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    How to get started making wooden cutouts?


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    I need to start making some wooden cutouts and I would like to get ideas on the type of materials to use. This yard art will be the standard "stake-it in your front lawn and focus a spot light on it" variety.

    I've looked thru several pattern cutout web sites which offer good hints. I'd also like to get inputs from the PC community. Inputs on:

    1. Type and thickness of wood to use?

    I've seen recommendations for exterior grade BC Plywood 1/4-1/2 inch, preferably pre-sanded. Is this the preferred choice or is there another type to consider? Is Home Depot/Lowes the best place to get this?

    2. Steps for painting?

    Here is how I understand it. First: apply primer on front+back+side. Second: apply the top coat colors. Last: apply polyurethane. Correct?

    3. Type of paint to use?

    I've seen recommendations to use exterior grade acrylic paint. Correct?

    4. Where to get paints that have a good variety of colors and in a good size container?

    Home Depot/Lowes have a small choice of colors. Hobby Lobby, etc. and http://www.thewinfieldcollection.com/have good selections, but primarily are in 2oz containers. Is stocking up on the 2oz containers the way to go? I expect to have about 10-20 wooden cutouts I need to paint, with varying colors for Rudolf, Santa, etc type of cutouts.

    5. Type of jigsaw and blade to use?

    I assume a middle of the road jigsaw, along with a plywood cutting blade, is sufficient. Correct?

    6. Any other good hints that I should keep in mind when making wooden cutouts?

    dallasmike

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    1.Type and thickness of wood to use?

    I use ½ inch treated plywood. This has held up best to the weather for me without separation of the plys. Other people have used exterior ½ inch plywood. Also know of some who use ¼ inch luan plywood. I have never tried the luan, but would expect it to perform good. I deal with a local lumber yard, but Home Depot or Lowes would be a good choice.

    2. Steps for painting?

    First it needs to be primed all over (front, back & sides assuming you have already cut it out) with a good primer. Prior to priming the sides, I fill any holes with an exterior wood putty. Then I paint the design using a good quality exterior house paint I do not use a polyurethane sealer. I have found that it yellows over time especially over white paint.

    3. Type of paint to use?

    I use a good quality semi gloss acrylic exterior paint.

    4. Where to get paints that have a good variety of colors and in a good size container?

    I buy it by the gallon at Ace Hardware and have them mix it in the colors I want. I also combine some of the colors at home to make small amounts. I have not been pleased with the small 2 oz containers that are used for hobby painting.

    5. Type of jigsaw and blade to use?

    I use a jigsaw with a plywood blade.

    6. Any other good hints that I should keep in mind when making wooden cutouts?

    There are a number of places to get full size patterns such as Winfield or Meisel Hardware and trace them on the plywood. You can also take smaller pictures and enlarge them with a overhead projector or use a grid method. Depending on how much you need to enlarge the picture will depend on the size of grids on each. If you are enlarging a picture that is on a full sized sheet of paper you may want to use one inch grids on picture and six inch grid on your plywood.

    Andy Anderson Culpeper, VA

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    Hi...

    I have one project thatI made 7 years ago. I used 1/4" luan plywood with no primer or sealer. I did however paint the 2 sides and all the edges. I have displayed this ever since each year with no problems. I would suggest a bracing framworkwhen using luan for large projects.

    Bob

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    I have used just about everything, but I like the 1/4" luan plywood better than anything. In fact, a few years ago, I posted some pic on here of a soldier I had cut out of luan. What was unique about it was that it had been in high water that came up about 1/4 of the the way on the luan. It was in the water for a couple of days, and when I dried it out, it was not warped at all. Like another person said, I have painted luan, with no primer, and had no warping problems with it. The only thing with luan is it wants to splinter when cut. If you put masking tape on your cut lines, that will solve the problem. I've since headed in a different direction with my display, but I still love wood cutouts. In fact, I have a metal storage building full of all of my old ones just because I hate to get rid of them. Sometimes I will pull one out and put it amongst my wireframes. You kind of get attached to them when you spend all the time hand painting.:)

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    Yeha, they're right about the poly. I used it last year, and while my snowman wasn't yellowed then, it's looking more yellowed now. I guess the dogs got a hold of it ;). I avoid any gloss, semi-gloss, or satin finishes to reduce glare. I think there is a brand of craft paint that does indorr/outdoor, but I think that it's a gloss.

