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Step 1: Draw Your Pattern
On a large sheet of paper, draw the image you wish to create. Don't worry about the 3 dimensional aspect of this yet. Cut the pieces apart.
If the image is symmetrical, you can get away with drawing only half of the image and flipping it over to get the exact same shape.
Step 2: Create the Template
If you are building multiple pieces that you want to be exactly the same, using a template to cut the pieces is the way to go.
Arrange the pieces onto a sheet of 1/4" MDF. I chose to cut out only half of the wing so I could use the MDF template to create a symmetrical piece.
If you want to be extra precise, use a jig saw to cut just to the outside of the line. Then, use sand paper to inch all the way up to the line. A drill press and sanding drum make the task even easier.
When routing the pieces out later, remember that inside corners will only be as sharp as the radius of your router bit. Therefore don't worry if you cut a little too deep with your jig saw.
Knock down the rough edges with some 120 grit sand paper. Don't round over the edge too much though, a nice sharp corner works best when using templates.
Step 3: Lay Out the Pieces
Ideally, you will leave about 1/8" outside the template to route off later. Any more than this and you're just going to make a lot of sawdust.
Step 4: Cut the Dots
Cut a circle in a piece of 1/2" MDF. Remove the centering drill bit from the hole saw. Then, clamp the jig above the 1/4" MDF. The jig will hold the holesaw in place as it cuts.
When cutting the circles, have a vacuum nearby to suck out the sawdust created. The jig along with the way a hole saw cuts, does not allow the dust to go anywhere and it ends up clogging the teeth. Eventually, the blade will stop cutting and begin to generate a lot of heat.
Step 5: Trim the Pieces
Use double stick tape (often sold as carpet tape) to attach the pieces to the templates. Affix the tape to the back of the piece because when you remove the tape later, it may leave a mark on the MDF. Ensure that the work piece overhangs the template as evenly as possible
Now it's time to break out the router table. Insert a pattern cutting bit or a flush cutting bit in to the table. I chose a 1/2" pattern bit. Adust the bit height so the bearing rides along the template.
Slowly run the piece along the bit. Rotate the piece counter clockwise so the bit bites the workpiece instead of runs along with it.
This step will make a lot of dust. I have a small dust collecion system (shop-vac and custom router table attachemet) that isn't shown. Breathing protection is highly encouraged as MDF dust will really irritate your lungs.
If you are lucky enough have access to a CNC router or laser cutter, these steps aren't even necessary! The pieces can be cut perfectly and repeatably every time.
Step 6: Sand the Pieces
The router bit will leave a perfect 90 degree angle on all of your pieces. Use some 120 or higher sand paper to ease the edges of the pieces.
Step 7: Paint the Pieces
Spray as many coats of paint as you think you need. For extra shine, wait until the paint has completely dried (time printed on can) and sand with 220 grit paper. Paint another layer and sand with 400 grit paper. Repeat as much as you want doubling the grit each time. I chose to stop after 400 grit.
Be sure to paint the edges of the pieces as well.
Step 8: Glue the Pieces Together
Glue the pieces together using Gorilla Glue. Gorilla Glue will bond with almost any solid surface including paint. Also, it is incredibly strong. Use the glue sparingly and keep it at least 1 inch from the edge of the piece unless the piece is extremely small. The glue will expand and foam while it cures. Holding the glue back will keep it from foaming out the corners.
Because Gorilla Glue expands and foams as it cures, you need to clamp the pieces together. In order to not mar the paint, a little ingenuity make be necessary to hold the pieces together.
I used 2 bar clamps and a piece of poplar to hold the pieces down.
Step 9: Build the Brackets
As the pieces come together, this could be a very heavy project. Using standard picture hangers may not be enough for the weight. In my case they would probably hold fine but the butterflies are hanging over my 4 month old's crib and I want as much overkill as necessary.
Rip 1/2" poplar with a 45 deg bevel on the table saw. Also cut smaller pieces to place at the bottom of the artwork to hold it parallel to the wall. Mount and glue the pieces to the back of the artwork. Use care to mount the beveled piece exactly horizontal.
Step 10: Mount to the Wall
Using a small torpedo level, hold the other bracket to the wall where you would like it mounted. Drill through the countersunk holes and into the sheetrock. This will mark where you need to put your anchors. For especially heavy projects, consider placing the brackets over a stud. Even one screw in a stud and another in a sheetrock anchor can hold a lot of weight.
I feel this mounting system is superior to other systems because it is very easy to get your piece exactly level. Additionally, if you wish to adjust the art slightly left or right, you can do so by just sliding it along the bracket.
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