Dyed Coffee Stir Stick Art… The Sequel

Ready For PolySo, when I made the original coffee stir stick art, I dyed many more stir sticks than I needed for the project.  Had I painted the sticks, I would not have done this, but the dying method allows you to dye a lot of pieces with the same amount of work.  To me, it made sense to make extras.

Frame/CanvasesI wanted to make some smaller pieces to hang in my office… or perhaps somewhere else.  I wanted these pieces to have frames, so I looked to my favorite wood frame/canvases from Michaels.  These are great because you can paint or stain them as you wish.  Then, you can either make art on the outside, or you can use the inside to give the impression of a frame.

Stained Frame/CanvasesI stained the frames, using my favorite Kona stain by Rust-oleum.  I only used one coat, which allows a bit of grain to show through.  If you want a more solid look, try using a second coat.  I always stain underneath where the wood will be glued because this keeps gaps in the wood from standing out.

 

Partially GluedThe rest of the project went in a similar fashion to the original coffee stir stick art, except for edges.  Since the inside corners of the frame are rounded, I had to make some cuts to fit the curve.  I have been using tin snips for this, but any number of cutting elements will do the trick.

 

Almost Finished Stir Stick ArtI still have to poly this piece and finish the other three pieces.  I will post the finished project when it is done.  One thing I will say is that it is delightful to use stir sticks for smaller projects.  It’s nice to feel a sense of accomplishment without working for 8 hours!

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Coffee Stir Stick Art

Dyed Coffee Stir Stick ArtIn the last few months, I have developed a deep love of turning mundane things into art, especially wooden mundane objects.  Several months ago, I made a piece of artwork out of wood shims for the waiting room at work, and ever since then I have been planning to make a project with wooden coffee stir sticks.  On the shim piece, I painted all sides of every piece of wood, but that wasn’t gonna cut it with tiny little stir sticks.  I have been wanting to try dyeing wood for years, so I thought this was the perfect chance!

P1040573The week after Easter, I bought a bunch of egg dyeing kits, on sale, with the intent of using them on this project.  I wanted to make sure that the art didn’t look like an Easter egg, so I also bought three colors of Rit fabric dye in darker colors.  Finally, I pulled out my fave wood stain, Minwax Kona.  I also bought wooden stir sticks with square ends from Amazon, and I pulled out a leftover scrap of wood from the shim project. Once I did this, it was time to get to work.

I wanted the main colors of the piece to be natural wood, stained wood, and red.  I had 2 boxes of stir sticks, so I divided one box fairly evenly between the three main colors. I divided the second box fairly evenly between the other 9 colors.

The Minwax Kona staining process was super easy.  I used a disposable container and tossed the sticks in a bit of stain to coat. With the Rit dye, I simply added about a half teaspoon of each color of powdered dye to water and poured it over the stir sticks.

Dyeing Stir SticksFor the egg dye, I dissolved 2 of each color tablet in 3 tablespoons of vinegar and let them dissolve.  It’s REALLY tough to tell what color the tablets are when they’re dry, so I dabbed them with water to ensure that I was putting 2 tablets of the same color together.  Once the tablets dissolved, I added a half cup of water and poured the dye over the stir sticks in a disposable container.  I added a little violet gel food coloring to the purple batch because the color was a bit gray without it.

Eventually, I ran out of disposable containers, and I started using gallon zipper bags.  If I had to do it over again, I would have used all bags for the sake of easy cleanup and minimal use of counter space.

Drying Stir SticksI ended up leaving the sticks in the dye for about a day and a half, and the time made a lot of difference in the depth of color.  I recommend leaving the sticks in the dye for at least a day.  Once the sticks were ready to come out of the dye, I drained them and placed them on paper towels to dry, which took about a day.  I could have sped up the drying process by putting the stir sticks on a drying rack or even using a hair dryer or heat gun, but I was in no hurry.

