Wednesday, March 30, 2016

DIY Arrow of Light Awards

We recently had three boys crossover from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. Since we're an LDS pack, boys cross over when they turn 11, not all at once in March or whenever the pack decides. This year though, we had three boys turn 11 within a month of each other, so we planned a group arrow of light/ crossing over ceremony.

I've been a slacker in the past and not gotten awards for the boys (we have a tight budget and they're so expensive!), but I decided to get my act together and do something this time. After some googling around, I found an idea here that I felt I could duplicate. We got a scroll saw for Christmas and I was anxious to put it to use.

I will say that this was quite fiddly and had a bit of a learning curve. I haven't used a scroll saw since middle school shop class, so I'm not exactly a pro at it. After ruining one piece of wood I realized that the blade that came with the saw was not appropriate for my project. After a trip to Lowes and some new scroll saw blades (much finer) I was able to do get the detail cuts made.

The problem with scroll saws is that they have an inherent design flaw. You have to remove the blade every time you move to another area, but they don't make it easy to get the blade in and out in a quick and efficient manner.

Between that and the fact that I put off starting this project till a lot later than I should have, I was a bit stressed out. Doing the arrow portion in vinyl would be a lot easier, but not nearly as impressive. I did consider doing that for future awards, but since the rest of our Webelos have their birthdays spread out, I'll only have to do one at a time. And since I know what I'm doing now in relation to this project, it'll be a lot easier.

I found that using wood a little wider than my design, then cutting it down with the table saw once the design was cut, helped give me a little extra wood to hold onto while doing all the detail work.

For the arrow:
  • 4" pine craft board (1/2" thick)
  • I found a black and white image and printed it out. I then used spray adhesive to keep the paper in place while cutting the design.
  • The dimensions of the arrow were dictated by the width of the backer board (a 1"x12" pine board), taking into account the mitred edges. The arrows ended up being about 9-9.5 inches in length and 3" tall.
  • After cutting out all the bits with the scroll saw I used my dremel to sand a few rougher spots. If I was more proficient at scroll sawing, I wouldn't need to sand anything, but it turned out pretty good in the end.
  • I painted several coats of bright yellow craft paint on the top surface of the arrow.

For the backer board:
  • 1"x12" pine board cut to about 15" long. I think it could have been a bit shorter, but didn't decide that until too late.
  • I went to a friend's house to use their router and router table to route the edges of each board (a router and router table are definitely on our Christmas list this year!). Since I was borrowing a friend's equipment, I didn't have time to make last minute changes when I thought about changing the dimensions of the boards.
  • After routing the edges, I gave everything a quick sanding.
  • I attached sawtooth picture hangers to the backs of each board.

Putting it all together:
  • 8x10 plexiglass. I put tape over both sides of each corner before drilling pilot holes. The film that's on both sides of the plexi probably would have been enough, but I wanted to make sure the plexi didn't crack.
  • I drilled a little way into the wood at the same time that I drilled through the plexi, but only a little way so the upholstery tacks would have a tight fit. After the holes were drilled I removed the tape and film.
  • I used wood glue to attach the arrow to the backer board. I used the top strip of tape to line it up properly and more tape to hold it in place while drying. I also stacked heavy books on top to keep everything in place while drying.
  • I purchased the arrow of light certificates from our local scout shop. I centered the certificate behind the plexi and pushed the upholstery tacks into the holes in the corners. I was worried about removing the tacks and them becoming too loose, so I didn't insert the tacks until after the certificates had been filled out and signed.

 Final thoughts:

  • I wasn't sure how these would turn out and at several points I was seriously doubting that they would turn out at all. Consequently, I didn't take very many pictures, and those I did take don't have the best lighting. I'm rather bummed out now, since even though they're not perfect, and were very fiddly, I am quite happy with how they turned out. Everyone was quite complimentary, so that helps to make all the work worth it :)
  • One of the Webelos' fathers found some arrows that were about $42/each. I was able to make these three awards for about $24 total. It did require more work on my part, but for the sake of our budget, it was definitely the right way to go.
  • I've got until September to make the next one, so my current goal is get the next one done in plenty of time, without rushing. Hopefully not being so rushed will make my cutting more accurate.

More pictures of another batch of plaques can be found here

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