Painting a Fourth of July Statue of Liberty Sign

By now, my husband really should know better than to leave plywood laying around out in the open inside our garage where anybody who lives here can steal it. If he wants to keep the plywood for his own use he should hide it somewhere out of sight, amirite?

Anyhoo, in a related matter, here’s the latest in my ongoing series of purloined plywood art projects:

When I first saw the board, it wasn’t much to look at. In its previous life, it had obviously been used outdoors because it was weathered and worn and had dried chunks of glue on it.

Old plywood piece, 17 inches wide by 57 inches tall

I liked the size of it, though — 17 inches x 57 inches — and the fact that it was all beat up.

It gave me the idea to paint an image on it that was kind of old and weathered looking, like those faded billboards that you still see occasionally on barns and brick walls, advertising tobacco or 10-cent Pepsi Cola.

screenshot of statue of liberty drawing in Photoshop

With my plywood being tall and skinny, I thought a silhouette of the Statue of Liberty would fill the space and make a nice patriotic statement for the Fourth of July.

I played around with different ideas in Photoshop and ultimately decided to set the silhouette off center and have it bleed off the edge of the wood with the word “LIBERTY” (in Avenir Next Bold) next to it.

Printout of Statute of Liberty, tiled out on 14 sheets of paper

Then I printed the image out. Because it was so large, it tiled out onto 14 pages.

I laid the pieces out on my deck and jigsaw puzzled them together. And if you’re wondering why I have a comb, a mirror, two remote controls, a set of keys and a pack of cinnamon Trident laying on top of the paper, it’s because it was a little breezy at the time and I was trying to keep the pages from blowing away.

Back side of Statue of Liberty printout, showing pencil scribbled over outlines of silhouette, to be traced and transferred onto signboard

After taping the pieces together and removing the random weights, I moved inside, away from the wind, and scribbled onto the back side of the outlines with a pencil.

White plywood with letters traced in pencil

Then I flipped the paper over and traced the outlines to transfer the pencil lead onto the sign board.

White sign with Statue of Liberty silhouette partially painted on it

I filled in the outlines with homemade chalk paint. My secret recipe: a smidge of plaster of Paris, a little water, and a big glob of regular latex paint.

White sign with Statue of Liberty silhouette partially painted on it

The plaster of Paris makes the paint flat and chalky. You have to keep mixing it as you’re working with it to keep the paint smooth and prevent the plaster of Paris from settling at the bottom, but it’s a cheap and easy way to use what you’ve already got instead of going to the store and buying a quart of name brand chalk paint.

White sign with Statue of Liberty silhouette partially painted on it

Despite the sign’s overall bigness, it didn’t take long to paint, because there wasn’t any putzy detail work involved.

In my book, you can never go wrong with a project that offers maximum impact with minimum putziness.

Statue of Liberty silhouette painted on a signboard

Ta da. All painted.

Sander roughing up Statue of Liberty silhouette to age it

To make the sign look old and weathered, I scuffed up the paint with my sander and then dug out some furniture wax I had on hand.

I coated the entire sign with clear wax first. Then I put some dark wax on the edges and other spots I wanted to look aged. I got a little heavy handed with the dark wax on some parts, but the beauty of working with wax is, if you’ve got a coat of clear wax on first, you can “erase” dark wax by going over those spots with more clear wax.

Here’s the sign on my porch.

I’ll leave it setting out for the summer, and then in the fall, my plan is to paint something else on the flip side that I can display for the rest of the year. Maybe a welcome sign? Or a family name sign? I’m still waiting for inspiration to strike.

Statue of Liberty silhouette painted on a signboard

Anybody else have ideas for a fun, all-season sign on a tall, skinny board? Let me know in the comments below.

Crafting | A winter village of little white houses

Little White Houses Winter Village

Today’s snowstorm kept me home from work and school and gave me a chance to finally finish a craft project I had started before Christmas: a mini winter village.

shelves holding little white houses with tin roofs, nail chimneys and faux snow around them

It was originally supposed to be a mini Christmas village, but since I didn’t get it done til now I’m rebranding it and leaving it set up for another month (or more if I remove the faux snow).

