Rustic Clothespin Photo Display

Posted by on May 2, 2014 in blog | 0 comments

Rustic Clothespin Photo Display

This clothespin photo display was sort of half craft, half science experiment. It’s based on a combination of crafts I’ve seen online.

For this project you’ll need an unfinished wood shadowbox, vinegar, steel wool, a jar with a lid, a paintbrush, mini clothespins, wire, paint, a ruler, masking tape, a pencil, a drill with a small drill bit, a hot glue gun and glue, photos, sandpaper, needle nose pliers, and tea (optional).

I picked up the shadowbox in the wood crafts section at my local craft store. I got one without glass but there was an option that came with glass. You could also do a slightly modified version of the project with an unfinished open back frame.

Jar of stain after 24 hours

Jar of stain after 24 hours- slightly scary looking

First you have to mix up the stain. Put about a cup of vinegar into a glass mason jar. I just used white vinegar but I have heard other kinds like apple cider vinegar works, too. Then tear up some steel wool and stick it in the vinegar. You can put a lid on the jar, but don’t close it tightly. As the vinegar and steel wool react with each other, it creates a little bit of hydrogen that will want to escape from the jar. And that’s it. Just let it sit for at least 24 hours. The longer it sits, the deeper and more brown the finished frame will be.

Masked and painted shadowbox

Masked and painted shadowbox

While I was waiting for the vinegar solution to do its thing, I painted the back of my shadow box. The back is not removable, so I masked the wood with tape before I started. I used a deep eggplant color then put an antiquing glaze over the top of it to make it a little rustic. The way you treat the back of the shadowbox is really up to you. Instead of painting, you could cover it in fabric or with pretty paper. Obviously, if you’re using an open back frame, you’ll skip this step.

While these frames are very inexpensive, they are also very plain. I picked up a couple strips of balsa wood to use as trim. If you want to do this, you will also need: balsa trim, clamps, wood glue, and a craft knife.

Clamped balsa trim

Clamped balsa trim

The first thing I did was measure and cut the balsa strips. I used the corners of my frame along with a ruler to make sure I cut them at a 45°. You could also use a 45/90 acrylic drafting triangle, but I can never seem to find mine when I need it. Balsa wood is so soft, you can easily cut it with a craft knife. Once all your pieces are cut, carefully spread a little glue on the back of the pieces. It’s important not to get too much glue because you don’t want it squelching out all over the unfinished wood. Just dot the glue on the wood and smooth it with your finger. Once you’ve glued down a piece, you’ll need to clamp it until the glue is set. I used some office binder clips. I tore up pieces of thin cardboard from the clothespin packaging and laid it in on top of the balsa before clamping. This kept the clips from denting the wood. Once the glue is dry, remove the clamps and sand of any glue that might have gotten on the wood. It also won’t hurt to give the whole piece a good sanding to make sure everything is nice and smooth.

The way this stain works is that it reacts with tannins in the wood to create a pretty grey color. Apparently some woods have more tannins than others which will make the effect more drastic. You can add tannins by painting the wood with tea. Just brew up a cup, brush it on and let it dry. Once the tea is dry, you will no longer be able to see it.

You’re almost ready to stain. Before you do, make sure you cover your work area. The stain is very thin and it will splatter, no matter how careful you are. You may want to wear gloves. Also, vinegar stinks, so you’ll want good ventilation. You could strain your stain into a new container to get all the bits of steel wool out, but I didn’t bother.

Mask off your painted area of your shadowbox and, with a brush you won’t mind ruining, apply the stain to the shadowbox and clothespins. If you’re using an open back frame instead of a shadowbox, you might want to paint the clothespins a coordinating color. The stain won’t look like much at first, but give it a few minutes.

While applying the stain, it doesn't really look like its working

While applying the stain, it looks pretty unimpressive right now

Color difference on the frame

Color difference on the frame after about 10 minutes

Color difference on clothespins

Color difference on clothespins after about 10 minutes

Once your frame and clothespins are dry, you can put in the wire. Take your pictures and place them in the shadowbox where you’ll want them to hang. Remember to account for how much space the clothespins will take up. Based on where you place those pictures, mark the sides of the shadowbox. Make sure the marks measure the same on both sides so your wire hangs straight. My first marks were about 1-1/8″ from the top and my second marks were about 7″ from the top.

Mark where to drill holes for the wire

Mark where to drill holes for the wire

Drill a small hole at each of those marks. Take a piece of wire that is slightly larger than what you know you’ll need and cut it from the spool. I used just one wire that I snaked around, but you could also use a new piece for each row. Coil one end around some needle nose pliers to make a little stopper.

Coil the wire for a stopper

Coil the wire for a stopper

Thread the uncurled end through one of the holes. Pull the wire so your stopper is against the frame and tack it down with a little hot glue. Let it cool completely before moving on. Pull the wire through the opposite hole and pull it taught. Use a little more glue to hold it in place. Thread the wire through the next hole, pull it taught and glue it. Once you do the same for the final hole, curl the end around the pliers to make another stopper before cutting off the excess. Also, remember to thread your clothespins on as you go.

One piece of wire was snaked through the holes

One piece of wire was snaked through the holes

All you have to do to finish the project is hang your photos on the clothespins.

Completed cute and unique photo display

Completed cute and unique photo display

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