DIY: String Art

Story by Meghan Jackson 

string art

Create a unique piece of conversation art by following these steps. However, I suggest reading all the way through to make it as easy as possible on yourself. Full Disclosure This is not a DIY for the weak. Though the final project may belong in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it took a lot of blood, sweat, nails, string and more nails to get it there. It was much harder than anticipated and while I am pretty proud of the final outcome, I probably wouldn’t do this type of project again unless it was for a substantial amount of money. But, don’t let me discourage you. Now that I've done it, you can read about all the mistakes I made, and know what not to do!

Cost: $13.00 – (I already owned a lot of the materials).

Time: Physically 7 – 8 Hours. Mentally – significantly more than that.

Materials: Word or Picture Template, Block of Wood, Nails, String, Hammer, Tape, Marker, Paint, Paint Scraper, Cocktail

How To: 1. Coat wood with paint & let dry. 2. Choose template. 3. Tape the template on wood, in the position you want the final project to be arranged. 4. Make dots on the template with the marker where each nail should go to make your picture. 5. Hammer the nails into the wood, where the dots are. 6. Gently rip the template off the nails. 7. Tie string on and weave it through. I outlined the letters on the outside first. This part took me a bit to get down, but once I did it wasn’t bad. I used the same piece of string for each letter. That helped the threads stay tighter as I was moving through the nails and required less tying of little tiny double knots. When you are done make an additional double knot at the end of the string, hook it on a nail and pull tight. Cut excess and point any strings sticking out to the inside so they aren’t noticeable.


Specifics: Don’t worry. I require very specific instructions when I start a project and did not leave you hanging. Here are answers to any questions you may have about materials or methods.

Template:I asked our art director to print our logo. However, some of the curves of the letters were so small that I knew nails would not fit around both edges, so I enlarged it on a copy machine so the edges weren’t too thin to fit nails around.

Wood: I used a small block of oak I found at Home Depot. The actual dimensions are 11.5” x 12” x .75”. It was around $6.00 (I later learned oak is one of the hardest woods, fortunately it didn’t turn out to be a problem.)

Paint: Optional. I debated leaving my block natural wood color. In the end I decided to paint it white and used basic acrylic paint.

Tape: I used washi tape so the paint didn’t come off when pulling the template off.

String: I used embroidery floss. It shows up great, but it was challenging because there are so many threads put together that they can get stuck on different nails and give an overall messy look. If I did this again (which I won’t) I would probably use a different type of string just for sanity sake.

Threading the nails: The trick is really to just tie the string on and keep going. Sometimes I wrapped an entire circle around the nail before continuing to thread and sometimes I did not. What’s nice is that if you don’t like the look, you can unwind the thread and go back.

Nails: I used a variety of nails because that’s what I already had. They were a range of sizes from around 16 x 1- ¼” to 18 x ¾” with a few miscellaneous ones thrown in. My recommendation: don’t do this. (Ask me why I’m saying this). Get the correct amount of nails you need, all in the same size, preferably with a nail head small enough to fit the amount of nails you have, but large enough to keep the string from sliding off the top. In the end you can’t really tell that I didn’t use all identical nails, but it would have made the process significantly easier.

Nail Spacing: I did not concern myself with placing the nails equidistant apart. The curves needed more nails to create the shapes I wanted and that was fine with me. If I were a perfectionist, this may have been quite stressful.

Paint Scraper: This might seem like a strange object to use for this DIY, but I found it very helpful in getting the nails to point in the direction I wanted them. They tend to shift and lean when hammering. You could use a variety of items for this one. Ex: a knife, pliers, a ruler… the possibilities are really endless.

Cocktail: Important. On the 5th hour of hammering nails or tying string, you will start to question your existence and this cocktail will give you the push to keep going.