Planting Sequoias

In which I blog about a life (hopefully) well lived.


Giant $12 Map Frame (in which we get sawdust in the sink…and everywhere else, too)

Last week, Kenny and I embarked on an incredible journey of craftiness. Little did we know that this grand adventure would test our patience, our marriage, and our ability to do basic geometry.

It all began with a lovely map that I got for Kenny from a thrift store for his birthday last year. The man loves a good map, and I do all I can to encourage that addiction. This $3 find is a 1982 National Geographic map, but not the kind that comes all folded in the magazine; no, this one came in a tube. Fancy.

We hung it on our apartment walls first thing when we moved in and we loved it.

living room unframed map

But then we thought we could love it more if we gave it a little frame.

So we dug out our giftcards to Home Depot and Lowes and had a little date night going to pick up 8 pieces of wood. We’re pretty romantic like that. Our inspiration for this project came from this tutorial.

We got the cheapest wood that we could find: four 1x2s and four 1x3s for a total of $11.68. We loaded everything up in to our little Ford Fusion and drove on home, where we began to slice and dice these suckers.

cut a 45 degree angle with a handsaw

Kenny had homework to do, so I decided to tackle these by myself, with a handsaw (despite my recent success using a nail gun, I have to admit that power tools are still a bit scary). However, Ken couldn’t stay away and had to join in on the fun.

We got sawdust everywhere, and I mean everywhere. It was great fun.

Oh, and to cut 45 degree angles, all you have to do is measure the width of your board and mark that distance down the length…then connect the dots. Make sense? After we cut the first angle, we clamped the little wasted triangle to the next board to serve as a guide for the handsaw.

how to cut a 45 degree angle with a handsaw

Then we attached our four inner boards together using L-brackets. This was a very stressful time in the project, since our handsaw-cut angles weren’t exactly perfect.

Also, when Ken and Anne do a project, we get really into it…and since we live in a teeny apartment, we spread out our project materials throughout our entire living space. Indoor building can get a little crazy and is not recommended for the faint of heart.

build a wood frame

As the inner wood frame balanced on the couch, I nailed in an outer frame. We didn’t bother to miter-cut the ends of these just because. The I used Elmer’s stainable wood filler and a putty knife (which, handily, can also double as a paintbrush) to fix any gaps in the corners.

elmer's wood filler to fix gaps

Next I stained it all using Minwax’s Dark Walnut stain. I’d also like to than my sponsors, Chef Boyardee and Charlotte Russe…oh, and I’d like to thank my family, of course… Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible. Or our carpet would have been ruined or something like that.

stain raw wood with minwax walnut stain

Then I coated it all with polyurethane. We had both the stain and poly left over from our dresser redo we did this summer. I only did one coat since I didn’t want it to be too glossy; I wanted this to have a more rustic look.

stained wood with poly and without polyurethane

With that, the frame was done (ish), so we moved to the map part of the project. For extra stability for the map, we picked up this nice shiny piece of 1/2 inch foam board from Lowes for $10. We added some double-stick tape and nervously began the process of sticking our map down. This led to some very tense moments between Ken and I but I’m happy to report that both he, I, and the map survived this step.

stick map to foam board with double stick tape

Next came the fun part (or so we thought) of affixing the map to the frame…when we discovered that our frames corners were not very square despite lots of measuring. Let’s go ahead and chalk that detail up to the fact that Ken is a law student and I work with words. Math is not our strong suit. But we wrangled that frame into something that resembled a rectangle and stapled the foam  on to the back of the frame. Frogtape helped, because there’s nothing that stuff cannot do.

staple foam board to back of frame

Finally (if anyone is still reading at this point), I added some d-rings and some picture-hanging wire that we had in the apartment.

Public Service Announcement: when hanging heavy things on the wall, I suggest using French cleats. However, the foam is practically weightless and the frame is also not very heavy, so we feel confident that wire will work.

use a d-ring and picture wire to hang large pictures

We carefully hung it up on some nails (nailed into some studs, of course) and it is quite sturdy.

We are pleased. It looks cool and it was cheap.

rustic wood map frame

After we hung it on the wall, we then had the less fun task of cleaning sawdust out of every nook and cranny of this apartment. We definitely need a workshop stat.

Also, I’m afraid that this is sort of an “if you give a mouse a cookie” situation…now I think we need to build ourselves a new coffee table. And new end tables. And more frames…I could keep going. So obviously you should continue to follow along on this grand adventure that is our lives. 🙂