I’ve been saving this post for a while, because the completed project is Ross’ Christmas gift.
I recently made a weather station wall hanging art piece for our sunroom. There’s a reason I made this particular project, and so here’s the back story first: not too terribly long ago, Ross and I were offered a number of things from an elderly gentleman’s house who had passed away. He had no family and so belongings were destined for the donation bin. We were asked by the executor (a family member of ours) if we wanted anything as some of the things were of particularly high quality – teak chairs, porcelain mixing bowls, and what not. So, we went and helped load up the truck, and chose a few things.
One of the things Ross chose was this barometer.
I wasn’t particularly flipped about it – in fact, I was kind of disgusted with it. From an aesthetic point of view, um… yuck. It’s not even particularly well made. It is stapled together at the back. And as someone who to this day is unable to understand what the heck Fahrenheit is, the thermometer is pointless. But we hung it up on the wall in the sunroom and there it sat. And then one particularly rainy yucky afternoon, I realized the barometer DOESN’T EVEN WORK because according to it, it was VERY DRY all the stinking time.
Did you know there are places in the Lower Mainland that will repair barometers? Yes! There are! And I know because Ross actually spent time looking that stuff up and calling to get estimates. I was less than thrilled with the idea of paying to repair something I didn’t really like. This was a second hand, not well made, UGLY as all get out barometer, and he wanted to SAVE the thing? Ugh.
So I decided the solution was to replace it with something that served the same function but also wasn’t horrifically ugly. You know, win-win.
I first started looking online for a barometer set up that was handmade – I hunted on Etsy and you know, there was stuff like this, and some vintage finds like this but nothing really floated my boat. So I started getting craftier and decided to try and make something myself and decided to use an iron on transfer technique onto wood. I was keeping in mind our 1912 house, something personal and something somewhat marine themed. Here’s what I did:
First, you need some instruments. Lee Valley, a local store that sells all sorts of woodworking, gardening, and assorted tool type stuff of a higher calibre sells a three pack of instruments in your choice of aluminum look or brass look for about $45 and on the day I was looking they were offering free shipping on orders over $25 and so POOF. Done. You can find them in other places online, so hunt around. I like Lee Valley as a business and like to shop there if I can. The three pack I bought has a barometer, a hygrometer, and a thermometer, and in a perfect world it would also have a 4th instrument, a clock.
I gathered up the other supplies I needed:
- A piece of wood to mount them on. I used 5/8″ birch plywood – craft quality, came in a piece about 18″ X 12 ” from Michaels for about $6
- A digital version of a photo you love, as high-resolution as you can muster – I chose a picture I took on our hike of the West Coast Trail. It’s a close up of a rusted piece of debris from a shipwreck we found on the beach.
- Printable Iron On Transfers. I used the ones for “lighter colours” because I wanted the wood to peek through as part of the “distressed” look
- 1″ square dowel to act as the riser for when you hang it. I bought a 36″ long piece at Canadian Tire for about $3
- Varathane or some other type of stain. I chose a water based clear medium gloss, about $7 at Canadian Tire
- Varying grits of sandpaper
- Some screws to attach the risers (nails would work too)
- A way to hang the completed project
Tools I needed, and some cautions:
- I used a handsaw to cut the wood to the size I wanted, and also to cut the dowel to the right size. Despite my blustery tomboy nature, I’m actually quite afraid of power tools. I like handsaws, they are quiet and you control them. You could easily use a skill saw if you were not frightened of it.
- You’ll need a drill if you intend to use screws to attach the riser from the board. You can also use a hammer if you choose nails.
- You also need some way to cut an exact hole in the plywood. In the case of the instruments I bought, they needed a 2 1/2″ mounting hole. The manufacturer recommends a drill press with a hole cutter, but you could also try a jigsaw if you were particularly adept at it. I struggled for a long time trying to solve this one, and ended up buying a hole cutter bit for our electric drill ($9 for the right sized bit). However, I also cut myself on the drill when doing my test cuts, because I was trying to hold it steady on a slippery table with no clamps (seriously, what was I thinking?). In the end, I actually wrapped and taped up the half-completed project, and got Ross (who is quite familiar with hole cutters for work) to make the cuts for me. Don’t do this:
So here’s how I put it all together:
- Print off your photo onto an iron on transfer. You’ll need a colour ink jet printer for this. My printer is a 4 year old HP 3100 3 in 1. It’s nothing special and yet it produced a good quality transfer. In my case, I wanted it distressed, so it wasn’t the end of the world if there were spots and speckles on it. Remember the image will be reversed – you might need to reverse the image to make it make sense on your completed project. In the case of my bolt, it didn’t matter, and in fact, I kind of prefer the reversed orientation.
- Get your iron heating up. Make sure the steam function, if available, is off and use the “cotton” (hot) setting on your iron. Place the transfer facedown onto your wood and start ironing. Be patient. This takes quite some time and slow fluid strokes will be the best. You want the transfer completely stuck on the wood and it takes a while to get everything (the wood included) hot enough to do it. When it’s good and stuck, go away and have a cup of tea and ignore your project. You want it to cool down. Then go and pick at a teeny corner and have a peek – did the image transfer? If not, iron again. If yes, then slowly, smoothly, and carefully peel the transfer paper back. Try not to get excited as it’s coming off, you want slow, fluid and careful. When it’s done, put your project away so that the transfer can cure nicely overnight.
- Now you want to beat up the board the way you want it to look. I used coarse grit sandpaper and essentially sanded off parts of the transfer. I wanted it to look grainy, distressed and uneven. You might not want that, but this is when you do it if you do. When you’re satisfied with how the transfer looks, you’re ready to move on. I also sanded all the hard edges off the board – I wanted it to look like an old piece of wood with a clean modern feel, so I used progressively finer sandpaper and tidied it up to my liking.
- Now, measure twice and cut once where the holes are going to mount your instruments. In my completed project, one of the holes is a few millimeters off as it’s too high up. That’s because I didn’t do the measuring twice part. Cut your holes SAFELY using a tool you are capable of using.
- Now add the risers. Essentially, the instruments are going to stick out a bit at the back, so in order to make this piece hangable, you need to add risers to keep it off from the wall. I chose 1″ square dowel – it seemed easy and simple. I cut it to length (I chose to make it a bit smaller than the width of the board) and then attached it with wood screws. Measure carefully so that your wood screws don’t pop through the front of the board. You might not need 1″ of clearance (I think the instruments I purchased only need about 5/8″) but I wanted to give it some elevation from the wall anyway, to give the illusion that it’s a thicker piece of wood than it is. I’ve also added some felt pads over the screw heads to ensure they don’t scratch at the wall. Add a way to hang it to the top riser.
- Finish the board the way you want. As I mentioned I used a water based clear sealant. I followed the instructions on the container, and used a foam brush (from the dollar store) to apply three coats. Allow it to cure fully (the instructions will tell you how long that is).
- Now install your instruments. The ones I bought have a plastic retaining ring that slips over the instruments’ body and holds it in place. While they aren’t going anywhere, they’re not as snug as I think I’d like, but I resisted the urge to glue them into place – if I ever need to change one out for a replacement I don’t want to deal with plastic glued to plastic.
And, you’re done!