Grouping Stir SticksOnce the sticks dried, I divided them into groups that would eventually become the rows of the piece.  I planned to have a 1’x4′ finished product, which translated to 70 rows of 8 1/2 stir sticks.  I wanted each row to have at least 1 red, natural, and Kona stained stick, so I divvied those up first.  I then divided the other colors amongst the groups.  I did this on a big carpet, and it was like an extreme sport with the dogs walking around!

Gluing Stir SticksFinally, it was time to start gluing.  I initially tried using wood glue. Of course, wood glue takes while to dry, so I was having to hold the tiny and sometimes not flat sticks in place for awhile before moving on.  That wasn’t going to work with 630 sticks, so I switched to high-temp hot glue, being careful not to slop it all over the other rows.  Once I was finished covering the whole board, cutting a few pieces per row into smaller pieces to add texture and variety, I glued some extra pieces over the top of some of the seams of the lower pieces for even more texture and depth. It pretty much took me all day to glue on all of the sticks, and I am glad I didn’t decide to do a bigger piece because I might still be sitting at the table with a glue gun claw hand!

Time for PolyWhen I was FINALLY done gluing, it was time to polyurethane the piece, but it was full of those annoying hot glue strings.  To quickly fix this, I went over the piece lightly with my heat gun.  Of course, you want to be careful doing this on a hot glued piece, but it quickly took care of the strings.  Once that was done, I mixed 4 or 5 drops of a stain/poly mix into a good bit of hand-rubbed poly (about a cup), and I applied it to the whole piece.  Then it was time to let the piece dry and hang it up over the bed!

P1040627I am pretty pleased with the results, and I am happy to have the extra splash of color on the bedroom wall.  If you decide to attempt this project or something like it, I would love to hear about it!  As usual, thanks for reading and for sharing my passion for creativity. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find something to do with the leftover, dyed stir sticks!

 

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Sliced Wood Art

Conference Room Art  This triptych is made of 2x2s and 4x4s sliced into uneven pieces (1/2"-1 1/4"), painted, stained, and wood glued to 1/4" pieces of luan. The whole piece was then stained with a mix of stain and hand rubbed poly.
Conference Room Art This triptych is made of 2x2s and 4x4s sliced into uneven pieces (1/2″-1 1/4″), painted, stained, and wood glued to 1/4″ pieces of luan. The whole piece was then stained with a mix of stain and hand rubbed poly.

Recently, I made the artwork pictured above for our conference room at work, so I thought I would share how I made it.  For this project, you’ll need:

  • 3 – 2’x2′ sheets of luan, which you can find precut at the local home store
  • 3 – 8′ long 2″x2″s
  • 1 – 8′ long 4″x4″ (You can get the store to cut these in half for you if you need to fit them in a car.)
  • Access to a miter or chop saw, capable of slicing 4″x4″s, along with knowledge and accessories (safety glasses) for safe use
  • A piece of sand paper (I used 60 grit because I had it handy, but almost any will do for this.)
  • As many different colors of acrylic or other paint as you wish to use.
  • Small paint brush
  • Cup of water to clean brush between colors
  • Paper towels
  • Pieces of cloth (An old ripped up tshirt cut into pieces will do nicely.)
  • Wood glue (One bottle should do.)
  • Dark stain for “dirtying” (Remnants from a previous project are fine. Mine was called Kona)
  • A premixed stain/poly blend (I used one called Bombay Mahogany)
  • Hand-rubbed polyurethane (It will be in a rectangular can)
  • A throw away bowl or plastic cup
  • Picture hanging hardware, preferably wire and screws

Once you have the materials together, here’s what you do:

