Ellie’s Christmas Gift

Blog / Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

In my mind, gifts need to be perfect and that’s why I hate them. I have trouble giving something to someone if there’s no utility or practicality or any real reason the recipient would like to receive the gift. I can’t just go to the store and pick something out for someone and think it’s good enough because I feel like I’m failing the relationship I have with that person.

There also have been too many movies and television episodes made where someone decides to make a gift for someone and it turns horribly wrong. The recipient wants to love it because of the time and effort put into it but in no way, shape, or form is it something they could see themselves every needing or wanting. They try to use it, or hide it, until the end of the story when the giver finds out how horribly they messed up. This has always discouraged me from making gifts because I assume this is the standard reaction from everyone for everything. Thanks a lot, media.

This year I decided to go rogue. This year was Ellie and my first Christmas together and I decided that I had no idea what I’d get her. She, being the wonderful girlfriend that she is, sent me a list of 39 DIY Christmas Gifts You’d Actually Want To Receive with a note saying, “I like most of these.” It was up to me to figure out which ones, but I appreciated the thought and dove right in. As I looked through the list, I found a handful which seemed like possibilities for Christmas gifts and I saved them to try to execute later. Most of them didn’t really work out or I didn’t get around to trying them, yet.

But there was one that caught my eye. The one with the picture frame for hanging jewelry I thought was perfect. I loved the idea and since Ellie will soon be entering a new world of moving into her own place to live and living on her own budget, she might be in a smaller place than anticipated with less space for things to be strewn here and there. Plus, white walls in apartments are the worst thing ever, if you ask me, and something nice to hang on the wall would be a good way to break the impending snow blindness. I set my mind on it, and set out to find the right frame to use.

That’s where I hit the speed bump. You see, I had this grand idea for a frame that was old and intricate and made of wood. Something that would be absolutely hideous around any picture. That’s a tall order for a frame. I did find a few which would have done, had I wanted to fork over the $100 because I couldn’t buy the frame without the “precious” painting inside. I couldn’t justify the price because I’m sure most of it was for the painting. I looked at a lot of thrift stores, and I had no luck at all. Then I tried Craigslist, on a whim, and found exactly what I didn’t realize I needed for the project. I did a search for “frame” and got mostly bed frames. But the gem I found was a window frame taken out of a building built-in the 1930s, glass intact too. It was cheap, so I altered my Thanksgiving break schedule to run and pick it up.

The frame was beautiful. It had a nice red stain on it, lacquered over the years, starting to crackle in only the right places. I knew this was the frame I needed.

For most of the project, I had my dad guide me and help me where he wanted to, all of which I was immensely grateful for because I don’t think I could have figured any of it out without him. The first step to the project was to remove the glass because I couldn’t attach anything to it with anything but glue and glue wouldn’t hold like I wanted it to. To do this, we had to scrape out the putty, some dry and some still soft, which held the panels into the window. For the six panels, it took us three hours to get them out and each one broke. It would have been easier to break the glass out, but it would have taken a lot more work to clean out the window wells so I could place wood panels in. Once the panes were out, I took a Dremel to them to clean up the edges. A Dremel with a battery does not last long for this kind of work.

Once I had all that cleaned up, and there was a fine coating of dust all over my apartment, I needed to figure out how I was going to decorate the wood panels I’d be replacing the glass with. Plain wood, boring. Non-plain wood, non-boring. Before I took out the glass, I thought it’d be cool to paint something on the rear of the glass so it would shine through, but then I realized I was removing the glass because I couldn’t stick anything through it to hang jewelry on. I felt dumb when I realized that I couldn’t paint the glass. Then, I thought, why not paint the wood? That would be nice and I was just coming off the high of painting pints for my birthday. The problem was, I didn’t know what to paint and I was afraid it would look bad, so I searched for something better to do to the wood.

Then it hit me. You see, my parents watch a lot of home remodeling shows and while I’m at home, I happen to watch them too. I had seen one recently where a guy made a stencil out of wood, placed it over some more wood and then took a blow torch to it. I liked how it turned out and I liked the idea of using a blow torch. I decided this was going to be what I did. I sneakily asked Ellie what she’d like to see when she looked out the window. She said sunshine or gentle snowfall. I determined those were too hard to replicate using a stencil and a blowtorch, so I settled on a barren tree. I got to sketching.

It’s around this time that the real fun started, I got to use my dad’s power tools. I used a table saw to cut my plywood pieces down to sized that would fit into the window panes. I used a band saw to cut out my stencils. I used a planer to clean up the edges and to make the pieces fit nicely. I used a blowtorch to char the plywood. I used a lot, and I learned a lot and all that made it a lot more fun for me, even though it was a lot of work.

After I had the pieces cut and the pattern torched on the wood, I placed the panes in and used points to hold them snug. After that, I flipped the window over and started drilling pilot holes for the hooks I needed to screw in. The hooks are for hanging necklaces and bracelets and whatever else from. I got some painful blisters while screwing these in.

In one of the panes, I wanted to have a way to hang earrings. I decided that the best way to do it was with a bit of netting, as it matched the wood well and it could be used for hooking things to, or to push the earrings through a bit of the net so they stay.

Finally, in the bottom center pane, I decided to add a mirror. What’s a jewelry board without a way to admire how you look in the jewelry? For this, we got a cheap mirror from Walmart and cut it to fit the window pane. Since it was cheap, it wasn’t too sturdy, so we reinforced it with another piece of plywood.

All in all, I’m really happy with how the project turned out and I’m really glad that Ellie likes it. It makes me want to work on more projects of similar nature, just for fun. I really want to build a table, and I have a design in mind but that’s not going to be for a while.

Anyway, now I need to get Ellie some jewelry to fill her board up with.

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