Pure White, Pure Love

I was sitting on my living room couch one day, looking up and back between my computer and the TV console. After we painted the walls and trim, the country console didn’t match anymore, and I was shopping online for a new one.

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Funny thing was, all the consoles I liked were pretty much the same as the one I had, only in white. What was I thinking? All the console needed was a coat or two of white paint: Annie Sloan Pure White, of course.

My husband kept careful watch because his sound system was involved. I wasn’t allowed to touch it.

tv-console-during

I gave it two coats of white, buffed on coat of clear wax, and stuck to the the original hardware.

This is my dog, Charlie, not caring.

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The final touch was fresh family photos in white frames. Even though the frames didn’t match , they looked more uniform in the same color. Any frame I had that wasn’t white to begin with, was white by the time I finished.

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What a difference.

I didn’t love the wires and speakers but, as I said, I wasn’t allowed to touch them. A small price to pay for family harmony.

I think Charlie was on to something. He cared more about snuggling up with us when we watched a  movie than he did about the color of the furniture. I loved my white console but it wasn’t nearly the kind of love I felt for my family.

What I learned:

  • Reimagine your furniture before you shop for more.
  • Paint a collection of picture frames the same color to make to make a uniform arrangement.
  • Love is more important than furniture.

www.karenraelevine.com

Highchair Highway and Memory Lane

I snagged a scratched and wobbly toy high chair for five dollars. Solid wood and all I needed to do was tighten the screws. I forgot to take a before picture but this is what a new one looks like.

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Annie Sloan Antoinette is a very pretty pink and while I was looking for a sample at Suite Pieces, someone introduced me to a new color, Old Violet. I had to go home with a sample of that too.

I was assured by Google and knowledgeable shopkeepers that Annie Sloan paint and wax were nontoxic. Not that I expected the next owner to take a bite, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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Soft cotton light weight gloves (usually for archivists and coin collectors) worked very well to buff the wax in those little hard-to-get areas. You can find them on Amazon for about eight dollars a dozen.

I loved the two-toned version. I used clear wax on most of it but remembering how messy the dolls of my childhood could be, I used a nontoxic rub-on varnish for the tray.

high-chair-finished

On my journey down memory lane, I shuffled through a box of vintage hankies I inherited from Grandma Sylvia and found two that were perfect for a reversible seat cushion.

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I sewed them together. I am not a sewer, but I held my own. As I stitched, I was reminded of Grandma Charlotte, who made magic with needle and thread. I’m sure both of my grandmothers were looking down and smiling as I sewed.

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I also have to give a little credit to my seventh grade Home Economics class, where, even though I wished I could take Shop with the boys, I learned some sewing basics. That was back in the day. Girls couldn’t take Shop until I was in the ninth grade. It was also the time when all sewing baskets contained a tomato pin cushion and a metal Band-Aid box for buttons. When I dug it out, mine still did.

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So there I had it: the perfect gift for my friend’s granddaughter. I hope it will give her as many happy “grandma memories” as I had when I refurbished it.

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What I learned:

  • Annie Sloan paint and wax are nontoxic
  • Using light cotton gloves is a great way to wax small or round areas.
  • I can still thread a needle.

http://karenraelevine.com/

Let’s Hear it For the Girls

I wanted to make a special gift for my brother and his awesome family. My nieces are talented softball players and my brother and sister-in-law spend countless hours at ball fields watching their girls play.

I looked for inspiration for softball themed make-overs and I found some interesting baseball ideas but they all looked very boyish. Not that I was going to paint something pink and frilly, but really, these girls needed a shout-out.

I owned four benches, which is about three too many. A bench would suit the purpose very well because I’ve watched my nieces play and witnessed the whole family drag themselves, satisfied and exhausted, back home. And when you feel that way, there’s really no place like home. Are catching on to the theme here?

I forgot to take a “before” picture of the bench but I managed to catch it after I sanded the top.

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I stained the top, let it dry, and and then flipped it over to drill four holes in the cross bar at the bottom. I made sure they were spaced equally. I can be finicky about things like that. I’ll save the reason for holes for later. I’m sure the suspense is killing you.

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I designed my plan for the top, which included resizing the exact dimensions of home plate. This is another example of how finicky I can be. Now for my brilliant double entendre (stolen from a photo of a doormat). I had mapped it out in Photoshop. Note the guidelines I included.