  1.  Slice the 4x4s into uneven slices between 1/2″ and 1 1/4″.  You’ll need 98 total pieces of 4×4 to cover 2 pieces of 2’x2′ luan, and you probably won’t be able to cut all the way to the end of the board without the saw blade kicking it at you.  Because of that, I would reccomend cutting most of them well under the inch mark.  Just remember not to make them all the same thickness.
  2. Slice the 2x2s in the same manner.  These will feel easy after the 4x4s!  You will need a total of 256 slices to cover one 2’x2′ piece of luan with these.
  3. Once you are done with cutting, take a break and contemplate whether you ever want to see a miter saw again!!! 🙂
  4. Next, use your piece of sandpaper, or a sanding block, to sand off just the scraggly edges of the blocks.  If you have a big box hanging around the house, you can sand into the box while watching a marathon of something good on Netflix.  May I suggest Buffy the Vampire Slayer?  I wouldn’t worry about getting the blocks smooth.  The defects and roughness give character to the finished piece.
  5. Next, you’ll want to divide the blocks into groups, based on what colors you plan to paint them.  There is no hard and fast rule for this, but I had as many piles as paint colors plus a pile to leave unpainted.  I had no less than 4 blocks per color of 4×4 slices to allow for 2 per board.  I picked a dominant color (aqua in this case), a dark neutral color (dark brown) and the unfinished pieces for the biggest piles.  Each of these piles had about twice the pieces of any other color, to give the piece focus and balance.
  6. Now you are ready to paint the pieces and continue the Netflix marathon.  It is not necessary to paint the backs, since they will be glued to the board and invisible.  I tried to use the sides with the most dings, grain, and character for the front.  Might sound crazy, but this piece is all about character and variation… no room for perfect here!
  7. When you are done painting, it’s time to “dirty” the blocks.  Use the ripped up tshirt cloth to lightly rub some of the dark stain onto some areas of the blocks (even the unpainted ones).  You can rub the stain on the edges and/or parts of the top.  Don’t drown the cloth in stain.  A little goes a long way.  You may wanted to do the lightest blocks when the cloth is almost in need of reloading, so that you don’t make the light blocks too dark.  This process should be quick and not even slightly exact.
  8. Now, you can use the cloth and more stain to stain the front and edges of the luan boards.  There will be some small gaps between blocks in the finished project, and the stain will make them look like shadows instead of naked boards. You can be more generous with the stain here because you want the whole board dark.
  9. Once everything is dry, you can lay the blocks out on the luan.  Two boards will have 7 rows of 7 – 4×4 slices (which will have an overhang on all sides) and one board will have 16 rows of 16 – 2x2s (which will have very small gaps between them.)  Try to evenly distribute the colors while keeping a look of randomness.  I call it strategic randomness, if you’re looking for an oxymoron.
  10. Now you can glue down your slices.  Make sure to make the overhang even on all sides of the pieces covered with 4x4s.  These will be right up against each other.  Make sure the 2×2 slices are flush with the edge.  You will have space between these pieces, and you should distribute them evenly to keep the gap from being noticable.  It’s not necessary to cover every speck of block with wood.  I went one row at a time and put a squiggly line of wood glue under each row.  I left all of the unglued blocks from other rows in place as I worked, to keep the spacing right.
  11. Let the pieces dry overnight after they are glued.
  12. You can now put on the finish coat of poly.  Mix a tiny bit of the stain/poly mix with a bunch of the hand rubbed poly in a throw away bowl or plastic cup, and use another piece of tshirt to rub the entire piece (including sides but not back) with the resulting slightly tinted, hand rubbed poly.  This should not drastically darken the piece, but it should soften the colors and make the piece look aged.
  13. Yay!!  You have created art!!  Now, you can ventilate the piece to get rid of the delightful smell of poly, wait for everything to dry, and use your favorite hanging hardware to hang the piece on the wall!
  14. Finally, sit back and enjoy your hard and fun work.  You have earned a rest.

I hope you enjoy making this project as much as I did.  Even if you decide not to make this project, I hope you find one you enjoy!  If you do make the project, I would love to see it!  Happy crafting.

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You and I have memories, longer than the road that stretches out ahead…

This would not be my blog without a Beatles lyric, and this one is on my mind tonight in relation to my house…  Since I have started writing this blog, I have been asked by many people if I ever stop working and told that just reading my blog makes people tired… On the flip side, doing a lot of home improvement projects brings up the topic of “making a home”.

