If you're anything like me you always have piles of scrap wood laying around from other projects and choice pallet offcuts. Need something to do with it all? Well here ya go!
(EDIT: I'm trying to get started with the Amazon affiliate program, which includes adding a disclaimer that I'm doing so. Any Amazon links included in this 'Ible are affiliate links, and I will receive a portion of every sale made through the links. Thank you!)
Various wood scraps
Square / Straightedge
Mitre saw (Recommended)
Dust mask / Respirator
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Step 1: Make a Template
The first step, as always, is to figure out what you want to make!
I looked up photos for "Geometric Fox" and picked one that I liked, then used a free poster site to blow it up in size. Print it out, spread it all over your workbench and you've got yourself a template!
I didn't tape them together, but you might want to in order to keep them more organized. I had to shuffle them around a few times when they got blown off the table.
I also looked at a bunch of fox pictures and marked on the template what color stain to use for each section. It changed a little bit once I started putting it together, but it was a good reference point to start from.
Of course you can use this same method to make something other than a fox. For example, if you'd like to make a Schnauzer, replace each time I say "fox" with "Schnauzer". I'd like to make a whole forest worth of animals like this eventually.
Step 2: Gather Your Materials
It's time to grab your box of scrap wood, break up some pallets, or tear apart that old bed frame you keep wondering why you still have!
My garage seems to keep accumulating small pieces of wood, and even when I burn boxes full of them they just keep coming.. Though it might be because I don't stop making things long enough to do something about the growing pile. But this project gave me a use for all those leftover scraps.
Step 3: Cut a Whole Bunch of Little Blocks
This is one of the longer parts of the project, but pretty important. You're making the shape of the fox!
Start by extending the lines of the triangle you'd like to cut. Lay your piece of wood over top and mark each point where the line extends out (Make sure you're marking the correct lines! Once you get part way through you'll end up with a whole bunch of scribbles on your page). Use a square or straightedge to connect each point, then cut along your line. (see pictures)
I used a mitre saw for most of the cuts, but you could use any type of saw you have. Even a handsaw would work if you have the patience and dedication!
A few of the shapes (the feet and eyes) had concave angles or complex parts that I couldn't easily cut on the mitre saw, so I used a bandsaw to do those. You can always adjust the shapes to work with the tools you have.
I thought it looked pretty good with the blocks left at various thicknesses, and also better hides any small messups. If you wanted to make all the blocks the same height you would thickness plane the boards before cutting to shape.
Step 4: Keep Cutting Blocks
Again, this is the part of the project that will take a while but is critical. Put on some tunes, get your groove on and start cutting.
One thing that makes it easier is to lay out the shape of the blocks in relation to the blocks around it, rather than to the lines on your paper. Also, constantly check the fit of your pieces with the rest and lay the whole thing out. I started out by cutting 10 pieces at a time before I would check them, which ended up with me needing to heavily sand a few edges to make them fit together better.
Most of the pieces I chose wood that had a little color to it, to make it look like a fox even without any wood stain. When I started I wasn't really sure if I would end up staining it or not. I also modified the tail from my template to make it look bushier (If wooden blocks can look bushy).
Step 5: Sanding
Sand the top of each piece just enough to make it feel "soft". I didn't want to sand too much that it took all the character out of the wood. Also round over the edges and sharp corners of your blocks.
I used my old disk sander with 120 grit paper for the faces, and rounded the edges by hand with 180 grit. I like to use the sandpaper with adhesive on the back in order to stick it to my hand. It makes edges and contours easier, at least for me.
If you look at the pictures you can see how sanding makes the fox look a little more alive and less blocky. I hate sanding as much as the next guy but it's for a good cause!
You could use a router with a roundover bit to do the edges, but I was concerned about having too much tearout with the small pieces if I did that.
Step 6: Marking
Flip each piece over and write the color of stain to use on the back. This makes it a bit easier than trying to base everything from your template paper later.
I had yet to purchase the wood stain at this point, so what I marked didn't completely match the colors I ended up using.
Step 7: Staining
Start by picking out what colors you'd like your project to be. I had a few different shades of orange and red in mind for the majority of the fox, as well as some brown and black for the feet and eyes and white for the chest, ears and tip of his tail.
Like most projects, it didn't go completely to plan...
