Welcome back friends. My last post was very popular and I had my most visitors to date! Thank you to everyone who stopped by, I really enjoy sharing my projects with others. Speaking of sharing, this year I will be attending the weddings of six couples who are allowing me to share in their special days. Oh boy, that was really corny, but I’m excited to be celebrating with my friends! I really enjoy giving personal gifts, but sometimes it can be hard to think of something that the recipient would like. When brainstorming and searching pinterest for a present I could make for one of my college friends, I stumbled upon wooden ampersand cutouts. At this point you might be asking, “amper what?” This my friends is an ampersand: & It’s that fancy little and symbol located above the 7. I had some sanded pallet wood kicking around so I thought I would put it to use. I glued the boards onto a piece of plywood and clamped them down the best I could, I had to get creative.
I found an ampersand image that I liked and then traced it onto some paper and cut it out. I then had to figure out how to project my cutout onto the wood. I quickly realized I needed a way to hold the cutout in mid-air while tracing it. Since I only have two arms – more arms would be pretty awesome – I used a glass-topped side table to assist in my projection setup.
I first tried using a desk lamp to project the image, but the light was too scattered and my image was fuzzy. I ended up using the flashlight app on my phone for a more focused light. It worked like a charm and I was able to trace the outline of the ampersand perfectly. I made sure that the line I drew was dark so it would be visible while cutting.
In retrospect I wouldn’t have done it this way. I had never used a jigsaw before, it was a Christmas present, so I didn’t realize that you should always cut from the bottom of the project. When you cut with a jigsaw the top edge of the cut is rougher than the bottom. I also wouldn’t have cut both the pallet boards and plywood at the same time, it was almost too thick for my saw. But you live and learn and maybe practice before you jump into a project.
I totally practiced before I started, after all, I had to cut from the edge of the wood to my line! I tend to jump into projects head first, not always the wisest idea, but almost always interesting. I made sure to securely clamp my wood to my workbench so that the jigsaw didn’t bounce it around too much. My only complaint was that I felt like I was constantly reclamping because my clamps were in the way or I ran out of wood to cut. How do other people deal with this? Does anyone have any tips on clamping for jigsawing?
After I finished cutting the ampersand I decided that I also wanted to cut out the couple’s initials. I decided to make the initials smaller than the ampersand, so I was able to print out letters and trace them directly onto my plywood without having to use my “projector.” My friend doesn’t like capital letters, so I went with a lowercase b and c. This time I decided to cut out the plywood first and then glue on the pallet boards.
There was a lot of splintering when I cut the plywood, I will have to look up some tips on how to prevent this. I’ve heard that some tape on the cut line helps. Next I glued my boards on top and clamped them on in whatever way I could manage – seriously, it looked like a crazy person was in charge.
Cutting just one layer of wood instead of two was much easier. The pre-cut plywood also acted a guide and made it easier to cut out the pallet boards. After the cutting was over I sanded a whole bunch; I wanted to make sure that the edges were smooth and the glue was gone.
Then I did something really stupid, I stained my project indoors. I mean, I had the windows and door open and a fan blowing out, but there were still fumes. It had been raining for a week straight and there was no end in sight and I was just so excited to stain. Remember, always stain in a well ventilated area, safety first.
I ended up staining the edges darker than the top as I didn’t want them to be as noticeable. My cuts weren’t perfect, but I think the dark stain hid my small errors. I had to get creative when attaching the picture hangers to the back. I had to locate the balance points and attach the hangers. The nails that come with the hangers are super duper tiny and nearly impossible to nail in because there’s no way to hold them. I should have held the nails with needle nose pliers, that probably would have saved me a lot of frustration.
Another new “toy” I used for this project was a woodburner. Before I applied the stain I burned the date of the wedding onto the ampersand. I struggled with this part. I think my problem was that my wood was very grainy and I was going against the grain. I got an uneven burn and ended up with little circles, I think I made it look okay in the end. I’m eager to try woodburning again and really figure out how to do it.
I have a few takeaways from this project. 1. Plywood is not a great backing. The plywood was too thick and the edges aren’t very pretty 2. I need to learn how to effectively clamp when jigsawing 3. Woodburning takes a lot of patience and practice, I will definitely work on it 4. Watch the thickness of what you’re cutting and don’t force the saw
I really enjoyed being able to make a personalized gift for my friends and I hope it’s something that they will enjoy for years to come. I wish you two a lifetime of happiness, full of adventures and love. I’m so excited for May 14th!