Introduction: Valentine's Puffin Mirror-Charm

About: I'm all about Making and Mental Health. Reach out if you need a chat .

I try and Make something for Valentine's every year.

I was defeated by circumstances last year, and it was close call this year, but I succeeded!

The techniques I used here could be used to make mirror charms to many themes.

(Note that some of the photos are from the test-piece I made first.)

Step 1: Materials

Wood: already on hand.
Elastic and decorative bead: local knitting shop.
Enamel modelling paints: local toy shop.
Craft knife: toolbox.
Rotary tool: lives on my work bench.
Some heavy tins as "clamps".

Step 2: Design.

The design has two significant parts; the heart shape itself, and the puffin within.

The puffin is doubly-significant; not only does Kitewife like puffins, but this image was the logo for Puffin Books, used first in the year of her birth.

The two images were put together very simply with photo-editing software, and I printed several copies to cut up as stencils.  I accidentally printed the design as an outline format (I got a bit muxed ip with the PNG format), but that proved to be easier to deal with.

The key to your own design is simplicity - keep the cutting and carving within the capabilities of yourself or your tools.

Step 3: Inside Out.

The wood I had was quite thin - OK for a plaque, but I wanted the charm to be thicker.  I decided to glue two layers together.

The charm also needs a hole through from top to bottom, so I cut two channels in the wood before gluing them together, to make a hole through which I will later be threading elastic.

I used PVA glue, and weighted the wood whilst it dried.

Step 4: Transfering the Design.

First, I cut the heart out of the paper, and used it as a template to draw the heart onto the wood.

(Take care to make sure that the heart lines up with the hole already through the wood!)

When the heart was cut to shape, I cut the puffin out of the centre to draw around onto the wooden heart.

Step 5: The Power Tool Step.

I used a rotary blade to roughly cut out the heart, just outside the pencil line, then switched to a sanding drum to cut down to the actual shape of the heart.

I used the same drum to round and smooth off the edges of the heart to what seemed "right".  I also sanded the faces of the heart to get rid of the roughness of the raw timber.

Safety note: sanding like this with power tools generates a lot of air-borne dust.  With the drum, particularly, the dust is launched towards your face.  Make sure you have plenty of ventilation, and wear goggles and a dust mask.

Step 6: Carving.

This is far easier and quicker to describe than to do, especially if you are a novice carver like me.

I drew round the paper template, and drew in the extra details free-hand.

Using a simple craft-knife, I cut down perpendicularly into the lines, and then shaved away the face of the heart, cutting very thin shavings towards the cut lines.

For the thin lines between wing-feathers, I pressed the blade into the wood and then rocked it from side to side, making a narrow V.

A lesson learned: I tried carving out the detail around the eye with a burr bit on the rotary tool.  Fortunately, I tried this on my test-piece first, because the result was horrible.  Have a look at the last photo below, but only if you have a strong stomach!

Step 7: Paint.

I used Humbrol enamel paints to decorate the charm - white for the belly and face details, red for the heart itself, and black for the puffin.

I'm not going to teach you how to paint here, but...

Make sure you leave one colour to dry properly before you start the next, otherwise colours will smudge into each other..

The secret to painting the charm is to use a fine brush and take your time.

Don't over-load your brush with paint, and if your hand shakes, breath slowly and hold the brush near the bristles.

I've used enamels like this before, but years ago - I'd forgotten how long they take to dry, so I ended up painting late into the night on Valentine's Eve, and the charm was still tacky in the morning.

If I did this over again, I would probably use water-based acrylics, mainly because they are much easier to clean up after, and they dry far more quickly.

Step 8: Finishing.

The final touch was to add a length of thin, black elastic to hang the charm from Kitewife's rear-view mirror.

I'm not expecting anybody to reproduce this charm exactly, it wouldn't mean half as much to other people, but it's a fairly simple technique that you could use to make gifts or mementoes for almost anybody.

You don't have to stick to hanging your versions from car mirrors - you could make handbag charms, pendants, Christmas decorations.

Just keep the design you carve simple, take your time, and you can make something special for your loved ones as well.

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