Introduction: Christian Fish Symbol for a Rental Car

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…

I am serious about my Christian faith. I have always liked the history and meaning of the Christian fish symbol, especially with the Greek letters for ichthus (fish). I will explain about that later.

We fly across the country to visit our kids and see our grandchildren. Often that means getting a rental car when we arrive.

I appreciate seeing a Christian symbol on another car in traffic. It tells me I have something in common with that driver. I have wanted to be able to attach a Christian fish symbol to a rental car, and remove it again when we turn in the car. I want to do this in a way that does not leave a mark on the rental car.

Step 1: Materials and Template

I had an idea. I wanted to make a Christian fish symbol with the material used for refrigerator magnets. I went to an office supply store, and that is what I asked to see: material for refrigerator magnets. The product I bought is called Photo Magnets with Adhesive. It was the only selection available. The cost was around five or six dollars for one larger sheet 5 x 7 inches, two sheets 4 x 6 inches, and two sheets 2.5 x 3.5 inches.

I did a previous Instructable on making a Christian fish symbol for my car. It is linked here. In that Instructable I was using some sturdy aluminum sheet metal and attaching it to the car with double-stick foam tape. I drew my own pattern for the fish symbol and posted it as a downloadable PDF there.

Notice the first graphic. It shows two prints of the PDF fish symbol. The one on the left is what I got when I clicked on the Print button. I wanted something a little larger to fill the long dimension of the largest sheet of magnetic material in the package. (Careful placement of the pattern keeps waste to a minimum and allows two fish symbols from the one sheet.) See the second graphic. It is a screen shot from my computer that shows printing options when I click on the Print command under the File menu heading rather than simply clicking on the Print button in the icons at the top of the page. Notice one of the options under Size allows adjusting the percentage size of the image. I scaled it upward to 110 percent. See the text box in the second graphic.

Step 2: Surprise

I hoped I was buying magnetic material with a smooth white finish. The white I saw is a plasticized protector sheet for the adhesive, and it is to be removed so a family photo can be placed onto the adhesive surface. Although this photo was taken after what is described in the next step, you can see some of the brown magnetic material with the adhesive surface.

That was not all bad, though. I was thinking about how I would attach the pattern from my PDF for trimming with an Exacto knife without the pattern slipping. The adhesive solved that problem nicely, but presented another problem to be handled later.

Step 3: Trim and Apply the Pattern

I trimmed my printed pattern so I could better fit it onto the magnetic material with less waste. I removed as little of the adhesive's protective cover. Pressing the pattern against the adhesive was easy. A scissors works well for cutting around the exterior lines on the pattern.

Step 4: Cut Away What Does Not Belong

I used a sharp Exacto knife to cut out the waste portions. I tried always to cut from the corners outward. If the knife slipped, I would not be cutting through something that should remain connected. The magnetic material is thick enough that it required several passes, especially in areas with fine detail.

Step 5: The Finish

As I mentioned, I thought the magnetic material had a smooth plasticized white finish, but it was only the protector cover for the adhesive. I thought I would simply spray the white paper from my PDF pattern with clear varnish from a can. That turned out to be like a wet "T"-shirt contest. The darker magnetic material showed through and turned the appearance to a dingy gray. Also, the clear spray caused some contraction of the paper pattern so that the ends of the fish symbol curled upward, and the symbol did not stick to the steel on my car as well.

I decided to use white spray paint. I placed the symbol on the pages of an old telephone book and sprayed it evenly. I picked it up by the edges and placed it onto a piece of steel sheet metal to keep it flat while drying.

Step 6: What's It All About?

I already mentioned the Greek word for "fish" is ichthus shown in the symbol I made with lowercase Greek characters. If you check an English dictionary, an ichthyologist studies fish.

But, there is more. The letters in the word ichthus also form an acrostic in Greek for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior." You can see more detail about this in my earlier Instructable already linked.

The story I have heard is that Christians needed a recognition symbol during times of persecution so they knew if it was safe to speak openly. Allegedly, one would make a sweeping arc in the dirt or sand while talking with another person. If the second person was also a Christian, he would add a similar arc to make the form of a fish. Then they knew it was safe to talk.

When I am out driving my car I sometimes see people in the car behind me looking in the direction of my fish symbol. It appears they are trying to determine exactly what it is. Maybe it will make them curious enough not to forget it, and they will perk up when they hear or see an explanation.

Now I can take a Christian fish symbol with me when I travel and apply it to the rear sheet metal on our rental car. Since it will be on the rear sheet metal, I will automatically be reminded to remove it when I see it while removing our luggage in the return garage.

Update: We drove 2,600 miles across the country with this Christian fish symbol on my wife's Subaru as shown. It survived rainstorms and highway speeds just fine, although I did remove it before we drove into a car wash.