Having these topics swirling around in my head has made me contemplate why I do the things I do.  Yes, I do a good bit of work on projects around the house, and yes, we could hire someone to do the work we do ourselves.  I will say that I sometimes get sick of painting the same thing for three weekends in a row (she said while grimacing out the window at the unfinished deck).  So, assuming that I am not sick in the head, why do I do these things?  I think that’s where “making a home” comes into play.  You see, to me this work is only a little bit about making things pretty.  I mean, sure it’s nice to have cool stuff to look at in your house, but, after living here for close to 14 years, I see so much more than cool stuff to look at…

I see a deep z-shaped scratch in the floor that we refinished long ago in the kitchen, and I think of the friend who attempted to help sand while having no clue how to use a sander, and I laugh.  I think of talking to my Dad about how I wanted my fireplace to look and coming home each day to see his handiwork (Can you say best Christmas present ever?), and I appreciate the time he took to build it just the way I envisioned.

I look at my bedroom wall and think of the night I stayed up til 4 am painting it and singing 60’s music until I was delirious from the paint fumes.  I see the art in my living room, and I remember how many years I went without painting, until one day I was inspired to rip off a painting I saw on an episode of “Dharma and Greg”, and I remember feeling my soul fill with life again as I sat in the bedroom floor and painted those simple shapes.

I remember painting rooms while singing with my Mom, figuring out and building my first ever chairs with my Dad, and putting in the floor downstairs with my husband while accidentally painting our dog.  I certainly remember when I got up the guts to redo my kitchen completely on my own and how it felt to use power tools and manhandle giant pieces of lumber, and I am once again filled with the great feeling of accomplishment I had when I realized I was strong and capable of taking on big projects.

I could go on and on, but I will spare you at least some of my rambling.  I guess what I am getting at is that the hours that I spend sweating, figuring, pondering, designing, and working on this house, building furniture, and making art give so much more back to me than I put into them… at least in the long run.  Sure, I could get pretty stuff by paying someone, and I could make memories here in other ways.  I have to say, though, that what makes this place a home to me is everything I and my loved ones have put into making it what it is and the beautiful memories and sense of empowerment that work has allowed me to be steeped in every day.  This may be one of the sappiest statements anyone has ever written about a topic that includes power tools, but so be it. 🙂

Oh, and for those who wonder if I rest, you will find the same fingerprints on the remote that you’ll find on the sander. 🙂

(P.S. You may notice that I did not say anything in the above statement about making cake… If you are wondering why, it’s because making cake does little but create dishes… and, oh yeah… it makes you stark raving bananas!  Like I always say, building a dining room table doesn’t take much longer than making a wedding cake, and no one eats the table. 😉 )

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Second Coat Done… At least on part of the deck…

Deck 2nd CoatSo, today we began working on the second coat of white on the deck!  I have gotten the second coat of the inside of the railings finished, and I am pleased with the way it has turned out… despite the nasty sunburn I received in the process!  We still have to finish the second coat on the rest of the deck, and we have to paint the underside of the deck the same color blue that we painted the front porch ceiling.  Hopefully, we can then call the deck done for a few years after that, and my little Betsy won’t have to be painted like she is in the picture above for awhile. 🙂

Once the deck is done, I have several little projects for the front of the house.  I will be building 2 window flower boxes, a new trellis for the rose in the front of the house, and I am REALLY hoping to cover the gable end on the front of the house with cedar shingles… There may also be an arbor building project in there somewhere.  Then, it will be time to redistribute some plants along the front of the house.  After that, I will allegedly sleep until it’s time to redo the kitchen in December… You believe me, don’t you?!

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Deck Stain Progress

Deck Stain ProgressWhile we were painting and repainting the front door this weekend, we also had a major project going on with the deck!!  After all of the stripping we’ve done to the deck floor, we decided to sand the railings.  This was mostly because we did not want to use stripper anywhere near the newly painted house.  I must say that I wish we had used the stripper on the railings before the house was painted because the sanding took forever!

