One of my favorite things to do is buy gifts; especially gifts for Jerm. I always seem to have a good idea for him, and I usually end up going overboard—think plasma cutter for Christmas last year. Since we spent a lot of money building our garage over the past year, we decided to DIY gifts for each other this Christmas.
My idea for his gift came from three places. First, I found a bunch of old warplane posters that Jerm had as a child while we were cleaning out the basement. Our favorite restaurant is in an old train station, and they have old black and white photos of trains on canvas that we both liked– Combine that with all of the “engineer print” tutorials floating around pinterest, and I had my idea. I wanted to make his old posters into huge black and white art for our garage.
In a lot of the tutorials, they were using files straight out of their camera or a scanned file to get the engineer prints made. I was dealing with posters, so there was no way I could scan them. I debated scanning them in pieces and using software to “stitch” them together, but I figured I could find an easier way to do it. I decided to just try and take pictures of the posters, and it worked just fine.
I needed daylight, no Jerm, some tape (I used washi tape so it wouldn’t damage the posters), and my camera and tripod. After Jerm left for work, I set up my camera on the tripod at the edge of our kitchen table. I pointed it straight down, so it was aimed at the floor. Picking out my favorite 7 posters, I taped each one to the floor under the table one at a time and took a few pictures of each to make sure I had a good one. Here is how my pictures turned out. I’d say it was successful.
I imported them into Picasa and converted them to black and white. Each one needed to be cropped to hide the tape. Then, all I had to do was upload them to Staples Copy and Print Center for pick up the next day. I ordered 7 of the 36” by 48” engineering prints for $7.29 each.
The print quality is actually very clear even though they warn you it won’t be. There were a few white streaks running through the posters, like their printer was running out of ink, but I thought it added to the look I was going for. They look like they came straight out of World War II.
Next, I had to figure out what I wanted to mount the prints on. Plywood would have been strong, but I wanted it to be really light-weight for hanging. I decided to go with the pink foam like many of the tutorials show. I figured I needed 4 sheets of 4’ by 8’ foam for my 7 prints (I used the ¾” thick foam boards for $11 each). Now I just had to figure out how to secretly get it home from Menards in my 4-door sedan. I recruited our friend and neighbor, Billy, and we went to Menards armed with a utility knife and a tape measure. It was pretty much the coldest day of the year, so the trip ended in borderline disaster with us trying to cut the foam into pieces that would fit in my backseat—yet still be a minimum of 3’ long– in the windy parking lot. Thankfully, we pulled it off (and miraculously fit all of that foam in my backseat) but lost all feeling in our hands in the process. The victory called for something warm from Starbucks while we went to Joann’s for the spray adhesive.
I went with the elmer’s brand found here for $7.99 because I knew it shouldn’t eat away at the foam like some other more industrial grade aerosol adhesives would.
I snuck everything up into our garage’s loft and commanded Jerm to stay away. The prints come with a little white border on them, so I started by trimming it off with my rotary cutter.
Cutting the foam proved a bit trickier for me to do by myself. I tried using a hot wire foam cutter, but it died after only 2 cuts. I am not at all proficient in my utility knife skills, but thankfully our friends Billy, Nick and John stopped by to check out what we were up too (Jerm was working on my gift in his parents’ garage at the same time). They took over the foam cutting and I started sanding. Yes, I said sanding. The foam I bought had a “tongue in groove” edge on two sides. I wanted them to be smooth, so I sanded the tongue off the one side and sanded down to the groove on the other. Just imagine all of that pink dust all over my jeans, boots, coat, the loft—not pretty.
Finally, I could start painting the edges silver to cover up the pink. It took two coats in case you were wondering. Billy and Nick had headed over to check out Jerm’s progress, but came back just in time to help me stick the posters to the foam. It helped to have three sets of hands here. We did each one in two halves. We positioned the poster on the foam and then folded half over. Nick sprayed the exposed foam half with the adhesive, making sure to cover it completely and not spray too close to the foam. We unfolded the poster and immediately smoothed out any air pockets. We repeated that with the other half, and we were all set! We had them glued in no time.
Christmas finally came, and it was time to give Jerm his gift. I arranged them all in the kitchen for him to find. I’m pretty sure he loved them, and I know he is excited to put them up in our garage. For now, I have one of my favorites leaning against the wall in our living room.
So there you have it. Seven custom and sentimental pieces of art for just under $100 total. I think we are going to have to make our DIY gifts a yearly tradition, because it was a lot of fun to give (and receive) a handmade gift.