Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Rustic American Flag

Here is a fun project to make for yourself or as a group craft project.  (This project is available soon on our website)

9 wood lathing strips (7 cut at 13", 2 cut at 9")
strong wood glue
white vinegar
steel wool
paint - Three colors (red, white, blue)
paint brushes
vinyl stencil
Mod Podge or Clear Spray Varnish

In a jar or container, mix vinegar (as much as you want) and some of the steel wool (I used about 1 1/2 cups vinegar and pulled off about 1/2 of 1 chunk of steel wool). Just put the steel wool into the vinegar and let it sit for at least 24 hours. It will get darker the longer it sits but it will work fine after 24+ hours. If you think it is getting too dark, pour the vinegar mixture into another container and discard the steel wool.

Note: I have been told that you should not close this with a lid. I am not sure why. I put the vinegar lid back on and do not see a problem. I had some in a jar with no lid and it all evaporated.

2.  Cut lathing into desired lengths (our sample is with 7 lathing strips (I'll call slats) cut at 13" and 2 of them cut at 9"). Lathing strips are about 1 1/2 inches wide. You can purchase this pre-cut at our store Vinyl Gifts and More or cut your own from a lumber yard. Note: these slats are very rough but that is what helps to make this project so rustic. I suggest that you not sand them and embrace their uniqueness (mine have gaps from bends and knot holes),

NOTE: You can do some of the next steps in a different order for ease or a different effect. See "Additional Comments" for suggestions.

3.  Measure 5.5" on the left side of 3 of the slats. I used a dark pen but use a pencil. Make sure that all 3 boards will be lined up straight so the line will look straight when all are glued together.

Paint the wood. Paint the left area on those three slats dark blue(you can use painters tape to mark off the painting area). On the right side, two of those blue slats will be painted red and 1 will be painted white. I used craft paints - Linen for the white, Barn Red mixed with some black for the red, and a mixture of blues for my blue area (I didn't have a dark blue on hand so made my own). Of the remaining 4 slats, 2 will be white and 2 will be red.  You only need to paint one side. I pained a thin coat so some of the wood grain showed through.

5.  Put strong wood glue on one side of the two 9" slats (these will be used to hold all of the boards together).

Turn over the painted slats in their correct order - make sure the 3 blue corners are in the top right (when face down) with a red slat first then white, then red to the end - end with red.

Place the glued slats glue side down onto the back of the painted slats. Make sure the glued slats reach all of the painted slats.

NOTE: Make sure the flag is squared up (see the board on the side) - use another board or books or something straight to push the painted slats together into a tight straight form. Put something heavy on top of the glued slats to help them adhere to the painted boards. (This picture shows the flag upright but it is much easier to glue the sticks onto the surface when the flag is turned over as in the above picture). Let the glue dry thoroughly.

7.  Time to apply the stars. Remove the backing from the vinyl (see how to use vinyl)

Using the vinyl stencil (which comes with the kit or may be purchased separately from Vinyl Gifts and More), line up on the blue section of the boards (use the registration areas to help). Your boards should be very dry (if time is short, use a hair dryer to dry the paint). Press the vinyl to the blue board and slowly peel off the transfer tape. Make sure that the vinyl sticks to the wood completely. You don't want much bleeding (the wood is extremely rustic and porous and there will be bleeding but try to keep the vinyl tight to avoid extreme bleeding).  (You can take the transfer tape off first then line up the vinyl and press onto the boards if you do so very carefully - if the vinyl sticks to itself, it will be ruined).

Paint the stars with the same color you used as the white. Dab the paint on carefully keeping it kind of rustic - Put paint on your brush lightly. You can paint several layers of white if desired but the drier the brush, the better and less bleeding.) (can see some blue through the white - if desired).

Let the paint dry but don't leave the vinyl on too long (you don't want it to pull up the blue paint). Carefully pull up the vinyl. Try not to smear the paint that is on top of the vinyl. Carefully put the vinyl back onto the backing paper in case needed again.

NOTE: If some of the stars need to be repainted, you can repaint the star blue, let the paint dry, use your stencil over the area where the star should be and repaint the star white. Normally stencils can't be used again but if you are careful, you might be able to use it for touch-ups.

At this point your flag can be considered done - BUT if you want to make it have that rustic look, continue on.

8.  The next step is to sand your work. This seems counterproductive but it is what gives your flag character. You can use a small sander or just sandpaper. Be sure to rough up the edges but also rough up along the blue and the stripes. The more paint you take off, the more rustic it will look.

9.  Now comes the aging process.  Pull out that vinegar mixture. It may be light or have darkened but it will do what you want if you have let it sit for 24 hours. Paint it onto the finished flag liberally. Over the entire board - blue, red, and white. If you have not painted the edges of your flag, paint it with the vinegar mixture so it will turn dark.
Let it dry. You should see color changes. Much of those parts that have been exposed or lightly painted will show some dark area.

You can paint the vinegar solution on as many times as desired to achieve the look you want. Be sure to let it dry thoroughly each time as it darkens as it dries. I did just one coat of vinegar over the top.

10.  To finish, coat with Mod Podge or sealer (this is optional but it brings out the colors and makes it easier to clean - be sure to do this if you will be placing the flag outside). You can use as many coats as desired. I used only one. Make sure each layer dries thoroughly. It will be white and creamy when applied but will dry clear.


1. If you are doing these for a large group, reduce some of the "group" time by preparing the unpainted slats beforehand.  Arrange the unpainted slats together and glue the back two slats on. People can then paint the slats after it has been assembled. Don't worry about the side of the boards showing. They will take on a dark color when the vinegar is applied. They will need to be careful when painting the different colors.

2.  Some people like to put vinegar on the flag first then paint it and then add another layer of vinegar (after sanding).  I did a test to see what would happen if you painted the vinegar on first then painted the wood vs painting first then putting vinegar.

- I used two colors of paint - Country Tan (the darker color) and Antique White.
- Top row - the left two sections are vinegar only. The 3rd is the tan color and the 4th is the white.
- Row 2 - Shows how the vinegar changed the plain wood dark.
- Row 3 - I painted the first sections their color (tan and white over the vinegar) and put the vinegar over the last two sections. So now the first 2 have vinegar under and the last 2 have vinegar on top.
- Row 4 is a final covering of vinegar over all 4 sections. The picture shows it as being really dark but it is not as dark as the picture shows.

My personal feeling is that I liked painting a thin coat then putting one coat of vinegar over the top.

As an FYI, you can create other looks by painting, sanding, vinegar, painting a different color, sanding, and vinegar, repeating this as often as you like until you get an effect you like. This gives a unique look if you want some other colors to pop through.

3.  You can put words on your flag or leave it plain (note: if you put words on it and it's meant for outside, be sure to Mod Podge over the vinyl for protection). We do sell wordings for flags on our website Vinyl Gifts and More. You can choose something we offer or use your own words.

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