Math was never my strongest subject, but lately I’ve felt a strong desire to play around with geometry. Inspired by the of artist Alex Menocal, I wanted to focus my geometric experiments on my walls but actually make a piece that is three-dimensional. 3D structures can be tricky to mount on walls, however; they can easily become precarious or heavy, especially larger pieces.
The magic material that makes this wall art possible is plain old balsa wood, which is most commonly used for hobbies and crafts (e.g., model trains, architectural mockups, etc.). It’s an amazing form of wood: super light, soft and easy to cut, and it bonds really well with hot glue. Also, it comes in precut strips, making geometric shapes extremely easy to build. This project can be finished in an afternoon, and it can also be scaled way up or down. Since balsa is so lightweight, you can easily hang these pieces even if you make them large. I hope someone feels inspired to attempt a really big one. Please share if you do! Happy crafting :) —
Read the full how-to after the jump . . .
- strips of balsa wood (I used four 1″ x 1/8″ x 36″ strips)
- hot glue gun
- X-Acto knife
- paint and paintbrush
- hammer and nails (for hanging)
1. Measure and cut your balsa strips. For this three-dimensional rectangle shape, I used four 18″ strips and eight 9″ strips. Use your ruler and X-Acto knife to ensure a straight cut.
2. Lay out your design to visualize and approximate the angles, and to situate the strips. To make a cleaner shape, you want the order of the strips to follow a pattern. I have all short vertical strips on the bottom, then my angled strips are sitting on top of those, and lastly the long horizontal strips are placed on top so that their ends cover the ends of the other two types of strips. This will ensure your corners look clean. It should look like this:
3. Now take your pencil and make a line on the bottom right angled strip where the horizontal strip overlaps it. You will use this for reference for the rest. Use your ruler to cut the overlap off of the strip so it will sit flush with the vertical strip once glued.
5. Continue gluing the corners together, making sure to snip off the excess from the angled strip beforehand and ensuring the strips are parallel to their partner strips (angled ones are parallel, horizontal ones are parallel, etc.). This can be fairly easy to eyeball, but you can also use a ruler, straight edge or level to double check.
6. Once your pieces are all glued together, use your knife to cut away any loose strands of glue or clean up the corners if needed. Place your shape on a covered surface and paint the entire shape. Remember: it will stick out from the wall, so be sure to cover all edges, corners, sides and the back. Allow to dry completely.
7. To hang the shape, hammer two nails into the wall 16″ apart. Make sure they are level, and hammer them in only 1″, leaving 1.5″ of the nails sticking out. Rest the top ledge of your shape on the nails.