The House [Almost] Always Wins: Why I Usually Bet On The Other Guy

Over the last week or so, I've been slowly working away on a wall hanging.  It would normally be a wise move to bet that I'd never finish, and it's probably only due to the fact that I advertised the project, but I'm pleased to say that we've reached lift-off.

It all started with a walk through the woods with a chainsaw.  Last weekend, C and I scavenged around for well preserved blow-downs and decent looking widow-makers, and finding enough worthwhile lengths of both, headed back to the shop to cut slices and power sand the living daylights out of the ugly stuff.  Remember, dead wood, though eco-friendly, is not always pretty.  You should have seen some of the chunks we looked over... they were regular ant farms.  You try hanging that on your wall.  Ick.

Days later, after multiple trips to multiple hardware stores, I started staining.  I used oil-based stuff mostly, along with a water-based forest green and rusty red for a splash of color (it might not seem like much of a step out to you, but it's a far cry from the safety of light beige, the neutral bull's-eye, my home base).  I gathered my rounds of birch, maple, and pine, then proceeded to stain them in a variety of neutrals, ranging from the almost transparent to a rich umber shade, also throwing a couple of those colored pieces into the mix.

After rooting around for a base to attach my rounds to, I settled on a crappy hunk of plywood that was approximately the right size for the project and not terribly heavy.  I sanded this down (mostly for any ratty edges) and then brushed on the darkest brown I had, Miniwax Jacobean, #2750, which wiped down to a rich chocolate hue after giving it a minute or two to sit.

I gave the base a few hours of drying time, then went on a mission down the road to borrow a glue gun from my friend Cathy (cup o' sugar, neighbor?).  Then I spent a small eternity learning how to use the blessed thing (tiny strings were everywhere!!), and moved as fast as I could to slather my pieces and attach them in their predetermined locations before the glue cooled off.

After letting the glue set, we were on to the mount.  C helped with this (helped = performed completely on his own) by drilling the mortar holes and screws to hang the finished piece on the brick above our mantle, as well as attaching the wire to the backside of the plywood.

And then, all of a sudden, it was up.  (All of a sudden really consisted of C balancing backward on the mantle, moving around at my command, while I held "spotter hands" from the ground).  But really, all of a sudden is how it felt to me.

If I were to do it all over again, I would use many more wood cuts for a denser look - but for the first go at it, I'll settle for how this came out.  It also would be neat to make something entirely out of birch rounds. Pretty stuff, that birch.

Here are some photos from the process.

I'm pretty excited to be able to eat at the table again.

Attempting to appear random is pretty tricky.  Notice the blue rounds didn't make the final cut.

But they did make the mantle... in C's grandpa's old shoe kit (center).

The final product.  It almost seems to blend in here, but it is fairly distinct in person.  Sort of.

The best part of this whole thing is that it's actually done.  It happened.  It's up.

Unfortunately, I think I owe somebody twenty bucks,
 because I was pretty sure it would never get there.


  1. love it! Way to put that expertly inventoried machinery to good use, lady (and gent)!

  2. Thanks Ames - I think we used "The Scary Red Vertical Saw" and the "Tiny Plug-In Sanders", if you're looking for the technical terms, which of course is how you and I would know them.

  3. Update: I am no good with a glue gun (no surprise). Reattaching fallen pieces with wood glue - I'll let you know how it goes.

  4. It’s awesome! AND you FINISHED it. Well played.


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