Mini birdhouses before being transformed into a mini Christmas village

My mini village actually started out as a bunch of tiny birdhouses.

mini birdhouses before being transformed into mini Christmas village

I was buying these little buildings at thrift stores and garage sales for a long time with no clear idea of what I was going to do with them.

mini birdhouses before being transformed into a mini Christmas village

Then as the holiday shopping season got underway, I started seeing cute little house-shaped ornaments and Christmas villages popping up all over, and I suddenly knew my birdhouse collection was destined to become its own one-of-a-kind small town.

turning mini birdhouses into a mini village

To transform the buildings from mini birdhouses into mini people houses, I pried most of the roofs off (with plans to replace them) and sketched windows onto the exteriors.

using a woodburner to burn window outlines into little houses

Then I broke out my woodburner and attempted to trace over my window lines.

little bird houses being transformed into a mini village

I’ve had a woodburner in my crafting stash forever, but this is the first time I’ve actually used it. I quickly discovered it takes a steady hand to make straight lines and even impressions in wood. I also discovered my hand is anything but steady.

tiny houses being transformed from birdhouses into a mini village

It also became apparent to me that no two mini birdhouses are made of the same type of wood. I found myself constantly applying too little pressure on hard wood, which meant I barely scratched the surface, and then too much pressure on soft wood, in which case the wood would almost melt away under the hot tip.

Little white houses in a Christmas village display

When I finished the woodburning, I patched up my deepest and most blatant oopses with woodfiller, then slathered a coat or two of white chalk paint over the buildings.

I also distressed the edges of the houses, which hopefully makes the cattywampus windows look kind of intentional.

mini Christmas village, made from small birdhouses painted white with woodburned windows

As I mentioned earlier, I had plans to make new roofs for the houses, but by the time I got this far, it was almost Christmas and I didn’t have any more free time for crafting.

I set a few of my half-finished houses out on display with some vintage bottlebrush trees and some faux snow and called the project done …

cutting corrugated tin for roofs of mini houses in winter village

… until today, when our forecast called for 5-10 inches of snow. I decided to stay safe and stay off the roads, which meant I finally had a free day and no excuse to put off re-roofing my houses any longer.

crafting metal roofs for tiny houses in a winter village

I made the roofs out of a roll of corrugated tin that I had found at a thrift store for $1.50. The tin was surprisingly easy to cut with a regular old utility scissors.

attaching a tin roof to mini house

After I cut the tin to the right size for each house, I bent the pieces in half and glued the roofs onto their respective houses with Gorilla glue.

mini white wooden house with tin roof

Ta da.

overhead view of corrugated tin roofs on mini houses

Here’s an aerial view of a few of the houses. (The house on the far left had a four-sided roof, which required a slightly different technique and a few tack nails to secure it, since the glue didn’t want to hold there.)

two little white houses in a mini winter village

I thought I was done at this point, but when I looked at the houses, I realized they needed one finishing touch yet: chimneys.

rusty nails to use as smokestacks for mini houses

I’ve been ogling driftwood cottages on Pinterest lately, and a lot of them have nails for chimneys or smokestacks, so I decided I’d totally steal that idea. I also stole a handful of the rustiest, crustiest old nails I could find in my husband’s workshop. I’m pretty sure he won’t miss them.

drilling a hole into the roof of a miniature house in order to insert a nail chimney

Then I drilled pilot holes through the roofs and into the wood …

completed little white house with a nail poking through the roof to serve as a smokestack or chimney

… so I could pound nails in with ease (and without splitting the wood).

completed little white wooden house with a nail for a smokestack/chimney

The chimneys required a lot of extra putzing, but they were worth it.

tall house in Christmas village display

The little chimneys give the houses so much more character, don’t they?

a row of three little white houses with tin roofs and nail chimneys

I put some of the chimneys on the left and some on the right, to make each house unique. I also added a few random tack nails here and there to help hold down the roofs where the glue had come loose while I was pounding the chimneys in. But the tack nails also add a little charm, too.

distressed little white house with rusty nail chimney

I ended up bending and scratching some of the roofs as I was pounding in nails, but I think that gives the houses a more weathered look, in keeping with the cattywompus-windows-and-distressed-paint theme.

shelves holding little white houses with tin roofs, nail chimneys and faux snow around them

Anyhoo, my little post-Christmas winter village is now done. If only our (real-world) snowstorm was as well …

four-sided mini house with a nail chimney

Making another thrift-store junk turkey

Aluminum coffee filter basket, apple corer, funnel, measuring cup, silver tray and small metal pieces
Aluminum coffee filter basket, apple corer, funnel, measuring cup, silver tray and small metal pieces

I finished building another junk turkey, just (barely) before my self-imposed Thanksgiving deadline.

Aluminum apple corer slicer

This was my starting point this time. You know how some people look at clouds and see animals or objects in them? That’s how I look at thrift store kitchen gadgets. But instead of seeing animals or objects, I see turkey parts.

When I happened upon this vintage apple corer/slicer a while back, I saw turkey wings.  I had no idea what I would attach the wings to, but I assumed I could figure it out as I went along. And I did. The hunt for pieces and the mental challenge of puzzling out how those pieces are going to fit together is the most fun part of making these birds.

