– Ben Martens

Wood American Flag

Over the last year or so, I’ve made a handful of wooden flags and after a bit more learning curve than I expected, I think I finally have it mostly figured out. Some stumbling blocks along the way were:

  • I did all the math for how wide each strip of wood should be and programmed my CNC accordingly but I forgot to account for the actual size of the union before cutting. It’s never EXACTLY what I had planned so I need to scale that before cutting.
  • I finally found a couple stain colors that work well. I settled on Varathane classic water based wood stain tinted to Navy Blue and Scarlet by Home Depot. I just bought a quart of each one and I could probably make at least a hundred flags before running out.
  • Staining first and then scorching with a torch has worked well for me. While I felt weird about adding burn marks to a flag, I like the way it looks and it does a nice job of hiding imperfections.
  • Gluing up 13 strips of wood makes it easy to bend. Use at least 3 vertical strips on the back to hold the shape. Four is probably better.
  • To get a nice clean line between the union and the stripes, I pound in a razor blade. It severs the fibers so the stain won’t bleed across and I can stain right up to both sides of the blade without waiting for anything to dry.
  • I generally try to avoid the knots. They really stand out when burning the wood. It’s fine to have one or two but I’m a little bit strategic about where I put them. I do all the math about how many 1×4, 1×6, 1×8, etc boards I would need so I can adjust my plan based on what boards are available. There is a different amount of waste with each size of board though.

I made one of Elijah’s school auction and priced it at $100 since that seems pretty consistent with Etsy prices. They have a “buy it now” feature in the auction where you can overpay by 50% and that happened almost immediately.

It’s a fun project and while I like letting the CNC cut the stars for me, there are plenty of templates for painting them on or you could hand cut them with a router or even a chisel.