Introduction: I Love You / I Know Wall Art

About: I build drums, make costumes, work on house projects/repairs, dabble in Genealogy, eat tacos, and sometimes work in IT.

A close friend of mine is selling his house and in the current market, some buyers are writing letters to the sellers as part of the offer process. I was immediately intrigued by this behavior.

As a buyer, his wife wrote a letter to a seller which expressed their adoration for the house/property and how they could envision their family living there and enjoying life events, etc. Though this was a new concept, I considered this to be a standard transmission.

As a seller, they received a similar letter of adoration and visions of the future. However, it highlighted personal items within the home ... specifically Star Wars memorabilia. I considered this non-standard ... more so, beyond standard because it added a parameter - bonding over the love of movies ... characters ... a fictional universe.

Of course I wondered how and why this would equate to an advantage in the realm of real estate since that usually comes down to monetary amounts once the emotional separation has occurred. Turns out, it comes down to contingencies. Perhaps two offers are for the same amount ... Star Wars guy will probably win based on perceived connection. Perhaps Star Wars guy needs to sell a house to buy your house (a contingency), but the other buy is a tenant at will and ready to close the deal. That's a tougher one, but I know that if I felt a buyer was going to take care of a house I've put blood/sweat/tears into ... that would have weight with me.

Anyway - my friend grew up with Star Wars, I grew up with Star Wars, and obviously Star Wars guy grew up with Star Wars ... it's right there in his name. This was my friends first house and I've spend a lot of good times there - fire pit & beer nights, pool & beer days, working on projects, watching his kid grow up (no beer for him), and dominating every Halloween costume party for the past decade.

It has been decided that a gift shall be left for Star Wars guy and his wife. That's were I come in because buying something at Michael's just seems too generic. I guess a gift card for Lowes would be practical, but that's not what I do around here!


3/4" Plywood



Wood Glue

Leather Dye

Red Spray Paint

Clear Coat

Picture Hanging Wire


Step 1: Design, Laser Coveting, and Poplar Fail

For the design, I did an image search for "I love you I know" and BAM! - several variations appeared before my eyes. I picked the one I liked, used photoshop to convert it to simple fill layers, and printed out rough templates.

Laser .. oh how I yearn for a laser cutter. I can't justify the expense since I'm a hobbyist and don't profit from my work, but I probably should sell some work and then buy a laser. I have a friend with a laser, but the scheduling logistics to use it become an uphill battle and I get frustrated, so that rarely happens.

I decided to just cut the parts out on the bandsaw and use the drill press for the internal spaces. My intent was to use thin poplar stock for the parts, but as you can see, it didn't take well to successive holes and split along the grain. The second attempt took the same downward spiral, so I had to switch directions.

Step 2: Hardboard Parts

3/16" hardboard to the rescue!

The process is straight forward:
1. Stick the templates to the hardboard with spray adhesive.
2. Drill out any/all holes at the drill press.
3. Cut out the shapes, close to the line, on the bandsaw.
4. Sand to the line with the 1" strip sander.

The only tips/tricks I can give are as follows:
1. Some of the tight spots within the letters were shaped with the backside of the bandsaw blade. Pulling the work towards you for a less aggressive cut - it's a techniques I picked up from Jimmy Diresta.
2. The cut along the bottom of the trigger was done with a coping saw.
3. Laminate the two sides of Leia's hair so that you cut/shape both sides at once ... keeping them symmetrical.

Step 3: Colorization

Most of the parts are black, which was achieved with Fiebings USMC Black leather dye. It's the best - I've tried ebony stain and india ink and they just don't stack up. I applied two initial passes of dye.

For the heart, I used red spray paint. I'd rather use leather dye, but I have yet to make the purchase. Due to the porosity of the hardboard, this took three coats.

Step 4: Panel

With all the small parts in dye and/or paint, it was time to move on to the back panel, which is 3/4" plywood. As you can see from my skillful CAD file, after considering 1/4" frame grooves and a 1/2" center divider, the dimensions of this panel are 20 1/2" x 10 1/2".

