BY JAMES AND MORRIS CAREY, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Looking for ways to decorate your yard for the holidays? If electric lights aren’t enough, consider adding a snowman, a reindeer or even old St. Nick himself constructed from wood.
This can be a simple, inexpensive and enjoyable project.
You’ll need to have a few basic tools. Remember, safety precautions are vital. Since you’ll be working with wood, and creating sawdust and other flying debris, you should wear safety goggles. Also, it’s a good idea to wear tight-fitting clothing. Loose clothes can get caught in saws and other power tools, and result in injury.
Tools needed: a scroll saw or jigsaw with finish blades. The sharper the blade, the finer the cut. Keep a hammer, ruler and sandpaper or a sanding block handy. A drill with an assortment of bits and a set of screwdrivers are needed. A router offers a nice touch, but is not a necessity and basically is for advanced woodworking projects.
The materials needed vary depending upon the object being created. Small objects can be constructed from a soft material which usually comes from the pine family. Pine wins out over all other soft woods because it is plentiful, easy to work with and generally more affordable. A 6-foot piece of 1-by-12 pine goes a long way.
Three-quarter-inch plywood is best suited for larger projects like a sled, candy canes, reindeer, candles, choir singers or a Santa. Whereas many of these objects can be created from particleboard, masonite or thinner material, we suggest that you use an exterior-grade plywood with a smooth finish on one side. Other materials tend to warp and deteriorate due to exposure to dampness.
The first step is creating a pattern. You can make your own, using sheets of butcher paper, or you can purchase patterns from a local crafts store or mail order company. Sometimes you can find something in a children’s coloring book that may appeal to you and enlarge it in sections at the local copy shop. Most commercially available patterns come in several sections, in any case.
Once you have a pattern, transfer the design to the good side of the plywood. One of the easiest ways is with carbon paper. First, place the plywood on a flat, stable surface. Saw horses are ideal. Next, place a section of the pattern over a sheet of carbon paper (you may need to tape several sheets together) and lay them over the smooth side of the plywood with the carbon paper facing down.
Use a pencil or ballpoint pen to trace over the lines on the pattern.
This will transfer the design onto the face of the plywood. Repeat the process for each section of the pattern. After the entire design has been transferred to the plywood, trace over the carbon lines with a medium point black felt tip pen, and you’re ready to start cutting.
Don’t let the complexity of a pattern discourage you. Most of the cuts need only a steady hand and a little patience. Simply break complicated cuts into simpler curves and lines. Don’t be afraid to move your saw to a different position on the wood and approach the line from a different angle. You may find drilling a pilot hole useful at those hard-to-get-to areas.
When the object is cut out, seal all surfaces with a coat of white exterior grade acrylic latex primer. Don’t forget to seal the edge as well. This is especially important since it’s the area most vulnerable to damage from water. The primer seals the wood, yet allows the black pattern lines to bleed through so that you will be able to apply the various finish colors according to the design.
One of the most important steps in finishing is sanding. The piece should be sanded with a rough grade of sandpaper (100-200 grit) before the primer is applied. This will knock off all large bumps and splinters. Sand again with finer paper or emery cloth (up to 500 grit) after the primer has dried.
Use an exterior grade acrylic latex gloss enamel for the finish. It holds up well in the elements, and best of all, cleans up with soap and water. A brush made from nylon or other synthetic materials works best with acrylic latex paints. Having an assortment of different size brushes will make for a more professional finished product.
Using drywall screws, attach your creation to wood stakes that can be inserted into the soil for anchoring.
An exterior-rated landscape floodlight will light up your holiday scene.
For more home improvement tips and information, visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com or call us at (800) 737-2474 every Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST.