DIY Steampunk Industrial Gear Art

6-8 Hours
We have a small, window-less room that we use for a home office. It's a mix of various styles, with a mid-century modern desk, a set of books and pocket watch that are family treasures, a floating shelf, a steampunk-inspired clock, and a fake window with a black and white London city scene (red double-decker bus). We've been collecting industrial/farm machinery gears from antique shops, and needed a way to display them, so we created this backdrop.
Here's the finished product, hung with 2 wall anchors and using one stud in the center.
We gathered all of our gears in all of their rusty, dirty awesomeness, and laid out on construction paper. This layout provided the measurements that we needed for the back board.
We started with a piece of MDF board and pained our base (green-ish) layer. Then, once dry, we used vaseline in random swipes so the green would show through the red.
Next, we painted a deep red...
Then, using lots of paper towels, mopped up the vaseline, so both colors are visible. Once dry, we used a hammer and a mallet, and dropped them randomly on the board from 2-3 feet high, giving the board dents and nicks - depth. Then we cut and stained trim pieces. The 45 degree angle cuts caused headaches, but eventually we mastered it - good enough for us, anyway. We tried, unsuccessfully, to adhere with just glue, and then changed to the shortest trim nails we could buy. Eventually, the combo glue/nails kept the trim in place.
While the board & paint dried, we shifted our attention to the large bolts, which we used to attach the larger gears to the board. We soaked them in a bowl of vinegar to speed up the "rusting" process.
...But we the vinegar didn't give us the look that we wanted, so we switched to painting just the visible (heads) parts of the bolts with this great metallic spray, which closely matched the color of the rusted gears. We then bought the same brand in a "forged hammer" look, and sprayed a light coat over the dry red paint.
Spray-painted rusted bolts. The heads are larger than the openings, creating the illusion that the bolts are part of the gears.
Next, we marked the area for the bolts on the board, and used the same size drill bit to drill the bolt openings. We used slim, short nails in combination with gorilla glue to adhere the remaining gears.
And - we're done! Expect - we forgot to add picture hangers to the back of the board. Adding these after everything was finished was tricky, but doable. We used three triangular-shaped hangers as well as a wire to make sure this heavy project stays hung.
And - the finished project on the wall.

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