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    Dallasmike,

    In response to your question about the jigsaw and blades I would suggest any jigsaw would be acceptable. You don't need a 200 dollar Craftsman or Bosch if you only plan to use it for these cutouts. Try Harbor Freight, you can get a cheap one there, even if it only last a couple years it is cheap enough to throw out and buy a new one.Onto the blade.Geta wood blade with the smallest teeth you can find. A course jigsaw blade will leave really rough splintered cuts. The finer the teeth the smoother the cut. This coupled with the masking tape from above will give you a nice cut, even in luan.

    Brian

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    1. Type and thickness of wood to use?

    I like to use 3/4" plywood sanded on at least one side.Since the cutout is only in the yard for the holiday I don't feel it is worth buyingthe exterior grade. I like the thicker wood because it is very stable and allows me to screw brackets to the back for mounding in the yard. I get it at Home Depot and Lowes.

    2. Steps for painting?

    I first trace the outline of the pattern onto the bare wood using tracing paper. I like to tape the top of the pattern to the woodso I can lift it up occasionally and make sure my lines look good. This is also handy when doing larger cutouts because you can move your tracing paper around under your pattern and not worry about your pattern shifting. Once I have the outline on the wood I cut it with the jig saw and sand any rough edges. I then apply exterior grade wood putty to the edges to fill any voids in the plywood. Next I applytwocoats of white paint to all sides, front, and back. Now I am ready to transfer the details of the pattern onto the wood. I tape the pattern back down to the wood and transfer the detail lines. I paint the top coat colors and then come back with a black paint pen to define the lines between each color. I do not use polyurethane on any cutouts.

    3. Type of paint to use?

    I like to use exterior latex paint on all my projects for easy cleanup with soap and water. For the paint pens I use ZIGWoodcraft Markers. I think you can buy them at Michaels Craft stores but be sure to look now for them. They disappear quick during the holidays. Picture attached below.

    4. Where to get paints that have a good variety of colors and in a good size container?

    I get my paintat Home Depot, Lowes, and Wal-Mart. I usually just buy a quart. I know HD and Lowes have an area where they sell premixed paint that either someone returned or they mixed wrong. You can look there for cheaper paint in various colors.

    5. Type of jigsaw and blade to use?

    A normal jigsaw blade will do.

    6. Any other good hints that I should keep in mind when making wooden cutouts?

    Just have fun!

    post-761-129570963621_thumb.jpg

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    I have had some problem with warping if using 1/2 " of thinner if I did projects more that 4 foot high or wide.

    The first year Kathy and I started painting we did a nativity. Did not prime it, just painted it and sealed it with some kind of sealer from Glidden. The unprimed wood sucked up a lot of paint but we used the figures until 2004, then switched to a larger nativity but not because there were any problems with the old set.

    At one time Ace Hardware had a reverse tooth jigsaw blade that cut on the downstroke. No splintering on the topside so it was less trouble guiding the saw along the lines. I have not found the blade at my local Ace but I had stocked with 2 dz blades several years back. I think I also found the reverse teeth blades at Sears one time.

    Also, when it came time to mount the projects, I found it better to use pipe or rebar driven into the ground rather than wood stakes because the clay here is sometimes hard as a rock. I take the conduit and flatten one end so it drives in better.Last year I used 3/4 in EMT conduit driven into the ground but I did not go down deep enough and we had some hard winds blown over the more wind resistant figures.

    Word of caution if you use the conduit with the bottom end pinched shut. It holds water unless you cap it and when you pull it up, the rusty nasty water will make a mess. UGH.

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    have to disagree with macrosillgo for the best saw you can afford i would recamend the bosch it is the best one on the market just any pro carpenter or cabnetmaker it has more power and takes better stronger blades witch means a better and easeyer cut

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    Wow! Even being a relative newbie, I can finall add some input to someone's questions.:D

    I kind of have a thing for the plywood cutouts and have several large trains (36' and 54' in length each), 10 - 8' Nutcrackers and over 40 assorted snopeople through out my display plus flying santa and reindeer on the roof.

    i definitely prefer the exterior grade treated plywood as it has the least amount of warping occur. I use 5/8" so that there is some natural strength to it and you need a minimum of support. It is more expensive ($27 per 8' sheet atMenards) but i feel that it is worth it.

