Basement, Blog, Home, Living Room, Woodworking / Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

It’s been two years since Ellie and I tied the knot. We did many things in that time and learned and grew as a couple. She is a wonderful woman who I wouldn’t wish to spend a day without. 

So how do you commemorate two years of marriage. I heard somewhere that the second anniversary is supposed to be “cotton”. I don’t know who made this list of things to give for each anniversary, but they never consulted with me. When I think cotton, I think a package of underwear or socks and who wants to get that for an anniversary gift? I wanted to make something.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit of a pack rat, but fortunately the kind that likes to purge his things from time to time. I collect things because I might need them in the future. For example, a neighbor was moving out and threw out some basement shelving, nice pine boards. The collector in me saw the boards and thought I could use them for something. Ellie saw the boards and groaned. 

An offshoot of being a pack rat is that sometimes I buy things because I think I need it and it will change my life. Oftentimes, those life altering gadgets are used once or twice and then end up in the purge. Sometimes, those gadgets don’t come out of their boxes. 

A third part of me is sentimental. I have emotional attachment to things which really deserve no place in my heart. Like the glow-in-the-dark Ghostbusters II t-shirt, a promo item from Fujifilm, that I got when I was five. It’s threadbare and I cannot fit into it but I cannot bring myself to get rid of it. I’m also sentimental about things that deserve it. 

These are all things Ellie knew about me before we said “I do.” I made sure she was warned.

So, instead of “cotton”, I decided to make her something that incorporated these traits of mine as a gift for our anniversary. That something ended up being a framed photograph of the two of us from the past year. She said this was her favorite photo of the two of us.

I wanted to try a couple new techniques for this gift, in an effort to use some of the things I have bought and not used yet. The idea would be to transfer the photo to a piece of wood and frame it. This started by cleaning up and color adjusting the photo on the computer. Once it was ready, I printed it out on regular printer paper with our black and white laser printer. The laser printer is key to this technique. 

A while ago, I bought a jar of matte gel. It’s supposed to work for transferring the toner from the paper to wood. I hadn’t opened it and tested it prior to this project, so really I had no idea if this would work and definitely didn’t have a backup gift in mind. The idea is, you spread the gel on the paper and then press it onto the wood you want to transfer it to. I think what happens is that it soaks into the paper enough to separate the toner from the paper. Once the gel is dry, you wet the paper and rub it away with your thumb. This part of the process proved to be rather difficult. I ended up having to start over because I accidentally rubbed away a chunk of Ellie’s face. While the finished product is nice, I’m thinking I’ll redo it because I still ended up with too many streaks taken out of the photo. Once cleaned up, I put on a coat of polyurethane to keep any more of the photo from rubbing off.

The wood I transferred the photo to was a scrap piece of 1/8 in. plywood from the Bathroom Closet Conversion. Other than the problems I had transferring the photo to the wood, I also had problems getting the piece of plywood square. I took my time and worked slowly, but even after what I considered meticulous attention to detail the plywood was still not quite square. I think my machines are out of square and I would definitely benefit from fixing that. 

Anniversary Gift Photo Frame Detail

I took one of the pine shelves I grabbed from the side of the road and cut it down to my rough dimensions for a photo frame. The frame was two inches thick and cut to size for the photo. I wanted to miter the corners on the frame, but I decided against it for the sake of not complicating the frame build, since I’d only built a frame once before. After the rails and stiles of the frame were cut, I took them over to my table saw and cut a rabbet for the photo to sit in. 

Then, I sanded all the edges of the frame pieces to remove the old finish and to clean everything up. To assemble the frame, I pulled out a gadget that I bought and hadn’t used yet, a doweling jig. The idea of the jig is that it centers itself on a piece of wood and you can drill for dowels to join two pieces. I think I might not have used this correctly, because my frame didn’t end up square in the end.

Anniversary Gift Photo Mockup

Once the glue up was complete, I pulled out  the router to add a chamfer to the inside of the frame, just for a bit of extra detail. I stained the frame a deep brown and applied a coat of polyurethane. 

Since the frame came out slightly out of square and the photo was slightly out of square, I used my disk sander on the ShopSmith to try to square things up. Using the rip fence as a guide, I was able to get it close enough and able to fit into the frame, but man, I wish it would have been better and easier. Next time.

To finish the assembly, I tacked the photo in place with a few nails in the back of the frame.

It was a relatively involved process, while at the same time it was accomplished in a short period of time. I’m happy with how it came out, but I still see the flaws here and there and I just know these are things to work on fixing in the future.

Anniversary Gift Photo Finished

Two years with my wife have been a treat. I’m looking forward to the many years to come.

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