Friday, January 18, 2013

DIY Lighted Peace Sign

Let me start off by saying, this lighted peace sign is one of the coolest things I’ve ever made!  I love how it turned out and it was really pretty simple to make!

First, let me share with you my inspiration.  A few months ago I was browsing around on Mod Cloths website when I saw this:

I instantly fell in love, but for $90, no thanks!  But, I did think that I could possibly make something like that.  Then the next day I was in Hobby Lobby and saw that they have unfinished wood peace signs.  And the light bulb turned on! 

I thought, all I have to do is drill some holes, stick some lights in, and I’ll have a groovy peace light all my own!  It took a little more work than just that, but I love my end result!

Want to make your own?  It does require a little bit of woodworking, so you’ll need to have a drill and sandpaper.  Don’t be intimidated by that though, this isn’t hard to make!

Okay, so here is what you need:

Two Wooden Peace Signs:  I got mine at Hobby Lobby.  They had two sizes, 20” diameter and 10” diameter.  I used the 10” for this.  (The Mod Cloth light is 20”). 

Balsa Wood:  Balsa wood is a lightweight, flexible wood commonly used for hobby crafts (model cars, planes, etc.).  I also got this at Hobby Lobby (you won’t find this at a place like Home Depot, if you don’t have a Hobby Lobby around try a hobby store).  The balsa wood I used is thin, about 1/4” thick and 1” wide.  I recommend getting at least 3 strips in case you snap one while bending.
I should also give my husband some credit here, I had never heard of balsa wood but he suggested it for this project, and it took it from meh to awesome!

LED Christmas Lights:  I recommend using battery operated lights so that you aren’t tied to an outlet.  I found that regular Christmas lights were too bulky and wouldn’t tape down well, but the mini-lights I used were very flexible and lightweight.  I got them at Target.  Whatever you use, make sure the lights are LED so they don’t overheat.

Wood Stain or Paint:  I stained my wood a color called Espresso.  Painting this a bright color for a kids room would also be cute.

Other:  Drill, Gorilla Glue, masking tape, clamps, wooden spacers (optional), and a groovy sense of craftiness!

Alright, let’s get started!  First thing to do is mark on one of the wood signs where you want to drill your holes.  I made 19 holes in mine.  Then clamp the sign down to a sturdy surface and start drilling the holes.

Sorry for the poor lighting in these pics, it was 20 degrees outside and I wasn’t about to open the garage door for more light.  Anyway, make sure you use a drill bit that makes a big enough hole for your lights to poke through.  I did not have a big enough drill bit, but I found that after drilling the hole I could push a screwdriver through the hole and get the perfect size.

Using the right drill bit size to begin with would obviously be easier, but this worked for me!  I also made a cut out on the bottom of the other peace sign for the light cord to go through.  I’ll show a picture of that later.

Next, sand down the rough edges and stain both the peace signs.  While those dry, you can get started on shaping the balsa wood.  Balsa wood is very flexible to begin with, but soaking it can get it to bend even further.  I soaked a strip of balsa in hot water for about 2 hours.  I just put it in my bathtub with some weight to hold it down.

Just check on it to make sure the water doesn’t leak out, because I found that once this is soaked and dried, it won’t become flexible again even after another soak.  So, after soaking for two hours the balsa should be flexible enough for you to bend it into a circle.  Do this very carefully, and if you hear the wood cracking put it back in the water for another half hour.  You should be able to get it bent around your peace sign with no cracking.

I bent the balsa around my peace sign and used a clamp to hold it in place.  Let this dry for at least 24 hours.  While that is drying you can get started on the balsa wood for the inside of the peace sign.  You could skip this step if it seems like too much work, but it really gives the finished sign a nice polished look, plus you don’t see any exposed lights.

Measure all the inside parts of the peace sign and cut the right sizes from the balsa wood (this is soft enough to cut with scissors).  For the curved parts I cut the wood to the right size and soaked it, then clamped it to a bowl to give it a soft curve.  Let that dry for 24 hours as well.

Once all that balsa wood is dry, it’s time to do some gluing!  Make sure to glue the balsa pieces to the back peace sign (the side without the holes).  I used Gorilla Glue, it is my trusted companion.  I recommend having a helper for this part, I tried to do this by myself and the wood kept springing away before I could get a book on it to hold it down.  But I managed!  Here is how it will look with all the pieces in place:

As you can see, my pieces aren't perfect, but once it's finished you don't even notice.  Once you have all the pieces glued weigh it down with your strongest book.

Strongest book, get it!?  I know, I’m funny.  You can see in the above picture the cut out I made for the light cord to go through.  Make sure you leave a space like this in the balsa for your light cord to come through!

Let that set for 24 hours as well.  Now it’s time to start placing the lights!  Try to lay the lights out in a way that stretches them so they don’t bulk up.  This makes it easier to tape down.  For example, I put a light in every other hole and went around twice, does that make sense?  Once you start doing it you’ll see what I mean.  Tape it all down with masking tape to hold it in place.  Make sure that the end of the light comes out the bottom.

You can see in that picture that I glued down some wooden spools as spacers, they weren’t necessary though.

When the glue on the other half has finished setting, stain the balsa wood to match.  Let that dry and then glue the whole thing together!  Just put a layer of glue on all the edges and carefully lay the two pieces together.  Lay that heavy book on top again and let the glue dry for 24 hours.  And then be amazed at your awesome craftiness!

All the lights are encased, so you don’t see any wires from the sides.  I did have some glue peep out, and my pieces aren’t perfectly aligned, but that’s part of the homemade-ness of it that I like!  Here’s the cord coming out the bottom:

And here it is in all its groovy glory on my mantel:

I love it!  It turned out better that I had imagined!  And I love the way the lights perk up the mantel.

I hope you try this out!  If you do send me pictures, I’d love to see other versions of this!  You could use this process with wooden letters, animal shapes, ooh the possibilities!  I love possibilities!

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Too bad / too ironic that you bought peace signs at a store that exhibits such hate.