I wanted to build something as a gift for my parents. I love how they’ve been transforming their relatively small garden into a haven for animals such as birds, bugs and hedgehogs. I am especially proud that over the course of the previous winter, my mum caught several underweight hedgehogs to bring them to the shelter. If she hadn’t, they would have probably died from starvation.
I wanted the board to be “live-edged” so with bark, or, at least, with the irregular sides that show it’s an authentic slab of wood. I also wanted to design the drawing, with my parents’ cat, Harry, and some other animals. Moreover, I reckoned it would be ideal if the image would be in full colour.
- Computer, with Inkscape (Freeware)
- Laserjet (!) printer
- Random orbital sander
- Saw. Anything for wood will do in the case.
- Paintbrushes (a larger one for applying varnish and a small one for peeling the paper.)
- A3 sized paper. Regular A3 printer paper will do.
- Sanding disks for the random orbital sander (120, 240)
- Steel wool padding
- Bottle of water
- Polyurethane (water-base) varnish
Part 1: Preparing the Wood
This step was fun! I bought a large (240 long) board at the hardware store and was a bit annoyed with the quality at first. Look at it, the before bits are filthy and were a bit crooked.
After the sanding and polishing, though, that piece of beauty shone like the morning sun. I sanded it, in steps, up to 600grit, and used some steel wool padding the polish it up.
Part 2: Yes, that’s Supposed to be Mirrored
So I set myself in front of my computer screen and set out to work in Inkscape. I edited a photo of Harry to make it blend in better with the other watercolour paintings. I added other animals in various layers, and spent a solid thirty minutes picking the “right” font.
I used the printer at work to print the image. Yes, it has to be flipped, if you want to add letters, that is. Before I stuck the paper to the wood, I applied one basecoat of varnish to the wood. I sanded again, as the varnish raised the grain.
After that was sanded and dusted, I applied a liberal (read: really thick) coat of varnish and carefully pressed down the image onto it. I made sure to press it down to reduce the dimples as much as I could.
Part 3: The bit I find Nerve-Racking
In short: If you take the paper off too quickly, you’ll take the image off as well. The strategy I use is to soak the paper with regular tap water. Then I use a cloth, or piece of towel, to take the paper off, pretty much layer by layer. Yes, printer paper has layers. The more you take your time, the sharper the image will be at the end.
I let it sit overnight, soaked the board again and took the final layer off to reduce “fluff” that remains over the image.
After that, more varnish and more buffing. The result is very clean, cute and shiny if I say so myself.