It seems as if the standard hardware store pallet is the new Cinderella of materials available for your upcycling consideration. This grid of nailed-together scrap (formerly seen most often curbside on trash day) is now a widely used structure being transformed into something useful and beautiful by droves of creative DIY fairy godparents out there. In the spirit of our most celebrated summertime holidays, I am offering up my own reinterpretation of the pallet for under $20: a rustic Americana flag.
I’m not going to lie; there were parts of this project that weren’t always easy and required more elbow grease than I thought I was going to have to put in. The trick is tenacity when it comes to the more physical elements of this project. But relax—the artistic portion is a piece of apple pie!
Step One: Rescue your pallet.
The pallet I used for this project was actually recycled from my last one! “Waste not, want not” is something my mother taught me, and when the materials for the last project were being delivered, I knew immediately that I was going to be using the leftover pallet for something else. Fear not, though; if you don’t happen to have an unused pallet lying around, you can call your local hardware store. Most of them just return their unused pallets back to the manufacturer. Why not offer to take one off their hands?
Step Two: Apply a little elbow grease.
I chose to cut my pallet in half to give myself a smaller flag to work with. However, you should feel free to leave the pallet large if you prefer. If you have the room for it, an oversized piece of artwork can be an incredible statement in your home. Use a saw to cut your pallet down to the size you like. Once you’re finished, begin removing the boards off the back or from the leftover piece and use them to fill in the gaps between your boards. This will give your pallet a more solid surface to paint on.
Step Three: Draw out your flag.
The nice thing about paint is that if you make a mistake, you can just paint over the top of it! Because I was painting a flag and wanted to get the details right, I chose to draw in the lines of my flag to use as a guide. If you’re comfortable painting freehand, though, do it!
Step Four: Paint, paint, paint!
Here comes the fun part. Using your red, white, and blue acrylic paints, begin painting in your flag. My preference is to use only one color at a time to keep the colors from bleeding together. I also like to work in one direction so that I don’t accidentally smudge paint with my arm. For this project, I started from the top and worked my way down. By the time I completed my bottom red stripe, the rest was already dry, and I was able to move on to the next color.
Step Five: Shoot for the stars.
Applying 50 stars to the flag was probably the most intimidating portion of this project, so to make it less stressful, I chose to create my own star template. Using the Powerpoint program on my computer, I copied and pasted the star shape until I had all 50 of them in the right configuration. I printed a few sheets of stars out onto cardstock and began cutting out my stars using a craft blade. Once I had my stencil completed, I used a painting sponge to apply the stars to my flag.
Step Six: Rough it up.
At this stage you should have your flag completely painted. You can certainly stop at this if you prefer a more saturated look. I, however, chose to go rustic. To do this, I used a sanding block purchased from my local Do-It Center to begin roughing up my paint job. There really is no strategy to this process aside from roughing it up until you like what you see.
Step Seven: Make it rustic.
To bring this project home and to add some additional age and character, apply a layer stain over your newly roughed-up surface. A stain with a sealer built in is a great idea if you’re planning on hanging your flag outside. The wood you’ve left exposed will pick up your stain beautifully and the new stain will also muddy up your super-saturated paint job, giving it an aged look. Feel free to apply one coat of stain or as many as you need to get the look you love. The darker your stain, the more rustic it will look.
After your project has completely dried, it’s time to proudly display your new rustic Americana pallet that you created for less than $20!