31 March 2014

HOW DO YOU DO: MAKE A MOBILE FROM A BRANCH

I rely heavily on THE BRANCH as a decor item (they're free! they're gorgeous! they're FREE), and this specific edition of How Do You Do will walk you through the steps of getting one ready for any sort of custom mobile or wall-hanging that yr heart desires.

And it's now that I'll state my case for the electric drill. You can achieve similar visuals without one (by tying your rope/yarn/string to the branch, then proceeding on to Step Six), but in the interest of clean craftsmanship/DAILY LIFE, I'm a big proponent of having one around the house. If you're DIY-inclined, I can't tell you how much your life will change once you've looped in an electric drill and basic bit set, and you can score a great cordless version for less than fifty bucks.

That said, I totally understand apartment living, broke-city, etc, etc, and if you're not looking to invest in power tools, you do have other options: I'd suggest checking local tool-lending libraries, or making a FB request of your friends + neighbors. The promise of a quick return (and a thank you note) will go a long way, and throw in a bottle of wine or a pizza slice and I'd bet you can convince someone to do the dirty work for you. I mean, I WOULD.

/END POWER TOOL PSA. The full how-to is after the jump!


a branch /// tape measure /// pencil /// yarn, cord, or string (I use this, for everything) /// scissors
sandpaper /// objects for hanging /// a drill + bit (of the same diameter as your yarn/cord/string*)
*if you're working with a thicker cord, you'll need a second, thinner bit as well

STEP ONE. Determine what you want as the topmost part of your hanging branch, then – using the pencil and tape measure – mark where each line of yarn/cord/string will hang. On my 19" branch, I left a 3" cushion on each side, and then marked every inch between – 14 marks in total. The most important thing is that there's an even number – I know I preach ODD NUMBERS ONLY in most things decor, but we're going even in the interest of visual cleanliness. Disarray can come later.

STEP TWO. Drill straight into each mark, from top to bottom. If you're working with a thicker yarn or cord, make sure to drill first with a thin bit, then a second time with the larger size (this will help avoid splintering/cracking). Make sure you're not drilling directly into your table or floor – use a piece of scrap wood (or a telephone book, or stacked cardboard) under the branch for the bit to drive into. Once all holes are drilled, sand gently at the entry and exit points until smooth.

STEP THREE. *If you haven't already, quickly sketch out a rough plan for your mobile. Does it involve a triangle at top? If yes, keep reading. If you want a clean line of PURE BRANCH, skip to Step Five.

Estimate the absolute longest length of hanging cord you might be into, and multiply it x 2. Be generous. Add like a foot. Cut that length of cord, then string one side through the rightmost drilled hole. Pull through until the desired-ish length of hanging cord is reached, then make a knot.

STEP FOUR. Pull the other side of the cord through the leftmost hole, and, accounting for the "hanging triangle" above the branch, make a knot just under that hole. Take it to the wall, and mount on a nail or thumbtack.

STEP FIVE. Count the number of drilled holes that remain. I had twelve, which meant I needed six lengths of cord, each roughly twice as long as I thought my longest single cord might hang (seriously, leave yourself some wiggle room. There's nothing worse than getting down in a project like this and realizing you've shorted yourself). Weave through, a la THE ABOVE, and then knot, tightly, a la THE BELOW.

STEP SIX. *If you're not using the triangle/nail mount, now's the time to get your branch onto the wall. I suggest resting it on a few nails or thumbtacks.

Use your eyeballs to level the branch – chances of an organic material having 90º angles are slim, so don't sweat this part too hard – and begin to attach your hanging objects. You'll want to work from the outside in, and every action should have an equal and opposite reaction. So if you add one on the far left, add one on the far right to maintain balance. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until you're happy with composition.

IN THE END. Trim any leftover cord. To mount, the triangle-topped version just needs a nail, and if you went without, an L-Bracket and a few screws are the move.

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