How to Create Custom Wall Art Using Wood

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Wood is a material that looks good anywhere: it's gorgeous underfoot, eye-catching as an accent wall and charming as shelving. But did you know that it's especially irresistible as wall art? Whether your home has a rustic or modern aesthetic, this wood art piece will add a natural feel to your space. Its clean lines are interesting without being overpowering, and they can be made even more simplistic or intricate according to your custom design. Choose to paint subtle colors on the wood before nailing in the pieces, or keep the plywood bare for a classic finish. When your art is complete, hang it in your bedroom or living area — it's bound to look great no matter where it resides.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)

Things You'll Need

  • 3/4-inch-thick plywood, 14 x 17 inches (have it cut at a hardware store)
  • 3/8 x 1 1/2-inch x 4 ft. wood lath (1 bundle)
  • Paper and pencil
  • Straightedge 
  • Miter saw
  • Wood glue
  • Pneumatic nail gun
  • Stain or paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Clamps
  • Jigsaw
  • Picture-hanging hardware
  • Hammer and small nails

Step 1: Decide on a Design and Prep the Plywood

Decide on a design for your wall art, or use this design, which you'll find described in the following steps. Start by drawing a rough sketch on a piece of paper. Next, find the center of your plywood and draw vertical and horizontal lines through the center point, perpendicular to the edges of the plywood.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)
(Image: Ashley Mayes)
(Image: Ashley Mayes)

Step 2: Cut the Vertical Center Slats

Using a miter saw (or a saw of your choice), cut three lath boards to 14-inch-long pieces. Place one lath board on the center point of the plywood, and then flank it with the other two pieces.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)

Tip

  • These boards will all be attached using a nail gun or a hammer with small nails. Once you see how the pieces will go together, you can start nailing them in immediately. Alternatively, you can decide to nail them in after staining or painting certain pieces, which will be described in later steps.

Step 3: Cut the Arrow-shaped Pieces

Set your miter saw to 45 degrees. Take four lath boards and cut one end of each to 45 degrees. On the plywood, place two of the 45-degree cuts together so that they form an arrow shape meeting at the center boards. Then, scribe a line across the opposite ends of the lath board where they overhang the plywood. Make 45-degree cuts on these marked lines. Repeat this process for four pieces.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)
(Image: Ashley Mayes)
(Image: Ashley Mayes)
(Image: Ashley Mayes)

Step 4: Fill the Inside of the Arrow Shape

Cut the ends of several lath boards at 45-degree angles, using your miter saw. Line those boards up on the plywood pieces (within the arrow) and mark the opposite ends where they overhang the plywood. Cut along these marked lines. Do this until you have filled in your arrow. There will be two small triangle pieces needed on each end. Look through your discarded pile to find pieces that are close fits. Save those pieces until later.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)
(Image: Ashley Mayes)

Step 5: Fill in Above and Below the Arrow

Repeat step 4 to fill the spaces above and below the arrow.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)

Step 6: Cut the Other Side

Repeat Steps 3, 4, and 5 to make a mirror image of what was just created.

Step 7: Add Interest With Paint

Pick a few boards to paint or stain to add interest to the whole piece. You may want to use different colors to create contrast. To keep the paint from looking too harsh against the bare wood, dilute the paint with water, creating a color-wash effect. Be sure to test out your paint on a scrap piece of lath to see what the finished result will be.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)

Step 8: Nail the Boards In

Beginning with the center board, start nailing all of the pieces into the plywood.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)

Step 9: Finish the Small Triangle Pieces

In the areas that need to be filled with small triangle pieces from your discard pile, take the pieces that were the closest match and adhere them in place with wood glue. Then, place a clamp on those pieces and let the glue dry. After the glue has dried, take a jigsaw and trim off any excess where the pieces overhang the plywood.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)
(Image: Ashley Mayes)

Step 10: Make the Frame

To make the frame, you will need four more lath pieces. These lath pieces will be installed on edge around the outside edge of the plywood, so bevel-cut the ends at 45 degrees in order to create mitered corner joints. Start at one corner and cut two lath pieces to meet at the corner. Then, mark the cuts for the adjacent corners. Use wood glue and a few nails to attach the frame pieces to the edge of the plywood. Continue around the piece using this approach.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)

Step 11: Hang the Wood Artwork

It's finished! To hang the artwork, attach picture-hanging hardware to the back of the frame. Then, stand back and admire your hard work.

(Image: Ashley Mayes)
(Image: Ashley Mayes)

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