Tuesday, October 11, 2011

DIY Wood Subway Art

We just full throttled & jumped on the subway art bandwagon in the last 2 weeks. Lani’s anniversary gift to Sonny was this lovely piece of art and I had a similar idea, as usual…

Let me start this story by telling you a little story about myself. Hubby brilliantly put it on our anniversary as we were eating lunch at one of my favorite places, Chick-Fil-A. He picked up a chicken nugget, dipped it in a little ketchup, and said “This is what I do” and took a normal bite. I started laughing because I knew what was coming. He grabs a handful of fries, says “This is what you do” and proceeds to shove them in his mouth. I was DYING laughing. Crying laughing. Because it’s so true. I can’t help that I have dreams of grandness!

Here’s what I was hoping Hubby would come home to on our anniversary:


complete. awesome. and maybe with a red bow on it.

Well, here’s what happened.

After making plans to get the materials for free, it just didn’t work out. And now I was down to the wire, which was what I was trying to avoid all along… I swear, no matter how hard I try, I end up doing things last minute. Our anniversary was on Thursday, so on Tuesday, Will and I were off to Home Depot to get our materials.


These would’ve been a decent idea, but they only came in 2’ or 4’ lengths and I needed 3’ since my piece was going to be 3’ square. Also, for 1/4” thick piece of wood, they were expensive!


I went with some 6’ planks in just the plain white wood. It’s not birch or poplar, its just the whitey white. At $2.75 for a 1x4x6, we had a winner! I decided to vary the size of my planks, so I got some 1x6x6 planks too. And then walked our happy bums over to the saw for the HD Dude to cut the planks in half. I love having people do the hard work for me.


Next it was time to get overwhelmed by stain options. Will was no help since the roll of Contact Paper became a light saber and I was sure to stay at arm’s length so I didn’t get hit, and the cart was just out of reach of the shelves. Sometimes its necessary to park your cart in the middle of the aisle.

Of course, when I can’t make a decision, I send a text pic to Lani. As you’ve seen, almost ALL of our living room furniture is espresso, or in this case, Jacobean. I love it, but I am kind of tired of it…we need a little something different. It was between Dark Walnut and English Chestnut. I went with English Chestnut because I can say it with an English accent and make myself giggle. Also, I like the smidge of red undertone. And finally, it will look freakin’ amazing if/when we paint our living room Martha's Bay Leaf.

So home we went. I busted out my power sander. I love that thing. I used 100 grit sandpaper because I just wanted to get the splinters off and vary up the edges and corners a little bit. I didn’t care if the whole thing was silky smooth since it’s going to go up on the wall. If it was going to be something I would be touching all the time, I would’ve gone over it with some 220 grit. It was very reminiscent of my 2 years in wood shop in middle school. Best class ever with the best teacher ever. I did Mr. Carser proud!

After about an hour and a half of sanding all 10 of my planks, it was time to assemble them:
I laid out the planks the way I wanted them with the side I liked best up. Then I flipped them over so I could attach the beams to the back. One screw per board per beam seemed to be sufficient. Will said I was “Too Noisy” since I was sanding & now drilling. Sheesh! Sorry! Didn’t realize I needed to be quiet during the day.

Phew! Here she is!

You can see that the lengths aren’t exactly 36” since some are longer and staggered. Can you see the curved and rounded edges I did with the sander? Pretty cool, right? I really don’t know what my fascination is with things that are just a little bit imperfect… It just looks cooler & handmade.

Next it was time to cut out the letters. I used plain white Contact Paper (aka shelf liner), cut it to 12”x12” pieces, and stuck it to my Cricut mat to cut out all of the pieces. I just went kind of willy nilly at first, as you can see from the picture above.

After cutting out a few words, I started laying them out and got into a groove. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to organize my lines, but figured chronological made the most sense. Once I had these 1st two lines on, I was on a roll.

A while later, I had this… Yes, the Contact Paper is going to curl up a bit (or a lot) when you do it. And if luck isn’t on your side, cutting & placing the letters will have taken a LOT longer than you thought, and it will be almost 5pm which means you have to hurry & put this away so you can keep the present a surprise & make dinner. Hmmm… I’m sensing a pattern… everything takes longer than I think… If you’re keeping score, it is now the night before my anniversary. At this point I will be finishing this ON our anniversary while Hubby is at work. Or so I think… Hubby informs me that night that he took our anniversary off. I’m sure my reaction was not was he was looking for as I went “Oh. Crap.”.
Hubby: Um. What?
Me: Ugh. Sorry. I mean, YAY! It’s just that… I need to finish your gift and thought I had all day tomorrow.
Hubby: Well, I have to finalize some things, so I will be gone in the morning.
Me: Oh! OK! Well, take. your. time!


