March 9, 2012

A Christmas Project

I'm jumping back a few months and talking about a project I tackled in November/December. My brother and sister-in-law always stump me when it comes to Christmas gifts, and I really enjoy doing stuff that is special as opposed to easy. So with the purchase of their new home, I wanted to contribute something to their amazing new property. I came upon the idea of displaying their address. I know they enjoy nature so I wanted to use rocks and stones to make the sign. I was pretty excited with how it turned out and they seemed to love the gift! Here is a glimpse of the process. It really was a lot of fun. 

I'm pretty sure I have pictures of the project closer to the start but I can't seem to find them. I used an old piece of ply wood for the base of the address sign that I found in the garage. In order to get the numbers in a perfect font shape I selected my desired look in Word, increased the size and printed off the numbers. I then laid down the numbers on the ply wood and traced the paper templates. This allowed me to paint the numbers (staying in the penciled lines) with tile glue. Then I was able to pour the tiny stones over the glue. This worked fairly well, but definitely needed touched up in order to keep the numbers true to the original font shape. Being that the stones I used for the numbers were so tiny I had to do multiple layers of glue and stone. Maybe 6 in total... this then brought the stones to the same height as the larger black stones. 


I painted around the numbers with tile glue and then placed the black stones in the wet glue. This did take some planning. It was tricky to fill some of the spaces the numbers made but with tons of stones to choose from it just took a little time hunting for the perfect stone. 

Once I had the black stones placed just perfectly and the numbers had enough levels of stones for the right height, it was time to grout. We just used cement for this. We mixed it up and plopped it on the project. I got nervous at this point because I felt this is where it could go really wrong or really well. It took time to shove the cement into each nook and cranny, while also trying not to get grout on the numbers at all (just around the numbers). The tiny stones were just too small to fill in with grout. It would have completely covered the tiny stones. 

It was messy.

Once all the nooks and crannies were filled, it was time to start washing off the cement. It was important to do this while it was still a tad damp. It was pretty neat to uncover the black stones and see a glimpse of the final project. This however took forever. It also took multiple attempts to get the stones truly cement free. My mom stepped in and helped with the process of grouting and wiping. 

Always handy to have helping hands!

Once I was satisfied with the uncovered black stones it was time for a clear gloss shine. I bought a clear polyurethane in a spray can and went at it. I believe it was 3 or 4 coats to get a super shiny wet look. Not only did this make it all pop but it will help hold the tiny stones in place. With the help of my dad and his power tools we were able to use finishing trim to boarder the project. (Matt and I were home from grad school visiting my parents when I did this project, super handy to have all of their talents to help with the project.)

Then Christmas arrived and it was time to give them their gift! 

And I think it was a success! The final product was pretty heavy, but I think it will look nice resting next to their mailbox, on their front porch or wherever they choose!

I hope to make more gifts like this. And maybe even someday when we own our own home I will make us our own address plaque. 

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