Thursday, May 22, 2014

Typewriter Keys Tutorial

When I got to thinking about combining my love for vintage and my need want for baby  name letters, I instantly thought of a typewriter.  My grandma had two different working typewriters that my sister and I would play "school" with in her basement growing up.  Its one of many memories I treasure getting to spend time with my grandma, and a great story to connect with this project.  

Of course I  did an online search for "typewriter letter art."  I might have a Pinterest from now on, when I say "online search" what I really mean is "Hello, I'm addicted to Pinterest."  What came up was a lot of neat circle picture frames, or wooden DIY boards that had all the letters painted on. Or expensive, round frames with glass. Then I found THIS on Sullivan and Murphy's  blog page through a Google image search.  Her guess for the DIY was using paint can lids.

First thought.....

DUH.  SERIOUSLY?! *facepalm*

Followed by....


I couldn't honestly post this tutorial without giving credit where it's due. Again, a HUGE thanks to Sue for putting the idea out there for me to stumble upon!

*Psssssst! Over here! Ssssssh!!!  My husband and I have a tradition where we don't tell ANYONE---not our parents, grandmas, co-workers, BFF's, NO ONE!--what name we have chosen for the baby.   Sorry, folks, you're only going to see ONE letter as part of this tutorial until baby girl is actually out of my uterus. (Maniacal laugh....)  

  • Gallon or pint sized paint can lids (1 for each letter)
  • Razor blade
  • Sand paper
  • Black craft paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Scrapbook paper for the letters
  • Mod Podge
  • Envirotex resin (optional)
  • Soda can tabs (for hidden hangers)
  • Hot glue gun and sticks
  • 3M sticky hooks
  • Spray acrylic sealer
This is a multi-step project, but the steps are sooooo easy. The most time-consuming part of this is removing old paint from the lids, aside from letting paint dry. 

Pretty pretty pretty PUH-LEEEEEZ do not use ancient lids for this project if you think the paint contains lead.   Safety first!

How to:
This is what I started with! 
  • Beg friends, family, co-workers, sit outside Wal-Mart with a sign--whatever you have to do---to get those paint can lids.  It was a little annoying, since we have left overs from painting the rooms in our own home--but I couldn't risk wasting perfectly good paint if we needed touch-ups later.  (I have 2 boys. 'Nuff said.)  My sister recently painted their current house in neutral colors because they were listing to sell, so I was able to get these 3 from her. While it's tempting to use the paint-free side that would be the outside of the lid--the "dirty" side is what gives this a real-giant-typewriter-key look because of middle being sort of 'concave,' and only ONE raised rim. 
  • Remove paint from the edges that will show. Do your best to clean them off--a heat gun isn't a good idea. It's actually a BAD idea. I had that idea, but um...metal gets hot.  Fortunately for me, that was remembered only a few seconds after I thought about using a heat gun.  I used my husband's box cutter because that's what I could find. I sliced paint off the rim very slowly, like peeling the skin off a tomato. Or something like that. I also did this around the inside rim where I painted black anyway--because I wanted the bigger chunks of dried paint removed. You're just going to paint the inside circle part anyway, so that's not a big deal.
  • After you've sliced off the paint, now you can use a fine sandpaper to remove the rest. The raised edge is where you REALLY need to concentrate to get it all off. The side I wasn't so freaky about, because I knew the paint wasn't all going to come off, but I was able to get a lot off since I used the blade to scrape first. You could spray paint with a chrome paint before moving to the next step.  Some of my lids had a plastic coating to keep the lid from rusting shut to the can. It was thin enough I was able to sand that off on the top of the rim to get the shiny metal surround that makes this look like a typewriter key.
After slicing old paint and sanding.
  • Paint the inside rim first with your black paint.  I used a narrow angled paint brush to get in this tricky crevice---but it is worth it because it hides the dried paint and rust so you don't have a different color peeking through.  If you look very closely, I painted up higher on the raised inside rim--that way I was able to give it a more even paint job and it hid some more paint I didn't want to waste time sanding. After I finished the rim, I painted the rest of the lid.  

Painting inside rim
First coat of paint drying.  
  • For the paper letter, there are a few ways you can do this. The easiest is to use a craft machine and have it cut out the letters for you from your scrapbook paper.  Another option is to print out one letter at a time using any document computer program, cut out the letters, trace them onto your scrapbook paper, and then cut those out. The font I used for my letters is ______________________.  It was free from  *Note: If you're going to cut these out by hand, I recommend finding a font that has thick lines for each letter.
  • Brush Mod Podge thinly onto the cut-out letters and press onto the center of the painted lid.  Smooth the paper down gently to get air bubbles out. Let it dry thoroughly! I mean it!  I always get in big hurry waiting for stuff to dry.  You WILL want to wait out this part so they don't bubble up later.  So go watch HGTV or something.  My bet is House Hunters will be on.
  • Brush on a thin layer of Mod Podge over the entire painted lid and letter.  Let dry, and do another coat. 
  • *OPTIONAL RESIN*:  For dimension, you can use a pour-on resin like Envirotex. I thought about using ModPodge Dimensional Magic because I'd heard of it when it first came out (again, after a long absence, apparently) and wanted to give it a try.  This is NOT a good project for that, simply because the amount per bottle, and the number of bottles I would need would be insane.  The other option, resin, I hadn't tried either, and since I'm going for an easy, cost-effective DIY here---I skipped the resin idea. I also have a thing about avoiding chemicals in my crafting if I its not super necessary...since this project is all about reusing a material that would have ended up in the garbage.
    After multiple coats of Mod Podge and 2 coats of sealer
  • *IF YOU SKIP RESIN*: Do several more coats of Mod Podge.  I did more than 5. And then I did some more and stopped counting. I went with a glossy acrylic spray to seal everything up to keep it from feeling tacky.  

Hot glued soda tab to back. Marks for center are visible.
  • Warm up the gun! After everything is dry (about 24 hours for the sealer) glue the soda can tab to the back of the lid and let set.  This will be an invisible hanger.  I used a washable marker to make dots where the center was on the top of the rim, and then 2 and 3 inches down as guides.  I kept checking using my "bird's eye view" to make sure the tab would be centered while the glue was still warm.  By marking before you glue, you ensure that you don't accidentally have any letters upside down...because that's something that would likely happen to me. Be sure the tab is propped up a bit because of the lid being concave, or it will be difficult to get on the hook when you are ready to hang!  Also, the tab absorbs the heat from the glue--be careful while you are adjusting.
On the wall

  • Hang it baby! Note: You *could* use ribbon, but I think it detracts from the purpose of these being made to look like typewriter keys if you make the hanger visible.  I included 3M hangers on the materials list because I have plaster walls.  Plaster walls are tricky to put holes in, and the lids are too light to warrant risking damaging the 100 year old labor-intensive plaster walls in our home by pounding in nails. I would rather touch up paint than repair plaster!  If you're going to store these for awhile before hanging, be careful when you're stacking, the soda tab can scratch.  

For those of you that are curious, the wall color is "Carolina Plum" by Benjamin Moore.   :)

Please leave me a comment or question you have! I'd also love for you to share links to your own letter art!

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