Friday, January 25, 2013

An Official DIY Post

Somehow, I feel like I have to write a how-to post in order to be a legitimate bride. Ok, I know that's not true. But I'm still excited to write about my biggest project so far—and definitely my favorite.

I told you before about my Scrabble obsession inspiration. I was innocently scrolling through Pinterest when I saw a picture of a card box labeled with "Cards" in Scrabble letters.

I loved the idea of labeling with Scrabble letters! Except, as always, I had to take it one, or two, or three steps further. First of all, I wanted them to be made out of wood to mimic as closely as possible the smaller Scrabble letters I had already ordered. Second, I wanted to label all the tables with matching letters. Third, I wanted to make them myself, with a budget of... basically zero dollars.

Originally I was all like "We'll just make the words breakfast and lunch! It will be easy! It will only take us a half hour!" Somehow that morphed into 61 letters of two different sizes and five people spending over fifteen hours combined on the project. Oops.

We wanted to make the following words to label the various tables:


We also wanted to use the Scrabble letters as table markers for seating—like table numbers but letters. We're planning on having around fifteen tables, so we needed the letters A through O.

Finally, we wanted to make larger letters (7" by 7") to put on the mantel. We decided on "MR. & MRS. LEMUR" for these letters. After we added up all the letters, we had 49 4" by 4" letters and 12 7" by 7" letters.

After we figured out what we wanted to do and how to do it (we had some issues with spray paint and markers bleeding into the wood and not creating crisp lines), my dad got to work ripping quarter inch plywood into 4" by 4" and 7" by 7" squares. He made a few extra of both, but we ended up only using one extra 4" by 4" square by accident. He sanded the edges and coated them in lacquer so the paint or marker wouldn't bleed along with the grain of the wood.

The wood took a while to dry, so we lined them up along the hallway in our house. When the wood was finally dry, we stacked them on the table along with a really cute Christmas tablecloth... one that we didn't mind getting glue on obviously!

In the pictures the wood looks like it's different colors—this is because the back of the plywood was a slightly different color than the front. We chose to use the lighter side for all of the tiles, so they all look consistent. On the table letters we put the letters on both sides, so they don't match perfectly. You can't tell unless you put them side by side though!

While we were waiting for the wood to be prepped, we got to work creating our templates. There was no way this girl was going to freehand letters and numbers onto 61 tiles! We used the letters from this site because they were classic and had clean lines. We simply copied and pasted the images into Microsoft Word and resized them to either the 4" by 4" or 7" by 7" size. Then we printed them on cardstock and cut around the edges. I don't have any pictures of this part—but the next thing we did was carefully cut out the letters and numbers using an X-Acto knife. It ended up being really important to make precise cuts, especially on the smaller numbers. You can see where we didn't do a great job with this in the final product. When we were done, the templates looked like this (sitting on top of a finished block of wood):

In order to keep the template in place, we put a thin film of glue stick on the back of the template and pressed down hard along the edges of each letter and number. We found that the glue stick came off pretty easily (as long as you didn't use too much!) and you could use the templates over and over—because we only cut out one template of each letter.

When it came to actually writing on the block of wood, we tried several different things. Spray paint proved to be messy and not entirely precise. Painting the letters individually was time-consuming and again, messy. So when all else fails, use a Sharpie!

Or... eleven Sharpies (and permanent markers). The Sharpies faded quickly writing on the lacquered wood—RIP all the Sharpies that found a quick death in this project!

Buying the markers proved to be the most expensive part of the project. My dad already had the wood (he's a construction manager and carpenter) so the only other cost was the cardstock, which again we already had on hand. This would be slightly more expensive if you had to buy wood—for example, here's a 2' by 4' sheet of quarter inch plywood from Lowe's for ten dollars (don't ask me if this is what my dad used, I have no idea...).

Then it was time to go! But first, some Leverage on my laptop (my current favorite show—sadly, TNT canceled Leverage after this season).

By the end of the night, we got into a groove. Mr. Lemur would glue the templates onto the wood (like above) and Sister A would trace over the template with a Sharpie. Note: these are actually Mr. Lemur's hands before Sister A took over the template tracing.

After the templates had been traced and removed, the letters were still in rough shape. That's when Sister E and I would take the letters and slowly trace around the edges or fill in any spots that weren't super clean. This was the hardest part of the project, as seen by the fact that it took two of us to keep up! Here's a shot of us working over halfway through the project—it's past 11:00 here.

Not all of the letters are perfect. Some of them are slightly larger or smaller, and there are definitely little oopsies. But around midnight (on New Years Day) we finished up the project and laid out all of the letters to view our handiwork!

I'm really happy with them. Here's a closeup of the table letters:

My personal favorites are the larger letters spelling out our names. I have a secret ambition to hang these in our house someday. Unfortunately, I can't really show them to you because it would be all one big blur but use your imagination!

So did I do ok on my first DIY how-to post ever? What do you think of the letters? Is my obsession officially out of control? (Don't answer that last one.)

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