Turkey bot assemblage made of thrift-store junk

This is my completed turkey. If you couldn’t see wings in the apple corer before, hopefully you can now.

It was a long process to finish this guy.

Junk turkey parts including an apple corer resting on top of a coffee basket

For a long time, he just looked like the photo above: an apple corer stacked on top of a coffeepot basket that I found in my basement from a previous thrift store outing. Every time I’d see the two pieces together, I’d wonder what I could use for a head and feet.

Silver Metal Drawer Pull

The feet are always the hardest part for me to find because, as a general rule, turkeys have two legs, and when I’m out thrift store shopping, I rarely find two of anything.

This time around I realized a metal drawer pull I had in my basement stash would work for the feet. Even though it’s one piece, it kind of looks like two. And it’s solid metal, so it’s got some heft to it, which I hoped would mean that it would be able keep a turkey standing upright.

Drill piercing the middle of a thick metal drawer pull

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to drill through the heavy chunk of metal, so I asked my husband, who is becoming somewhat of an expert in the field of junk turkey engineering. He assured me it was possible and even volunteered to do it for me.  

Coffee grounds basket attached to a metal drawer pull by a bolt

Once holes were drilled in both the drawer pull and the coffee basket, I attached the two with a bolt.

Aluminum 1/3 cup with hole drilled through it

I didn’t have anything in my stash to use as a head, so I headed back to the thrift store. When I found this aluminum measuring cup, I thought I was onto something, because it was the right size for a turkey head and the handle could work as his neck. Plus, the measuring cup already had a hole drilled through the bottom of the handle which would make it easy to attach it to the rest of the body.

measuring cup with metal discs for eyes and a beak

Initially I was thinking I’d use the back of the measuring cup as the face and glue on some smaller metal pieces for the eyes and beak …

Aluminum funnel on top of measuring cup

… but then I found this aluminum funnel in my stash. The big end of the funnel was basically the same diameter as the measuring cup, which gave me the idea to stack them like so, making the spout end of the funnel a built-in beak.

Small aluminum funnel with a bolt pushed into the spout

To assemble the head, I slid a bolt through the beak …

The two pieces of the turkey's head: an aluminum measuring cup and a funnel

… and drilled a hole in the back of the measuring cup.

Funnel and measuring cup held together by a bolt

Then I just had to slide the bolt through the hole and secure it with a nut.

With the head squared away, I went to work on his body. I found a bolt and washer to slide through the apple corer and the measuring cup. Unfortunately when I tried to slide on the next piece — the coffee basket — I discovered that the turkey’s neck wobbled around. My husband came up with the perfect solution for that. 

Apple corer balanced on a  sawhorse as a man cuts a small notch into the top of the apple corer

He cut a notch out of the top of the apple corer using his hacksaw.

Here’s what the apple corer looked like with the notch cut out of it …

… and here it is with the measuring cup resting inside the notch.

Next, I ran the bolt through the turkey’s coffee basket body.

silver tray with a bolt through it to make a tail for a junk turkey

Then I drilled a hole in a silver tray that I found to use as his tail feathers. I stacked the tray behind the coffee basket, ran the bolt through the hole and put a nut on the end of it to hold everything in place.

Then I held my breath and crossed my fingers as I stood the almost-completed turkey on his feet, hoping that he wouldn’t wobble and topple over.

Phew. No wobbling. The heavy cabinet pull base did the trick.

Metal turkey parts joined together and

All I had left to do at that point was to glue some metal discs onto the turkey’s head to create eyes. I painted the smaller inner circles black (with acrylic craft paint) to make them stand out.

Here he is, all ready for Thanksgiving 2018.

Turkey bot assemblage made of thrift-store junk

Isn’t he cute?

Turkey bot assemblage make of thrift store junk

Once again, I am totally smitten with one of these guys. They each have their own personality. I think this one needs a name to match his. Anybody have any ideas? Let me know in the comments below if you do.

Building a turkey-bot assemblage from vintage kitchenware

Bundt pan, aluminum juicer, garden trowels and other parts to make a junk turkey assemblage with

If it’s November, it’s time to make the Thanksgiving bird. Here are the ingredients I used to make mine:

Bundt pan, aluminum juicer, lids and garden trowels used to assemble a junk turkey

And here’s what he ended up looking like when he was all done:

Turkey assemblage made from metal and aluminum kitchenware

I call him “TurkeyBot 2018.”

1950s aluminum juicer used in robot turkey assemblage

The idea for this guy started with a vintage aluminum juicer that I found in a thrift store. The second I saw it, I knew it was a turkey head. It just needed a body to go with it.

