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As you have seen in my other articles, my family is involved in our community.  We spend a great deal of our time supporting the school band programs and also the scouting programs.  A few weeks back, as we were preparing to send the youth to Boy Scout summer camp, we realized that they needed a troop flag.  These flags are carried by their troops to and from the daily flag ceremonies, meals and various competitive events.  As the troop earns awards, ribbons, and medals, they are hung from a couple of leather strips hanging from the bottom. Over time they essentially build-up a history that they carry with them and can talk about around a campfire with new scouts!

I designed this flag according to the design details my son suggested.  He was recently elected Senior Patrol Leader and was asked to design a troop flag. After considering the details on his own, he came over to me for help and we ended up with this design... We wanted to find a way to burn the design onto the leather with a laser cutter/engraving system but there isn't one around here so we did the next best thing.

What we used:
  • A piece of old woodshop leather provided by a youth leader
  • Athletic Jersey Vinyl Iron-on Film (black, red, blue & white)
  • iron set to high-heat, with NO steam
  • ruler (for alignment)
  • Glue and epoxy for strengthening the edges of the leather and sealing the walking stick decals
  • Parachute cord for lashing the leather to a wooden frame
  • a piece of 2x4 lumber ripped in half lengthwise via table saw (and built into square flag frame)
  • a second piece of 2x4 lumber (sculpted into a walking stick & flag staff)
  • random orbital sander for sanding and applying indentations to wooden frame
  • leather laces and remnants from craft store for lashing corners of frame, awards strings & flag handle
  • eyelets and hole punch for securing the threading holes for paracord lashing
  • feathers, beads and copper wire for decorations
  • craft knife


Step 1: Design the Flag Graphics in Your Favorite Vector App; Iron It & Woodburn It!

First we designed the flag and staff. I used Adobe Illustrator for this since I would end up having to export my graphics as postscript files to be cut on my vinyl cutter. My son designed the flag, the staff graphics and determined the necessary colors--I simply did the mechanics of the computer work to save us some time and to assure efficient use of the vinyl film. The eagle was a vector we purchased online a couple of years ago.  We imported it and modified it slightly in order to simplify it and resize it for cutting.

We then cut out the vinyl film and prepared those pieces for ironing.This part is rather easy: cut your graphics, peel away any unwanted vinyl film, flip it over and then iron it!  Using an iron set to high-heat with no steam, the graphics are easily adhered. Remember that it is necessary to cover the vinyl at all times when using an iron or the image will be ruined.  If you will be using multiple colors in your design, be sure to layer them properly. It can be a bit tricky.  After all graphics are adhered, we covered it with paper and applied heat for 40 more seconds to permanently set the image.

►I am including a bunch of photos of the leather flag after the graphics were added.  Note that it is not trimmed yet nor is it lashed to the wooden frame.


Step 2: Sculpt the Flag Pole & Build the Wooden Flag Frame


Flag Staff Construction: First, we ripped a 2x4 on the table saw lengthwise until it was just wide enough to be a good strong staff.  We then used a rotary tool with sanding wheels and a random orbital sander to further sculpt the staff.  Once it was done, we bathed it in lemon oil to moisturize it and we left it to dry for 1 day.  We then sealed the wooden staff with Krylon clear coat spray.  After 20 mins of drying time, we applied vinyl decals and also practiced our wood burning skills for the side decorations. A clear coat was applied again (see photos) over the decals. We later sanded it carefully and lacquered it again to get a silky smooth finish.

A notch was also added at the top of the staff to allow the wooden frame to dock with it. Once docked into this notch, a leather lashing is tied to the frame and the flag stands secured. You can see the notched section above the "Fleur De Lis" on the staff.

Additional information of value concerning the docking & tie-up design:  I toyed with the idea of cutting off 3/4" from the top of the staff, drilling a 1/3" hole into the staff and frame, and using a bolt or pin with a wooden ornament glued on top. This would allow it to have a "pull-the-pin-to-release" design. I may yet do that, but for now, I simply have two holes drilled into the bottom of the flag frame on either side of the docking space with a piece of cord that is used to securely fasten everything with square lashing (see photos later on).  It works very very well, and serves to teach the youth to tie knots when it's their turn to "man the flag"; but I'm always thinking what else can I do....

