Introduction: Aged Map of Middle Earth

About: I am a nerd, gamer, and registered nurse and I like to make stuff.

This year for Christmas I decided to create a present for my wife. We are both nerds and the release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" put into motion a project I had wanted to do for a while but had put on a back burner due to school. My wife has always voiced a desire to have a large map on the wall of our office. Initally I thought to make a duplicate of the map that is used in the film but I thought it wouldn't be large enough so I instead decided to make a huge map of Middle Earth for the office. I liked the idea of a map but I wanted to make it look a little more unique and aged than just a simple map. So I set out to make an aged map of Middle Earth and wanted to take you along on for this unexpected journey. Don't forget to vote!

Step 1: Concerning and Things

Let us be off. Firstly, lets cover some needed things and prices (rounded up to nearest dollar):

Map image - Free
Map print - $7
Wood - $6 (by getting a 4'x8' piece of plywood for $12 you can do two different large prints/projects and Home Depot will cut it for free )
Spray adhesive - $6
Black Tea and/or Instant Coffee - Free
Wood stain and/or paint - $4
Pocket Handkerchief and/or rags - Free
Paintbrush - Free (or dirt cheap)
Mounting hardware - $3
Painter's tape - Free (or dirt cheap if you don't have any on hand)

Total Cost - $26

Tools: (I am not putting a price list on the tools as these are tools most people either have or have access to)
Clamps (Optional but very helpful)
Needle nose Pliers with wire cutter (Optional but very helpful)
Fan (Optional but very helpful)
Bathtub or very long waterproof tub

Step 2: The Mapping Process

Firstly, the map. I searched online for an image that I thought would make a good map. I came across some cool websites like which has a very cool interactive online map that shows various character's movements from the books and other websites that have great high resolution images. However, I didn't think that they would make a good large scale map because I know that images that have been rasterized (like jpg images) don't scale up well and since I knew how large I wanted my map, I knew that I'd need a vector image. A vector image has it's data stored in mathematical equations so that it can be re-sized to massive sizes and still have very crisp edges. I came across this website and nearly pooped my pants. It was exactly what I wanted. They have a vector image of the entire map in three different formats to choose from and did I mention ITS FREE! So, I downloaded the files and began to research printing options (which, in hindsight, I should have done first but it worked out well.)

While the file was downloading I did a little research and I found out that Staples offers printing in massive sizes in color and black and white. The color prints are very expensive but if you want a black and white image, you can get what they call an engineering print for pretty cheap and its a laser print (which is also beneficial for the aging process which I'll go into later). I opened the downloaded vector image in Photoshop, sized it to 36" tall by 48" wide with 180dpi because I thought it'd be easier for the people working at Staples to just open the file and hit print rather than having to resize it there. I also made the image strictly black and white because the lettering was initially red and since I wanted a B&W print, I made it all black. I added a slight white text border to make it easier to read the text from the black background images.

Once I had my print, I brewed a hot bath and threw in six (6) black tea bags and let it steep for about 10 mins. After steeping for that long, I took my map and placed it, rolled up, into the bath and let it sit there in the tea bath for 15 minutes. I made sure to push down on the map every couple minutes to ensure that the center bit would get some tea in it since it kept seeming to rise in the center. As I was pushing the map down, I made some minor rips in the map and thus added to some of the aged looking characteristics of the map. I also rubbed all along the edges to create the ripped edges. The only edge that I didn't rip was the one in the middle of the roll but once I pulled the map out of the bath, I unrolled it and rubbed the edge to create the ripped look. I placed the map on two trash bags that I had opened up and lain on the floor to keep as much of the tea in the map and not on the floor. As the map was drying on the floor of my bathroom, I rubbed two additional holes in the map and made some small rips in the map as well. I then took the teabags out of the bath and dabbed them along all the edges and along the rips. The thought for this was that the ripped fibers in exposed edges in the paper would absorb the extra tea and would cause darkening of the edges. It worked fairly well and I'm pretty happy with the result. I left the map in the bathroom with the fans on for most of the day and let it air dry. If you had a massive oven you could bake it at a low heat but I don't have an oven that has a 3'x4' shelf.

Side tangent: Smaller projects that require aging can use this same process but you need to ensure that you have a laser printed image. Unfortunately, if you use a print that is from an inkjet printer, there is a great probability that while it is soaking in the tea the ink would run. An alternative to this would be to stain the paper first and then to print it. Check this site for aging paper for inkjet projects. Check this ible, steps 11 and 12, for more detailed directions for the aging process for laser printed works.

Step 3: The Lonely Mount(ing Board)

While my map dried, I began to stain my wood. I decided to stain the wood rather than paint it because I had some leftover stain from another project. I also wanted to have the wood much darker than the map to help frame it and to have the map stand out from the wall. So I stained my wood with the Ebony stain. After using the brush to stain the wood, I used a rag to clean off the extra stain. I let the wood stain dry for two days then began the mounting process. Basically, I took my mounting kit, attached one of the holders via the supplied screw and a couple washers (due to the thinness of the wood). I attached the wire to that side, ran it to the other side, attached the other holders, attached the wire to it, and cut off the extra wire. Pretty simple.

Step 4: The Mounting Path

Once I had my board done, it was time to mount the map to the board. First, I used some painter's tape to mask off the areas I DIDN'T want the adhesive to stick. This was basically a border around the board. I did this for two reasons. One: I wanted the map's edges and corners to be curled up a little bit to add some more depth and character to the map and Two: if I had put the adhesive all the way to the edges of the board, the map wouldn't cover all the adhesive and there would be a strip of stickiness all around the map which would, over time, become nasty looking.

I then placed my dry map on the board and using my clamps I secured my map where I wanted it. I then lifted one side of the map, sprayed down the board and map with the adhesive, and let it become tacky (per the adhesive's instructions.) While the adhesive was becoming tacky, I removed the tape on the side I was working on because otherwise the map would stick to the tape and that would be a pain. I then replaced the side of the map back down and placed it onto the adhesive prepared board. I pressed it all over and then clamped that half and removed the clamps on the other half of the map, folded the map over itself again, sprayed the adhesive, removed the tape, let it get tacky, and replaced the map. I made sure that the map was well pressed into the adhesive and took off all the clamps. I then took the completed board and hung it on the wall of the office.

Note: If there are any holes in the map, you'll need one more thing: a sheet of paper. I put a piece of paper beneath the holes once I had the map folded over so that when I sprayed the map back with adhesive I wouldn't spray through the hole and onto the front of the map.

Also Note: When I pressed the map to the board, there were wrinkles in the paper that caused some wrinkles in the final map that you'll see on the next page. The adhesive allowed for removal and replacement of the map if I wanted to smooth it out but I rather liked the wrinkles and thus left them.

I then took my tape and made a simple sign to make sure that my wife didn't enter the office until Christmas morning when I had planned for her to see the map.

Step 5: The Last Stage

In all, I enjoyed the project. It was a simple one yet I learned a lot about the aging process and this was also my first use of spray adhesive. My life loved it and many of her friends want one now so I'm emailing them this ible so they can make one themselves! Hope you enjoyed our journey and I look forward to our next one.

Holiday Gifts Contest

Participated in the
Holiday Gifts Contest