    For paint i use high quality, exterior grade, high gloss Trim House paint to get the best effect. the polyurethane coating really does tend to yellow as stated previously, especially over anything painted white. You also need to prime every edge to get the longest life between repainting. Some of my nutcrackers have lasted 6+ years so far this way.

    Some of the cutouts use spotlights to light up but on a majority of them I have attached strings of 100 mini clears. Drilling all of the holes can a bit tedious so if you are REAL CAREFUL, you can attach them with staples, another good reason to use a thicker plywood.

    When tracing the designs to paint you can imply action by making beards, hats etc look as if they are blowing in the wind. I also used a section of Menard's ropelight bells hanging off the back of one of my trains so it really looks like it's moving. Thanks for the chance to help out!

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    You have some good suggestions so far.

    As to the painting. When you are doing something like a snowman. You have on the white paint...now you can of course use masking tape to give you the edges you needfor say the scarf or hat. I find when I do this kind of thing, I always seem to dropsome of the scarf of hatcolor paint onto the white...so now I usePress N'Seal. After the white has dried you can put the Press N' Seal on top of it and just leave the space you need open for the scarf or hat. Tape your edges. Then if you drop or spill some paintyour white itis protected. When you are done and thepaint is dry you just remove the Press N' Sealand tape.

    Press N' Seal is cheaper atWal-Mart andplaces like BJs rather than a grocery store.

    Also with paint,to get a few different colors, I use some of the craft paint at craft stores.There is a glitter paint that works for outside. I put a pretty blue sparklingbow on my candy cane. There is also Diamond Dust (I think they might call it something else now) it looks really nice over things to make them sparkle. There is also a paint that looks like snow...so there are lots of ways to go. I did mine I guess at least 5 years ago, and they looked fine, but I got tired of the same ones, so I gave them to someone else for this year, soI can't tell you exactly how long the craft store paint lasts, but at least 5 years. I just used a spray can of sealer over top of mine.

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    I just got done making about 25 cutouts (watch for another post in a few days offering my patterns up for trade and pictures). Here is what I found:

    I've been using 15/32 B/C plywood. It's the best 'value ratio' that I could find for plywood. Thicker gets expensive in a hurry. As long as all the edges are primed well, I don't think I'll have a problem with de-lamination. Home Depot a month ago had it for $18/sheet.

    If you are using patterns, lay them outon the sheet first. You would be amazed how much wood you can save by turning, and rearranging your patterns. Don't be afraid to modify them slightly if it means they fit better (example: by reducing the poof-ball on the top of a hat, I was able to turn a pattern 90 degrees and save nearly 1/2 a sheet). Once you have the patterns arranged, remember where they go, take them off, and put the transfer paper down. Trace the outside edges only - you'll be painting the whole thing with primer so no need to trace the inside yet.

    Since I was using patterns, I used red Saral Transfer Paper. Works GREAT! I only bought 2 rolls, which was enough to cover 3/4 of a full sheet of plywood. As I got to the edge, I had to move a row from one side to the other. It was difficult to not move the pattern while moving the transfer paper. Buy 3 rolls and be done with it. I've used the same 2 rollsfor 8 sheets worth of cutouts, and could use them for another 20.

    Try to hold the paper pattern as steady as possible when doing your first trace. Keeping it steady now means it will line up better later (when tracing the insides). Don't be shocked later when your pattern misses by an inch or so in places!

    For cutting I would NOT use a jig saw. I used one for my first 2 cutouts and it took FOREVER. Then I remembered I had a spiral saw. WOW what a difference! Not only is it faster, but it gives the cutout a more 'organic' look. The spiral saw cuts curves MUCH nicer and makesthe cutoutsmore 'home-y'. I personally use a Roto-Zip spiral saw ($99 at home depot), but you can get a cheap one from Harbor Freight (Currently $19). Don't forget bits, the best price I have found is at Home Depot (Sabre Cut bits$8 for 5).

    Time to paint! Make sure you prime those edges. If there is going to be a problem THAT'S where it will happen. I did 2 coats of primer on BOTH sides (and edges). I would buy a good latex primer.

    Once the primer is done, get the pattern back out and try to line it up. Do this BEFORE you put the transfer paper underneath. For all but the smallest patterns, it won't line up properly. The idea here is to line it up as best as you can. You may need to 'split the difference' between 2 parts of the cutout, or 'push the edge' off to one side where it doesn't matter (usually the bottom). If it's REALLY off, you may need to trace one part first, then re-position the pattern. Once you get it where you like it, but the transfer paper under and start tracing all the inside lines.

