I have a cooking corner on the porch. It has my grill, smoker, and the griddle cook-top out there. I wanted a kind of old western style sign to help indicate the area. Blacksmithed letters and old wood are the look I was going for. I don’t do much metal work but figured I could cut some basic letters if I had to. I started by 3D printing a B and a Q in the font I wanted. The print only acted as a tracing template, but it help me set the scale of the project and pick the right wood. I started with a jigsaw, but had trouble with the sharp turns I needed.
I tried using a friend’s plasma cutter but got pretty rotten results. Also I am not very good with a plasma cutter as it turns out. I found a cheap nibbler and ended up going that route. The nibbler is a little round punch that oscillates in and out and is powered by your drill. It can start from and edge and cut a swath, or if you drill a starter hole it can do inside curve work. It is hard to get right up to a line, and often you are left with little round cutouts as shown below.
I slowly went through and cut all the pieces out. I was showered in a sea of little crescent shaped metal debris. Those things are sharp as heck! A good magnet sweep is a must for a nibbler. After the roughing pass I used a carbide bit on my dremel to take everything up to the layout lines. The final result was pretty good. Only a few errant nibbler bites were present. To help add authenticity I heated the letters up with a torch to darken them.
After the heat treatment I picked out a piece of cypress and coated everything in boiled linseed oil. The letters got drilled out at points so I could hammer them home with cut nails for the final touches. The firing and oiling got the color of the metal letters about right. As it sits outside on the porch it will continue to age and darken. Overall a pretty nice project once I got the basic metal cutting figured out.
I am not really into the shabby chic movement as a whole. I guess it is good to repurpose things, but it isn’t really my style. That said, I have seen some cool pallet art that is of different states made out of random bits of wood. I liked this idea and decided to go with it. My rock project came in on 10 pallets, so there was no shortage in available materials.
I started by using my mini projector to project a silhouette of Florida onto a sheet of butcher paper. It is such a weirdly shaped state that I had to add a little panhandle extension to the paper. I traced the shape while making simplifications for all the waterways, and cut it out.
With a serviceable template in hand I headed to the shop and set about tracing it onto a sheet of 1/2″ plywood. I wanted this to serve as the backbone of the sign. I didn’t want it to show up around the edges, so after tracing it I offset the line inwards to hide it behind the pallet parts.
With that cut I assembled pieces of pallet from my collection in the rough shape of Florida. I used the template to make sure I had enough coverage. I clamped them together and again traced the outline.
Now I can go through and trim up each individual piece to shape. It took a lot of time with a jigsaw and my spindle sander, but I got the shapes I wanted. A heavy smear of glue and a lot of pin nails holds all the pallet pieces down to the plywood I cut earlier. The plywood is recessed enough that you can’t even tell it is there from the front.
I gave everything a super thick coating of Boiled Linseed Oil and let it dry. A wire across the back acts as hanging gear where I put it up on the porch. It makes a really nice addition in the corner where I have my grill and smoker sitting.
This is the second Christmas at our new house. Last year I didn’t get much decorating done because of how much there was to do still. This year has us in better shape from a maintenance standpoint. Last year I started with some printed cones to go around the carriage lights. I also had little inserts that went in the small lantern yard lights. I didn’t document those last year. This year I added the spotlights to the mix.
Cone Shades for Carriage Lights
I 3D printed some cone shaped shades that go around the LED light bulbs in our carriage lights. CFLs would likely be too hot for PLA plastic, and incandescent bulbs would melt everything for sure! They are a single layer thick which you can do with the vase setting on most bits of slicer software.
A single layer thick is going to make them delicate, but they spend most of their life in storage or hanging off a bulb. I printed enough to do all 3 lights as orange for halloween and have the two by the garage be red and green for Christmas.
I replaced all the incandescent landscape lights with LEDs really early on. That gave me the ability to add a color hood to each one. These also were a single perimeter width so they would be thin enough to let the light through.
Instead of doing 3D printing alone I picked up some color gel plastic to filter the spotlights in our front yard. I figured this would handle the heat better and let a lot more light through. I printed rings to go around the LED spotlight bulbs. These were glued down to the light gels with E6000 and trimmed once cured.
The results were pretty spectacular. Our icicle lights are overpowering when shooting with my camera, but everything looks really cool. Lots of color all across the yard and front of the house.
At least it DID look good for the first few days. I noticed the reds were looking really pale. I pulled a few of the filters off to inspect. The reds must absorb more than the greens, it completely bleached the gel filter right where the emitters were. The green one got hot enough that the printed part deformed and stuck itself to the LED bulb. Clearly this is going to need a re-think. Next year. It is well after Christmas and I haven’t sat down to work on a solution yet.
I did print a canister that holds all the piece parts for next year. The cone lights stack inside each other to be really compact. The lantern bulb covers are tiny and jingle around the bottom. The spotlight filters are junk at this point, so they don’t need to be stored.