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I transfered the image with graphite paper.

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I decided on a paint pen to outline the smaller lettering. The pen was red but on the stained wood it came out kind of pinkish. That wasn’t bad. A little girly, but not too much. I taped around home plate, loving all those straight lines, and painted it Old Ochre. I even “dirtied” it  by dry-brushing a mixture of Old Ochre and Graphite.

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After I was finished patting myself on the back, I painted the H, M and E with Graphite, trying to resist perfection as I swung my calligraphy brush along the curves of the lettering.

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I applied two coats of Old Ochre to the base.

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Then I had a sinking feeling, as if I was stealing second and the outfielder was on the ball.

I’d read on the internet that chalk paint would hold up in the great outdoors. You can’t always count on the internet, but you can always count on your coach. I messaged Amanda Peppard, the owner of Suite Pieces. She explained that untreated chalk paint was good-to-go outdoors BUT it wouldn’t protect whatever was underneath. The wood I’d painted was already ready for weather. A hip-thumping slide and safe on second! Thanks Coach!

Remember those four holes I drilled? Are you still dying of suspense? That’s where I screwed four softballs. (NOT baseballs.) I’d pre-drilled the softballs and used a nice long wood screw to attach them from the bottom.

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Back in the dugout, my pinkish lettering wasn’t standing out as much as I wanted it to. I took out my paint pens for another pass.

The thing about paint pens is that you have to shake them once in awhile and, like banging the dirt off your cleats with a bat, the stuff flies everywhere. I tried removing a few but the stained wood had absorbed those little paint bombs. A swing and a miss. Pass the Gatorade.

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I gave up and sealed the top with two coats of polyurethane, paint bombs and all.

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I surprised my brother and his family with their bench after a double header. They were thrilled and amazed. Thrilled and amazed always gives me a good feeling, especially when it comes from my sports idols.

I pointed out my imperfect pink dots to my sister-in-law. She asked me the most amazing question. “Do you know what the enemy of “good’ is?” My 15-year-old niece chimed in before I could even begin to think of an answer. “Better!”

Go team!

What I learned:

  • Do not shake a paint pen anywhere near your project.
  • Untreated Chalk-painted surfaces will hold up outdoors but will not protect the surface underneath.
  • “The enemy of good is better” – Voltaire.

P.S. Did you know that before Judy Garland stamped “There’s no place like home.” on our hearts in The Wizard of Oz,  the chart-topping song in the 1800’s was “Home Sweet Home”, which includes the same phrase–over and over again?

www.karenraelevine.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Harlequin Romance

I spotted him by the side of the road. He was worn and weary but what a physique! It was crazy, I know, but I took him in and let him stay in the basement. He kept to himself for a long time until one day, as I carried a basket of laundry to the washing machine, our eyes met…

Okay, enough of this gushy stuff. You know I’m talking about a table, right? Annie Sloan Coco. That’s his color, not his name. I don’t name my furniture and if I do, I guess I should keep it to myself.

For the sake of discretion, a photo of my forlorn and naked companion is not included. (In other words, I forgot to take a “before” picture.) I adorned Coco—I mean, the table—with two coats of his namesake, intending to shower him—I mean, it—with diamonds.

No, not real diamonds, diamond shapes, aka Harlequin. I laid the pattern out on my computer. Hate me for loving geometry? Don’t worry. You’ll have the last laugh.

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I used one quarter inch painters tape so it would come out just like the picture. But it didn’t. I turned to my trusty T-square and marked out rectangles with a watercolor pencil.

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I still didn’t get exactly what I wanted. My frustration was growing as big as the ball of discarded painters tape. I won’t go into details because the next time I do this I’ll position the diamonds with templates and trace them across the table top.

At last the Coco table had its diamonds. I marked the ones that wouldn’t be painted. Notice all the lines I had drawn with the watercolor pencil? Mostly mistakes.

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Unmarked diamonds got one coat of a mixture of two parts Coco and one part Pure white. Because the tape was so thin, I had to be very careful painting the lighter color.

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When I was finished I had a heck of a time washing the pencil off and sometimes had to paint over it.

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By lightly sanding the top in the same direction, point to point, I muffled the imperfect lines and made the lighter diamonds look like my uneven paint job was by design.

