Introduction: Wooden Blue Jay Barn Quilt
After spending a significant amount of time around the house in the last year, I was growing tired of the same old decorations in the kitchen. I really wanted to change things around, and given how much time I've spent staring at a computer screen, it was high time I got off the chair and into the shop.
A few days back, during my hours spent staring at a screen, I happened across a youtube video of a camper with this beautiful wall made from strips of wood stained a variety of colors in a quilt-like pattern. Since I don't have the time or patience (let's be honest, patience is the real problem here) to make an entire wall into one of these wooden quilts, I decided to shrink things down and make a small wooden quilt I could hang like a picture frame.
Our kitchen already has several bird figurines on shelves, so a bird-themed quilt was an easy choice for me. After a quick google search for "wooden bird quilt," the design you can see above popped up, and I quickly fell in love with it.
- Wood board - I used a 3/4" thick scrap piece of oak, need approx. 50" long x 3" wide
- Craft paint - I used blue, white, green, and black
- Gloves (optional but recommended)
- Wood glue
- Sawtooth hanger with nails or screws
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Square (preferably 2)
- Needle nose pliers
You may have noticed there's no mention of sand paper in the tools list. In fact, there's no mention of sanding anywhere in this Instructable (well, except right here). The truth is I HATE sanding. And I don't think I'm alone in that feeling. As a way to encourage myself to enjoy this project, I decided before I even touched a piece of wood that I would not sand anything. Not one bit. Not even one corner. And while this is noticeable in the finished piece, the slight increase in quality wasn't worth the hours of sanding for me. That said, if you want to bring your wooden quilt to near perfection, by all means, sand away; just don't be surprised if I don't join you.
Step 1: Layout
If you're planning on making the same quilt design I did, you can skip this step. But if you'd like to see my thought process and some of the decisions I made, read on.
I started out by drawing a 5x5 grid of squares on a piece of graph paper. I also drew both diagonal lines in each square. Then I copied the design I found online onto the paper, using approximate colors to help me visualize what I was making. I chose the smallest square on the paper to be the width of the wood (ex: the square made by the beak and eye). This meant that the wood grain would be running on a diagonal for all of the pieces. I chose to have the wood grain run from the top right to the bottom left for most of the piece so the grain would be in the same direction as the feathers (see arrows on the final picture for wood grain direction). Finally I outlined and numbered the pieces based on how many of the smallest triangles made up the piece.
Step 2: Pieces Needed (Summary of Layout)
For the layout I chose in the previous step, I needed:
- 11 "1 Triangle" pieces
- 14 "2 Triangle" pieces
- 3 "3 Triangle" pieces
- 7 "4 Triangle" pieces
- 1 "5 Triangle" piece
- 2 "6 Triangle" pieces
- and 1 "7 Triangle" piece
See image above for drawings of these pieces.
Step 3: Cutting Pieces
I started off by having the board ripped into 3/4" wide pieces on the table saw. If, like me, you are not confident with using a table saw, ask a more experienced wood worker to help you out.
Next, I needed to cut out the needed pieces (listed in previous step) on the miter saw. To make the pieces easier to work with, I cut the boards in half, and I cut off the rough ends so both ends would be square.
Rather than measure out each of the pieces and cut them one by one, I decided to clamp a stop to the miter saw. This way I could just push my board up to the stop, cut, and repeat to get the same sized pieces quickly. To easily set the stop without measuring and trial and error, I used a short piece of one 3/4" strip to clamp. This way, for the 1 Triangle pieces, I could clamp my stop right against the blade, so when the block of wood was pushed against the stop, a near perfect 45-45-90 triangle was cut every time. Similarly for the 2 Triangle and 3 Triangle pieces, I added 3/4" block between the stop and the blade, so that when I removed the block, the stop was in the perfect place.
I used the same stop location for pairs of Triangle pieces, so I could cut 2 and 3 at the same time, 4 and 5 at the same time, and 6 and 7 at the same time. For this to work, I used pieces with 90 degree ends to cut the odd numbers and pieces with 45 cuts on the end to cut the even numbers.
To check that my pieces were the right size, I compared them to each other using relations I could see in my layout picture (since I didn't have any actual measurements). For example, the long edge of the 2 Triangle pieces (2T) and the long edge of the 4 Triangle pieces (4T) should be the same. Also the long edge of a 2T with the long edge of a 4T should be the same as the long edge of a 6T.
To be doubly sure everything would work out, I cut out multiple extras of each size, which was also handy for testing paint methods on.
Step 4: Dry Fit
Once the pieces are all cut, it is important to test out how all the pieces fit together. This way if a piece is too long or short or just doesn't look right, you can swap it out with one of the extra pieces or re-cut it. I used two squares to make sure the edges were straight and perpendicular.
At this point, I measured the edges of the "quilt" and cut one long piece with mitered ends the length of each edge to form a frame around it.
Step 5: Painting
For painting, I wanted the wood grain to show through a bit, and rather than spending $5+ on stain for each color I wanted to use, I used acrylic craft paint. Some research I did said that the acrylic paint should be watered down, but in my opinion, that diluted the color too much. Instead, I went with finger painting the paint onto the top and sides of the wood and then wiping off any excess paint until I was happy with how much the wood grain showed through.
Step 6: Gluing
Initially I planned on spreading the glue with a cheap paint brush to keep things cleaner, but after years of sitting in the shop, the wood glue was pretty thick, so I went with my finger instead. I used a square to keep two pieces of the frame square, and then working out from that corner I glued all of the pieces together. I added some clamps and left it to dry overnight.
Step 7: Finishing
To finished the quilt, I added a sawtooth hanger to the center of the back. Since the nails were so short, my fingers were too big to hold them while I hammered them in, so I used needle nose pliers to keep them steady.
Make sure you check which side you're putting the hanger on. I was confident I was doing it right, and lo and behold, I nailed that thing on the side instead of the top. The hanger was completely bent out of shape over the whole situation (fortunately, I was not), so I had to get a new one and start over.
Remember that no sanding rule I gave myself? Well, this was the only point where I was tempted to break it. I think a quick once over with a disc sander would have made the back of the quilt look SOOOO much better. Just removing the little bits of glued paper and flattening out the surface a bit would have gone a long way. But, I stuck by my rule, mostly because the ugliness is on the back.
Finalist in the
For the Birds Speed Challenge