    Be careful where you put your hand while tracing. Some of the cutouts I made were large, and I had to brace myself while leaning over the cutout. Every place I put my hand, I had a hand-print on the cutout (from the transfer paper). If you don't want to re-paint the white areas, put your hand in a colored spot! ;)

    I purchased 9 quarts of exterior latex paint from Wal-Mart (I think it was around $7/qt). While I bought a good primer, I went cheaper on the paint. I figure it's only going to be exposed for 6 weeks out of the year, so fading/etc won't be a problem in my lifetime! I live in FL though (where winters are pretty mild), so you may want to consider buying good paint as well. I have a TON of it left (exception: Red and Green, only about 1/4 qt each). I did 2 coats of each color. Just like Andy, I 'custom mixed' small amounts of colors (Pink, Dk Red, Lt Green, Grey, Orange, etc). I ended up painting most of the colored parts with either a 1/4" or 1/2" artist brush. Try to stay in the lines, but don't panic if you don't. You'll be coming back later with a black paint marker to outline everything (which will cover up to a 1/4" boo boo).

    At this point you are going to look at your cutout and be disappointed. They really don't look 'good'. Don't fret - once outlined they will look 1000% better. Trust me on this one.

    For 'outside' outlining (that is, around the edge of the cutout) I used a black Paint Craft marker that Bryce posted. They are GREAT (A bit expensive at $6 each, but well worth it). For the'inside' black outlines, I used a medium point black paint marker from Wal-Mart (I think it was from Elmer's - the glue people).

    For additional protection, I'm going to use water-based poly acrylic. I'm pretty sureitwon't yellow like polyurethane does. For $40/gallon it better not!:P.

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    Well, I just tried to coat my first cutout withMinwax Polycrylic. What a disaster.

    Apparently the Woodcraft paint markers and this stuff are NOT compatible, even though each says it should work. (The Woodcraft markers say to use a water based sealer over them - which this is. The Polycrylic can says it works over paint).

    I just finished applying the finish and was going back to 'lay it off'. As soon as I did, I dragged black across the whole cutout. The black paint from the woodcraft marker had dissolved into the finish.

    At $40 a gallon, this stuff is going back. Looks like I'll be buyinga case of spray-on stuff.

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    oldcqr wrote:

    Well, I just tried to coat my first cutout withMinwax Polycrylic. What a disaster.

    I just finished applying the finish and was going back to 'lay it off'. As soon as I did, I dragged black across the whole cutout. The black paint from the woodcraft marker had dissolved into the finish.

    At $40 a gallon, this stuff is going back. Looks like I'll be buyinga case of spray-on stuff.

    And we learn from your mistake.

    It sounds as if the minwax polycrylic made the black paintwet again. Or the black didn't set which doesn't seem right since it does dry fast.

    Is the piece salvageable? Can you remove the finish withpaint removerand re-prime and start over, or is it just ruined?

    As to wear and tear...I usuallygettired of the things before that happens but there are a few quicktricks to extend the cutouts for another year or two without repainting, especially if it is just a small area. Once again Diamond Dust, I think it is called Twinkles or something now...or glitter. Just use spray glaze or spray adhesive or even brush on Elmers glue as that dries clear andtoss the dust or glitter onto it while wetand it will hide a bunch of problems. There is even a brush on glitter that goes on like glue and comes in colors, yes, red, green, silver, and gold.My neighbor...his snowman, the paint started to peel only on the bottom. He used caulk and built a little snow pile on the base with that. As to things like a snowmans scarf...glue something likefabric over it.So there are ways to fix them when they get older, and a little tired looking, without having to go to all that repaint trouble. You just have to use your imagination.

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    Yes, it's salvageable. As soon as I noticed what was happening, I stopped. It's only in a small section so that is good. My better half remarked that it looks like the cutout is dirty in that section so we'll just go with it as is.

    Those paint markers do set up fast, but even so it had been over 24 hours since I had finished this one. It's definitely a solvent/whatever in the polycrylic that re-wet the paint marker.

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    Ok, more info...

