If you want to learn how to make string art, this article will teach you the basic process which you can apply to any other design. I picked out a simple heart (for my wife) that allows me to show you the method. Apply these same instructions to your design, and you will be able to start making string art very quickly.
What does this have to do with woodworking? The base you make for the project is made from wood, and requires woodworking techniques to create. If you just pound nails into anything, it will not look very good.
Combining a little creative art with some woodworking talent allows you to make a very nice looking piece of string art in a very small amount of time.
I made this string art project in my shop just this afternoon, and I worked on it in between other projects. It’s nice to have something going on in the background while you are waiting for glue to dry.
You will need a box of 1-1/2 inch shiny nails with large heads, a small piece of wood for the base, a stain of your choice, some lacquer, and string to make this project. Most woodworkers have stain and clear in their shops, so feel free to use anything you already have. I chose white string because I knew that I wanted to stain the board dark. You can make your own choice on the color end.
Step One: Preparing the Blank and Routing the Edges For Your String Art
The measurements for this project are not incredibly important unless you want to make this exact project. Feel free to make what you like, and use this as a guide.
I will be demonstrating the measuring and marking out process based on proportions rather than measurements, so you will always have something that fits well, no matter what size piece you decide to use.
Next, create a profile around the four edges of the board. I really like the look of an Ogee pattern, which is why I used it for this project. A different pattern will work as well, so take a look through your router bits and decide. I used this same pattern on my DIY Established Sign.
Be careful when using the router table, as the wood can be pulled by the bit. I like to take several light passes until I reach full depth. This way, the bit is only digging into the wood a small amount. You will get much less pull this way, and it will be safer too.
Here is what the nail art sign looks like after being routed. The simple addition of something around the edges makes a difference. Again, choose a different route if you desire.
Another thing that happens once in a while is a chip will come out. You can fill the chip, or sand to blend it into the surface. If you like a rustic look, a few small chips and dings will only add to the overall look.
Step Two: Laying Out the String Art Pattern
A lot of the places that teach you how to make string art will have you lay down a drawing of the design, and poke holes with nails to transfer it to the surface of the wood.
This is a good plan for harder designs, and can save you a lot of time. All you do is tape a picture of what you want on the wood, and poke holes at regular intervals following the lines.
For this design, I used a simple heart pattern, which was easy enough to draw myself. Find the center of the board and draw a vertical line. Then, draw two horizontal lines an inch from the top and bottom of the board. Finally find something round that you can use to make a couple circles for the tops of the heart. I used a spray can lid. It just has to fit between the center line and the edge of the wood. I kept mine about half an inch from the edge.
After that, use a ruler to connect the intersection of the bottom and center lines to the lowest point on the circles.
Once you make these marks, you can erase everything inside and you will have a very easy heart shape. Now, all you have to do it make small marks across the line every 3/8 inch.
I decided on 3/8 inch marks because of the heads on the nails. You need a small gap in between them, and this spacing left about 3/16 inch in between each one. Having a little space to work with allows you more freedom to wind the string, which will become important later.
Here is where the real secret of how to make string art is revealed. Most people look at these designs and think that someone was hammering nails into the surface for hours. While this would work, it’s not the best method. Step three will show you how the professionals do their string art. This one little trick makes the project look far more even, is much easier than hammering nails, and you get a much better final product.
Step Three: Drilling Holes In Your Design
This is best done on a drill press, but if you are careful and take your time, you can do it with a hand drill as well.
Use a caliper to measure your nails. If you do not have a caliper, drill a few holes with small bits and test the fit. You want to find a drill that is only slightly smaller than the diameter of the nail. The goal is to be able to easily hammer in the nails. You need the hole to be tight, but not so tight that you cant even start the nail by hand.
Once you have selected your drill, go through each mark until you are about 1/8 inch from the bottom of the board. For a 1-1/2 inch nail, this will give you a lot of play. If you want the nails taller, you can do it. If you want them shorter, you can do that too simply by hammering them in farther.
Step Four: Staining and Finishing Your String Art Base
Now that the design is made and the holes have been drilled, it’s time to stain and finish the string art base. This is the best method of how to make string art, because you get the hard parts out of the way first.
First, sand off the marks from the layout using sandpaper and a block. Work with the grain, and then clean off the surface. Also, blow out the holes to remove any excess saw dust.