Old Bundt pan that will become part of a junk robot turkey assemblage

Then I found an old beat-up Bundt pan. It was a match made in thrift store heaven. The hole in the middle of it wasn’t ideal, because, in my experience, turkeys don’t generally have giant holes through the middle of their bodies. But I figured I could plug the hole with a small metal lid.


Fortunately, I had a large stash of random metal lids at home — which I keep on hand for emergency situations such as this one.  I was thrilled to find one that was not only the perfect size, but also a perfect match color- and patina-wise.

The lid had a knob on top of it back when I brought it home, but I ended up removing it last year …

Junk turkey assemblage made from old Jell-O mold, miniature tart mold, old knobs and other metal parts

… to use as the face for this little robot turkey. I remember wondering at the time if I should throw the leftover knobless lid out, but my inner hoarding tendencies told me I would regret it if I did. As usual, my inner hoarding tendencies won out, and, at least in this case, it was worth it.

Assembling a junk turkey from an aluminum canister lid and Bundt pan

So here’s the knobless lid filling in the gap in the middle of the Bundt pan body.


And here’s the pan that I found at another a thrift store to use as the tail feathers. I thought the fluted edge kind of looked like feathers and would give the turkey a little dimension.

Crafting a junk turkey robot out of aluminum pans, lids and a vintage juicer

See? He’s starting to look like a turkey, right?


Here’s what I found for the legs/feet. They were some sort of gardening implements in their previous life, but, just like with the juicer, I knew immediately when I saw them that they were destined to become turkey parts.

Two small pilot holes drilled into a Bundt pan being used in a junk turkey assemblage

I got the husband to help me with the next step — drilling holes into the Bundt pan where the legs would be inserted. (He’s much handier with power tools than I am.) He recommended we drill pilot holes first and then … …


… use a paddle bit to drill out a larger hole.


Ta da.


At this point, I decided the idea of green turkey feet was utterly ridiculous. Everyone knows aluminum turkeys should have yellow feet. So I unscrewed the feet from the legs and gave them a little makeover.


I also put a coat of gel stain on the wooden legs to make them a bit darker.


Then I drilled screws into the legs about halfway up, to keep the legs suspended inside the Bundt pan.


I ended up stringing a rubber band between the legs inside the Bundt pan, to keep a little tension between them and keep the feet facing forward.


From there, I started assembling the rest of the body. I ran a 4-inch bolt through the base of the turkey’s neck (and secured it with a nut underneath it.) Then I put the bolt through the knobless lid …


… and put a couple of rubber grommets on the bottom of the bolt, where it goes through the hole in the Bundt pan. I think the grommets are supposed to keep the bolt in place, but I’m not 100 percent sure on that. The grommets were the husband’s idea. He’s my chief engineer and troubleshooter when I make turkey robots. I always show him my plans before I get started on projects, and then he shoots them down and comes up with alternate ideas that will work in reality instead of just in my head.

A bolt holds metal pieces of kitchen junk together in a turkey assemblage.

Here’s the back side of the tail feathers, with the bolt sticking out of the rubber grommets in the middle of the Bundt pan.

The back of a metal turkey assemblage made from kitchenware

And here’s what I used to keep everything in place: another random metal lid from my collection.


I screwed a rusty nut onto the end of the bolt that was poking out through the hole in the metal lid.


Then my turkey just needed a face.

Junk turkey assemblage with metal eyes being placed on aluminum juicer face

The discs that I used for the eyes were actually made of wood. I base coated them with black acrylic paint and then put a layer of watered-down silver paint over top of that to make them look like metal.

Vintage aluminum juicer that resembles a turkey face with two metal discs on it that look like eyes

The black circles in the middle of the eyes are washers that I painted.

Junk turkey assemblage made from a Bundt pan, canister lid, aluminum juicer, garden trowels and other kitchenware pieces

And here he is, all ready for Thanksgiving: TurkeyBot 2018.