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I applied white wax to highlight those sexy legs.

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If you’ve been fortunate enough to shop for real diamonds, you’ll know that the fewer the imperfections, the higher the price. My find and me, we cared more about pretty than perfect. True love!

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Happy was the heroine.

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The end.

What I learned:

  • Don’t overthink it.
  • Make a template of a repeating shape and map it out before you begin.
  • A harlequin diamond is about twice as high as it is wide, but you don’t have to use that exact ratio.
  • Use a light touch when marking with watercolor pencils.
  • Pretty is more important than perfect.

Flower Sifter

While cleaning out my kitchen cabinets I found an old sifter. I use flour from time to time but “sifter” is no longer part of my baking vocabulary. It was about to go in the donation bag when a word from my high school French popped into my head. Fleur. The sifter was saved.

It looked like this.

sifter-before

With my new “repurpose it” eyes, I saw it as a flower pot with built-in drainage. I painted the sifter with two coats of leftover Antoinette  from my high chair project. The color matched one of two lonely saucers I owned.

If your sifter is new, remove the label. You can soak it in sudsy water and scrub it off. Goo Gone works well on stubborn glue. I didn’t paint the inside of the sifter all the way down because I knew it wouldn’t show.

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I cut a two circles of coco liner in the bottom. Coco liner is the stuff you see on hanging flower baskets. The circles don’t have to be exact.

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Squish in the coco liner in the bottom. It absorbs the water, keeps the soil moist, and prevents overflow when watering. Fill with soil and a plant — preferably a flowering plant to keep the pun intact. If you’re thumb is as brown as mine, you can create an artificial flower arrangement instead.

I’m sure you’re dying to know how I decorated the pink sifter. I love to play with words. The French word, “fleur” is close to the English word, “flour.” And what is my sifter for? Flowers, which in French is “fleur”  Flour. Fleur. Flower. Get it? I crack myself up.

A single flower is “la fleur” and a bunch of them is “les fleurs.” You can download the lettering I used here.les-fleurs-cropped

I  used the tried and true method of rubbing pencil on the back, flipping it over and using the point of the pencil to transfer the lettering. The rectangle outline helped me position the the transfer. I knew I would cover the transfer with a dark paint pen so using a pencil transfer was not a problem.

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No need to wax or varnish. Voila!

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This is an artificial flower arrangement but I’m inspired to replace it with soil and a real growing plant.

What I Learned:

  • Look at odd items with an eye to repurpose.
  • Play with words. It’s fun.

 

 

 

City Tree, Country Tree

I wanted to give special gifts to two different people, separated by miles and styles. My “city” friend lived in a small apartment and my “country” friend would be bringing his gift home on a plane. Their gifts had to be small and portable.

It felt like one of Aesop’s fables…

country-mouse-city-mouse-scott-g-detailDetail, The Country Mouse and the City Mouse by Scott Gustafson

For my human friends, I started with $20 flat-packed wooden trees from Crate & Barrel.

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This project required very little paint, and I used the paint I already had.

For my country friend, I painted the branches with Annie Sloan Amsterdam Green.

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I brightened it by painting the little leaves with Antibes Green and the star with Emperor’s Silk. (I forgot to take a picture with the red star).

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I loved the look on my husband’s face when I asked him to pick up a bottle of white nail polish. Time to polish my nails? Nope. Time to make some snow.

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Nail polish on the branches was fun because it created raised, shiny snow on this country tree’s branches.

For my city friend, it was modern all the way. First, Pure White, then a repeat of Emperor’s Silk on the star, and sprayed all over with silver glitter.

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I cut some beads from of a red garland (it’s shown in a couple of the previous pictures) and stuck them to the branches with tacky glue.

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It was quite a balancing act to keep those beads in position while the glue dried. I had to play go fetch more than a few times when those red balls rolled out of reach. Much much better to use a hot glue gun.

Aesop’s fables always ended with a moral. The moral of this story is that style, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

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Which one would you choose?

What I learned:

  • For small projects, try to use the paint you already have.
  • It’s fun to paint with nail polish.
  • Style, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

A Cup of Joe to Go

No one is sure how a “cup of Joe” came to mean a “cup of coffee” but the source of a different nickname for the popular brew is clear. When coffee became popular in the 19th century, the primary source of those magical beans was in Indonesia, on the island of Java.

coffee-3   map-of-indonesia

You’ll never confuse a can of Java Gel Stain with a cup of coffee. I had anticipated something like dark jelly, but it was more like sludge.

