Vintage Railroad Crossing Sign

I’ve always coveted those big old Railroad Crossing signs. I’ve seen them at a couple antique stores here in Seattle, but they’ve always been super expensive. We were in Door County, Wisconsin, by Sturgeon Bay this summer for our annual family trip and I stopped by one of my favorite antique stores there – Richard’s Antiques. I wanted to back a truck up to the store and take everything with me, but settled on 2 sets of railroad signs (and some other things too numerous to mention here).

RailRoadCrossing

RailRoadCrossing_detail

There are many reasons why people have such a fondness for trains – the history, the mechanics, the beautiful railroad company graphics. My mom even tells stories of taking the train to nearby towns for basketball games. One of my reasons for loving the railroad: when I was in college, I worked for a summer in Yellowstone National Park. A friend from Portland thought it would be so cool (“really, I do it all the time!”) to hop a freight train and take it to wherever it would take us. He talked me and a couple of friends into it, and to make a long story short, we got caught (by the FBI who worked for the railroad), got kicked off, snuck back on again, got kicked off again in the middle of Wyoming and had to hitchhike back to Yellowstone. We found out later that it was a pretty dangerous thing to do (duh), but it was so much fun to sit on a flatbed train car going through arid countryside with the wind blowing all around and the sound of the wheels going clickity clack on the tracks. Until we got kicked off – that wasn’t fun at all.

420px-Hobos

A couple of train travelers during the depression, their despondent mood very similar to ours after getting kicked off the train.     photo public domain: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Hobos

Riding_on_the_rods

We did not do this, we were stupid but not that stupid.    photo public domain: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Hobos

Back to the present day.

I wanted to hang the sign above the old Washington map in the stairwell. It’s pretty high up there. I ended up hanging it on a day when I was home alone. No “hammer like a girl” assistance on this project. I should’ve waited for help, but managed to get the thing up on my own without breaking my neck. I’m not going to give a tutorial on how I hung it. It was a little dangerous, although not as dangerous as hopping a freight train. But it involved balancing between a too-short ladder and a stair post, reaching uncomfortably far with a stud finder, a hammer and nails, and using a button on a string as a plumb-bob.

RRSign_hung

RRSign_detail

Contemporary Take on Vintage Photos

This originally appeared as a guest post on Seattle Magazine’s website. We recently were asked a question about working with large format graphics so thought we’d re-post the article here.

Here’s a relatively easy project to display old family photos in a contemporary way. Enlarge, mount on plywood, and frame with flat steel bar.

FramedPoster_final

My parents met when they were in first grade. Family legend has it that in the second grade my mom said she was going to marry “Jimmy” and about 15 years later, she did. We’ve had these great photos in our family and I’ve always loved them – especially the one where they are standing in front of a brick wall of the post office. It’s graphic, simple, and the composition is so great with them off to the side and the window off the edge on the other side.

I wanted to blow it up really (really) big and frame it in a simple contemporary style. With Monica and Mary Jean’s help, this is what I did: Continue reading

DIY: Lamp from Vintage Book Pages

We had some plastic “Zip” letters. We had an old 1961 Wizard of Oz book with cool illustrations. We thought “wouldn’t it be fun to make a lamp that reveals a little secret when you turn it on?”

This is how we made our magic-vintage-book-word-lamp.

First we picked our favorite illustrations and decided on a good word – “OZ” repeated 2x was perfect.

We needed holes in the edges because the 4 sides were to be joined with little 1/2″ metal book rings. We figured out the distance our holes should be from the edges, made a little template from an old coaster, and drilled through the coaster into the plastic. We placed a piece of scrap wood in the back to prevent the drill from going into the table. :)

The book was too cool to cut up, so we copied our favorite illustrations onto white cover stock.

OzBook_copies

Copies of the book illustrations onto white cover stock. We were a little paranoid about copying a book, so we conducted a little research online and deduced the Wizard of Oz is public domain as of 1956 or so.

Then we placed the letters onto the pages and lightly traced the corners with pencil onto the page to mark the positioning.

 

Next we spray glued (Super 77) the back of the page and placed it in a window. Using the pencil lines as a guide, we carefully placed the right side of the letter onto the back of the picture.

We burnished the pages onto the plastic letters. Working from the back side, we used a very sharp X-Acto knife to trim away the excess paper, holding the knife firmly against the plastic edge. We held the plastic letter up to the light to see where the drilled hole was located and used a skewer to poke a hole through the paper.

After doing that for all four letters, we attached them at the corners with the metal rings.

AttachRings

We needed a small lamp so we made one with a small socket and some scrap wood. (There are lots of tutorials out there for wiring your own lamp!)

