I wanted to do a quick project for the Independence Day holiday – something that delved deeper into the meaning of the day. Red, white and blue cupcakes and the like are all well and good, but I fear the true heart of the holiday beats weaker with each passing year and with each successive generation. I had an idea for something to hang on the wall: the original draft of the Declaration of Independence flanked by the Betsy Ross flag and the 50-star flag. It would be a simple thing to make: print out the flags and the Declaration, Mod Podge them onto a piece of plywood (it would be my first time using Mod Podge), and stick that into a frame that I would make. This easy project would serve as a reminder of those whose words and ideas shaped our nation.
Well, let me tell you, there’s no such thing as “simple” when Mod Podge is involved. Instead of a three hour stroll down memory lane, I was thrust into a two-day Battle of Bunker Hill.
A quick search online uncovered the flags I was after and an awesome original draft of the Declaration of Independence. I printed these out and ran downstairs to quickly bang out this project. I started with a 1/4 inch plywood backing, cut to fit my three printouts.
I placed the printouts on the backing to see how they would look. Not bad. But I thought that they would look better…
…if I crinkled them up a bit.
As I mentioned before, I had never decoupaged anything or used Mod Podge. All I knew was that it was a glue and a sealant. You may be wondering why I didn’t ask for Handan’s help with this project – after all, she is a decoupage master. Well, for starters, I didn’t think it would be hard. Also, I had to get the project done quickly, and she was at work. And last, after a few screw-ups, it became my mission to finish it.
I thought it might be a good idea to pour a bunch of it all over my project and see what happens.
Looking back, this may not have been the best approach. I brushed the glop all over the flag on the right, assuming it would soak through the paper and glue itself to the board. It didn’t really work out like that, and I had to peel up the soaked flag, brush on some Mod Podge underneath, and replace the flag. for the remaining two printouts, I decided to brush the glue everywhere first.
Then I applied the printouts, dumped on some more Mod Podge, and brushed it all around. For some reason, the flag on the left and the Declaration ended up all wrinkly. I tried to smooth them out using the roller. It wasn’t really working, and the roller started peeling off bits of the pictures. Gah!
Okay, I could handle a little setback. Using a razor blade, I scraped off the Betsy Ross flag and the Declaration and started over (no pics, sorry). I got it again to the point pictured above and left it to dry overnight.
Meanwhile, I started work on the frame. I had some spare tongue and groove pine boards left over from some past project.
By cutting off the bottom of the groove shown below…
…and then cutting them into narrow strips, I had the makings of a good frame.
I finished it off with some Minwax Red Mahogany stain, then called it a day.
The next day I had a peek. My flags looked like they had been infected with Bubonic plague.
Crap. I hate the feeling when you stare a screw-up right in the face and realize you have to start over from square one. Shoulders slumped, I grabbed another sheet of plywood and started cutting. I decided that I would take more pictures of the process. For your education? No! Pfffft. For your entertainment, of course! You didn’t think this process would go smoothly, did you?? Let’s jump in!
Okay, I got the new printouts, hot off the laserjet.
With a ruler and a utility blade, I removed the excess paper.
Crumple time. Double-crumple, to be precise.
Another crumple shot? Cripes, why? I think we get the point!
All crumpled. How proud I was!
Hmmmm….maybe a little too crumpled. Better smooth ’em out a bit.
I know the roller burned me before, but I just kept running back to it.
Look! I flattened paper!
Pro tip: if you enjoy asphyxiation and a slow horrid death, by all means use this product in a closed basement. If you enjoy air and breathing and your lungs, go outside and use it. Guess where I used it?
Yep, you guessed right. The ninnyhammer decided it would be a fine idea to spray in the basement!
When the stink cleared, I got on with marking where each piece would go.
I immediately covered those marks in glue, so I ended up guessing where to place them.
I’m a gambling man with a penchant for self-torture, so I reached for the roller.
Phew! No rips. On to the other flag.
Again with the roller…
No rips! I was on a roll! On to the Declaration…
Placed it like I was born for the job. I had this down! I had it sewn up like Betsy Ross! I was the Mod Podge Champion of the Universe! I did a victory lap with my roller, just to show those flags who was boss.
And then it happened.
I was crushed. I grabbed a razor, considered my wrists, then set in on the flag. I’m not thinking happy thoughts in that big, dumb head.
I must have screwed up the other flag, too, because as soon as I scraped off the one, I got right to scraping off the other. Poor me.
I printed more flags. I trimmed the flags. I crumpled the flags.
yay. woooo. *sigh*
No longer friends with the roller, I discovered a new technique for smoothing out the paper: fingertips.
Holy sh!t, it worked! I’m a genius!
That hair, though…
Yeesh, I may need to shower more often. But that was a problem for another time, because I was on fire! I placed the next flag.
And smoothed it out.
YES! YES! YES! No rips, no tears! I’m King of the World!
After about 20 minutes, I added a top coat of Mod Podge, because that’s what someone on the internet said to do.
I left this to dry overnight. I was nervous. Even though I was now King of the World and the Mod Podge Champion of the Universe, I still feared another Bubonic plaque incident. I hardly slept at all that night.
But it worked! It freaking worked!
I loaded the plywood panel into the frame and used Handan’s frame stapler to fix it in place. This is an awesome little tool for anyone who works with frames.
And here it is: my project born of sweat, tears and patriotism.
Happy Independence Day!
Update: It came to my attention from my old friend Lee (a stauncher patriot than I), that I was displaying the flags incorrectly in the project. According to our flag code, the blue Union should be on the left, not on the right. All my life, I’ve had it backwards in my head. Speaking of head – I started to bang mine against the wall, as the realization crept into my bones: I couldn’t just leave it like this. I’d never be able to look at it with pride.
I didn’t take pictures. I was a broken man with a jug of Mod Podge. I flipped the pics, reprinted them, crumpled them (if anyone tells me that crumpling a picture of the flag violates the flag code…), Mod Podged them and framed them. Did I screw up? Pffffffft! What the hell, people! Of course I did! Took me three tries to get it right.
But I got it right.