Introduction: Travel Pin Map

We have always wanted a world map to pin our global travels on. Sure, you can buy one for $10, but where's the fun in that?

This project will be done in multiple stages, and the beauty of it is you can adapt it to suit your needs, materials and tools. For example, if all of your travels are within Europe, zoom your project and do it on a per-country basis and not per-continent.

Or don't have woodworking tools? Buy a cheap frame instead. Don't have a laser cutter? Cut with an X-Acto etc etc



Cork board


Reclaimed Pine

Wood glue

PLA filament

Step 1: Tools Used

I used the following tools, but you can adapt as needed:

Table Saw (Alternative: Buy a ready made frame)

Speed Square (For frame)

Block Plane Orbital Sander (For frame)

DIY Laser Cutter (Alternative: Cut shapes with vinyl plotter or X-Acto)

3D Printer (Alternative: Use shapes cut from felt)


Step 2: Frame

I started with the frame, as it is easier to cut the cork and felt to the size dictated by the frame. You can skip this step and use a store bought frame.

I reclaimed pine boards from an old deck. I don't have a jointer, so did my best to square the old boards up using a table saw.

I also added a rabbet to sink the cork board into. Since I don't own a router (yet), I used the table saw to slowly eat away the rabbet. I also added a 30 degree chamfer with the table saw (again, a router would have been much easier).

The frame pieces were planed with a block plane to remove a few saw marks, and then sanded down with 80 grit sandpaper followed by 120 grit.

Gluing the frame was a bit hard with the chamfers already in place, so I designed and 3D printed these brackets, which helped secure a ratchet strap around the four corners of the frame to clamp while drying. The brackets also feature a notch to easily and reliably measure the diagonals to ensure the frame has right angles. The frame is held together with wood glue only, but for piece of mind you can also add a corner piece or nail in frame steady.

For filling holes (since 1: it is reclaimed wood and 2: my miter edges wasn't cut right) I used wood glue and some fine sawdust collected from sanding the frame, but commercial fillers can also be used. When using wood glue and saw dust, NEVER use a metallic applicator, as it will darken the patch considerably.

Next the frame was sanded to 120 grit again, followed by 240 grit.

The frame was finished off with three coats of raw linseed oil. The first two coats were diluted 50/50 with mineral turpentine and the final coat was applied neat. After every application, about 15 to 20 minutes in, the excess oil was wiped off, and the frame left for 12 hours to harden before the next coat.

Two cork boards were taken out of cork board frames and glued in place, but this was a horrible way to get extremely thin cork. For the same price, cork tiles can be bought which has sturdier, much thicker and doesn't come pre-assembled in a frame that needs to be destroyed.

Step 3: Land Masses

As landmarks for our map I decided on separating the continents as we have traveled to 5 of the 7 continents (when using a seven continent model). You could narrow this down to just the 7 states and territories of Australia, the 50 states of the USA or countries in Europe, whatever works best for you.

As for a projection, I went with the Mercator projection because it's the one everyone recognizes, not because I feel it's the most appropriate.

I got my world map file from WikiMedia (Public Domain) and split it into 8 regions loosely based on continents and my available felt sheets. I simplified the paths around the continents for easier cutting on my 7W DIY laser cutter, but you can print them and cut by hand, vinyl plotter, band saw, CNC, plasma, whatever you prefer. My adapted files can be downloaded from GitHub. Note that they are already sized for a world map with a 1000mm x 500mm total area, but as vector files so can be scaled to any size. The pink felt was much harder to cut, probably because of the wavelength of my specific laser. I include the settings here if you are using something akin to a Emblaser 2 (or just happened to build a laser cutter based on the 7W NUBM44-V2 450nm Laser Diode)

Measurements were taken from my mock-up in Inkscape and transferred to the cork to pinpoint the exact location of the land masses.

The felt were glued to the cork board with a generous amount of wood glue. I tested a few types of glue for this, and wood glue was the cheapest, easiest and strongest from what I tried. Not often that you can get all three of these qualities at once!

Step 4: Pins

As pins to show where we have traveled, I used 3D printed markers showing places we have driven, flown, taken cruised, hiked to etc. If you have traveled more, I suggest scaling the pins down a bit, as they crowded even continents like Africa pretty quickly. They can also be cut from felt, balsa, printed on paper or just use normal marking pins.

On the back of every marker I made a 5mm (13/64") diameter hole which has a friction fit with the 5mm heads on the pins I bought. Some superglue holds them in place. You can find my pins on Thingiverse. Best quality was printed with the holes facing down (not like the picture), since my bed left a pattern on the pin that I didn't like. The holes are small enough to bridge easily.

Bonus idea, since we didn't travel together on most of our trips (mostly trips for work), the markers can also be printed or painted in different colours!

The idea was to use string to connect the routes taken, but after adding one person's routes the pins were already overfilled, so I decided against that idea. If you have travelled less, or can use more resilient pins, I encourage you to add these strings, as it brings the whole map together much better.

I have included two home locations because we immigrated recently from South Africa to Australia, but if you have moved around a lot, feel free to add more home locations too.

Step 5: Finished Product

To finish the map I added a four string braid between the two home locations (signifying our 4-person immigration) and added 3M Command strips in the back. Put it up against the wall and wait for your guests to muse about the places you have traveled that they didn't even know existed!

I have also engraved a small insignia to place on the bottom, both to hide a spot that didn't fill in nicely and to add a name since this was for a birthday present. The file for this was taken from a website that allows personal use, but not for me to distribute the cut file.

The keen observer will notice that the cork is placed behind the frame and not in the rabbet.... Well, 1) I didn't make the rabbet big enough and 2) the cork got damaged around the edges while taking it out of their original frames, hence why I suggest using cork tiles :D

Give this project a go, I would like to see other interpretations of it, especially if used on a smaller scale such as in one continent/country/town only!

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