Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Aunt Peg's Gift

What birthday gift do you get for someone who can buy anything?  That was the dilemma I faced when invited to my Aunt Peg's Birthday luncheon!  So I decided a handmade gift would be best - I had just been to the Sacramento Antique Fair and found this weird looking bag and was intrigued so I asked the lady about it.
Turns out this is a Water Bag - up until even the early 1950's, travelers crossing the desert would soak these canvas bags and fill them with water and then hang on the outside of thier cars in front of the radiators.  The evaporating water would blow in towards the radiators and keep the engines cool, in order for them to make it across the hot desert.   Aunt Peg has an old 1934 Plymouth that she and Uncle Bill enter in parades and I thought, this would be a nice addition to their hobby and quite a conversation piece.  As you can see from the photo, all the original lettering on the bag was worn off so I repainted a personalized version for them on the bag.
Uncle Bill and Aunt Peg's last name is Madsen and the  "W&P Brand" stands for "William and Peg"
This bag is about 14" wide by 11" tall so it was a pretty quick project - it will be a conversation starter between the old car enthusiasts - after the cars are driven in the parade, they usually line them up and then everyone walks around a checks out all the cars so I thought Aunt Peg and Uncle Bill needed a sign to display with their car and that would complete the gift.
So I went out to the shed and found an old dresser drawer board that was a perfect size, about 32" long and about 6 inches wide.  I painted the whole board an antique white after sanding it, sketched out the lettering, grabbed some black paint and went to work.
Aunt Peg and Uncle Bill's car is a 1934 Plymouth that they call "Welfare" - kind of a joke for them!  The sign just looked too fresh compared to the old Water Bag so it was time to antique the sign.
First step was to sand it down with a foam sanding block to make it look like it had worn with age.
Next, I mixed some glazing medium with some burnt umber acrylic paint.  The glazing medium makes the paint thinner so instead of an opaque paint , it is kind of translucent, and it also makes a nice finish, sealing the paint.
Next is the scary part!  I always hold my breath when I do this!  Basically you cover the whole project with the paint/glaze - my kids used to watch me do this and would say, "Mom! You're wrecking it!"  The glaze acts as an extender so you actually have more time to work with the paint!
Next, take a wet paper towel or wet rag and rub over the sign - I try to get it to stick in imperfections in the sign and then lift some away from the lettered parts of the sign -  also try to keep it a little darker with more antiquing on the edges.  I use a paper towel because then I can just throw it away and usually only need one!  There is no right or wrong way - just stop when you like the way it looks and then let it dry.
Last step - I added hangers to the back of the sign just in case Aunt Peg and Uncle Bill would ever want to hang the sign in their house.  Remember that most houses have 16" spacing between studs in walls so if you have a long sign, like this one, try to space your hangers 16" apart.
Now the sign matched the bag, both had a "worn" look!  I wrapped the gifts up and took them to the luncheon.  Aunt Peg loved these and said she and Uncle Bill were going to drive their car in the Red Suspender's Day Parade in Gridley, California, that weekend!
The "Madsen Line" rolls in the Red Suspender's Day Parade!
Bill and Peg Madsen and their cherished 1934 Plymouth rolled down the parade route sporting the new water bag - which turned out to be quite a conversation piece!

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