Destination String Map Art



Introduction: Destination String Map Art

About: Just a guy trying to make his way through this crazy world.

Hello again, and welcome to yet another installment of “What is he thinking?” Today’s endeavor is a destination string map I put together based on everywhere my professional career has sent me—“navigational art” if I may wax poetic. I stumbled across this ‘ible by OsmanGazi one day and liked it a lot; the size was good, but the color was wrong. I wanted mine to mesh with the colors in my house, and also be a conversation starter.

To that end, I went dark and mysterious (OOOOooooooohhhhh…) by leaving off the actual map. Now people will look at it and (I hope) think it’s an interesting piece of abstract art. If and when they ask the question, I can point to one of the pins and say, “That’s Vegas (baby)! Any ideas?” And thus the conversation is begun.

When I saw the Maps Contest pop up, I knew I had to get off my duff and on the ball.


Step 1: Supplies

OsmanGazi made it sound as though a Beech woden plate (sic) of roughly 55”x23”x1” was easy to find in his particular neck of the woods. Not so here in Vegas (baby). Anything that size here is plywood, of varying and usually disappointing condition. What we do have though is an almost-new IKEA store, and THEY sell beech tabletops of various dimensions. Keeping in mind the Maps Contest deadline and due to unrelated life issues, I decided I didn’t have the time to sand and finish a beech tabletop (which, as I understand it can lead to inconsistent results). Thus, I decided on a Bekant tabletop in the “black stained ash veneer/black.” It ties in nicely with the rest of the furniture in the room, and saved me a TON of time (contest deadline, you know) and labor. Plus, I wanted the strings to be the focal point, not the backboard or the nails. Speaking of, I used 2in finish nails and embroidery floss in five different colors too. I went with five colors because there have been five main phases to my professional life. That way, each homebase has its own color for the places I went from there.

So, to sum up:

· 1x Bekant 55 1/8” x 23 5/8” x 5/8” desktop

· 56x 2” finish nails

· 5x embroidery floss loops (8.7yds per loop—PLENTY!)

And the requisite tools:

· Floor buffer, M41A pulse rifle, bottle brush, bikini wax (again—not really)

· Drill, hammer, tape measure, straight edge, pencil, eraser, black Sharpie

Step 2: Design/Planning

In her excellent class on how to write an ‘ible, JessyRatFink talks about design tools. However, she missed one (GASP!). I use MS PowerPoint (MSPP) for a LOT of my design work. I can import a picture, do minor color/contrast editing, resizing, overlaying, and a whole lot of other stuff. I designed the shelves in my bar (which you can see here) in MSPP. I’m pretty sure the program wasn’t designed to do that, but then again MS Paint wasn’t designed to develop floorplans for houses either (yes, I’ve done it, with good effect).

Using OsmanGazi’s design as my template, I had the rough dimensions I was aiming for. I marked those out on my wall with blue tape to make sure they were good. Then I took a picture of that to load into MSPP. My next step was to find a world map that I could use as my baseline. Google provided ample options, and I selected one, imported it into MSPP, resizing it and changing the brightness to fit my need. When I was satisfied, I started plotting locations (more on that in the next paragraph)—beginning with each of my homebases. Once the bases were located, I used MSPP’s straight line tool to draw lines from each base to a location to which I’d deployed. Each base was a phase of my life, so the lines from each base are color-coded (e.g. “When I lived in Alaska, I went here, here, and here—so these lines will all be yellow”).

My problem was scale. I’ve only barely been south of the Equator, but also way up north. I decided to limit my map from just south of the equator to the North Pole. That made my world map slightly skewed as evidenced in the picture, but—hey, this is art! So then, how to transfer that skew onto my backboard accurately? Then I remembered the grid function in MSPP. I overlaid the grid onto the linemap, then just read the grid coordinates off for each location. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? I am a USAF-trained naviguesser after all…

Step 3: Aaaaaaaaaand...Execute!

This was the part I was dreading the worst, and was actually the quickest and easiest. Once I figured out that I didn’t need to print out a world map and worry about scaling it correctly, it all fell into place. Conveniently enough, the back of the Bekant desktop is paper-finished so drawing on it was easy. I made a disposable scaling tool out of a piece of cardboard, marking every half-inch along one edge with my trusty black Sharpie, and used it to mark out my gridlines. Much like a football field, where they don’t mark out EVERY yard line, I made a grid of four inch squares. Then, working from the gridlines I used the tool to plot the locations. Drawing on the back meant that I needed to reverse the east-west (longitude) part of each set of coordinates (i.e. work from east-to-west vs west-to-east as in my design) which caused a few mis-locates—hence the eraser. Put succinctly, I drew out my grid to the required scale, transferred the coordinates accordingly, and Bob’s your uncle!

I chose to drill all the way through my backboard (vs OsmanGazi’s only partial drill) and use a drillbit slightly smaller than the nails, figuring friction would hold them in place. Drilling from the back side was a bit disappointing (if you’ll pardon the pun), only because I ended up pushing through the finished side rather than cutting through. This resulted in almost every hole having some degree of chip-out on the finished side. These were easily colored in with my trusty black Sharpie, and unless one looks REALLY close it’s unnoticeable.

Flipping the board over so the finished side was up, driving the nails was a no-brainer. Then, it was off to the tying. Tying the strings to the various locations went quickly, although there were a few “Wait, is that England or Germany?” moments. It was easy enough to crawl under and refresh my memory though. I wanted to minimize the number of knots to ease the strain on the nails, and not have to tie so many knots! So I used one line for multiple legs from a base when possible, making a double wrap around the places I’d stayed, and not mistake another nail for someplace I’d not been during that phase. If anyone looks that close they’ll see that the wrapped spots are stopping points/deployed locations. Where my path crossed the International Date Line I plotted a location for a nail on one edge and another on the opposite edge at the same latitude, intending to keep the flight path as straight as possible for a “wrap around” effect. If you look closely, you can see where I completed my circumnavigation of the world—well, the Northern Hemisphere at least…

Step 4: Navigational Art

Once the tying was done it was a simple thing to mount it to the wall (with a little help from a friend). I used 4” galvanized screws to drive into the wall studs with a 1/2” spacer behind the board, and covered the screws with those little black stickers that are always left over from IKEA builds. I believe the board would be too heavy to only hang from the drywall. The floating effect of the 1/2” spacers is nice, I think. A potential improvement would be to figure out a way to project the map onto the board, just to show people I’m not COMPLETELY crazy. And maybe a heavier gauge of string—the lines don’t show up as much as I was expecting. Unfortunately, the board is reflective enough that straight-on pictures flash back, and I don’t possess a bunch of external lighting capability, so I had to take the pics from off angles.

Thanks for reading, and happy mapping! Also, if I may make another mostly shameless plug for the Maps Contest I’ve entered this in…

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    3 years ago

    really cool! I've seen some things like this with bulletin boards but this is a new one!


    Reply 3 years ago

    And thank you!


    3 years ago

    This is such a neat idea, I like it! : )


    Reply 3 years ago