Happy thinks he might like to be a carpenter when he grows up, and has been asking if he can start doing some woodworking projects. Not the kits for cars and clocks like we’ve gotten him at the craft store, but true, man’s work, woodworking. Now, this boy is only ten years old and changes his career aspirations often, so I never know which interest is going to stick long-term. Maybe he WILL be a carpenter, or maybe he’ll do something else. Either way, I believe woodworking skills are a valuable thing, and I want to encourage him in his pursuit. So we began to look for some good, real-life, projects.
As I was searching for simpler projects for a beginner, and landed on Ana White’s Starter Projects. I have been an admirer of Ana White’s furniture for some time, but always in a “WOW! She’s amazing/I wish I could do that/maybe some day I’ll try one of these” sort of way. This time, I went in with the mindset that we might actually do one. The projects looked too awesome to be easy, but as I clicked on the pages of instructions, I saw that they were truly doable… even for us! I found myself believing that these plans could help us give our son a woodshop education, while building things that are useful and valuable.
I selfishly suggested one project in particular… a piece of art work. You see, we have a large staircase with a big, empty wall. It looked so lonely and in need of a very large wall hanging. I had been trying to find the perfect thing to fill it, but had been unsuccessful. When I spotted this beautiful family tree sign on Ana White’s page, I explained to my son how this could be a useful project for us to do together. He liked it, and we enlisted my husband and Handyman to help.
We started with 6 cedar fencing slats and two furring strips, bought and cut in half at a big box store. Total cost was somewhere between $20-30, and would eventually result in a 4′ by 8′ sign. Just before my husband headed out on a business trip, he helped the boys get started. He directed (and assisted where needed) our sons in lining up the boards and attaching the furring strips to the back to hold the boards together. In particular, he had Happy do as much of the work as possible. The guys started to prepare the wood, and my husband had to leave for his trip while they were in this stage of the project. Now, my boys are much more adept than I am in this realm, so I mostly left them alone. I only popped in occasionally to take some pictures throughout the process.
Cedar board before sanding.
They took turns sanding.
After sanding… So smooth!
Before he had left, my husband had instructed us to buy an extra furring strip, and attach it the middle of the sign to help everything lay flatter. We did. The guys used liquid nails, then drilled screws to attach the furring strip to each board.
Furring strip clamped, and all wood dust wiped clean.
Nothing like a quick game of driveway hockey while waiting for the wood to dry. :)
Here it is with holes filled in, sanded, clean, and dry. All ready for stain!
Staining. We used Rustoleum Ultimate Stain in American Walnut.
Wiping off stain. It had to be wiped off after only 1-2 minutes, so the boys worked together to keep the momentum going.
The next day, stain was complete and dry. Now the art part came into the project, and I began to intervene. :)
Starting a tree.
Adding some branches.
Happy and I worked together on the leaves.
I printed out some lettering on paper, placed the paper on the wood, and used a ball-point pen to trace the lettering onto the wood. The pen pressed into the wood, leaving a light imprint, which you can just barely see below.
Then I used the imprint as a guide to paint the lettering. Our last name, which I blurred out, is actually in blue.
I read about this method at That’s My Letter, and I think it is genius!
I tried and failed to carve a heart and our initials in the tree trunk with a pocketknife. The knife pulled too much paint up with it, so I had to scrape out the heart and repaint that area. Rather than attempting to carve the heart again, I painted it instead with some leftover brown house paint.
Next I make two bird silhouettes, one slightly larger than the other. I used the larger silhouette to trace two birds that represent my husband and me. I used the smaller one to trace nine more birds… our babies. :)
I outlined them in blue paint, the same blue used for our name lettering.
Then enlisted the girls to help fill in the birds.
The little birdies in front of their sign. :)
And the finished project hanging on the wall.
I love it! The perfect piece for the space, and very special since it represents us. I can’t believe we were able to actually make something so pretty and professional ourselves. We are grateful to Ana White’s step-by-step instructions for showing us how. The only change we made was the overall size (ours being 4′x6′, and hers was 3′x5′). I would absolutely attempt more of her projects, and Happy is already planning which one he wants to do next!