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How to Make an Outdoor Yard Ornament

SNOW FIGURE YARD ORNAMENTS Step-by-Step Instructions



Painted plywood figures for outdoor display. Life size cartoon-type characters. Display one or many together. Includes basic patterns with Step-by-Step Instructions. Colorful & inexpensive.


Materials Needed:

3/8" ACX exterior plywood sandpaper (coarse & medium) paint & sealer enlarged pattern Tools Needed:

electric jigsaw or sabor saw paint brushes & supplies power sander (optional) overhead projector (optional)

NOTES: The life span of your finished project will depend more upon the materials you use than on the construction skills you possess.

I recommend 3/8" ACX (exterior) plywood. CDX, the common construction grade plywood can easily split and has a rough surface. Waferboard, particle board, or hardboard could also be used for this project. Whatever you choose, be certain to use dry, exterior grade wood.

For long-lasting results closely follow the finishing instructions. Shortcuts to your finished project may result in a short life for your snow figures.

STEP 1 Enlarge & Transfer the Pattern: The traditional way to enlarge and transfer patterns is to use a grid. Draw a grid of 2" squares on brown wrapping paper, (several grocery sacks taped together will do, or put the grid directly on the plywood.) Mark the points where the pattern intersects with each square on the grid, then connect-the-dots.

To transfer the pattern from paper to plywood, tape the enlarged pattern to the plywood and punch tiny holes in the plywood through the paper about an inch apart all along the design. Remove the paper and connect the holes to define the snowman.

NOTE: Use a perminant felt-tip marker on the plywood. A water based marker will run when you apply paint. (I hate when that happens!)

The Easy Way to enlarge and transfer a pattern is with an overhead projector:

Print a paper copy of the pattern. Take it to your local copy center and have a transparency made. Borrow an overhead projector from your church office. Project the pattern onto the plywood any size you like. Trace the pattern with a felt-tip marker.


STEP 2 Cut Out the Design: Cut the snowman out with a hand-held electric jigsaw or sabor saw, an excellent tool for making curved cuts in plywood. No power tools? Then use a coping saw. It will take a bit longer, but you can do just as good a job with hand tools. Assuring you use the proper blade to cut plywood will give more satisfactory results.


STEP 3 Prepare the Surface: The rough curved edges of these projects need to be well sanded. First use a coarse (50 to 80-grit) paper to round the edges and remove large splinters. Then sand with a medium (80 to 120-grit) paper to get rid of the "fuzzy stuff."

Fill any holes or cracks in the surface with wood putty. Let dry, then lightly sand the entire surface with medium sand paper. Take care not to sand away any pattern details still needed.

NOTE: Hand sanding is not fun. Using a sanding block will make it safer and more pleasant. A hand-held power sander is infinately more desirable.


STEP 4 Add the Finish Details:This is the fun part. Right now the project still looks like a piece of wood. It is time to add the detail that will give it a personality of its own.

It would be a good idea to seal the wood with a water-repellent preservative before adding paint. Let dry for about a week, then you can apply shellac to any knots in the wood to prevent them from bleeding through the paint. Next put a coat of white primer on both sides of the snowman. When the primer dries you will want to go over the details of the design with your felt-tip marker.

Use quality exterior latex paints. Paint not only adds detail and interest, but it is the best way to protect outdoor wood projects from Mother Nature.

Paint the back of the figure solid black. One coat will probably be enough. Paint the front solid white (and hope the felt-tip marker will show through the paint). You may want to add a second coat for good measure. When dry, add appropriate color. I am partial to bright, primary colors. Again, two coats will probably give the best results. Finally, with a small brush, outline the entire design (not just the edges) with black paint. This will take some time and attention but is well worth the effort. You'll be surprised what a difference the black outline will make.


STEP 5 Anchor the Display: A wooden stake or metal fence post can be used to anchor the snowman to the ground. The stake should be a few inches taller than the snow figure so that 1/3 of it can be driven into the ground. The figure can be attached to it with wood screws or bolts. I screw small "eye-hooks" in the back of my snow figures and attach them to green metal fence posts with strong wire. It may be necessary to use two stakes, depending on the size of the project.