Using this method, you can make all sorts of custom keepsakes for you and your friends. It is relatively inexpensive and easy but looks impressive. I spent less than $10! Here's what you'll need:
- Stencil (hand-drawn or digitally printed on computer paper, cut with X-Acto knife)
- Unfinished wood item (plaque, jewelry box, etc.)
- Wood stain of chosen color
- Varnish of chosen finish
- Sponge and paint brushes
- Soft cloth rags
Let's make a one-of-a-kind gift!
Step 1: Prepare Your Stencil
I simply sized my silhouette on my computer and printed it out on plain paper. Using an X-Acto knife, I carefully cut around the outline. Keep in mind whether you want to create a positive or negative stencil during this process.
Step 2: Place Stencil
I cut out and taped my stencil into my desired position. Since I was doing a silhouette, I thought the oval plaque was appropriately traditional.
Depending on the intricacy of your design, you could also use some sort of adhesive paper, or even just tape!
Step 3: Fill in Stencil With Wood Glue
I once read a tip that wood glue could not absorb stain. The brand I found specifically said it was stainable, but I foolhardily decided to go for it. Isn't this exciting? Let's see if it works for our purposes (spoiler alert: it will)!
If you end up using a paper stencil, be careful with the direction you pull the brush as not to force glue underneath it. Also, the glue is thick and dries fast and the paper will start to curl, so work quickly!
Step 4: Fill in the Details
Once the glue was partially dry, I carefully peeled away the stencil. There were a few fine details that could use more glue, so I filled them in with a fine tipped brush.
If you don't have any fine details, you could add to your design free-hand! I decided to add a border to my plaque. Don't worry too much if the glue looks uneven in places as long as all of the wood you do not want to stain is adequately covered.
Let your glue dry completely.
Step 5: Apply Stain
Apply your stain according to the directions on the bottle. I chose Maple. Never having used wood stain before, I got scared that the glue actually was staining, so I rinsed the plaque off after only one coat. I ended up being pleased with these results, but add as many coats as you want!
When I rinsed the plaque, the glue completely washed away with little help. Good for this project, but probably doesn't bode well for this glue's ability to hold something together if it gets wet!
After seeing seeing the unstained border, I decided against it and rubbed more stain around the edge of the plaque and rinsed again.
Step 6: OOPS
Now, here's where I'll save you some time. I let too much water soak into my plaque, so the wood slightly warped as it dried (see photo). To flatten it back out, I wrapped it in a towel and put it under a flat bottomed heavy box. The next day, it was pretty much flat again. Perhaps instead of rinsing it under the sink, I could have wiped it down with a damp towel? Does anyone have a better suggestion to avoid warping the wood? We're learning together!
(The first photo shows the warped edge and the second shows it flattened back out.)
Step 7: Varnish!
Using a paint brush, apply a thin layer of varnish. Let it dry according to the directions before you add another layer. I applied two layers of satin finish.
I thought about painting a border with acrylic paint, but decided against it. You can play around with embellishments. I think it would be a cool idea to stain the wood a different color first, apply your glue stencil, and then apply another layer of same stain or a darker shade. Carving into the wood would allow the stain to absorb deeper. Please let me know if you try any variations!
Step 8: Present Your Present!
If you made a wall hanging, think about where you or your recipient will display it. You could attach a hook or decorative ribbon on the back, or even removable 3M strips.
Congratulations! You've created a beautiful keepsake!