade Wood Stain

*Science Alert*-  Here’s why it works.  Steel wool is made from iron. The vinegar dissolves the coating on the steel wool, so the iron comes in contact with oxygen in the air.  The oxygen causes the iron to rust. The oxidized iron also reacts with tannins in the wood, causing the color to darken.  Cool, huh?

I will show you what I’m going to do with these little stained beauties in a future post!

~Mulligan Mama

Sources for the science stuff:

Sources that introduced me to the process of homemade stain and what to do with it:

*Update to this project*- I let the vinegar and steel wool solution soak for another week then used it to dye dowel rods for my DIY House Numbers project. I also dyed a couple more wood slats to see how the extra time affected the color of the dye compared to the initial dye. I couldn't notice a difference between the wood dyed after 3 days and the wood dyed after 10 days. So, 3 days is sufficient to achieve a nice color of wood stain and more time might not make much difference.*