Intro: Printing Colour Images on to Wood: Making Letter Tiles
Using wax transfer paper, normally sold for printing images on to t-shirts, you can tranfer images on to most any porus surface. In this instructable I explain how to make a set of tiles similar to scrabble.
Step 1: Parts & Tools
You will need to buy
Enough 1/4" plywood to complete the project, higher ply number the better
Wax transfer paper, available from any office supply or craft store. AKA t-shirt transfer paper
Text editor with options to mirror the output print.
Iron, some heavy cotton
Narrow gauge circular saw or band saw
Overview: A mirror image it printed on to the transfer paper, ironed on to the wood and in this case cut up in to individual tiles.
Step 2: Layout Print
So, this game I'm making is made up of a number of tiles with letters on them.
I've attached an example html file which you should be able to enlarge to fit your paper (A4 or US letter) using the (CTRL) key and '+'. Alternatively import this in to word to manipulate.
Some things to note.
The letter in each row and column should be centered both horizontally and vertically within each cell, which is why I chose html over word.doc.
Leave enough room between each letter for the width of the saw blade and a little. You will also want to chamfer (round off) the edges of each tile
Start with a trial run, print the image on to plain paper and place on the receiving surface to make sure everything is laid out correctly. When you're happy, print to the wax paper.
Step 3: Prepare the Wood
Its very important to prepare the surface of the wood to take the wax. It must be free of any grease, dust etc. I recommend sanding with a fine grit it to score the surface and then washing it with a light detergent/water mix. It MUST be dry before applying the wax.
The surface of the wood should be as smooth as possible. Anywhere the wood does not touch the paper, such as the rough grain, will not take the ink. You can use this to your advantage however, it can give b&w images a weathered look. Doesnt work so well with colour.
The final part of preperation comes just before you are ready to apply the wax paper. As the transfer relies on heat to melt the wax I recommend placing a sheet of cotton over the wood and heating the area as much as possible with an iron. Why the sheet of cotton? an iron directly on the wood will seal and polish the surface, making it harder for the wax to impregnate the wood.
Step 4: Transfer the Image to the Wood
1)Place the paper ink side down. Remeber to print it mirror image.
2)Iron it a little so that it takes to the surface a little, I've only done this with wood so it may work differently with other materials, we will be placing the cotton down in the next step so we want to have the paper stick in place, avoiding it slipping around once we're ironing the cotton.
3)Place the cotton sheet on the paper and place the iron down without sliding it. Apply moderate pressure and repeat until you have covered the entire image.
3.1) Repeat with more and more pressure, you can lift the sheet to check out progress. Once it seems like the paper is completely adhered to the surface you can iron directly on to the paper until it starts to discolour and/or become very shinny and smooth.
Its hard to over-do it but you can cause discolouration of the wood with too much heat and a little bleeding of the ink.
The whole process for an a4 sized transfer is about 10-15 minutes.
Step 5: Remove the Paper
You can lift the paper from the corner while drawing the iron back which helps release the paper from the wood.
If you've found areas that havent transfered completely simply replace the paper and press down with the iron on that area as hard as you can.
You will probably has a waxy residue on various parts of the image. It is easily removed by rubbing with your bare hand or the cloth while its still warm.
Step 6: Cut and Finish the Wood
I use a dremel circular saw attachemnt for detailed work like this. A good band saw is probably a better alternative.
1)cut the the panel in to long strips
2)I built a simple jig to hold the strips as I cut off the individual tiles
3)Sand the edges of the tiles to finish up.
You are done! on to the game