Monday, August 12, 2013

:: Project - School Room: Map of the US (tutorial)

I've been busy over here.  I've been obsessively doing projects for 2 things: making things to hang on my many bare walls, and working on getting our school room organized and ready for school to start in just a few short weeks.  I can't wait to show you what we've been working on. And today I get to share with you one of the things I'm most excited about and begin a small series:
Project - School Room: Map of the US (tutorial)
Project:2x3' wall map of the US
Cost: $7.00

This year in home-school, we are going to be doing "Adventures" (with My Father's World) and we will be spending the whole year studying American History.  I am so excited!  We needed a wall map of the US, but when I began looking for maps, all of the ones I found at big office stores had WAY too much information on them for my children (3rd grade on down).  I really just wanted them to see each state, and maybe the capitol. 
I found just the thing at World Market (here) on sale for $63.99.  That's a lot of money when you know you can do it yourself for less than $10, a little time, and a lot of satisfaction!
I found a US Map at that was exactly what I was looking for (here) - just states and capitols - and FREE!  I also liked the narrow lettering font, since I wanted the full name of the states (not just the abbreviation).
I downloaded it to my computer, and then had Staples print it as a 2 x 3' Engineering Print, for just $3.59. (go to their website, and look for "printing services".  Then click on any links that say "engineering prints" - it's super easy.)  They had it printed out for me and waiting just a few hours later.
I pulled a bunch of old decking out of our scrap pile, my (very patient) man ran them through his saw (to cut them in half width-wise).  I think lumber stores have thin (pine?) fencing boards that would work great too, and are pretty cheap, if you don't have a scrap pile to pull from.  You can also ask them to cut them to the right length for you.
After a quick lesson on how to use his (very powerful) Bosch saw, I lined them up and cut them to the desired length (approx. 3 feet) - and boy did I feel like superwoman!  I made the edges look worn by cutting a little off in random patterns.
We used these Simpson Strong-Tie Mending Plates (from Home Depot) over the joints to attach the boards together.  And are they wonderful!  On previous projects we connected the boards with other boards, but this was so easy - I even hammered a few.  As we used them, we realized we would have only needed the narrower ones - they were plenty strong (wide ones were $.69, narrower ones $.59).
And here they are, ready for paint.
I painted on a coat of primer, using some I already had, and being sure to get in all the little cracks and holes - these are old boards, remember? (Side-note: buy yourself a can of Kilz primer - you will use it for everything!) 
Then I gave it 2 coats of black paint, in eggshell finish that I pulled off our garage shelf.  (again, a staple for many projects!)  Make sure you let it fully dry between coats.
 After drying all night, I taped my "architecture print" map onto it.
Using a flat head screwdriver, I pressed down slightly with my pointer finger as I "traced" the border of the US and the outlines of the States with the edge of the screwdriver.  This is why it's good to have really soft wood!  Then I marked where the capitols (stars) were supposed to go.  I started out by making a small star, and then gave that up (it was too time-consuming) and made a dot with my screwdriver.  I'm all about fast, remember.  Lots of kids = limited time for projects!
Pouring a small amount of white acrylic paint onto a disposable plate and using a small paintbrush, I painted in the outlines of the states.  Don't be scared - it's much easier than it looks.  Your traced outline provides a nice ditch for your paint to follow.
For reference, I used the paper map as I painted the names of the states, free-handing it and trying to keep my lettering as narrow as possible.  I started in the larger (western) states since they had more room for the lettering, and as I practiced, it was easier to move east into the smaller states and paint smaller lettering. 
Then, using a tiny dab of silver acrylic paint, I painted a star where each state's Capitol is.
Once that was done, I used a scrap of heavy sandpaper to rough up the edges.  I like the way the white primer shows through a bit in spots.  I was able to bend the boards along the joints, and sand a little along the edges, too.
 oh yeah - and I painted my name and date in the corner.
We hung it in our school room last night, by using 2 long screws and screwing directly through the front of the wood, into the stud behind the wall. (I'm all about fast, remember).  Then I dabbed each screw head with a bit of black paint.  Now you don't even see it.
I just love the way it turned out, don't you?   Even if you don't have a school room, I think these would make adorable wall art in a boy's room or a family room. 
Now, go and make yourself one.  Or two.  And be sure to let me know if you do.  I'd love to see pictures.


  1. Hello Julia! My name is Katy and I'm the social media coordinator for KILZ brand products. We are glad to see you used our aerosol primer for this fun U.S. map project. We would love for you to share your experience with our product by writing a review. Select a KILZ brand product you have used, write a review and hit submit – it’s that simple! More info here:
    We'd appreciate the feedback! Thanks!

  2. I love that map! It's such a super cute project!!!

  3. This is so cute! I might just make one too. We used Adventures in My Fathers World a few years back and loved it. I hope you have the same great experience we did. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. I'm so glad to hear you liked Adventures. And be sure to send me a picture if you make one!

  4. This is ridiculously adorable. I like your version better! I seriously want to try this. How long did it take you :) We are doing Adventures this year too!

    Darcy @

    1. Hi Darcy, thanks for the sweet comments. It took us about 30 minutes to cut the wood and get it all hooked together. About 5 minutes per coat of primer andpaint, and then about 2 afternoons to do the painting (sporadically - as with 5 children you don't do anything for a long amount of time!). I'd love to see yours if you make one!

  5. I love yours so much better. I'm happy to see the metal mending plates you used, I'm doing something similar with boards soon and am happy to discover those.

  6. Oh my gosh! You did such an amazing job, and yes, I want to make one now! Beautiful.


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