Not only am I going to show you how to make this lovely, rusty, neon-y goodness…I’m going to share my fabulous source for buying star washers (as used in this DIY), and steel barn stars galore. Not to mention all sorts of amazing non-star decorative metal bits.
Are you ready? Wait for it…wait for it…
King Architectural Metals. Bam. You’re welcome.
So once you get in there and order far too many metal stars (these are the 3″ cast iron star washers), and they arrive, you’re gonna realize they are all raw metal, and some might even already have a bit of rust on them:
Honestly? These look pretty rad as-is, if you ask me. I would have used them just like this–but the point of this tutorial was to teach you guys how to get them nice and rusty.
Lay all but one of your cast iron stars out on a sheet of tin foil, and fold the edges up so that you get a little bit of a tray going. Then you take basic, white vinegar and pour it over each star, saturating them each completely so that they are basically sitting in a puddle of vinegar. Then you wait. I got a nice, dark rust color after just one day, but the longer you wait (even after the vinegar completely dries up, it keeps working), the thicker the rust will get. It’s your call!
Once you get the level of rust you want, be sure to coat the front and back sides of the stars liberally with a good clear enamel coat. In fact, do two coats. I use this.
As for your one neon star, coat it front and back with a white spray primer, like this. Let that dry, then give it a couple of coats of whatever bright color you choose. I’m in a neon coral phase right now, so I chose this. Go ahead and do a coat of clear enamel to finish it off.
Now you gotta paint your screws. I’m kind of particular about what screws work best for attaching these stars–I like these. The ‘truss head’ secures the stars perfectly without having to use an additional washer.
To spray paint the screws, it’s easiest if you push them into a piece of scrap wood so they are all standing upright like little soldiers.
Hit them with two coats of a brownish spray paint that matches your level of star rust as closely as possible.
And hit your one neon guy with a coat of white primer and two coats of neon spray paint:
Now set all those aside and let them good and dry while you prep your plywood.
I cut my 1/2″ plywood to 15 x 17″ and then miter-cut 1.5″ trim material on its narrow edge. This way, when the whole thing is assembled, the outside edges have more heft, kind of like a box top. Sand all your edges, and any rough spots on the plywood. Using a nail gun, nail the trim in place. Then fill nail holes and seams with wood filler and let dry. Sand everything really well.
Now choose your wood stain (if you don’t want to leave the wood nekkid). I went with this. Do one or two coats, depending on your preference for saturation.
Now place your stars across the wood. I’m gonna be honest…the only thing I measured was to make sure all the outside star edge points were an inch or so from the outside edge of the wood. From there, I eyeballed the rest of the stars. I wasn’t going for perfection. You’re shocked, right?
Now carefully affix each star with a properly coordinated screw.
And there you have it: rusty, star-spangledness for your wall. With a pinch of neon. Because: neon.