As a nice house gift, I made my girlfriend and her three roommates a set of coasters, (in the shape of her favorite animal), that they could decorate to their own liking. I don't normally let other people in on my projects, so this allowed me to share the joy and pride of making something and being able to actually use it.
1/8" hardwood board (oak looks nice)
acrylic or oil paint (for the decoration)
polyurethane (for the waterproof finish)
Total cost is about $8 if you just buy the wood and have the rest of the materials handy.
Step 1: Find a picture
The coasters can be any shape really, as long as they're bigger than the diameter of the average coffee cup, which is about 3-1/4", so any shape longer than 3-1/2" both ways will work.
Step 2: Made a template
The purpose for making this first elephant is to have a template to trace the coasters (and not waste time printing out patterns, cutting, taping, etc). This decreases deviation, so that they all look more or less the same. Also, I can save this template and use it for any future projects that may come up.
After it was sanded to my liking, I traced four elephants onto the wood.
Step 3: Cut them out
Step 4: Sand them down
They don't have to be perfect, (I could sand them down for hours and wouldn't be 100% satisfied), but smooth to the touch and splinter free is how they should end up. Afterwards, I used a paper towel to wipe away all the saw dust from the surfaces so that the prime coat would apply smooth.
NOTE: When putting the coasters in the vice, I just them between two pieces of scrap wood, and then into the vice, so that the vice wouldn't dent or scratch the coaster surface.
Step 5: Prime them
After drying, I wrote all the names on the back of the elephants, so that everyone would know which one is which (this is probably the most important step *sarcasm*).
Step 6: Bring them over to get painted
The bubble wrap is like a present in and of itself too, almost like a bonus. Love bubble wrap.
Step 7: Wait till they get painted
I love all the different ideas, and because I know these guys, I can tell how each elephant relates to its artist.
Step 8: Apply polyurethane
I used spray can polyurethane - two coats a few hours apart, and then let dry for 24 hours. The end results gives the coasters a nice, shiny look.
If anything, they're great conversation pieces when guests are over.