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But hey, I’d had three babies. There were worse things than sludge. It was time to sludge a table.

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The materials and construction of the table I had were Ikea-like, but it looked like it had been assembled before Ikea had been born. It was sturdy little thing and had the advantage of a smoked glass top that was in pretty good condition. I had to be extra careful with that glass because if I broke it, the table wouldn’t be worth saving.

This was a total, off the cuff experiment. I mixed the primary colors, Napoleonic Blue, Emperor’s Silk (red) and English Yellow. I thought this combination of colors would make brown. Good theory. Yucky color. I wasn’t going to waste the paint I mixed so I used the yuck as a base.

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[This was before Annie Sloan’s brown,  Honfleur, was available AND before I found an Annie Sloan video where the basecoat of her faux wood table was an eggplant color created by mixing  blue and burgundy.]

Continuing on in ignorance, out came the Java gel stain. What a mess! I wiped it on with one rag wiped it off with a clean one. I didn’t seem to have much control as far as how much came off. I had to keep reapplying stain to the bare spots.

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I was in serious need of a cup of Joe, but didn’t dare approach the spoon, the coffee, the pot or the cup.

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In retrospect, I should have applied less stain and used lighter touch as I removed it. Proof that I had applied too much was the frustrating fact that the stain took two days to dry.

The table didn’t looked stained but it looked better in brown. The particle board couldn’t have been concealed more thoroughly. No waxing or sealing, just a whole lot of mineral spirits to clean my hands.

glass-top-table-after

Quite a nice coffee table, I think. Care for some Java?

What I learned:

  • Wear gloves.
  • The color of the basecoat matters.
  • Apply the stain with a disposable brush
  • Use light strokes when wiping off the stain with a rag.
  • Java is an island, a word for coffee, and the name of a color.

An Ode to My Favorite Veteran

My father-in-law wasn’t just my father-in-law, he was my dad. I miss him terribly and there are certain days when he’s on my mind more than most. One of them is Veteran’s Day. He served his country during World War II and his closest friends called him “Sergeant Sammy.”

Dad was an organized guy and he must have opened and closed the drawers of this little caddy at least a thousand times. I knew I could never part with it and thought if I used it for my own storage, some of Dad’s organizational skills would rub off on me.

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I pulled out my power sander. I love power tools. They make me feel, well, powerful. Sanding the top and drawer front revealed a very nice solid wood.

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I had the perfect drawer pulls already, somewhere, and by a stroke of luck, I found them. The caddy didn’t need pulls but the advantage to these was that they held labels.

Before I finished sanding the drawers, I measured the pulls and did a test run with the positioning. It’s a good thing I did because one of them was way off. I was able to spackle the hole I made by mistake.

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I sanded the rest of the drawer fronts and applied two coats of a combo walnut stain and polyurethane to all the bare surfaces.

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Next step was the base. I chose Graphite.

 

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I touched up the curves in the drawers with calligraphy brush. If you hold it on an angle and use a steady hand it makes a nice even line.

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As it happens, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, not sealed or waxed, acts as a chalk board. I could write notes and reminders on the sides! Here’s the chalkboard technique I learned from the helpful staff at my favorite stockist, Suite Pieces.

  1. One coat paint
  2. Light sand
  3. Second coat paint
  4. Light sand
  5. Third coat paint
  6. Prep by rubbing chalk across the area and wiping off

Drum roll please!

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This little piece will inspire me to stay organized.

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Thank you Sergeant Sammy, for your love for your family and your service to our country.

What I learned:

  • Drill holes before you stain or paint.
  • Use a calligraphy brush for touch-ups and smooth lines.
  • Chalk paint, when prepared properly, can be used as a chalk board.
  • Appreciate our veterans.

Wake Up Little Dresser!

Someone left this at my house after a Man Who Came to Dinner  kind of situation. Long story. Let’s stick to the little dresser or side table or whatever it is.

 

This was a sturdy little piece that seamed hand-hewn. I didn’t need it and didn’t want it… an absolutely ideal situation to experiment with chalk paint, and a great excuse to buy a quart of Annie Sloan Cream. None of my three rules (Use what I have, Keep what I need, and Have Fun) would be broken because I had someone in mind who would love it. Onward!

shabby but not chic

The knobs were weird, similar to paper fasteners.