Flag Frame Construction: To create the wooden frame, we used a spare 2x4 ripped in half lengthwise on a table saw.  We then thinned it a bit in the width on the same saw. We used the saw again to "groove" the edges and to create finger-joints so that the pieces would mate properly and perfectly square.  After applying liberal amounts of high-grade wood glue, we lashed it together with leather and parachute cord.  A healthy coating of high-strength epoxy on the corners finished the work. Later we went and put indentations and "nicks" in the frame (shown).  These indentations allow the parachute cord and leather strips to grab the frame for a tight & snug fit without slipping. these marks also give the flag more "visual rhythm."

Step 3: Lash the Flag or "String It Up!" to the Wooden Frame; Add Decoration

LASHING THE FLAG:

Step 1: Drill "guiding" pilot holes in the top and bottom of the wooden frame to allow you to run parachute cord through.  This will help to make the lashing of the flag straight and more even. I did not drill holes in the sides of the frame, just the top and bottom.  If you can look close enough you will make out that I also added a groove on the inside top & bottom of the flag frame.  This groove hides any knots. You can easily see the groove on the main photo for this step. Along with the 2.5"-spaced holes, it guides the cord lacing keeping it perfectly straight and helps to maintain even pressure on the flag when your project is completed.  Without this, I think the flag would have warped.

Step 2: Using a leather or hole-punching tool, punch holes at appropriate locations 3/4" to 1" from flag leather's edge. Install grommet or eyelets to strengthen the holes so that the cord will not tear through and ruin your flag as you string it. You can get an eyelet/grommet tool from most major craft stores. You just punch, seat the metal sleeve & then crimp.  It looks cool too! (see photo).

►Step 3: Apply Crafters' Sealing Glue or high-end glue product to edges with a brush to strengthen the flag against tearing.  Allow to dry completely before proceeding! Multiple coats may be used.

Step 4: Lash the Flag or "String it Up!"  Use your own style to tie the flag to the wooden frame.  Whatever style you choose, attempt at least to be consistent all the way around.  It helps to have an extra person on hand to keep the flag pulled nice and flat while you tie it to the frame. If you don't pay close attention, the flag will "walk" around a bit and will be off-center and crooked in the frame.

►Step 5: Attach A Handle.  When the flag (in the frame) is not being carried around on a flag pole, it can be carried by a man or two in the troop.  When resting for the evening or during classes one may wish to hang the flag up in the nearby area, near the cabin or tent, or for display during meetings.  Having a handle or hanging device installed ahead-of-time makes this easy.   We used a scrap piece of leather we cut to size. The piece was attached via screws through eyelets we installed (shown). Leather cord was then coated in epoxy and wrapped around the ends of this for strength and decoration (shown).

►Step 6: Add Decoration.  We used feathers of striking colors, painted jewelry stones and glass & wooden beads to add weight to the leather strips.  These hung from the top of the frame.  The bottom portion of the frame also received 2 leather strips. These hang down about 8 inches (one of each side of the pole/center). Awards, ribbons, medals, medallions, leather trinkets & crafts, bells..etc. will hang down in recognition of the awards and prizes they receive as a troop over the next 4 years. What a way to build history and unity! Makes for great reflection & story telling years later around the camp fire.

Step 4: Behold the Flag! - Share Your Photos Too!

That's all there is to it. I will upload a final photo with a better view of these two pieces and how they fit together this weekend.

What was the end result? The troop took this flag to Camp Lassen with them just over a week ago and they were told it was the best flag they've seen in years. Better even, the flag withstood the abuse and came home AOK.  Looks like we'll get many good years out of it.

Final project & contest notes: As I mentioned in other articles, hopefully in the years to come we can procure a laser cutter that will not only make jobs like this quicker but more perfect. Could you image how cool this would have looked if the design was burned-in with a laser and then inked/painted? It would have the appearance of a cattle brand. Now that would be awesome!  


Thank you for reading and I hope you will share some photos of any projects you start that have been inspired by this one! Be sure to include others in your projects.  Share the fun & the hard work!
<p>I love that the flag is displayed inside a square shaped frame rather than hanging from a pole. It's so much easier to appriciate the design. I wonder if you have any suggestions for patrol awards to give the Scouts to hang off their flags. We only have camporee once a year, and only one of our patrols won anything. I would love to give them more opportunities to earn things for their flags.</p>
That is awesome, I too am a scout leader and this is something I've been toying with doing for the pack and troop. Great idea!
Thank you! <br>
<p>Do you still have the illustrator file? I would love to have our boys make this.</p>
This came out great! Good work!
Thank you very much!

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Bio: I'm a Nerd and a garage inventor. My dad used to say, "There he goes...off to 'The Lair' to invent something. Try not ... More »
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