It was ripped to 10 1/2" against the fence. I used my crosscut sled to square up the edges and cut the length to 20 1/2".

The blade was then lowered to a height of 1/4" and I ran the board end over end, until I had a perfectly centered 1/2" wide groove.

Step 5: Frame

The frame stock is 1 1/2" wide and I procured it from scrap/offcut stock. The centered 3/4" wide and 1/4" deep groove was cut on the router table.

I used to have a dedicated miter sled for picture frames, but it was restrictive when it came to stop blocks and longer length, so I got rid of it. I prefer a crosscut sled with the blade tilted to 45°.

I also don't bother with measuring. I cut a miter on one end, put the piece in place, mark it, and sneak up on the cut [Fig. 4-6]. Once the first side is perfect, I just cut the opposing side to match. I started with the long sides and then repeated the process for the short sides [Fig. 7&8].

Once all four sides were cut, I marked a centered nailing line, ran a bead of glue in the groove, and secured the frame with 1 1/4" brad nails.

Since the glue needed to cure, I took the opportunity to fill all the nail holes with wood putty.

Step 6: Center Divider

The center divider was ripped from a scrap of 1/2" thick poplar. It was cut to length using the small parts crosscut sled on the table saw and then a few light passes through the drum sander until I was happy with the height - probably between 3/8" and 7/16". The exact height doesn't matter - I just wanted it lower than the frame.

After a test fit, it got a pass with the leather dye.

Step 7: Sanding and Assembly

The glue, wood putty, dye, and paint were left to dry overnight. Day 2 started with running the panel through the drum sander to level the faces and remove tool marks (front and back), as well as sanding the frame edges and breaking all the sharp edges with 150 grit sandpaper.

Assembly is another step which would be exponentially easier, faster, and more accurate with a laser cutter. You could make a 10" x 10" template which perfectly fits the the panel and has all the shapes cut out in their finished positions. Then you could place a few drops of cyanoacrylate in the space, hit the back of the piece with activator, and drop them in place. Perfect/repeatable alignment, instant bonding, and no unsightly pin holes.

My method was more finicky and time intensive, but it worked. The center divider was glued in first and then I used scrap stock of various thicknesses as spacers to aligning the parts. Once I had the location determined, I'd mark a few edge points with masking tape, remove the part to add a few drops of wood glue, replace the part, and lock it down with pin nails.
Note: I didn't use cyanoacrylate because I wasn't confident that I'd get all the parts placed perfectly and wanted the ability to reposition them - it was a wise decision.

Unfortunately, the pin nails were noticeable, so I opted to fill them with wood putty and carefully apply a finish coat of dye/paint. Depending on the light source and viewing angle, they can still be detected. A template and cyanoacrylate would be the way to go.

Step 8: Topcoat and Hanging Wire

My brand was applied with a toner transfer method - image reversed and printed with a laser printer (ink jet won't work), placed on your work piece ink side down, then rubbed/swiped with an Acetone saturated rag or paper towel.

The topcoat was three applications of a Krylon satin crystal clear spray. Clear spray shellac is my normal choice, but this is what was in the cabinet. It dries in 10 minutes and is supposedly is non-yellowing. The key is to use a spray finish and very light passes. If you try to apply finish with a rag, you're going to pull color from the parts. If you spray too heavy, the dye and spray paint are doing to bleed onto/into the plywood panel.

I left the project to cure overnight and then lightly sanded all surfaces with 220 grit for a smooth finish.

For hanging, I used 4 strand metal wire, which is secured to the plywood panel with two screws. I've tried those metal saw tooth hangers before, but no matter how precise I try to be with placement, the project rarely hangs level on the wall. The wire option affords more adjustability.

Step 9: Glamour Shots

The final product looks pretty good, IMHO ... aside from the telegraphing pin locations. I find the size, layout, and material choices aesthetically pleasing. I'm sure Star Wars guy would enjoy it - unless he's also a carpenter ... then maybe not.

As fate would have it, I might get my chance to make version 2 ... because the Warden has apparently decided that this one belongs to her. I better start scheduling some laser time asap.

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