Probably the biggest piece of knowledge I have gained from this project (besides the fact that solid stain is of the devil) is that semi-transparent stain looks NOTHING on actual wood like it does in sample pictures.  You can see above where we tested 3 colors, all of which looked several shades lighter in the stain brochures and stain swatches at Lowes.  We did not want to go too dark on the deck because it is hot enough back there already.  That being said, we wanted to hide a lot of the tree debris that inevitably makes its way on the deck floor.  I loved the look of the raw wood when it was wet, and I think the color we chose looks a good bit like that.  I was also shocked at how much stain soaked into the wood!  The stain was supposed to cover 450 to 600 square feet a gallon.  Our deck, without stairs, is about 300 square feet, and we used almost 2 full gallons of stain in one coat.  This may be due to the age and dryness of the deck, as it was built about 13 years ago.

The day after we stained, we began the first coat of white paint on the railings.  My amazingly helpful parents and I started painting at 9, and by 5:30, we had about 2/3 of the first coat on, and my Mom was hoping we’d run out of paint.  We have a lot of work left to do, but I already think it looks much better than the peeling, pale, pewter pile of patheticness that it was previously covered with. It also seems to have the puppy stamp of approval!

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Finished Paint and the Incredible Color Changing Door!!

Finished PaintI think we are about finished with the house painting!!  The painters returned to paint the vent on the front of the house white.  I think it gives the house a little something.  Once they were done, it was time to give the house some extra touches of personality… and so it began.

My front door has been red since I painted the house gray, many years ago.  My entire house, inside, is decorated in reds, browns, and neutrals, and I have spent years acquiring beloved red objects.  Of course, when I painted the house I wasn’t thinking of that. I was thinking that a new house color warranted a new front door color, so I decided on blue.  I got a couple colors of paint, decided on one, and painted the door and window trim, with the help of my lovely mother.  That night, I began to think of my quest for red and neutrals… I began to think of the ramifications of changing the front door color and what it would mean to the future of decorating my house… Would I have to start trading all of my red stuff in for shades of blue?  Ok, so clearly this was not a rational thought process, but what can ya do?!  Maybe it was the paint fumes… Oh, and did I mention I started thinking that the blue didn’t look as good as I hoped it would or as good as the red?!  So, the next morning,  I woke up, went to Lowes… again… and bought red paint, in a shade slightly darker than the previous red to make myself feel better about my silliness.  Did I mention my mom is amazing?  She didn’t even complain about the fact that we wasted hours painting blue the day before!  I must say, I think the red looks spectacular, and I am glad to have ditched the blue.  I will use the paint for something else.

One thing we painted blue and left that way was the porch ceiling.  I have always loved stories of blue porch ceilings in the South… Whether I believe it wards of spirits (haints), keeps bugs away, or is just pretty, I am not sure.  I do love the nod it gives to old school New Orleans and Atlanta, and I love that it brightens the formerly dark porch.  I also love that the wood on the front porch is no longer naked!!  The painters did a beautiful job painting it white!

Tomorrow, I will write about the progress on the deck, which has been going on at the same time as the painting touches.  After 3 solid, 8 hour days of painting, I am tired and feeling accomplished!!  Until next time, happy creating!

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Paint Progress!!

The quest for curb appeal continues at my house!  The painters came today, and I am amazed at how fast they work.  They have gotten all of the trim primed, and they painted the siding on 3 sides of the house!  When I pulled in the driveway, I was stricken by the fact that the house doesn’t look any darker or lighter… just more brown!  I am looking forward to seeing what it looks like with pretty, newly painted trim, and I am looking forward to adding my own special touches once the painters are done.  Overall, I think the important thing is that the big, stupid horizontal board is gone!!! Yay!!

On a sad note, I had no idea that the painters found a bird’s nest when they took off the gutters… So, it stands to reason that I had no idea there was a bird’s nest inside the fence when i let the dogs out.  Needless to say, I have been chasing Harry around the yard for the last hour, while he picks up and drops baby birds, and my cat looks at him liks she is completely jealous.  I think I got the birds out of harm’s way, so I hope they will be ok.