LittleLamp

That’s all there is to it – there’s no place like home.

LetterLampOff2

LetterLampOn2

LetterLampOff1

LetterLampOn1

Some complicated thoughts:

You can order individual Zip letters here (and probably other places). The Zip letters have slightly rounded edges which allows room for the lamp cord to pass through, which is nice. A drawback is that not all the plastic letters are not the same width, and if you are making a square lamp, that’s a problem. So one has to do a little planning, which is hard to do if the letters are not in front of you. This is one of the reasons we chose a two letter word (“OZ”) and repeated it. Another option is to cut clear acrylic sheets, available at craft stores. You can make your own letters by cutting them from black paper and spray gluing them onto the plastic, then spray gluing your image. Then you can make all your sides the same width. You would need to figure out a way to pass your cord through though – you could always drill a hole in the plastic towards the bottom, and thread the cord through before you wire up the lamp.

I told you these were complicated thoughts. Let us know what you come up with!

 

 

Farmer’s Market Booth Display

This is a little side project that I did for our friends who own a blueberry farm (Hunter’s Moon Organics). They are going to participate in local farmers’ markets and were in need of a display table, shelves and pricing sign for their booth. Using salvaged materials, this is what I made:

Table:

This is very similar to the tabletop we covered with dictionary pages. See that post here.

This table needed to be portable and easily dismantled, so to keep it light, the table top was made with a hollow core door from Second Use Building Materials. The legs are old metal saw horses, with glue-laminated beams uses as the supports. It all comes apart easily.

The top of the table is covered with cut-up brown re-enforced mailing envelopes and are glued them down with Mod Podge. The farm’s logo was printed large (in sections) onto the brown paper and positioned so only part of it appears on the top of the table. The outer edges are framed with flat bar metal and secured with galvanized lag bolts/washers. The top is coated with 2 coats of exterior Verathane, for easy cleanup.

Tiered Blueberry Display:

The tiered displays are made from old fence wood, sanded, and finished with Profin.

Pricing Chalkboard:

This will display the pricing and upcoming events at the farm. It’s made from an old school chalkboard, found at a yard sale. The “Local Harvest” type is printed on old magazine paper and Mod Podged onto a yardstick and secured with nails top/bottom.

These pieces will be used in combination with a canopy with banners with the farm logo. Can’t wait to see how it all looks together – we will keep you posted!

 

 

 

Staircase from Iron and Salvaged Wood

The other day someone wrote in and asked about the staircase that is shown in one of our posts about re-using old doors in a remodel. I realized that we had never posted about the stairs – mostly because they were completed before we ever started blogging. I don’t have any pictures of the process, but for those of you interested, here are some photos/details of the final staircase: 

stair railing design, custom stair railing, metal and wood staircase, modern stair

The design came from our desire of wanting a mix of traditional Craftsman (like our downstairs) and a slightly contemporary look (like our upstairs).

The husband painstakingly built the staircase, using planed/salvaged Douglas Fir (when possible). We had a local metal fabricator, Atomic Fabricators, build the iron work, and provided them with plywood templates so the measurements and angles fit perfectly. We attached the iron to the wood with galvanized lag bolts.

The project took awhile and it was certainly challenging. In the middle of the process I would often catch the husband just gazing off into the distance in a trance-like state holding a tape measure.

One drawback: the fir treads are a little soft and we’ve learned the hard way that it isn’t a good idea to let your kids wear soccer cleats in the house.

stair railing design, custom stair railing, metal and wood staircase, modern stair

stair railing design, custom stair railing, metal and wood staircase, modern stair

 

 

 

Organize Your Spices: Make Labeled Tins

This post originally appeared last month on the blog Mod Podge Rocks. Check it out for great crafting ideas.

Do all of your spices in their random-sized containers drive you crazy? They have always bugged me – I could never find what I needed (so I would inadvertently buy duplicates) and no matter how neatly I placed them on a lazy susan, they never stayed organized.

Spices_beforeYou’ve seen spice organizers out there, and for good reason. But they can get a little expensive. Continue reading

Functional Art

Lately I’ve been spending all my free time in our basement making functional art from recycled/salvaged materials. Sometimes I even come up and make my family dinner. (They would beg to differ – they’d at least question the quality.)

I dropped off the new work at Matter Gallery in Olympia. They feature artists who work with recycled/sustainable materials. Visit their website to see lots of cool art.

Olympia is not that far from Seattle – I love exploring all the galleries, shops and cafes. To make it easy, Matter has great recommendations on their site of interesting places to visit – check it out!