Whale Tail String Art
May 16, 2015
I’m so excited about this project! My good friend, Kate, introduced me to the idea of string art and I was immediately hooked. It wasn’t all that difficult either. Setting the nails was the most time consuming–we both just wanted to get to the fun part: the stringing!
The wood I got was a 24″x24″ piece of sanded plywood (either Birch, Oak, or Pine) from Lowe’s, and cost me about $9. I wanted it darker so I stained it (about $5 for wood stain), but do what works best for the look you’re trying to achieve. I encourage you to try to find some more “natural” wood. If you see something at a yard sale or even on the side of the road, don’t be afraid to try it out with this project. Kate found a piece that looked like a mini wood palette and it turned out great.
I also challenge you to get creative with this project and use different types of wood, different thread colors, and experiment with different patterns. I’d even say try out different types of nails.
Total Cost: $15-$40, depending on your wood and stain
Total Time: 2-3 hours
Piece of wood – any size, any type, stained, sanded or left raw
Wood Stain (optional)
Wire Nails (size 1×18), 2 boxes
Step 1: Print the pattern
The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to what you put on your board. I chose an animal but feel free to venture into other things – plants, monograms, objects, inspirational words, etc. Or, go ahead and create your own image! I chose the latter option and mocked up the image in Adobe Illustrator. If you’re not so good with design programs, you can draw directly on the paper with Sharpie.
Make sure the dimensions of your image are such that it will fit onto your piece of wood, then print. Depending on how large your image is, you may need to print on a large format printer. Usually Staples can make “Engineering Prints” or “Blueprints” (18″x24″) for under $5 per print. The paper need not be anything fancy – you will be discarding it in the end.
Step 2: Prep your wood
If you have a raw piece of wood, you may want to stain it to get the look you’re going for. I used Minwax Wood Finish in Early American 230. Dip an old rag into the can of wood stain and carefully start applying the stain to the wood, in long strokes, going with the grain. Do this until front of your board is saturated with stain, but don’t leave any pools. If you’re only going to stain your wood and not put any finish on it, I suggest only doing one side of the board, plus the sides. Leave one side (the back) free of stain so it won’t soak into your wall paint if you hang it. Let the first coat dry for 4-6 hours, in a well-ventilated area.
Repeat this process until you achieve the desired color, leaving a few hours of drying time in between. Once dry, lay your pattern down onto the wood and tape at the corners, so it won’t move when you’re setting the nails or now would be the time to draw on your paper if you chose not to print (I would not suggest drawing directly onto the wood – you may still be able to see your drawing once you’ve completed the project).
Step 3: Set the nails
Start hammering away. Following the pattern, hammer the wire nails into the wood, outlining the outer edge of each piece of the pattern. How far apart you set the nails depends on how intricate you want your final product to be. For the tail I set each nail about a 1/2-inch apart. However, for the waves, I allowed almost an inch in between each nail. Setting the nails too close together will make it more difficult to string, but too far apart may not get the detail you want. A safe, general distance is 3/4-inch.
Hammer the nails down far enough that they don’t come loose when you pull on them but not so far down that you cannot wrap thread around it. A good height for the nail is about 1/2-inch up from the board.
When all the nails are set you can tear away the paper pattern. If you wait until the end to do this, it will be very difficult to do.
Step 4: String the heck out of your pattern
This is the fun part! First string the outline of your nails. Tie a double knot to one nail and go along the outer edges, wrapping each nail completely, at least once as you go. Once outlined, then just let your hand be your guide and don’t think about it too much. Start weaving back and forth. The more you wrap each nail, the more secure your line will be (in case you accidentally let go).
Did you do your own string art? I’d like to see it! Post a picture of your final product to inspire others to get their string on!
*This post originally appeared on my former blog, Kept. While that blog has since retired, all the content transferred is up-to-date and my own.