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

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