Turn inexpensive boards into a classic Americana decoration for the holidays.
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Cut the top/bottom rails (A) to length from a 1 x 2 and cut 1/2-inch-thick pine boards to the same length for the slats (B). (Project Diagram, Cutting List and Cutting Diagram). Lightly sand the parts with 150-grit sandpaper.
Glue and nail the top rail to the edge of a slat with the ends even and the back edge of the rail even with the back face of the slats (Project Diagram, Drawing 1). Repeat for the bottom rail and another slat.
Place the slats against each other edge-to-edge with the ends flush to form the panel. The rails should be at the top and bottom. (The faces don’t need to be flush -- variations add to the rustic look.
Cut the sides (C) 36 inches long and place against the ends of the slats with one end flush with the outside face of the top rail. Mark where it meets the outside face of the bottom rail and cut it to length. Screw or nail the sides to the slats and rails.
Flip the panel so the back faces up and add mending plates spanning the joints between the boards (Project Diagram, Drawing 1). The mending plates should be centered on the length of the slats, these plates assist in keeping the panel flat. To avoid breaking through the front of the slats with long screws that come with the plates, use 1/2-inch long screws instead
Flip the panel face up and mark out the five points of the star (Project Diagram, Drawing 2. Then draw light pencil lines across the panel to create the star outline. The points are intentionally asymmetrical for a more handmade look. Drill a 1/8-inch hole 3/8 inch deep at each point and each intersection.
Wrap a piece of tape around the drill bit as far from the end of the bit as hole depth you want -- 3/8-inch-deep holes in this case. This keeps the holes consistent and prevents you from drilling through the boards.
Twist the screw eyes into the pilot holes (Project Diagram, Drawing 3). Then place a corner brace on the outside corners of the sides and rails. Use a self-centering bit to drill pilot holes through the corner braces into the wood. Drive the screws that come with the braces.
Remove the corner braces and the screw eyes from the project and lightly sand the completed panel to remove any sharp edges.
To add a weathered patina to the wood, soak two pieces of steel wool in 1–2 cups of white vinegar in a clean glass jar. Let sit overnight, remove the remaining steel wool, and pour the mixture through a coffee filter to remove any loose debris. Using a sponge brush, apply a liberal coat of the solution on all visible areas of the wood and let dry. In a couple of hours, the wood will develop a naturally aged look. If the dried solution leaves a powdery residue, wipe it off with a dry cloth.
Every piece of wood will react differently to the solution, even boards from the same species. You may end up with dark gray pieces, but random shades look more authentic.
Soak the corner braces, screws, and the screw eyes overnight in 2 cups of toilet bowl cleaner in a non-reactive container. After soaking, rinse the hardware with soap and water, and lay the pieces on a damp disposable cloth to dry. The hardware will continue to rust during the next 24 hours. Then reinstall the hardware.
Inside the star-shaped area formed by the screw eyes, lightly sand the weathered surface with 150-grit sandpaper to lighten the oxidized finish. If you do this using an orbital sander, set it to a lower speed to avoid sanding down to the raw wood.
Gently fold the burlap ribbon in half without creasing the material to produce a tube-like form. Start at the top and weave the ribbon through the screw eyes (Project Diagram, Drawing 3). Leave a few inches of ribbon at the first screw eye as you pull the ribbon taut. Tie both ends of the burlap to the screw eye where you began to complete the star.
Next, wrap a smaller red ribbon around the burlap ribbon in a spiral with evenly spaced passes. Then tie it off like you did with the burlap.