While Hubby was off that morning, it took me forever to stick all of the letters down. It took me almost 2 hours! Maybe I’m anal, maybe it’s because Will decided to throw his entire cup of choco milk on the kitchen wall. Get a straight edge and stick stack stuck ‘em on!

Let me preface this next picture by telling you what I envisioned for this whole piece… what was supposed to happen was that I stain the whole piece, with contact paper in place, and then peel up the contact paper to reveal crisp clean lines and letters underneath. I wanted it to be all wood so the letters are the raw wood color and then the darker stain around it.
I did a tester piece of Contact paper on the back of the board for safe measure, Survey Says: it was a mess. The square came out to be more of a trapezoid. Seriously?! I don’t have time for this! So I take my phone and am texting Lani like mad to see what I should do, while I’m searching online for the wood subway art that I know I’ve seen on someone’s blog but, of course, cannot find for the life of me. I still can’t find it. If you find it, let me know! I want to see how they did it.
I grab the Modge Podge, a foam brush, and trim the letters in it, hoping it will seal them and maybe create the effect I want. Lani thought it would seal the wood.

Well, Lani was right. I sent Lani this pic with a few explicatives and tears. NOW WHAT?! I was so pissed. Now what to do: Paint it? If so, what color? Leave it? Throw it away?

Maybe if I keep going it will get better?
Nope. Definitely not getting better. I tried to leave the stain just on the Modge Podge spots for longer, and then for a ridiculously long time, to no avail. I tried to sand just the Modge Podge spot & then stain again. No change. So what do I do?

Scream & keep going! At this point, I was thinking it looked kind of cool. Not exactly what I was envisioning, but it’s kind of cool. But my question was what happened under the Contact Paper? What if its totally stained under there? I’m screwed. That’s what happens.

Curiosity got the best of me, and I started to peel. Huh... It’s kind of cool! Right?

And then Hubby comes home. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Do I keep peeling? Do I paint? So I ruined the surprise and showed Hubby. I felt like a total b-hole since he got me the coolest gift & was taking me to a fancy dinner. Here I am still finishing his crappy gift & ruining the surprise… Hubby said he liked the effect & that it was cool. Oh! Ok! I peeled all of the letters off.

Next was the hanging. You may know from our random “collected over time” comments that we are avid watchers of The Nate Berkus Show. He has a handy man on to show you how to do simple household things and he showed this french cleat to help you hang a large picture. I picked one up from Home Depot because Nate said it was “a few bucks”. So I’m thinking $2 or $3. Nope. Try $9.97. Dear Nate Berkus. FEW means 2 or 3, not 10! It’s not going to break the bank, but definitely not the super low price that I originally thought. It definitely made my life easier:

The cleat for the wall has its own little leveling bubble in it. So handy! Just need to screw at least 1 screw into the stud, while the rest go into the drywall. Nevermind the bloody arm. It’s just my mother in law. JUST KIDDING!

Then just screw the other cleat onto the back of your piece. Badabingbadaboom.

It’s a lovely addition to our currently spookified family room.


I’m ready for my close up.

I love how the ampersand came out, right down to the knot peeking through.

Here’s a quick cost breakdown:
3 – 1” x 4” (actually 3.5”) x 6’ planks @ $2.75 each
2 – 1” x 6” (actually 5.5”) x 6’ planks @ $3.22 each
Contact Paper $6.97
Stain $4.58
French Cleat $9.97

Total = $36.21 (pre tax)

The screws, Modge Podge, brushes, and stain rags were already on hand.

For those of you wondering about what the words mean:
Rome, Italy – Our first trip together while dating
Trevi Fountain – It’s in Rome, where Hubby proposed to me.
Summit House – Where we got married. They have the BEST prime rib & creamed corn.
10.06.06 – Our wedding date.
Maui – Where we honeymooned.
Disneyland – We went here the day after our wedding with our friends and family because we love it.
Huntington Beach – Where we had our first apartment together.
Lake Forest – Where we currently live.
Wub & Nub – It’s just our little saying. Instead of saying “I love you” all the time, sometimes we say Wub & Nub.

The End.

Got any stories of project gone awry? Misery loves company! Ok…I’m not miserable. It actually turned out really cool once I got over the It’s-Not-How-It-Is-Supposed-To-Look issue in my head.

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