After that, stain the piece using a color of your choice. For this project, I used the Kona color of Rustoleum stain. I really like these stains. They act like a gel stain, and allow you to wipe it around to even out the coloring.
Allow the piece to dry according to the can, which for mine was one hour.
Set the string art base on a small block, and then spray light coats. I like using nicer lacquers like Mohawk or Deft, because they coat better and dry faster.
One thing you could really do if you are normally using inexpensive hardware store lacquers is to upgrade to a nicer brand. Not only do they dry better, they also lay down flatter, spray easier, and re-coat faster. The small money difference is well worth the difference in performance.
The staining and lacquering portion of how to make nail art is optional. However, it will give your piece a more complete look. Some people like the look of unfinished wood, and if that’s you, select a good contrasting string color and you won’t have to add a finish.
Step Five: Adding Nails and Wrapping the String
Now that your string art base is dry, it’s time for the nails. Since you already drilled holes, this part of the process will go very easily.
Start in any part of the design, and begin adding nails one at a time. Follow your holes, and pound them all in to the same height.
Once you get them all in, look at the heads from the side and see how even they are. If you need to make adjustments, pound in the nails that are sticking out too far. Look at the side again, and repeat the process until all of the nails are the same height. You can also turn the piece upside down on a flat surface and look for nails that are too tall.
Don’t worry about getting this down to the millimeter. As long as they are close, the design will work out perfectly.
I personally like straight lines (I know, I’m not very creative) so I decided to go back and forth one way, then do another back and forth perpendicular to that.
To wrap your string, start by tying one end to the lowest nail. Tie a good strong knot right under the head. Then, simply wind the string around each nail as you go up and down across the piece. This will create a pattern of vertical string lines on the heart.
Next, do the same thing but going side to side. Any time you need to move from one area of the design to another, wrap string around the outside of the design until you get where you need to start your next run.
Finally, wrap a few layers around the outside to frame in the design, and tie off the end.
All you need to do from this point is hammer a saw tooth picture hanging clip to the top of the back side, and you can hang it on the wall. If you prefer another method of hanging your work, you can add that instead. I like the saw tooth hangers, because they are cheap, and easy to install.
There you have it. How to make string art the easy way. Now all you have to do is head out in the shop and make it. All the reading in the world is no substitute for actually making things in the shop. Go on out there and have some fun.
If you come up with a cool string art design, send me an email and I may share it with everyone on the website. I love seeing people become successful at woodworking from my help. If you make something beautiful from my tutorial, I would love to hear about it.
I Write Woodworking Books!
If you like the way I explain things, my books go into even more detail on specific woodworking subjects that you may enjoy. I have two woodworking books, one on making wooden rings, and the other on making toy tools for kids.
Wooden Rings: How To Make Wooden Rings By Hand is a great way to learn how to make rings easily, and without many tools. Having been a woodworker for a long time, I have a decent tool selection. However, not everyone interested in making wooden rings has all the same stuff.
With that in mind, I wrote this book using the bare minimum tool set. If you own different or better tools, you can easily substitute them along the way. For example, I show how to hand sand the outsides of the ring, but if you own a belt sander, you can use that too.
Most people who want to make a ring are doing so for a gift or for themselves. This book shows step by step instructions for a wide variety of rings. There are also examples of nearly 50 beautiful rings to use as inspiration along the way. There are also chapters on inlays, and finishing. Once you finish the book, you will be able to make a beautiful ring for a thoughtful gift. Most people that make a ring go on to making several more. They are fun, easy, and inexpensive to make.
Wooden Tools For Kids came out of my desire to make an heirloom toy tool set for my son. My tiny boss dictates many of my woodworking projects now, and I really enjoy making things for him.
The book has full instructions for over 20 wooden toy hand tools, and a farm style tool box. Each tool is presented in a step by step manner, and they are all very realistic.
Wooden toys encourage the imagination of a child in a way that modern electronic toys do not. With all his other toys either beeping, clicking, or playing terrible music, I wanted to give him something that encouraged him to think and imagine.
I truly enjoyed making these toy tools for him, and the set in the book is the exact same set he plays with now. It was a joy giving all of them to him, and I am sure you will feel the same way if you make the set. If you ever want to feel truly appreciated as a woodworker, make something for a child. The feeling you get is truly amazing.
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