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Reclaimed Wood Cow Art

I've been searching for the perfect piece art to display above our living room fireplace since we moved in a year ago. After spending the past year staring at the blank wall, I finally decided to try and create my own art. 

I decided to use some the wood from our wood pile in the back yard. The wood came with the property when we bought it (I believe it used to be an old shed that was torn down) so it didn't cost a dime! I found a few nice pieces and cut them into 4 foot lengths. 

Since this wood was going to be inside our home I wanted to make sure it was really clean. I sprayed it using the jet setting on our hose then used soapy water and a scrub brush to remove any remaining dirt. After rinsing off the soapy water, I gave them a second scrubbing with bleach water then left them in a sunny spot to dry. 

After sanding the boards, I attached two boards across the back to hold everything together.

I found this adorable image on Free Stock Photos and did a little photoshoping to remove the tag that was in his ear in the original photo. Then I used the program that came with my printer to enlarge the image and printed it onto regular paper to make sure it was the correct size. This ended up being a pain in the butt and used up a lot of ink!! Since the image printed out on multiple pages I had to tape them together to get a visual of the size. The first image was way to small. The second image was still a little too small. I finally got it right on the third image. 

Once I was happy with the size I reprinted the image onto wax paper. To do this, I cut a piece of wax paper and taped it to a piece of regular paper. I then placed it in my printer so that the image would be printed onto the side with the wax paper. 

The ink does not stick to the wax paper like it does with normal paper so I had to be very careful not to touch the image or it will smear. I placed the image upside down on the wood and used a thick piece of plastic (a credit card would work too) to rub the back of the image and transfer it to the wood. 
Sorry I don't have more pictures but once the image was printed, the ink started drying and was harder to transfer so I didn't have a lot of time to stop and take photos. Basically I started by printing the ear of the cow and transferred it to the wood. Then I printed the next page, lined it up with the image that was already transferred, pressed it down transferring that image to the wood, and so on, and so on, until I had the entire cow image transferred to the wood.

And here is the final project! Don't you just love that sweet little face! I'm a sucker for calves and seeing this guy every time I walk into the room just makes me smile.

This thing is supper heavy and we have not decided how we want to hang it yet. We'll probably end up using some sort of french cleat. But for now, I'm fine with it just sitting on top of the mantel.  

Learn from my mistakes. Want to make your own wood art? Here are a few things I wish I would have done differently.

  1. Attempted this when my husband was home. While the image looks good from a distance, up close you can see lines and gaps from where I didn't get the pages lined up perfectly. Trying to keep the paper from touching the wood till it was lined up proved to be a huge challenge. It would have been nice to have a second pair of hands to help out.
  2. Use wood with little or no detail. I originally thought all the lines and knots in the wood would look really neat but it only made it harder to see the image. Also, once I finished sanding the wood, that large knot really stood out. I wasn't too crazy about it but decided to leave it and just place it in the corner away from where the image would be. I currently have some decorative vases siting on the mantel that do a really good job at covering up the ugly knot, but I wish I would have just used a different piece of wood to begin with. 
  3. Used lighter wood. While I was excited to use reclaimed wood and save money, this thing is so heavy!! I am really worried about hanging it on the wall and it may just sit on top of the mantel forever.

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  1. Great idea. I really like your cow. I've never worked with reclaimed wood, but that is a great idea. I would be a little cautious about printing on wax paper though as I've had things get caught up in printers. It's seems like it worked out well though for you.

  2. What about turning the knothole into an ear of corn or a corn cob?

    Also, if you make sure that you hang "Bessie" on a stud you'll be just fine :)


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