My local Home Depot doesn't carry orange stain colors! They had just recently phased out their Minwax stains (which has orange) and gone over to Varthane (which doesn't have orange). I had to improvise, adapt, and make a red fox! I used Barn Red, Cognac, Sunbleached, and Espresso colors of stain because they most closely matched the look I wanted. You really don't need much of any of them and can pick up the smallest containers they offer; I only got a quart of the Barn Red because it didn't come in smaller sizes.
Remember marking the backs of each block with which stain to use? Now just stain each one the colors you marked. Make sure to cover the sides of each block too, as they will be visible when you're done. I had an old pair of tattered blue jeans that I cut up into rags for applying the stain. For the red I wiped off the stain almost immediately after applying it because I wanted to end up with a lighter color. For the black and brown I let it sit for a few minutes before wiping.
You can always change your mind right up until the stain is on! For the "white" blocks, I didn't end up using the stain I had on them, just leaving them as bare wood. I did use the white as a base layer on the bottom edge of the tail, and then adding red stain over top of it. Look at a bunch of color photos of whatever it is you're making and base your stains from that.
As with any coloring agent, test your stains on some scrap blocks before applying to your whole project. Just in case.
Step 8: Back to Sanding
I wanted to lighten up color and give the fox a "fuzzy" look, so I lightly sanded the surface with 180 grit sandpaper. Don't worry about making each piece the same exact texture, you want to mismatch them a little bit to look more like fur.
I didn't really care for the plain white look of the top of the head and the middle of the chest, so after sanding all the red parts I swiped the same piece of sandpaper across those ones. Since the sandpaper was full of all the red bits that got sanded off the other parts, it left a lighter reddish color behind. If you plan to do this on a piece, test it on some scrap first!
Sanding it again also restores the softer feel to the wood after the wet stain raises the grain.
Step 9: Get Some Backing
I grabbed a piece of 5/16" plywood to use as the backing. Lay out your piece on top of it to figure out what orientation you want it in.
If you're not planning on making anything else this shape in the future, you can trace the outline directly onto the plywood. I figured I might use the same shape for some pallet slat projects later, so I wanted to trace it onto a reusable template first. My house always has a lot of cardboard boxes laying around, so I cut up one of those. I started cutting the cardboard with some heavy duty scissors, but they made such a rough edge that I switched to my pocketknife and got a much cleaner cut.
I held the cardboard template down firmly to the plywood and traced it with a sharpie. It was right around that moment that I realized I wouldn't be able to cut the 3 foot wide plywood on my 18 inch throat bandsaw. This was at 9:30 in the evening. It was soon after this moment that I found out Home Depot is open until 10pm.
I ran to Home Depot and bought A Jigsaw. You could do it with a handsaw if you really wanted to, but this was 2 days before I was planning to give it as a birthday gift and I didn't have the time or patience for that. I also figured I would be using the jigsaw in the future for other projects.
Step 10: Glue It Up
Arrange all your pieces one last on the plywood backing to check the spacing and layout.
I used Titebond Original wood glue to secure all the pieces to the backing board.
Take them one at a time, smear some glue on the back and stick it firmly back in place. I didn't clamp any of them down as it dried, but I did put some weights (paint cans, books, etc.) on the larger pieces to hold them down well. With it just being for decoration and not holding any weight the glue joint doesn't have to be as tight as in other applications.
Step 11: Give Him a Coat
Since you want this to last forever, apply a few good coats of finish sealer. I used Rustoleum Matte Clear Enamel (because that's what I had).
You can brush it on, but I used spray sealer because brushing it on could smear the stain around and give it funky textures. I sprayed on one coat, let it sit overnight and sprayed on another.
If you plan to hang it outside on the front porch or barn be sure to put a UV protectant on to keep it from fading.
Step 12: Give It a Home!
Every good project needs a place to go, and this one was no different. I gave it as a birthday gift to my girlfriend (who likes foxes) and she loved it.
It took quite a bit of time and effort to make, but the end result and the smile on her face was worth every sore finger and late night.
Step 13: What's Next?
Other ways to modify or continue this project:
- I'd like to make a few more animals and/or their faces. I think a few of them mounted on the walls of a man cave would look pretty cool
- The jigsaw that I purchased in the middle of this project will be great for things I can't cut on a bandsaw
Feel free to check out my Facebook page J3 Design for other projects I've completed and to see what I'm working on.
Ideas, comments and questions are always welcome!
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