I made this flag out of pallet wood for someone who wanted to add it to their collection of Texas memorabilia. It will be backlit with a strip of LED lights and will be the focal point of the collection. Now I know what you are thinking, "I don't want a 44 x 65 inch Texas flag in my home", most people would probably agree with you but you can use the techniques in this build to create your own focal point. You can build the canvas, so to speak, and use a stencil to paint a pattern you like, or recreate a vintage sign or throw paint at it and create an abstract piece of art. You can also use it as a back drop to hang multiple picture frames on. The point here it not to limit yourself by thinking I don't want a giant Texas flag in my home, the point here is to use this as a platform for whatever you want to create. I hope this inspires you and gets your creative juices flowing.
I don't really have a special or easy way to breakdown a pallet I just use a crow bar and a hammer and try to get as much usable wood as possible. Once I'm done breakdown the pallet I pull all the nails that are protruding sometimes the nails break off leaving the head in the wood. Which depending on what I'm doing with the wood I either leave or remove. If I plan to rip the wood into narrower strips than I always remove all the nails and nail heads. Then I power-wash all the wood I could salvage and let it dry.
Here I am mocking up the various pieces to see what looks good. I was originally going to use different widths of planks but in the end I decided I would go with all planks that were the same width. Don't over look this step because your choice can affect your build further down the road. Planks that are broken or missing large chunks will reveal more of the frame which you might not want. Now is good time to think about orientation also you can see in the second pic that I could of had some the board perpendicular to one another which would like more like the Texas flag stripes. However the person who asked me to make this said they wanted it to look like it was ripped from the wall so that orientation wouldn't have worked.
Once I was satisfied with the planks I would be using; I used my grinder and a cutoff wheel to distress the edges of the planks to make them look rotten and weathered. This was a long process and I tried really hard for them to look naturally weathered. You can see the before and after pics.
When the weathering was complete I numbered the backs of all the planks this comes in handy later when assembling.
Next I started working on the frame that the pallet wood planks would be attached too. I made it out of 2x4s because eventually the flag will be back lit with a strip of LED lights and I needed the depth of the 2x4 to have enough room to fit the transformer for the lights between the flag and the wall where it will hang. The dimensions were 34 x 57 inches. I used screws to temporarily attach the frame together as I would have to take it apart later. I also spot painted different areas of the frame black, these areas might be visible once assembled due to the slits between the planks.
I also had to make some extensions for the first and last planks. I did this so that I could recess the 2x4 frame back from the sides and still have something sturdy to attach the first and last planks too. Otherwise I would’ve ended up with lights that were really close to the side edges and not so close for the top and bottom edges. All this had to be taken in to consideration along with the cracked and missing pieces of planks. I didn’t want the frame to be visible from the front. I attached the extensions with wood glue and screws because they would also bear the weight of the flag when hanging it on the wall.
In the first picture you can the extensions sticking out past the wood planks I am marking each extension so that I can trim them with my jigsaw. I trimmed the extensions to be slightly shorter than the uneven widths of the first and last plank. In the other pictures you can see the trimmed extensions and how they look from the back and top. I attached the extensions with wood glue and screws because they would also bear the weight of the flag when hanging it on the wall.
Now it was time to attach all the planks using glue and nails. This is were having previously numbered the planks comes in very handy.
The flag will hang from a French cleat which I made and installed this was both glued and screwed. I screwed it into the planks and in to the upper part of the frame. The flag ended up weighing about 50lbs. so I wanted to make sure it was secure.
Since this is going to have a strip of LED lights going around the top of the frame I built a little basket to hold the transformer for the lights and attached it to the back with screws. This can be moved depending on the electrical outlet's position on the mounting wall. I also notched the middle 2x4 section of the frame so that the cord for the plug won't affect the flag from sitting flush against the wall. The cord can placed into the notch and taped over. I also drilled two 1/2 inch diameter holes in the top and bottom portion of the frame, again to allow for the LED power cord to be able to connect to the LED light strip without having to go across the back of the frame. Or rather the portion of the frame that will touch the wall. The goal here was to conceal all of the wires and power cords so once its installed on the wall nothing will be visible from the front.
The next phase was the painting process. I took one section at a time and masked off the areas and painted them. The one tricky area was the white stripe because I actually use three different colors to attain a varied look. I start with “bright white” then “almond” and lastly “ivory” using these three colors adds a lot of depth to an otherwise white stripe. The nice thing about wood and pallet wood in general is that it will absorb paint differently depending on the type of wood and the grain pattern. So you get a lot of variation naturally without a lot of effort which is good if that's what you are going for. If you want a more uniform look then I would recommend you sand the planks and primer all them this will give you a more consistent look. But for this project I liked the varied look of the wood.
I used Krylon brand in the following colors.
Blue Stripe - Oxford Blue.
White stripe and the star - Bright White, Almond, and Ivory
Red stripe - Burgundy Red
Lastly I used a template I made of the star to trace on to the blue field and cutout a stencil made of blue tape and then painted it using the same 3 colors as the white stripe. The image of the star is one I found online and enlarged and printed on to 4 sheets of paper which I then taped together. I had to print it out a couple of times to make sure the dimensions were correct and proportional to the flag.
Here is the finished piece. I used a spare set of LEDs to back light the flag just to see how it would look and to try and take a cool picture. This project was a bit more challenging than I originally thought as I had to take in to consideration the LED lighting and how that would be affected by the frame. I also needed to consider the routing of the cables and cords, as well as the depth of the frame and a few other minor details. Overall I am very pleased with the finished piece I was very tempted to keep it. I hope you enjoy this write up and it sparks your imagination and spurs you to create your own piece.