As promised: the tutorial for my giant wooden ampersand.
Amy said she wouldn’t read this unless it referenced bra size, so, Amy, for you, I have hidden a bra in one of the tutorial photos. Can you find it? It’s like Where’s Waldo gone wrong. No, Waldo won’t be appearing in a photo wearing a bra.
Seriously, what is happening to this blog? First stool, now tatas…I fear I’ve lost all inhibition and sense of dignity.
Let’s hurry up and get to that tutorial.
How to Make a Wooden Ampersand that is Practically Bigger Than You
- 3.5 pine boards (I used 1”x3”x8’)
- sandpaper (I used 30 grit, then 100 grit, then 210 grit on the edges)
- brown craft paper
- 1.25” drywall screws
- skinny scrap wood
- stain and polyurethane
- The total cost for this project was around $20 since many of these supplies were already in our possession from other projects.
1. Create the shape template. Draw your desired shape on some sort of paper. I used the roll of 3’ wide brown craft paper and just cut and taped until it was 4’ wide. The ampersand I drew freehand.
Then, cut out the shape and hang it where you envision it living a long and happy life, just to make sure you aren’t crazy and actually want a giant & hanging on your wall. Confirm vision, ignore the mess in your bedroom, and continue with ampersand-creating process.
2. Create the pattern pieces for your shape. First, figure out how wide your wood is. The pine boards I used were 3” wide (they were extra from another project). Mark off lines every 3” on your shape template (or as many inches as the wood you are using--if your wood is 4” wide, you’ll obviously want to mark off every 4 inches). Number each piece (this was really helpful later in the process) and then cut out each shape. You now have your patterns for cutting out the wood.
3. Channel your inner Norm Abram and cut out each shape with a jigsaw. Bonus points for using Norm’s Boston accent while you do this. I traced each shape onto the wood then cut it out, and numbered it again before setting it aside.
Tip: when you’re cutting, place the “wrong” surface of the wood up. The surface that the jigsaw goes directly into gets significantly more jagged than the other side.
4. Sand the edges, assemble, and make adjustments. This is where having the pieces numbered was helpful. I didn’t have to stand there trying to figure out which piece came next; since they were numbered, I already knew. And as far as adjustments, I had to make some little tweaks for pieces that didn’t quite line up correctly, but I didn’t go too crazy. I wanted it to look rustic and imperfect, so I was okay with the edges not being 100% flush. I did sand the rough edges with 30 grit, then 100 grit, then 210 grit sandpaper to get them as smooth as possible.
If I had kids, I would totally have handed them these pieces and said, “Put together the puzzle!” and then gone off and eaten a cupcake.
5. Bring in the reinforcements. Flip the whole thing over so the “wrong” side is up, and then line up scrap wood that you’ll screw into to hold it all together. I mostly just used scraps from this project and others. Make sure each board has a screw in it and that each one is somehow connected to the board next to it. I did this before staining but forgot to take a picture.
6. Distress, stain, and seal. The part where the ampersand got abused was the one step that Rick helped with, but only because he saw me flailing around with the crowbar and wanted in on the action.
The stain is in two layers: Minwax Ebony wiped off immediately, followed by Minwax Dark Walnut wiped off between 30 seconds and a minute. I sealed it with Varathane clear satin polyurethane. (All stain and sealer was leftover from our bedroom floor refinishing saga.)
And that, my friends, is the story of how I made a giant rustic ampersand ALL by myself. I’m still examining my limbs to make sure none are missing.
We’ll hang it on the wall as soon as that desk I mentioned is ready to go. It’s surprisingly lightweight—I can carry it by myself without grumbling or pulling a muscle—but we’ll still have to be creative with how we attach it to the wall. I’m thinking we’ll suspend it from old bra straps.
Of course that’s what you’re thinking, Erin. What are you, 12?
Even my cats are hiding their heads in shame.
Have you tackled any power tool projects without the help of a related handyman? Who is making the same face my cat is? Who found the hidden bra?