Woodworking | Making a monogram

Today’s post is all about carpentry, a subject that I know absolutely nothing about.

But I’m all about learning new things. And after my brief foray into the World of Wood, I think I can safely say I would make a really great carpenter if wasn’t for all that measuring stuff. (I’ve always been a firm believer in the eyeball-and-estimate method.) Plus, I’m a little weak in the “sawing” and “hammering” departments. But other than that, I’ve got potential.

making a wood monogram
My Adventures in Woodworking began with this pieced piece that I had put together back in 2008 (my “earth-tones period”) with a thrift store frame, some old lath and 16 ounces of wood glue.

It hung in a couple different spots in my house, but as I gradually shifted to a more neutral color pallet, the pieced piece started to seem a little loud and crazy. A couple years ago, it got carried down to the basement where it languished in Project Pergatory: the dark corner where I store all the projects in need of doing or redoing.

Then one day, as I was contemplating whether to hang a plant or a wreath on the empty space next to my front door (above the green chair), inspiration struck: Why not cut a monogram out of my pieced piece for that spot?

Before the inspiration wore off, I went online to Font Squirrel to look for a big chunky font with an angle-y C that was within my budget (i.e. “free”). Sports World (available here) was the winner.

using an overhead projector

Once I had my font downloaded, I typed a C in Photoshop (and warped it out of shape a bit to make it slightly taller and thinner). Then I printed the monogram out on standard letter-size paper, placed it behind a transparency and traced around the edges with a black Sharpie.

using an overhead projector

Next, I took the transparency down to my basement, where I keep my old-school overhead projector.

using an overhead projector

And by “old-school,” I mean it literally belonged to an old school, which apparently has moved on to newer technology and donated all of its overhead projectors to a thrift store, where I bought this one for $5.

I put my transparency on the projector, propped my pieced piece against the wall and taped a sheet of white posterboard on top of it. Then I turned out the lights and…

overhead projector

… the magic happened. (I love old-school technology.) I traced the C onto the posterboard…

…and cut it out to use it as a pattern.

I traced around the C in chalk and removed the pattern.

Then I broke out the jig saw and started cutting off the excess wood.

I sawed off the edges first and then attacked the center.

At this point, I decided to measure the width of the wall next to my front door to make sure my C would fit there.

Turns out the C was about 2 inches too wide. Grrr. (Note to self: Next time, measure FIRST.)

I had to figure out how to make my porch 2 inches wider or my C 2 inches narrower. After weighing all the options, I decided to saw off an inch from both sides of the C. And then, because it looked kind of lopsided, I whacked an inch off the top and bottom, too.

I could have/should have called the project done at this point. But I didn’t. I wanted to put a frame around the C, so I checked in with the engineering department (aka: my husband) to find out how to go about doing that.

He suggested attaching 1×2’s to the back of the C first, so I’d have something to nail the frame into. Easy enough. I laid the C face down on an old towel to protect it while I hammered the 1×2’s into the back.

For the frame, I needed boards that were narrow (about 1/4 inch) so they didn’t add much width to the C. I was originally hoping to use lath, but those boards would not be tall enough. Meanwhile, 1×2′ s were the right height but too wide.

I did not see any boards in the husband’s stash that looked to be the correct dimensions, so I asked him if such a board existed in nature and/or the Fleet Farm lumber yard.

Short answer: Boards do not come in the dimensions I needed.

Long answer: If one is not afraid to operate a table saw, one could easily rip 1×2’s down (run them through the table saw lengthwise) to make them the right dimensions. If one suffers from tablesawaphobia, it helps to have a really, really, really nice husband who will do it for you. (Thanks, honey.)

With the boards for the frame ripped down to size, I began the slow, painstaking process of nailing them to the 1x2s on the back.

I cut and attached the long, straight pieces first, then went back and filled in the shorter, angled pieces. I cut the pieces with my jig saw, which was relatively easy. But nailing the pieces together was not.

All of the crazy angles made it really hard to get leverage when swinging the hammer to drive the nails in, especially for someone with my level of carpentry skills. Suffice it to say, many mistakes were made, many nails were bent and many curse words were uttered during this step.

I also started to question my judgement in choosing to marry a man whose last named started with a C at this point. If I was making a simple T or I or E, I could have been done with the frame in half the time. I believe the man causing all of my frustrations sensed my inner turmoil (or maybe he just heard my cursing) because he came to my rescue more than once when I had stubborn nails that refused to go in or bent nails that refused to come out.

Despite all the frustrations and bent nails, and with much help from my husband, I eventually got all of the frame pieces attached.

The workmanship is far from perfect, but I am very happy with the finished product.


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