    I switched to the spray-on polycrylic, and it works much better than the brush on stuff. It's more expensive (Nearly $9/can. I used 3 cans), and the marker will STILL run if you touch it. Howevera few short minutes later the polycrylicdries, and the paint markersets-up again.

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    Reading everyones post has been very helpful. One item however I'm confused on... Do you coat the finished cut out with some form of clear coat or not? Seems to be different methods with this.

    Also I purchased one of those drawing projectors from Micheals last year. I figured this may make it easier to trace the lines or at least save time.

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    Guest Bob_Moody

    In that I am currently in the process of building a new 16'x24' storage shed I will add this about selecting wood. The wood that big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes gets is run thru the mill at light speed. In some cases I would put good money down that the wood you buy today was a tree yesterday!!!

    Don't purchase more lumber than you can work in a couple of days. This applies more to the dimensioned lumber (2x4, 2x6 etc and so on).

    As for sheet goods, look each sheet over carefully. I purchased a large stack of CDX and several pieces were literally burned (read as charred) in the center of the sheet. This is from the mill pulling the stuff off the line so fast and compressing it with banding that the internal heat is trapped and will actually char the top lamanated sheet.

    Also in your B/C grades of sheet goods check for factory patches. These are the blems (usually blown knots) that the mill fills with putty before running them through the sander. You get a "B" grade side in that its flat and pretty smooth... BUT .. paint and primers do not always act well with the "bucket-o-filler" the mill uses.

    Finally, a moisture meter wouldnt be a bad investment. This stuff we are getting today is G R E E N. I've had 2x4's that were arrow straight when I bought them and the next day it was something best used for a rocker on a rocking horse.I'vehad sheet goods delaminate and dimensioned lumber literally stick together from the oozing sap.

    Try to keep the lumber you buy in a similar environment as the store (temp/humidity)and let it acclamate for a day or two before you start your project. You may run to HD, buy a stick of lumber and never once see anything I described here. Then again, you may see every one of the perils I mentioned.

    Of course these are personal experiances and your milage will vary. I know you folks that make these cutouts invest a lot of time, money and talent into your projects and I would hate to see 30, 50 or more hours blown becasue of lumber that was .. well .. lets just call it .. "Less Than Stellar" (quite frankly, I've seen outhouses built out of better lumber than some of the stuff that HD and Lowes is selling these days.. )

    -- Bob

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    FandomFilms wrote:

    Reading everyones post has been very helpful. One item however I'm confused on... Do you coat the finished cut out with some form of clear coat or not? Seems to be different methods with this.

    I would say yes to this. It will protect the wood and the paint. Also sitting outside they do get dirty. If you have some kind of sealer on it, then it is easier to wipe off once the season is over and then again to put outside for the next season.

    You can go with anything from a matte finish to a high gloss. The choice is mainly what you like. Some people don't care for the lights bouncing off a high gloss.

    Now some urethanes, will yellow over time. You want to try to avoid those. I don't know what my neighbor used on his Sylvester but the white part went completely yellow within a year. He had to strip it and repaint it. Ionly had a few pieces and I used the spray can of stufffrom the craft store. It sits near the wood pieces andsays it is for this purpose. These are the cutouts I justgave away. I had no yellowing on mine. So read the label and you can also ask the help at places like Home Depot or Lowes to be sure.

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    I haven't used any type of clear coating on any of my cutouts but after a few years some of them do seem to need an upgrade on the paint. I do find that if you spend a little bit more on the paint in the beginning, it adds serious life to the original painting scheme.

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    Thank you for the information. I'll keep these suggestion in mind. I'm hoping to go out this weekend and pick-up some materials. I have a few wood cutouts I got off e-bay but they're kind of small.

    I'd love to add Snoopy on his dog house in the yard. These tips will also be great for the two small guard shacks that I'm planning on putting together to conseal my LOR boxes.

    Thanks again

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    Since you mentioned Snoopy and his doghouse, I figured I'd post a picture of my Snoopy and doghouse that I made last year. The picture's a bit dark, but I don't have all of my shots on my work computer, so I thinkthis is as good as I've got right now. This the roof of my garage, if you can't tell from the picture, and Snoopy is ~7' long and 4-5' tall, not including the ear. I had a large plastic Santa hat on him at one point, but too much wind and rain took care of that. I plan on making a better hat for this year, as well as adding a Woodstock up there.

    post-326-129570964204_thumb.jpg

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