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Off came the weird knobs and on went the paint, followed by clear wax. Fairly easy stuff.

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I sanded the edges for more of the shabby chic look. I sanded the inside edges of the drawers to help them slide more easily.

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Headed in the direction of shabby chic, I had the bright idea to apply waterslide decals and bought some pretty ones on Ebay.

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You cut them out, soak them in water until the image slides off the backing and then smooth them on the surface you’re decorating.

First problem: waterslide decals don’t stick to a waxed surface. I removed the wax on the top with mineral spirits and applied a new decal. It stuck! I waxed the top.

Second problem: you can’t wax over a waterslide decal. It will slide right off. I gave myself a day to breath, used the back as a test space, and found the solution. Apply the waterslide decal to a bare chalk-painted surface. Let dry. Apply rub-on varnish. Let dry. Done.

Then I found the cutest knobs on Ebay. It’s difficult for me to stay away from Ebay.

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I had the hardest time pushing the new screws into the holes for the knobs. I gave myself an imaginary smack in the head. The holes were smaller because they were made for those weird paper fastener pulls. Duh! I drilled holes big enough for the new knobs.

I already had the contact paper to line the drawers.

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Isn’t she bright and pretty?

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What I learned:

  • You can apply waterslide decals to chalk paint, but not over or under waxed surfaces.
  • If the knob holes aren’t big enough, use a drill to make them bigger.
  • Beware of house guests who show up with furniture.

The Orient Express

I had an old Pier 1 cabinet and my husband needed a new night stand. Here was the perfect opportunity to paint, refurbish and reuse.

The cabinet had an Asian look and a nice design but the color was boring and some of the paint was chipped. My idea for it was ambitious. Not only would I paint it, I would add a custom design.

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The color it called for was Emperor’s Silk, a beautiful deep red. Even the name sounded Asian. I made it darker, mixing two parts Emperor’s Silk and one part Graphite.

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After two coats, it was time to add the decoration. Because I’m not exactly a fine artist, I sat down with my computer and found just the right stock art to buy and copy.

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It was more complicated than I wanted but I knew I could break it down. I may be middle-aged but I’m no stranger to computers. I’ve been working with them since we used card punches for computer programming. If you’re not familiar with these, click the link and have a laugh.

I broke down the image (an Adobe Illustrator file) to the piece I wanted to use and resized the design. I copied and flipped so that I would have two mirror images, one for the right side and one for the left. Because they were taller than the standard 11” paper size, I had to print each of them out on two pages and tape them together.

bamboo-decoration-copy             bamboo-decoration-copy-right

Time to dig out my trusty graphite paper. I used painters tape to attach both the graphite paper and the image. I left a flap so that I could lift both and check my progress. I traced the image on the paper with a sharp pencil. In the image below, you can just about see the transferred outline on the left side.

Check your progress. If the graphite paper is upside down you’ll waste time transferring the image onto the back of the paper. Check once in awhile to make sure you didn’t miss a spot.

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Once I had the outline transferred, I used paint pens to color in the lines. I was like Kindergarten, only a little more nerve wracking. Paint pens are good for smooth lines and color but, being oil-based, they are not as forgiving as crayons.

I wasn’t too worried about the details. A rough rendering of the flowers, for instance, would be pretty enough.

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When I was finished, the front seemed like it had too much blank space. I added, using the same print and trace method, the Chinese symbol for love, borrowed from Google images and checked by Google translate. Those of us who have dropped a pile of carefully ordered pile of 1980’s card punches never take Google for granted.

With a sigh of happiness, I applied a coat of clear wax. The result was good but not great.

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It needed a coat of dark BLACK wax and I applied it hesitantly, hoping it wouldn’t take the pop out of the design. No worries. Not only did the dark wax create more depth, but it settled in the grooves of the faux bamboo edges and showed it off very nicely.

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I didn’t have to do a thing to the knobs from the original piece (except not lose them). They were perfect.

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Mission accomplished!

What I learned:

  • If you can’t draw, trace
  • Go easy with the paint pens. Mistakes are hard to correct. Use a gentle touch with the side of the nib.
  • Waxing over paint pens is not a problem.