I have lots more random parts in my basement, so hopefully I will have time to make at least one more turkey assemblage before Thanksgiving. If not, maybe they’ll become parts to a robot reindeer or junk snowman. Any other fall/winter/Christmas -themed assemblages you’d like to see? I love making turkeys, but maybe it’s time I start branching out. Leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Painting | A home address sign for the porch

two-sided chalk-painted sign

I made a new sign for my back porch. If you think it looks familiar …

chalk-painted sign
… it’s because this is what’s on the other side of it. I made the “noel” side of the sign back before Christmas (and blogged about it here.) After I put my holiday decorations away, my porch looked a little bare, which is why I decided I’d paint the flip side of the sign and put it back up.

chalk-painted sign

To create my “new” sign, I started by basecoating the back of the old sign with some Folk Art Home Decor Chalk Paint (rich black) that I had on hand.

chalk-painted sign

Then I typed up my street address and printed it out. The font I used was Didot. The numbers were huge (1100 points), so I had to tile the pages and scotch tape them together.

chalk-painted sign

To transfer the design onto the board, I rubbed chalk all over the back of the paper …

two-sided chalk-painted sign

… and traced around the letters and numbers with a sharp pencil, which transferred the chalk onto the sign board. (This is always my favorite part of the process. I love to lift up the paper and see the outlines magically appear.)

chalk-painted sign


After that, I just had to fill in the outlines with white paint.

two-sided chalk-painted sign

I used Rustoleum Chalked (linen white) paint; it took three coats to cover the black base coat.

chalk-painted sign


Later I brushed on a couple of coats of Rust-Oleum Protective Topcoat (matte clear). (Word to the wise: If you’re working with Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint, make sure the paint has dried and cured sufficiently before attempting to put the topcoat on. In my haste to get this project done, I started applying the topcoat almost immediately after I was done painting. The sign was dry to the touch, so I thought it would be OK, but the white paint smeared something awful. I touched up the paint at that point and left the sign be. When I went back to it a couple days later, I didn’t have any issues with smearing.)

double-sided chalk-painted sign
I propped the sign up by my back door in the same spot I had it when the noel side was facing out. It fills in the empty spot on my porch, and it makes me smile every time I walk past it.

Crafting | Snowflake snow hoops

embroidery hoop with snowflakes inside

I have somehow managed to acquire a small collection of both snowflake ornaments and vintage embroidery hoops.

Embroidery hoop made into a snow globe by Wisconsin Magpie

 So as I was packing away my Christmas decorations, I decided I’d put the two together to make a few flattened snow globes (or “snow hoops”) that could hang around my house for the rest of the winter.

Embroidery hoop made into a snow globe by Wisconsin Magpie
This is what I came up with.

Embroidery hoop made into a snow globe by Wisconsin Magpie
Here’s what I started with: my snowflake ornaments, my embroidery hoops, a bag of faux snow, some silver and white glitter, a piece of posterboard and half a yard of cheap white netting.

Embroidery hoop made into a snow globe by Wisconsin Magpie
The first thing I did was lay the embroidery hoops on the posterboard and trace around them, to create backs for the hoops. I decided I didn’t want the backs to be just plain white, so I Mod Podged some newspaper onto each posterboard circle and gave them a wash of watered down white paint.

Making a snow globe embroidery hoop by Wisconsin Magpie
Then I decided some of my snowflakes were a little too bright and flashy …

Embroidery hoop made into a snow globe by Wisconsin Magpie
… so I put a basecoat of black chalk paint (in lieu of primer) on them and covered the black with either white or silver craft paint.

Making a snow globe out of an embroidery hoop by Wisconsin Magpie
Then I went back to the backs, coating each one with matte Mod Podge …

Making a snow globe out of an embroidery hoop by Wisconsin Magpie
… and sprinkling on a little glitter.

Making a snow globe out of an embroidery hoop by Wisconsin Magpie
I also added glitter to some of the ornaments.

Making a snow globe out of an embroidery hoop by Wisconsin Magpie
I glued the ornaments down to the backs and sprinkled faux snow on them. (No glue for the snow; I wanted it to be loose like it is in a snow globe.)

Making a snow globe out of an embroidery hoop by Wisconsin Magpie
Then I pulled the netting through the hoops, trimmed off the excess …

Making a snow globe out of an embroidery hoop by Wisconsin Magpie
… and glued the hoops onto the backs.

Making a snow globe out of an embroidery hoop by Wisconsin Magpie
I decided to use three snowflakes in this one.

Making a snow globe out of an embroidery hoop by Wisconsin Magpie
Here it is with the hoop attached and the snow inside. (I think this one is my favorite.)

Making snow globes out of embroidery hoops by Wisconsin Magpie
 And here is the whole group of hoops ready to be hung … except that I hadn’t attached any hangers at that point.

Making a snow globe out of an embroidery hoop by Wisconsin Magpie
So I pried the exterior and interior hoops apart and fed some burlap ribbon in between them.

Making flat snow globes out of embroidery hoops by Wisconsin Magpie

In hindsight, it would have been smarter to feed the ribbon through at the same time I sandwiched the netting between the two halves of the hoops.

Making flat snow globes out of embroidery hoops by Wisconsin Magpie
Hopefully I’ll remember that the next time.