December 29, 2013

Handmade Holiday: Monogrammed Wooden Key Chain

About two years ago I found a great piece of wood on the side of the road. The branch was just recently cut from a tree in a neighbors front yard and was perfectly round. Obviously, I had to drag it home. My boyfriend and I cut it up into tiny, one and a half inch circles and they've sat in my crafting closet ever since. I knew one day I would have a brilliant idea.
That idea finally came just about two weeks before Christmas.

Last year I handmade every gift, from refinishing nightstands to rounding out vintage spoon handles into rings. This year I sadly didn't have the time.

I couldn't let the holiday go by with just a bunch of store bought gifts, so I began digging through supplies. I came across a little bag filled with circular wood cuttings and knew it was finally time to put them to good use!

Read below for a list of supplies and step-by-step, pictured instructions.

-Wooden circle cuts about 1 1/2 in. in diameter and 1/4 in. thick 
Note: It's always a good idea to let freshly cut wood dry out for sometime. Never cut a branch from a living tree, there is plenty of dead wood to be recycled!
-Wood burning pen 
-Fine grit sand paper - 150 or higher 
-Power Drill with a 1/8 in. drill bit
- Light pencil for sketching
-Wood Stain - I used Minwax Golden Oak
-Triple Thick Clear Brush-On Gloss Glaze
-Small 1" Paint Brush
-10mm & 12mm Jump Rings
-20mm Split rings

While it might not be the most enjoyable process (my hands cramped up a few times) always take the time to sand. You will be happier with the end result 100% of the time.

Make sure to keep a firm grip on the piece you're drilling into and use high speed. Slow speed and weak grips cause for dangerous drilling and warped holes. 

While you could use stencils, I sketched out my letters to keep a purely handmade look. Be light with the pencil as it was extremely hard to erase dark lines on such light wood.

If, like me, wood is one of your favorite materials to work with, purchase a wood burning pen. I bought mine at Michael's a few years ago and have gotten a lot of great use out of it. Most kits come with a few different tips to allow you to get as detailed as you like.

*Let air dry for 24 hours*
I decided to go with a lighter to medium stain so it wouldn't blend in with the burned letters. All you need is some clean, cut up t-shirts to apply. 

Note: Test, test, test! I had a few leftover pieces and testing the stain on them saved me from using something way too dark.

*Let air dry for 24 hours*

This product was an amazing find. I've used it on all types of surfaces and it never lets me down. An alternative option would be to use a Polyurethane or Polycrylic finish. While both great options, they would have required numerous coats to achieve the finish I was looking for. Triple Thick gave it to me with one coat and a less then 24 hour complete drying time!

Note: When it comes to any stain or finish, always read labels for proper drying time an adhesion instructions.

Note: To Open and Close Jump Rings: Use two flat nose pliers and twist ring, one hand rotating towards you, the other rotating away from you. Never pull open as this weakens the metal and can cause an odd shaped ring

On Christmas morning I decided to give out the key chains before anyone opened up any gifts. It was great because it reminded me that Christmas cannot be bought in a store. You don't have to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars to light up someone face. 
All you need is some heart and soul. 

December 3, 2013

Birch Obsession

Latest issue of Elle Decor:

The walls of this gorgeous house in Aspen are lined in a birch veneer. 

Best Before

Today I heard about something call "The Death Watch". At first, the thought of a watch that counted down the days until my life expired gave me a bit of anxiety, but the more I sat with the concept, the more I realized I might be it's perfect candidate.

For those who know me very closely, you could describe me as someone who has a lot of ambitions, but doesn't always follow through with them. (I'm working on changing this, I promise) How many more thing would I accomplish if I had a constant reminder of the little time I have left? 

Alain de Botton's Atheism 2.0

If you had the chance to look into my past, it might not be obvious that I would consider myself an atheist as I got older. I spent 7 years in the catholic school system (prayer's in the morning and all) and was forced to 8:45 Sunday mass by my mother every week. However, by the time I was 16 - through a form of teenage rebellion - I became very farm removed from the Catholic Church.

Now that I'm in my mid-20's, I've started to feel a need for something more in my life. Some sort of structure that doesn't revolve around a career.

I spent some time in a Presbyterian church and learned that the minister could marry and have children..who knew?! It was so great to listen to his sermon about life and death and relationships. He was able to experience life the same way I was so I felt more of a connection.

I dabbled in some Buddhist teachings and began to truly understand the reasoning for suffering in life and what it means to truly be compassionate.  Meditation and yoga were new past times.

However, there was always one problem - the supernatural.

In walks Alain, de Botton, considered to be the philosopher of the everyday life, with a new perspective on religion and atheism. 

He argues that as an atheist we don't have to disregard all aspects of religion, but borrow bits and pieces. de Botton's ability to put to words to exactly what you're thinking, or feeling is truly extraordinary. Take a look at this inspiring TED talk that just might restore your faith (no pun intended) in atheism.

 I believe in being kind
I believe in always expanding your mind
I believe in the power of the sea
I believe in reading the Sunday paper
I believe in taking care of the earth
I believe in spending time with yourself
I believe in questioning
I believe in taking care of your body 
I believe in walking barefoot 

There may not be a religion that compiles all my beliefs exactly, but that's ok. I'm on the path to self-knowledge and at twenty-four, that's all that matters to me.

For more about Alain de Botton, visit his website here. To purchase "Religion for Atheist", click here.