Earlier this week I set a garden challenge for myself. I decided I would make some signs to add a bit of fun to my growing mint garden. Enamored of the idea, I quickly got to work.
My husband has become quite the woodworker over the last couple of months, and while he’s worked on constructing a masterpiece of a built-in shelf unit in our garage, I’ve happily played with the scrap lumber for my own somewhat less-ambitious projects. In this case, I nabbed a few scrap 1×1 pieces ranging from about 2 to 4 feet in length. For each piece, I used a miter saw set at a 45-degree angle to chop a sliver off the end, before turning the piece over to remove a complementary sliver from the other side, creating a point for my new stakes. Next, I laid my painting cloth out on the grass in a sunny spot, arranged the stakes side by side, and spray-painted them with a Rustoleum satin white. I gave them each several coats on all four sides over the course of the day.
While my stakes dried, I found a roughly 2-foot-long scrap of 2×4 pine and used the miter saw again to trim it down to 20 inches. Next, my husband gave me a hand with my first routing experiment. I’ve been fascinated by the tabletop router ever since he first brought it home and it’s the one tool where I’ve been encouraging him to go get new bits … so decorative! So fun!
Such a pain to use. It took forever to set the bit up properly and several test pieces before I found just the right pressure needed to trim my wood without taking divots out every few inches. Eventually I got it down, ran my sign through the router on all four sides, and surveyed the results. I had selected a bit that essentially shaved a shallow ledge around the sign, and I tell you, it really makes it. It gives it a framed look that I just love.
After I spray-painted the sign itself white and left it to dry, it was time for a bit of shopping. I hit up Micheal’s Arts & Crafts for stencils to help with my lettering. Most of what I saw seemed far too small, so I eventually settled on the Martha Stewart Crafts Monogram Serif Stencil Set. I liked that, being all caps even for the lowercase letters, I could use the lowercase set on my smaller stakes and uppercase on the larger sign.
I was thrilled to try out my stencils. I bought the pack of recommended stencil bristle brushes, a black and a green acrylic paint, and hurried home to play.
The result was not exactly what I had envisioned.
I want so very much to blame Martha for the poor results but, in truth, I suspect my own lack of artistic ability (or, as my husband insists with a snide grin, patience) is the reason I wound up re-painting my first stake three times. The problem with the stakes was that, given their narrow width, there was no way to tape down the wide cardboard stencils. As a result, no matter what brush type I used or where I applied pressure, paint leaked beneath the stencil and created a drippy mess. Finally, I gave up. Not on the project–just on its professional quality. I decided I would not let anyone get within five feet of the sign, hoping that from that distance the markers would appear merely whimsical … at least until I can bring a professional artist (oh dear readers, you know who you are!) on board to do touch-ups.
The sign went somewhat better than the stakes, because I was able to tape the letters down as I went, but the result is still not exactly perfect. And if I had had the patience (yes, I’m woman enough to admit it) to buy the stencils before playing with my beloved power tools, I could have measured the sign more appropriately. Instead I added a few decorative details to the sides to fill the white space. Once the paint had completely dried, I used a finishing nailer to attach the largest stake securely to the back of my sign.
So maybe my art project wasn’t exactly a smashing success–but it was tons of fun. And now when I mow, I have something to make me giggle as I round that corner of the yard.
But, more importantly, since devoting this side of my flowerbed to mints, I have discovered that my artistic talents may, in fact, lie in another area … It turns out that after a hard day’s work in the garden, the mojito is just the perfect finish! The only thing to improve on the refreshing drink, is a relaxing place to sit while drinking it–and admiring the fruits’ of one’s labor. More on that in a future post!