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Easy Antique American Flag DIY Tutorial

May 20, 2013

flag 007

A few weeks ago I saw a huge antique-looking American Flag hanging on a wall in Pottery Barn.  “Why pay 200 dollars for that, when I could just have Dan whip one up for me?”  I thought to myself.  Being the agreeable husband that he is, he agreed.  The project was so successful that I have decided to post instructions here, so that your husband can make one for you.

Step 1. Buy wood. On a freezing cold day when you have nothing else to do,  go to Menards and buy three 12 foot long boards – one ten inches wide, one eight inches wide, and one four inches wide.  You may want to do this in a rental car, as we decided to do.   The upside of this decision is that there is absolutely no risk of scratching up your van during transport.  The downside is there will be lots of yelling, “Don’t scratch the rental van,” as you load and unload your wood.

Step 2. Load your wood onto your car. You will find that twelve foot long boards don’t fit in a standard minivan, rental or otherwise.  Do not be discouraged, simply lay the boards on top of the van and then have the husband and wife each stick an arm out a window and hold them on top of the car.

Step 3.  Drive your wood across the parking lot.   As you begin to drive through the parking lot, you will notice that the wind catches the boards with surprising force, and it is only by driving at a snail’s pace that you can keep your grip on the boards.  Of course you will not be able to get on the highway, due to your pace, so it may take a great deal longer to get home than you imagined.  It is best to bring food and drink for the road, or, as we did, buy a lot of candy at Menards.

Step 4. Drive your wood home.  Since many people feel inspired to tackle projects on a cold or rainy day, you will likely be battling both the elements and the wind as you attempt to keep a grip on your boards.  If you find you are losing feeling in your fingers, as we did, it is best to pull over to the side of the road every few minutes to warm your fingers and eat some candy.  Then proceed, with spirits renewed.  We found that it is also helpful to take off your sock and put it on your hand, or just scream as you drive as it takes your mind off of the pain.

Step 5. Storing your wood.  You will find that you are much too exhausted from driving your wood home to begin the project any time soon.  It is best to lean your unfinished boards up against the wall in your dining room or living room for several weeks while you contemplate beginning your hand crafted flag.  Take care that your children do not bump the boards as they are likely to fall on and damage a small child.  We find orange cones and disaster area tape helpful during this phase of the project.

Step 6. Begin building your flag.  There are many ways to build a flag.  First you must ensure proper proportions for stripes and stars.  You will want to spend several days on internet research before cutting your boards.  When you do decide to cut your boards, you may want to do it in the yard on a rainy day lest you get carried away with the project and finish in one day.  The coming storm will let you know when it is time to call it a day and return your boards to their storage spot in your living or dining room.

Step 7. Begin painting your flag.  Once you have cut your boards and bracketed them together, you are all ready to begin painting your flag!  At this point, we recommend several more days of internet research.  Once internet research is completed, you will need to make another trip to Menards, assuming you, like us, forgot to bring home the paint you bought on your initial trip.  Do not be tempted by the blue painter’s tape at the check out line.  Hand painted flags should, of course, be painted by hand without tape or stencil.

Step 8. Paint the stripes and blue area.  As you are painting your flag without a stencil, the red and white stripes must be lined with a perfectly steady hand, as must be the rectangular blue area.  Picture a robot, devoid of that irritating pulse that could cause ever so slight irregularities in your stripes.  Now you are getting it!  Steady as she goes.

Step 9. Paint the stars.  At this point you may be tempted to download and print a stencil.  DON’T DO IT.  Dan found a much simpler way.  You should allow some extra time for rooting around for your old calculus text book, a graphing calculator, and a protractor.  Once you have these tools in hand you are in business.

First,  determine the size of your stars (2 inches across) by consulting the “Standard Proportions” of an American Flag.
Second, create your two-inch star stencil by hand.
Third, upon realizing how long it might take to paint 50 stars, create instead a vintage 1776-style flag — with just thirteen stars.
Fourth, to create the circle of stars, do the following:
4.1: cover the blue rectangle with six pieces of 8 1/2 x 11′ paper–sketch out a circle on the paper.
4.2: Measure the circumference (in this case, 42.9 inches),  divide by thirteen (3.3 inches), then sketch out (on the paper) 13 2-inch across-stars exactly 1.3 inches apart.
4.3: Assuming all looks right on the paper — use a pen to poke through the paper to mark the points of the stars on the wood.
4.4: Using the original stencil, trace out the stars on the blue rectangle and paint the stars using a fine pointed brush.

Step 10.  Distress the flag.  To achieve the true Pottery Barn look simply borrow a hand sander from your handy mother, as Dan did, and begin sanding your flag.  This should be followed by a coat of brown stain you will find lying around in your laundry room.  Be sure to have a rag ready, since the stain should not remain in one spot or the stain will stain.  As you apply the stain, frantically wipe it off.  This frantic wiping will result in just the perfect amount of dirtiness hitherto attained only by carrying your handmade flag through an actual battle.

Step 11.  Mount your flag.

If you’d prefer to not go through the above arduous steps — just let Dan know (seriously) if you’d like a vintage flag of your own. He never turns down an opportunity to make a buck.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Grammie permalink
    May 20, 2013 6:21 pm

    Just when I thought you couldn’t get any funnier. You and Dan are the perfect match.

  2. May 20, 2013 7:32 pm

    Dan made it sound so easy! Would it be any easier a second time – hmmmmm.
    Well worth the struggle I think — it is lovely.

  3. Kristine permalink
    May 20, 2013 9:08 pm

    Best DIY internet post ever. I like how you incorporated my first thought – “maybe Dan could make me one.” Will there be a post about why you were driving a rental van?

  4. Beth Saav permalink
    May 21, 2013 6:21 am

    Beautiful! Looks worth at least $200!

  5. Vicki Schwab permalink
    May 21, 2013 1:05 pm

    Wow, what a process!! No wonder they’re charging 200.00!! Good job Dan.

  6. Stacey permalink
    May 21, 2013 5:41 pm

    Looks great! I agree with bypassing some stencils, but maybe you should invest in some of those wiching-type straps for future wood purchases. Just sayin’..

  7. erica permalink
    May 27, 2013 7:29 pm

    we were also thankful for the candy aisle at menards last week when we were shopping for sandbox sand. the little bag of chocolate cost more than the huge bag of sand!


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