I made a resolution this year, to give back to a community that has given much to me. Three years ago I had just moved back to the States and bought a house. I wanted to put up some crown molding, but had no idea on how to do it. I googled it, and stumbled into an online community within YouTube that taught me that and so much more. I was subscribing to dozens of channels and drinking up as much knowledge as I could. I had been bitten by the woodworking bug.
Fast-forward to the present, and I feel it is time to add my own contribution to this community. I've always been fascinated with creating art, and have now found a medium to express that desire. This piece is one that I have refined over the past two years. The early prototypes are gathering dust in my shop, some have been sold and are hanging in other peoples houses, even modified one to the flag of city of Chicago as a wedding gift.
Here is my entry to the collective knowledge of the internets.
This is actually a build that can be accomplished with just a few basic tools. You'll need a table saw or miter saw, and some sort of power sanding tool. For materials you'll need four 2x4's, about a quarter sheet of 1/4" plywood, and a couple cans of spray paint. I also used some scrap plywood I had from a disassembled failed project. Total cost is about $40-45.00. Less if you use recycled materials.
I suggest acquiring the 2x4's from a construction materials landfill. There is so much waste that goes into landfills that can be re-purposed into other things. Aside from some glue and nails, this piece can be made entirely from waste materials. You're looking for wood where the grain is more pronounced (fast-growth trees with wide spacing between the growth rings are best). You'll want the growth rings to look like a half-arc when you view the 2x4 from the end. A straight pattern does not look as nice, in my opinion.
Once you have your wood, cut them into manageable pieces. I think a table saw works best here due to speed. A miter saw would be a close second. I like for the cuts to be at different widths (between 1/2 inch and 1 inch) to add some depth to your piece. This depth gives the illusion of ripples, simulating the flag flying in the wind. You'll need to cut up two 2x4's, or about 200 pieces. If you have a drum sander, you can save a ton of time by cutting the wood into 4 different lengths (1/2", 5/8", 3/4", and 7/8"), and sending each "batch" through the drum sander at once.
Speaking of sanding, there are a number of things you are trying to accomplish here; get a smooth surface and remove any splinters, as well as "burning" the grain by holding the piece on the sander for a longer time. This will darken the grain, making it stand out more.
The next step is to paint the individual blocks. You'll want to be sure the sanded side is up, and hit all 5 exposed sides. Again, the goal here is to add depth, so you'll want to use two or three shades of red. Apply your base coat, then spray random bits of the lighter color and darker color. You're trying to get a little of each color on the blocks. 50% base, 25% darker, and 25% lighter. Do not paint any of the blocks white. Leave them natural.
The blue field also needs white stars. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. I like to use a die-cutter to cut out a stencil of the stars, but you could also print it out on a few sheets of paper, and cut them out with a razor blade/box cutter/x-acto knife.
You'll need a 1/4" piece of plywood, cut to 37.5" x 18.5". This will leave about a 1/2" overhang on all four sides. To begin the glue up, I prefer to do it in sections. The blue field, then the stripes below it, then the rest. You'll want to clamp your first piece down so you will have something to press the other pieces into, to avoid gaps.
I like to alternate the grain so you get one piece with the arc up, next with the arc down. I think adds to the feel of the flag blowing in the wind.
Another trick to making this strong is to glue the top and bottom rows to the row next to them. Get the glue only halfway up, you don't want any glue squeeze out here.
Once you have your pieces glued down, it is time to make the frame. You'll want the inner diameter of the frame to be 42.5" x 23.5". You'll need to cut out a rabbit on the short end of each board to hold the backing board in place.
I think mitered corners glued with a few brad nails (or screws from the top and bottom) add sufficient strength. The backing board will also be glued to the frame, further adding to the strength. The nails will hold it in place while the glue dries, or you can use a band clamp.
Before you glue the backer board(s) onto the frame, you'll want to paint them as well. Having the flag mounted to a floating frame like this adds great shadow lines, so repeating the colors from the flag here makes it feel like the frame is part of the art. Once painted, you can glue them to the frame.
To make the flag appear to "float", add four leftover blocks of identical width, or a smaller frame to the center of the backing board. Then glue the flag to these spacers.
And that is it. I wouldn't say any of this is technically hard, just repetitive. Not bad for less than $45 bucks and a day in the shop. If you make one of these, I'd love to see it! Tag me on Instagram (@StudioJLT) with a picture of your flag.