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Completed Trim

Completed TrimWe finally got back to work on the trim today.  Of course, I thought it would take an hour or two, and of course it took 5 hours!!  We got a late start, so we finished at 6:30, and I still wanted to cut the grass after… That adds up to a giant pile of exhaustion, bu it was worth it!!

Basically, we added a piece of “fancy” trim to the top of the windows.  I used a PVC product for the fancy molding, and boy does it smell good when you cut it (sarcasm)!  It wrapped around the top board, so It was a bit like putting crown molding on the window.  I invented lots of new combinations of 4-letter words trying to get the mitered cuts to fit properly, and my husband called me a potty mouth… My experience is that my behavior is par for the course when doing mitered rim, so I will skip repenting. :-).  We then added a 1×2 that is layng flat on top of the other window trim.  Other than that, we added a tiny, skinny piece of PVC molding over the seam in the siding, which will be painted the same color as the siding, and we added a 1×3 across the top of the porch… Then we caulked everything.

Now for the exciting news… The painters called this evening, and they are planning to start in the morning!!  I can’t wait!!

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Nectar of the Gods Pound Cake

PoundcakeThis is not the prettiest cake in the world, but it is one of my favorites and a crowd pleaser! It smells so good, you will be tempted to stick your face in it and inhale, and the batter is to die for. Enjoy!

Ingredients

Cake

  •  1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  •  ½ cup butter flavored shortening (1/2 stick)
  •  3 cups sugar
  •  5 eggs
  •  3 cups all-purpose flour (I use White Lily)
  •  ½ teaspoon baking powder
  •  ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  1 cup milk
  •  2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •  1 ½ teaspoons coconut extract
  •  1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
  •  Juice of ½ a lemon (Heat it 15-30 seconds in microwave for added juiciness)

 Glaze

  •  1 cup powdered sugar
  •  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •  1/4 teaspoons coconut extract
  •  1/4 teaspoons almond extract
  •  Juice of other ½ a lemon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl or 4 cup measure.
  3. Mix milk, extracts, and lemon juice in bowl or 2 cup measure.
  4. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, shortening, and sugar until pale and fluffy. This will take a couple minutes.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber scraper (spatula).
  6. Add eggs one at a time. Mix just until smooth.
  7. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk mixture with mixer on lower speed. I do 3 additions of flour and 2 of the milk mixture, but the world won’t end if you do it differently. Your milk will have curdled from the lemon juice. That is totally fine… No need to panic.
  8. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber scraper, and beat for a few more seconds to smooth out.
  9. Pour into a bunt pan or tube pan that is extremely well coated with Baker’s Joy. Do not use Pam for this. Once you have thoroughly sprayed the pan with Baker’s Joy, spray it again… This cake will stick like crazy if you don’t. Also, hold your breath before the Baker’s Joy, or you will likely have a coughing spell.
  10. Try not to eat all of the batter… This will be tough because it is some of the best batter in the world. Almost a shame to bake it.
  11. Bake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. If your oven tends to cook hot, check the cake after an hour.
  12. While the cake is baking, mix all of the glaze ingredients together in a bowl and let sit. Yep, that’s all for the glaze!
  13. Let cake cook for 5 to 10 minutes before turning out onto cake stand or plate. If you let the cake cool completely, it will stick to the pan.
  14. Once the cake is on its destination plate/stand, stir the glaze, drizzle it over the cake, and watch it melt beautifully down the sides.  If the glaze has gotten stiff, you can mix a little water in it.
  15. Do not cover the cake until it is completely cool… It will get soggy, and kill those delicious crunchy pieces that make pound cake so good!
  16. Enjoy your not so hard work, and say to yourself, “Making cake from scratch is not too much more work than a box, and it is oh, so worth it!!”

Note: Feel free to swap out some of the extract flavors if you wish. I love the ones above, but you could use whatever floats your boat… I never leave out the vanilla though, and I always include more of it than any other flavor because it seems to give balance to baked goods. Just my opinion!

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