Intro: Artistic Decorative Outlet Cover
With many creative options, this outlet cover is simple to design and make. The idea came to me after I remodeled my kitchen. I wanted enough outlets so that I wouldn't need to search and unplug every time I used an outlet. So I installed several outlets in my kitchen. After the remodel was done, I decided the outlets mess with the overall aesthetic. Then I realized I can hide the outlets with these creative designs (art pieces). The concept got a lot of positive reviews from friends and family as I made several and displayed or gave them away. Hopefully, the following will give you enough inspiration and plenty of specific detail so that you can create your own.
Items to purchase are few. You will need the following or equivalent:
Primed MDF board measuring 11/16" x 3-1/2" x 73"
Safety Plug Protectors
My total cost was around $20 to make 13 pieces.
Step 1: Cut the Blanks
I setup a stop on the radial arm saw to cut multiple pieces at 5-3/8" length.
Step 2: Cut the Back Recessed Cavity
I'm fortunate to have a CNC router, so this step was easy. I'm sure one could work out a jig to cut several of these by hand if needed. Note that I used a 1/2" diameter ball router bit. The first designs I made were with a straight bit. This creates a sharp corner and the MDF material will easily break. Use the radius bit so that you will have a much stronger piece. Cut the cavity at 3.3" wide x 5.075" long x .25" deep. These dimensions produce a cavity that will clear a standard and an GFI type outlet cover.
Cut the pocket for the outlet safety plug protector that will be bonded in place later. Note there are two types shown in the picture. I used the clear type that came in that package. The beige colored ones would require different dimensions than what I provide next. For the type I bought, the pocket is 1.375" diameter x .375" deep. The .375" depth starts at the .25" depth cut made above, for a total depth of .625". Hopefully as written, that isn't too confusing. The pocket center position is side to side (X) at 1.75" and measures from the bottom (Y) at 3.425".
Step 3: Seal the MDF Blanks
MDF sucks up paint and adhesive doesn't stick too well to it. To seal it for an improved paint job and better bond strength, I used a 50:50 mixture of white glue and water. Paint on this mixture where there is no primer on the front and sides. Also seal the back side safety plug pocket. Depending how you decorate, you may do this step after you do the machining in the next step.
Step 4: Machine or Decorate the Front
This is where you will excel in innovation. There are so many opportunities for you to create an art piece that will be beautifully displayed. If I had a laser engraver or a 3D printer, I could create and produce many more ideas. Since I do have a CNC router, I was able to machine the several designs seen in this Instructable.
Step 5: Painting
I have tried several ways to paint these. This is not my strong area. I have machined and followed with paint. I have painted and followed with machining. I like the two tone with the white text offsetting the text. But I have yet to find the ideal method or system. If I had a laser engraver, I would try making stencils and or decals. If I had a 3D printer, I would try making raised emblems that are painted separately and then attached. The photos show a couple of the techniques I have used. The first photo I painted the base color and then spatula white into the recessed text. The 2nd photo I painted the non-machined piece, then followed with machining to expose the natural wood color.
Step 6: Mounting the Safety Plug
To assure the plug sticks, make sure you have sealed the surface. Align the plug and mark the position. I used a square and a Sharpie marker. The reason for the mark is that when you bond with hot glue, you don't have much time to position the plug correctly. The Sharpie mark allows you to set the plug quickly into place. Now put the hot glue onto the plug and set in place. Hold firmly for a few seconds until the glue cools.
Step 7: Display Your Work
Note the Sharpie in one photo is hiding a personalized cover--to keep anonymity. But the point is, you can personalize! The positive comments you get from friends and family are just some of the rewards for your efforts. For example, if you don't point them out, then when people sitting around your kitchen suddenly see one of your pieces on display, they will often express their pleasure in discovering your work. Post me if you discover any new ideas on this concept or just had fun applying what I did.