Of any gift, a Valentine's gift really ought to be personally made or modded.
This year, I was wanting to make something more ornamental than last year's fidget toy, but I don't like fiddly little ornaments.
Serendipity stepped in, and provided several metres of rusty chain.
Step 1: Materials
I could have made this from new materials, but we both like the weathered, rustic look for garden ornaments.
As well as the chain, I used a length of rebar I happened to have lying around, some timber from the shed, fine copper wire, woodstain and woodscrews.
The tools I used included boltcutters, a large-diameter twist-drill, hammer and screwdriver.
Step 2: Making the Heart
I drew out a symmetrical outline of a heart, and laid the chain on it vertically, using the boltcutters to cut pieces of chain to lengths to match the outline.
I started at the middle of the heart, and worked my way out to both sides, to make sure that the point of the shape was a point, and to keep things balanced.
To keep them in order, I threaded the pieces onto a skewer.
Step 3: Tying the Knot
I attached a length of thin copper wire to the end of each piece of chain, simply wrapping and twisting the wire around the end link.
I tied-and-twisted the other ends of the wire to the rebar, with the bar laid flat across the template.
I started at the centre of the bar, and tied half the chains in place. It started getting very fiddly to tie each chain to the rebar with all the others lying in the way, so I switched to making the frame before attaching the rest of the chains.
Step 4: The Frame.
The frame is basically a large U of timber, wood-screwed at the corners, with the rebar making a fourth side at the top.
The rebar is friction-fitted in holes drilled just to size, so that it took some force to get the bar in place.
I stained the wood to darken it (the pale timber didn't look "right" with the dark chain and rebar) and to protect it from the elements.
Brushes used for wood-stain tend to have a short life, so it makes financial sense to use disposable scraps of cut-up sponge instead.
Step 5: Finishing the Heart and Frame.
Once the frame was made and vertical, I started tying on the rest of the chains.
I quickly found that the whole thing was unstable, so I had to resort to drilling a hole through the centre of the base of the frame (something I had planned to do, but later), and screwing the frame to my bench.
Tying the chains to the rebar was a lot easier in the frame. I wish I had done that first. I didn't need to follow the template, either, as I simply tied each chain at the same level as its mirror-image piece.
I was relieved to find, when I stood back from the finished tying, to find that it really did look like a heart.
(Before taking this photo, I had to hang weights on the single links of chain at each side, as they were not heavy enough to straighten the wire themselves. Once straightened, they stayed straight.)
Once the heart was finished, I gave it three coats of Ronseal walnut-coloured stain. I chose to stain after tying because the stain has a four-hour drying period between coats. If I had planned ahead, I might have made and stained the frame the weekend before, but events conspired against me.
The Ronseal tin suggested sanding between coats, and this turned out to be a good idea - although I was after a rustic look, the way the stain soaked into the rougher areas made the wood look really rough. A couple of minutes' work with a detail sander solved that.
Step 6: Placing the Heart
The heart needs to be visible, and it needs to be outdoors.
Fortunately, we have two dead trees in our garden - trimmed of branches long before we moved in, the one nearest the house made an ideal location to hold the heart so that it would be visible from the kitchen window, as well as from the garden itself.
I fixed the frame to the top of the tree with a single six-inch* hex-screw through the frame, using the hole I had made to anchor the frame during construction.
Tidy away the ladder and tools, and I could call Kitewife out to see ...
She liked it :-)
*DIY chains may have gone metric, but independent hardware shops often stay resolutely imperial.
Step 7: Alternative Ideas
I think that many shapes could be made using hanging lengths of chain - don't feel restricted to a heart. Hollow shapes (loops, curves) could be made by hanging wire-chain-wire-chain.
Shading could be achieved by using varying thicknesses of chain.
You don't have to use rusty chain, that was just a personal choice. Hardware stores sell many kinds of chain, in whatever lengths you like.
You don't have to use copper wire - monofilament fishing line would work just as well.
You can make your frame from any material you like. If the top part is wood, simply add a row of small nails or screws to hang the chains from. You could take the panels out of a panelled door, and replace the panels with images in chain. You would probably need to tie down the bottom end of the chain as well, and maybe use plastic chains to stop the weight ripping the doors off their hinges.
If you don't use wire at all, but use varying thicknesses of chromed or stainless chains, you could make a very effective version of a bead curtain for a doorway.
What ever you do, if you're inspired by this project, please, take a photo and post it in the comments.